US allows UNSC to denounce Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory

United Nations: Defying heavy pressure, on Saturday, the US allowed the UN Security Council to pass a resolution demanding Israel to halt settlements in Palestinian territory as it abstained from wielding its veto in the powerful world body.

On Friday, the 15-nation Council adopted the resolution by a vote of 14 in favour and with one abstention from the US.

In a rare step, the United States instead abstained, enabling the adoption of the first UN resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy.

The resolution had been put forward by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela.

In the resolution, the Council reiterated its demand that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard".

As the resolution, which had more symbolic value and is unlikely to change the situation on ground between Israel and Palestine, was adopted, the Council broke into a huge round of applause as envoys of the permanent and non-permanent members lauded the decision.

The adoption of the resolution and Washington's abstention was seen as a huge rebuke to Israel, which has traditionally been a staunch US ally.

Trump had put pressure on the Obama administration to veto the UN resolution critical of Israel.

A day before the vote, Trump said in a post on social network Facebook that the resolution being considered at the UN Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

"As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis," he had said.

Following the adoption of the resolution, Trump made his displeasure clear, tweeting "As to the UN, things will be different after 20 January," referring to the day when he is sworn in as the next US President.

"There is one president at a time," Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, told reporters, dismissing Trump's criticism.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, in Washington's explanation of vote on the resolution, said the vote for US was "not straightforward" because of "for as long as Israel has been a member" of the UN, Israel has been treated differently from other nations at the United Nations.

She said it is America's commitment to Israel's security that makes the United States believe it cannot stand in the way of this resolution as it seeks to preserve a chance of attaining the long-standing objective: two states living side-by-side in peace and security.

"The settlement problem has gotten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the very viability of that two-state solution. The number of settlers in the roughly 150 authorized Israeli settlements east of the 1967 lines has increased dramatically.

Yet rather than dismantling these and other settler outposts, which are illegal even under Israeli law, now there is new legislation advancing in the Israeli Knesset that would legalize most of the outposts – a factor that propelled the decision by this resolution’s sponsors to bring it before the Council," she said.

Power added the US did not veto the resolution because it reflects the facts on the ground and is consistent with US policy across Republican and Democratic administration throughout the history of the State of Israel.

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the adoption of the resolution which stated that the establishment of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, have "no legal validity", constitute a "flagrant violation" under international law and are a "major obstacle" to a two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

"The resolution is a significant step, demonstrating the Council's much needed leadership and the international community’s collective efforts to reconfirm that the vision of two States is still achievable," the UN chief's spokesperson said in a statement.

"The Secretary-General takes this opportunity to encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to work with the international community to create a conducive environment for a return to meaningful negotiations," the spokesperson added.

Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon responded harshly to the American decision not to veto the UN Security Council resolution: "Neither the Security Council nor Unesco can sever the tie between the people of Israel and the land of Israel".

Danon added that it was "expected" that Israel's greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that "we share and that they would have vetoed this disgraceful resolution".

"I have no doubt that the new US administration and the incoming UN Secretary General will usher in a new era in terms of the UN's relationship with Israel," he said.

Leading human rights group Human Rights Watch lauded the adoption of the resolution saying the US abstention is a welcome shift away from past practice of "using its Security Council veto to shield Israel from criticism despite longstanding US policy opposing settlements".

The Council vote "rebukes" those seeking to reverse universally accepted international law on the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

UN Director at Human Rights Watch Louis Charbonneau said indications that Trump may change US policy on settlements "reinforces" the need for a steadfast Security Council position, adding that Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela should be commended for pushing this resolution forward after Egypt "balked under political pressure before voting in favour of the final resolution".

The Council also underlined that it will not recognize any changes to the June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.

The resolution called for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, and for accountability in that regard, as well as for both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and previous agreements and obligations, "to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric".


Updated Date: Dec 24, 2016 11:40 AM

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