On 23 December, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 2334, which calls on Israel to cease building settlements in Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967. The resolution reaffirmed that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are all illegal, and that no changes to the 1967 borders would be recognized outside of an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Although this was the first time in nearly 40 years that the UNSC had passed a resolution critical of Israeli settlements, the language of the resolution was not new. Every country in the world – with the exception of Israel’s right-wing government—has long understood that the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bans nations from moving its populations into territory it has conquered, applies to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel’s settlements, which have now eaten into over 60% of Palestinian land, are widely accepted as illegal under international law. The West Bank and East Jerusalem are not disputed territory, it is occupied territory.
In an unprecedented atmosphere of rage and hysteria, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned the ambassadors from 11 of the 14 countries that voted in favour of the resolution for a Christmas Day dressing down. Diplomats from Britain, China, Russia, France, Egypt, Japan, Uruguay, Spain, Ukraine, New Zealand, and the United States were personally rebuked for supporting the resolution.
Netanyahu, who also holds the foreign ministry portfolio, immediately recalled the Israeli ambassadors from New Zealand and Senegal, and cancelled the planned visits of the Ukranian prime minister and Senegalese Foreign Minister to Israel, and a consultation with Britain’s Theresa May. He then instructed the Foreign Ministry to consider cutting funding to five UN institutions, and block work visas for employees of these agencies.
Particular venom was reserved for the Obama administration. By abstaining from voting – instead of vetoing the resolution as the US usually does – the resolution passed unanimously. Netanyahu launched a direct attack against President Obama, accusing him of betraying Israel. Obama: the president who signed a record-breaking $38 billion ten-year aid package to Israel, and who up until now had not permitted a single resolution critical of Israel to pass through the UNSC.
Netanyahu correctly calls the resolution “damaging” and his vitriolic response to the resolution reflects the utter desperation of the Apartheid Israeli regime. UNSC 2234 has the potential to speed up Israel’s status as a pariah nation. Through it, longstanding international consensus that Israel’s settlement activity is illegal and a roadblock to achieving a peaceful solution, has been solidified.
Palestinian leaders have indicated that they might use the resolution to seek International Criminal Court indictments of Israeli leaders, and push for a formal investigation into whether Israel is violating the Geneva Conventions.
Crucially, the resolution calls on all countries to distinguish between the settlements and the State of Israel. This means that foreign governments have now been empowered to ban the import of any products made in Israeli settlements, boosting the boycott movement against Israel.
UNSC 2234 has provided the international community with an effective tool to hold Israel accountable for its occupation and Apartheid policies against the Palestinians. Will the world’s leaders be courageous enough to use it?