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Israel’s true colours reappear after resolution

Dec 28,2016 - Last updated at Dec 28,2016

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing himself and Israel harm by making a huge fuss over the adoption by the UN Security Council of Security Council Resolution 2334 and the US abstention, which allowed the measure to pass.

Netanyahu should have ignored it and let it be silently shelved along with the dozens of other council resolutions critical of Israel.

As soon as the council adopted the resolution by a vote of 14-0 with one abstention, Netanyahu declared that Israel would not abide by the resolution and announced that his government would cancel $7 million his country contributes to UN agencies.

He recalled Israeli ambassadors from two countries backing the resolution and called in ambassadors of all 14 to give them a wigging.

He also threatened to punish the countries that had proposed the resolution: Venezuela, New Zealand, Malaysia and Senegal. The original sponsor, Egypt, withdrew the text under strong pressure from Israel and from Trump, but voted in favour.

The resolution states that Israel’s colonies established since 1967 have “no legal validity”, constitute a “flagrant violation” of international law and are a “major obstacle” to a two-state solution and a just and lasting regional peace.

The council demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and… fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard”.

The last phrase means that Israel must abide by Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states: “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Israel has traditionally argued it can build settlements because the status of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is undetermined and Jewish settlers, who moved into these areas voluntarily, are not displacing Palestinians.

Neither argument holds water.

Israel is indeed shifting its population into these areas with the view to annexing them and is uprooting entire Palestinian communities to provide land for colonies, as well as a route for the West Bank wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. 

Some commentators rightly argue that US President Barack Obama’s abstention was an empty gesture and is too little — due to the lack of sanctions — and too late — during the last days of his presidency.

If he had vetoed its predecessor in 2011 — the sole veto cast in the council by his administration — Obama might have been able to pressure Israel to, at least, reduce the pace of colonisation and, perhaps, even consider negotiating seriously with the Palestinians. 

But Obama was reluctant to take on Netanyahu who sneered at his administration’s efforts to restart talks and carried on taking over the occupied territories.

Following the abstention, Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said: “Palestinians being displaced from their homes — that can be documented. The statement of this Israeli government, that they are ‘more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history’, can be documented”.

He added: “We’d been warning… for years that the trend line of settlement construction and settlement activity was just increasing Israel’s international isolation.”

This isolation was all too clearly demonstrated by the yes votes on 2334: France, Spain and Britain represented Western Europe; China, Japan and Malaysia, Asia; Egypt, Angola and Senegal, Africa; Uruguay and Venezuela, South America; New Zealand, Australasia; and Russia and Ukraine, Eastern Europe.

Non-council members and international organisations also welcomed the resolution.

Since the US abstention constituted a belated shift in a long-established policy of vetoing such measures, US President-elect Donald Trump — who tried to delay the vote on the resolution and argued against the US abstention — can be expected to do everything in his power to restore the veto and negate the resolution.

It cannot, however, be taken off the books. The resolution is there to stay, although it has no teeth — no mandatory sanctions if Israel ignores or defies it.

The resolution is, as usual when Israel is the target, unenforceable.

The 430,000 Israelis colonising the West Bank in violation of international law and 200,000 squatting illegally in East Jerusalem will remain and their numbers will swell.

In spite of international isolation, Netanyahu feels he is in a strong position because he has Trump in his pocket.

During the US presidential election campaign, Trump repeatedly proclaimed himself the best friend Israel ever had in the White House.

He pledged to transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in effect, recognising the city as Israel’s capital, although it is regarded as “occupied” by the international community and its status is disputed since the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, although Israel has accelerated colonisation to prevent its emergence.

Trump has followed up this pledge by appointing as Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew and pro-Israel hardliner who opposes the two-state solution, supports colonisation and urges Israel to annex the occupied territories.

Friedman is sharply critical of moderate and progressive US Jews who oppose Israel’s current policies.

The Republican-dominated US Congress is unlikely to moderate Trump’s approach to Israel, as both Houses are staunchly pro-Israel.

However, Trump’s policies could be met with a political-diplomatic backlash from supporters of the resolution who have come to understand that the two-state solution has been aborted by Israeli colonisation.

Trump’s line could also elicit violent payback from angry Arabs and Muslims who have been involved in “terrorism” in this region and elsewhere.

Radical takfiris thwarted in their efforts to oust Arab governments could refocus on Palestine, once the core regional cause.

Since most takfiri movements are offshoots of Al Qaeda, their commanders could easily return to the priorities fixed by Al Qaeda’s co-founder, Osama Ben Laden, for whom liberating Palestine was a major objective.

After all, Abdullah Azzam, the principal ideologue and the other co-founder of Al Qaeda and global takfirism, was a Palestinian from a West Bank village north of Jenin.

Azzam took part in armed raids against Israel after the 1967 occupation, but turned against the secular resistance and devoted himself to spreading his radical religious-political message through teaching in Saudi Arabia where he met Ben Laden.

 

Although they say “the rest is history”, history continues to be made by the acolytes of these two men, even after their voices were stilled by death.

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