US Rare Decision about Israeli Settlements
Rapporteur_Hessam Karbasian : It is the first time in 8 years, that US declined to use its veto and instead abstained from voting. In a rare condemnation of Israel the UN Security Council has said its settlements in occupied Palestinian territories have “no legal validity”.
Settlements previously existed in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip until Israel evacuated the Sinai settlements following the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace agreement and from the Gaza Strip in 2005 under Israel's unilateral disengagement plan. Israel dismantled 18 settlements in the Sinai Peninsula in 1982, and all 21 in the Gaza Strip and 4 in the West Bank in 2005,but continues to both expand its settlements and settle new areas in the West Bank, despite pressure to desist from the international community. According to the Israeli investigative reporter Uri Blau, settlements are massively funded by private tax-exempt U.S. NGOs, to the tune of $220 million for 2009-2013 alone, suggesting that the U.S. is indirectly subsidizing their creation.
The international community considers the settlements in occupied territory to be illegal, and the United Nations has repeatedly upheld the view that Israel's construction of settlements constitutes a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and communities in the Golan Heights, the latter of which has been annexed by Israel, are also considered settlements by the international community, which does not recognize Israel's annexations of these territories. The International Court of Justice also says these settlements are illegal in a 2004 advisory opinion. In April 2012, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, in response to moves by Israel to legalese Israeli outposts, reiterated that all settlement activity is illegal, and "runs contrary to Israel's obligations under the Road Map and repeated Quartet calls for the parties to refrain from provocations." Similar criticism was advanced by the EU and the US. Israel disputes the position of the international community and the legal arguments that were used to declare the settlements illegal.
The presence and ongoing expansion of existing settlements by Israel and the construction of settlement outposts is frequently criticized as an obstacle to the peace process by the Palestinians, and third parties such as the OIC, the United Nations, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, the European Union, and the United States have echoed those criticisms. Most recently, in December 2016 the United Nations Security Council issued a resolution condemning the settlements.
Settlement has an economic dimension, much of it driven by the significantly lower costs of housing in Jewish settlements compared to the cost of housing and living in Israel. Government spending per citizen in the Jewish settlements is double that spent per Israeli citizen in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, while government spending for settlers in isolated areas is three times the Israeli national average. Most of the spending goes to the security of the citizens living there. On 30 June 2014, according to the Yesha Council, 382,031 Jewish settlers lived in the 121 officially recognized settlements in the West Bank, over 300,000 Israelis lived in settlements in East Jerusalem and over 20,000 lived in settlements in the Golan Heights. In January 2015 the Israeli Interior Ministry gave figures of 389,250 Israelis living in the West Bank and a further 375,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem. Settlements range in character from farming communities and frontier villages to urban suburbs and neighborhoods. The four largest settlements, Modi'in Illit, Ma'ale Adumim, Beitar Illit and Ariel, have achieved city status. Ariel has 18,000 residents, while the rest have around 37,000 to 55,500 each. A number of Palestinians reside in settlements in East Jerusalem.
The U.S. abstention was seen as a parting shot by U.S. President Barack Obama, who has had an acrimonious relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and who has made settlements a major target of peace efforts that have proven ultimately futile.
The resolution demanded that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem" and said the establishment of settlements by Israel has "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law."
A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted.
Palestine presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said Friday that the U.N. Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements is "a unanimous international condemnation of colonization and clear support for a two-state solution."
Abu Rudeina said it was a "great blow" to Israel. It is also "a historic day" and "a victory for international law."
Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat said, "It is a clear and unanimous message from the international community as a whole to Netanyahu: 'your policy will not bring peace and security neither to Israel nor the entire region'."
"The only way to peace is the birth of an independent Palestinian state and that is why the international community has made its voice heard in the Security Council," Erekat added.
The United Nations Security Council approved a resolution Friday against Israeli settlements in Palestine. Resolution No. 2334 was approved with 14 votes in favor of the 15 countries that make up the Security Council.
The United States abstained from voting and did not exercise its right to veto. The U.N. Security Council demanded that Israel stop "immediately and completely" activities related to illegal settlements.
New Zealand said Saturday the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements should have come as no surprise to the Jewish State, after Israel retaliated by recalling its ambassador to Wellington.
New Zealand co-sponsored the resolution which described the settlements in the occupied territories as a major stumbling block to Middle East peace efforts, as they are built on land the Palestinians consider part of their future state.
There was applause in the UN chamber when the first resolution by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in more than 38 years to condemn Israel over its settlement policy was passed 14-0, with the country's key ally the United States abstaining.
Israel refused to recognise the resolution with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Ofir Gendelman tweeting that their ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, who co-sponsored the resolution, were to return to Israel immediately.
"These steps are taken against countries that have tabled the draft resolution to the UNSC and have diplomatic relations with Israel," he said.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the decision should have been no surprise to Israel which knew Wellington's position long before the UN vote.
"Israel has informed us of their decision to recall their ambassador to New Zealand for consultations," McCully told AFP in a statement.
"We have been very open about our view that the (Security Council) should be doing more to support the Middle East peace process and the position we adopted today is totally in line with our long established policy on the Palestinian question.
"The vote today should not come as a surprise to anyone and we look forward to continuing to engage constructively with all parties on this issue."
The resolution demands that "Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."
It states that Israeli settlements have "no legal validity" and are "dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution".
Netanyahu's office described the UN move as a "shameful anti-Israel resolution".
Malaysia and Venezuela also sponsored the UN resolution but do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
New Zealand is one of 10 non-permanent members of the UNSC, whose two-year term ends this month.
3. Baylis Thomas, The Dark Side of Zionism: Israel's Quest for Security Through Dominance