As has been obvious to any sentient being, Israeli has been on a steady path of annexing land in the Occupied Territories, using one flimsy excuse after another, even though those settlements and the walls that have been built that snake through Palestinian territory have been ruled illegal under international law. The US has been providing cover to Israel by vetoing all UN resolutions that seek to even mildly curtail these practices that have created an apartheid-like state in which Palestinians are subjected to degrading treatment and forced evacuations from their homes and other properties.
But yesterday, the US abstained and by a 14-0 vote, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling a for a halt to all settlements.
The resolution passed by a 14-0 vote on Friday night. Loud applause was heard in the packed chamber when the US ambassador, Samantha Power, abstained.
All remaining members of the security council, including the UK, voted in support. Egypt, which had drafted the resolution and had been briefly persuaded by Israel to postpone the vote, also backed the move.
Friday’s vote was scheduled at the request of four countries – New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela – who stepped in to push for action a day after Egypt put the draft resolution on hold.
The resolution says Israel’s settlements on Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, have “no legal validity” and demands a halt to “all Israeli settlement activities,” saying this “is essential for salvaging the two-state solution”.
The resolution reiterated that Israeli settlement was a “flagrant violation” of international law.
The United States vetoed a similar resolution in 2011, which was the sole veto cast by the Obama administration at the security council.
The resolution is an attempt to try and salvage the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue. But Israeli expansionism has already made that pretty much impossible and what Israel seems to seek is to annex all the lands while making life so hellish for the Palestinians that they will be forced to leave.
Zaid Jilani says that the resolution is not as strong as is being made out and that despite this abstention, the Obama administration has been far worse than its predecessors in pandering to Israeli actions, providing them with massive amounts of aid. And yet, even this mild effort was opposed by both major US political parties.
This was the only Security Council resolution calling on Israel to respect international law that Obama ever refused to veto. Under George W. Bush, six similar resolutions were allowed through. Under H.W. Bush, nine resolutions critical of Israel were allowed through.
At the same time, Obama awarded Israel with its largest military aid package ever — signing a memorandum of understanding in September that would give it $38 billion over 10 years.
The pressure to veto a toothless resolution shows how constricted U.S. policy on Israel-Palestine has become in recent years, even though the American public appears to favor tougher UN action on the issue. A recent Brookings poll finds that nearly two-thirds of Americans favor UN resolutions demanding a halt to settlements and that a majority of self-identified Democrats support some form of sanctions towards Israel to bring about peace.
Meanwhile, Israel has elected one of its most right-wing governments in history — with a set of cabinet ministers who openly disdain the two-state solution and plan to escalate settlement building. The president-elect plans to appoint an ambassador to Israel who favors continued expansion on Palestinian land and actually helped fund settlement work as a private citizen.
There was applause in the UN chamber after the vote, showing how isolated the US and Israel are in the international community. Philip Weiss and Annie Robbins say that the response of the Israeli government and the Israel lobby in the US to the resolution was predictably hysterical, warning that it would unleash a wave of international terror.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Cook reports that the Israeli government is seeking to deport an award-winning Australian journalist Antony Loewenstein who at a press conference had asked the kind of question that they are not used to from members of the foreign press.
Loewenstein has been under fire since he attended the event in Jerusalem, hosted by the Foreign Press Association (FPA), on December 12. According to the Israeli media, he asked former government minister Yair Lapid: “Is there not a deluded idea here that many Israeli politicians, including yourself, continue to believe that one can talk to the world about democracy, freedom and human rights while denying that to millions of Palestinians, and will there not come a time soon, in a year, five years, 10 years, when you and other politicians will be treated like South African politicians during Apartheid?”
Israeli politicians are not used to hearing such difficult questions from members of the FPA, a professional association for journalists working in Israel. The reason for their deference to Israeli officials was explained to me a few years ago by an FPA insider. He revealed that not only are most of these correspondents Jewish – as Loewenstein himself is – but, unlike Loewenstein, they deeply identify with Israel. They live in Israel, not the occupied territories, they speak Hebrew, send their children to Israeli schools and expect them to serve in the Israeli army. Some of the reporters have served in the army themselves.
Perhaps most famously, former New York Times bureau chief Ethan Bronner was embarrassed in 2010 by the disclosure that he and the NYT had not divulged that his son was serving in the Israeli army while Bronner reported from the region. There was nothing exceptional about Bronner’s professional conflict of interest. My confidant told me: “I can think of a dozen foreign bureau chiefs, responsible for covering both Israel and the Palestinians, who have served in the Israeli army, and another dozen who like Bronner have kids in the Israeli army.”
John Judis writes that Donald Trump’s views on this issue has shifted dramatically away from saying he would be ‘neutral’ on the issue back in December 2015 to now aligning himself with the hardest of Israeli hardliners.
But it’s certain that a Trump administration will not allow a similar resolution to pass in the future. There is no prospect over the next four years – whether at the UN or in bilateral talks — that the United States will exert pressure on the Israelis to negotiate an agreement that would allow a Palestinian state to exist. Instead, it is likely that the United States will at best turn a blind eye to new Israeli settlements in the occupied territories – settlements that will any Palestinian state physically impossible.
A viable Palestinian state is already impossible without Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. But dangling the hope for a two-state solution is the fig leaf used by the Israeli government to cover its expansionist policies. When that is gone, what will happen?