As the end of December threatened to creep by without a care, the world’s political bodies gathered to vote on a U.N. resolution designed to deal with the fiery ongoing saga between Israel and Palestine. The resolution demanded Israel ceased their activities of settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. An area captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day-War.
The vote for the resolution was almost unanimous. Everyone, except the U.S., voted for a resolution, with the U.S.ambassador to the U.N. choosing instead to cast an abstaining vote. She insisted her choice to abstain had little bearing on the U.S.’s continuing commitment to Israeli security. However, pro-Israel supporters and Conservatives state that this is a potentially damaging policy change in the area, with former U.S. ambassador John Bolton believing that the White House had dropped any belief that the two parties should sort out their differences, a position that the US has held since 1967. The resolution was later passed to the Security Council.
But it is worth noting that since 1967, nine Presidents, on 78 occasions, including Obama have decided against using their ability to veto Israeli resolutions, so this is hardly a new policy where the country is concerned. Of these past resolutions, many have condemned the actions of the Israeli government, which has unsurprisingly got the critics of the recent U.S. decision hot under the collar, concerned that the U.S. is being biased against Israel. One of these decisions followed the aftermath of an Iraqi nuclear reactor back in 1981 and the U.N. resolution which condemned the deaths of Muslim worshippers in 1994 at the hands of a Jewish terrorist in the area.
What has changed, however, is the terminology used. The resolution called the settlements established by Israel having ‘no legal validity,’ something that the U.S. has been careful to avoid saying in the past, instead opting to call the settlements ‘obstacles to peace.’ In fact, during the 1994 resolution vote, the then U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright requested a painstakingly long vote on each paragraph of the resolution ensuring that any language implying Jerusalem’s occupation was stripped from the final document.
Of all of the U.S.’s detractors, maybe none have been more critical than Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has claimed collusion between the U.S. government and supporters of Jerusalem to ensure that the resolution went ahead. He added that President Barack Obama is akin to President Jimmy Carter in his hostility towards Israel. President Obama’s admin team deny any suggestion of collusion.
In the aftermath of the vote, a furious Netanyahu chose to make a symbolic stand against the decision, summoning the ambassadors from the ten countries and the U.S. that voted against Israel to voice his displeasure. He has since limited the working arrangements with these countries and has minimized the visits to these countries embassies. The decision, while a clear indication of Netanyahu’s anger has made little effect to the working relationships with the countries, making it business as usual. He did, however, choose not to use these same measures with the U.S. embassy, and no restrictions were in place.
This particular decision was made amid calls for potential sanctions against Israel by the Palestinian leaders. The country has already used the resolution as a political tool to request International Criminal Court indictments against Israeli leaders, and they are also demanding a probe to look into potential Geneva Convention violations by Israel. They are also requesting that foreign governments cease to import products created in the Israeli settlements. These are, of course, currently nothing more than requests as the resolution is a non-binding measure, meaning that further resolutions would need to be put in place to force these actions.
Israel themselves have made a statement that it is business as usual for them. They are choosing to ignore the measures because of their non-binding nature, and will not have any financial sanctions as their position currently stands. Netanyahu released plans in the aftermath of the resolution of his intent to build new settlements in Jerusalem and expand the existing settlements. However, he did so with caution. A new vote could be just around the corner if the U.N. decide one is necessary, along with a resolution demanding negotiations on borders and Jerusalem’s ownership.
If these negotiations were to go ahead, it is likely that penalties for the country will follow. However, one thing that may help out Netanyahu is the dawning of a new political leader, none other than the President-elect Donald Trump, whose administration will no doubt attempt to veto a resolution relating to penalties. Netanyahu has already publicly courted Trump, stating he looks forward to working alongside him reiterating Israel’s claims that Obama was in collusion with other countries, and would provide the details to Trump following his inauguration. All this courtship may be for nothing, though. To appeal Obama’s decision, Trump would need to suggest a new resolution that negates the previous decision and find nine other countries to agree with the resolution and vote in favor of it. Even then, the Security Council’s permanent members would all have to agree with him. The likelihood is slim at best of him getting the result he and Netanyahu wants.
The future of Israel and Palestine sits very firmly in the hands of the U.N, with discussions on Israel likely to take place on January 15 at the International Peace Conference. It is likely that the resolution will be introduced to the Security Council before Donald Trump becomes the U.S. President. Israel has already stated they will not attend the conference.