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UNSC vote against settlement activities rebuff to Israel?

The UN Security Council vote against Israel’s settlement activities in Palestinian territories after the US abstained, instead of its customary move of vetoing any resolution that denounces the Israeli occupation, is seen as a rebuff to the Jewish state although it may not have any practical impact on the ground.

The 15-member council on Friday voted 14-0 in favour of a resolution demanding the halt of settlement activity by Israel on occupied Palestinian territory. The resolution was put forward by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal, a day after Egypt withdrew it under pressure from Israel and US president-elect Donald Trump.

Surprisingly under instructions from the outgoing president Barack Obama the US abstained from the voting, defying pressure from Trump and lobbying by Israel to veto the measure. It is the first resolution the Security Council adopted on Israel and the Palestinians in nearly eight years. The US abstention was a surprise as in 2011 the Obama administration had exercised its veto on a similar move.

Understandably the US decision has infuriated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who rejected the resolution terming it shameful and anti-Israel.

“Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms,” a statement released by his office said. “The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes,” it said. “Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”

The United States’ abstention was the biggest rebuke in recent history to long-standing ally Israel, allowing the Security Council to condemn its settlements and continuing construction in Palestinian territory as a “”flagrant violation”” of international law, Middle East observers said.

The US action has somewhat affected its ties with Israel and Trump who will be taking over as the 45th president of the US on January 20 will have to do the political manoeuvering to undo the damage.

Trump, who has already said he intends to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv, symbolically, to occupied Jerusalem, tweeted: “”As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20th.””

The Netanyahu government has illegally sanctioned the construction of colonies in occupied East Jerusalem as state policy — seizing lands, bulldozing buildings and imposing the harshest judicial and administrative sanctions on Palestinians who dare oppose or object to the property theft.

The UN General Assembly has repeatedly and overwhelmingly condemned the Israeli action, but this is for the first time the Security Council has censured Israel for its settlement policy in Palestinian areas.

In the past weeks, Israeli parliament, the Knesset began the process of amending its laws to allow for the annexation of illegal outpost colonies across the West Bank, a move that has been condemned by Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole.

Palestine has described the resolution as a total rejection of extremist forces in Israel. “”This is a day of victory for international law, a victory for civilised language and negotiation and a total rejection of extremist forces in Israel,”” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

The resolution said Israel’s settlements on Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, have “”no legal validity.”” It demanded a halt to “”all Israeli settlement activities””, saying this “”is essential for salvaging the two-state solution””. It described the settlement building as a “major obstacle” to peace.

Middle East observers view the UNSC decision as a “”milestone”” but feel that in all probability it would remain “”ink on paper”” due to Israel’s long history in disregarding the international community’s will and that it does not entail measures that obligate Israel to adhere by the decision. 

The resolution represents consensus among the international community on the illegality of the Israeli settlement and affirms the historical right of Palestinians to their land, said Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs and Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani in a statement. 

Meanwhile, Israel on Sunday summoned the ambassadors of UN Security Council member states that voted in favour of the resolution, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said. The US envoy was summoned by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. 

Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that Israel was cutting civilian coordination with Palestinians.”

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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