Is­rael fumes af­ter US lets UN de­nounce set­tle­ments

Ne­tanyahu slams Obama Pales­tini­ans re­joice Ghanem hails vote

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Is­rael scram­bled yes­ter­day to con­tain the fall­out from a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil vote to halt set­tle­ments in Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory af­ter lash­ing out at US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama over the “shame­ful” resolution. The coun­cil passed the mea­sure Fri­day af­ter the United States ab­stained, en­abling the adop­tion of the first UN resolution since 1979 to con­demn Is­rael over its set­tle­ment pol­icy, call­ing set­tle­ments “a fla­grant vi­o­la­tion un­der in­ter­na­tional law”.

By de­cid­ing not to veto the move, the US took a rare step that deeply an­gered Is­rael, which ac­cused Obama of aban­don­ing its clos­est Middle East ally in the wan­ing days of his ad­min­is­tra­tion. The text was passed with sup­port from all re­main­ing mem­bers of the 15-mem­ber coun­cil, with ap­plause break­ing out in the cham­ber. The land­mark vote came de­spite in­tense lob­by­ing ef­forts by Is­rael and calls from US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump to block the text.

While the resolution con­tains no sanc­tions, Is­raeli of­fi­cials are con­cerned it could widen the pos­si­bil­ity of pros­e­cu­tion at the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court. They are also wor­ried it could en­cour­age some coun­tries to im­pose sanc­tions against Is­raeli set­tlers and prod­ucts pro­duced in the set­tle­ments.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu re­jected the resolution and crit­i­cized Obama in es­pe­cially harsh lan­guage. “Is­rael re­jects this shame­ful anti-Is­rael resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms,” a state­ment from 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.”

Michael Oren, the deputy min­is­ter for diplo­macy in the premier’s of­fi­cer and a for­mer Is­raeli en­voy to Wash­ing­ton, said he saw the resolution as “a lot like anti-Semitism”.

“Of all the con­flicts in the world, just one party’s be­ing sin­gled out, and that’s the Jewish party,” said Oren. Trump re­acted af­ter the vote by promis­ing change at the UN. “As to the UN, things will be dif­fer­ent af­ter Jan 20th,” he tweeted re­fer­ring to the date of his in­au­gu­ra­tion.

It would be vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble, how­ever, for Trump to over­turn the resolution. It would re­quire a new resolution with sup­port from at least nine mem­bers in the 15-mem­ber Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and no veto by one of the other per­ma­nent mem­bers - Rus­sia, China, Bri­tain or France, all of whom sup­ported Fri­day’s resolution.

A spokesman for Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas called the resolution a “big blow for Is­raeli poli­cies”. The move was “an in­ter­na­tional and unan­i­mous con­dem­na­tion of set­tle­ments and strong sup­port for the two-state so­lu­tion,” said Na­bil Abu Rudeina. Ha­mas, the Is­lamist move­ment that runs the Gaza Strip, also wel­comed the vote. Chief Pales­tinian ne­go­tia­tor Saeb Erekat hailed the re­sult as a “victory for the jus­tice of the Pales­tinian cause”. He said Trump’s choice was now be­tween “in­ter­na­tional le­git­i­macy” or sid­ing with “set­tlers and ex­trem­ists”. Riyad Man­sour, the Pales­tinian UN am­bas­sador, urged the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to “stand firm by this de­ci­sion” and “not be cowed by neg­a­tive threats or spin”.

Kuwait’s Na­tional As­sem­bly Speaker Mar­zouq AlGhanem praised the vote. The resolution “is a step in the right di­rec­tion,” Ghanem said in a press state­ment, and was an­other tool to ex­er­cise pres­sure on Is­rael to abide by UN res­o­lu­tions re­lated to the Arab-Is­raeli con­flict. Ghanem said the resolution should be fol­lowed by other steps at in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences like the In­terPar­lia­men­tary Union (IPU). He hoped IPU mem­bers move to prove how Is­rael was vi­o­lat­ing the IPU char­ter, thus trig­ger­ing penal­ties. Ghanem how­ever said these diplo­matic moves might not be enough, “but they should be en­cour­aged and sup­ported by forces to ex­pose Is­rael’s prac­tices, which vi­o­late all in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights norms”.

The US has tra­di­tion­ally served as Is­rael’s diplo­matic shield, pro­tect­ing it from res­o­lu­tions it op­poses. It is Is­rael’s most im­por­tant ally, pro­vid­ing it with more than $3 bil­lion each year in de­fense aid. That num­ber will soon rise to $3.8 bil­lion per year un­der a new decade­long pact, the big­gest pledge of US mil­i­tary aid in his­tory. But the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has grown in­creas­ingly frus­trated with set­tle­ment build­ing in the West Bank, which Is­rael has oc­cu­pied for nearly 50 years.

There have been grow­ing warn­ings that set­tle­ment ex­pan­sion is fast erod­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a two-state so­lu­tion to the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, the ba­sis of years of ne­go­ti­a­tions. Set­tle­ments are built on land the Pales­tini­ans view as part of their fu­ture state and seen as il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional law. “We can­not stand in the way of this resolution as we seek to pre­serve a chance of at­tain­ing our long­stand­ing ob­jec­tive of two states liv­ing side by side in peace and se­cu­rity,” said Sa­man­tha Power, the US am­bas­sador to the UN. “The set­tle­ment prob­lem has got­ten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the very vi­a­bil­ity of that twostate so­lu­tion.”

Obama ad­viser Ben Rhodes said “we can­not sim­ply have a two-state so­lu­tion be a slo­gan”, but added that “we did not draft this resolution”. “We took the po­si­tion that we did when it was put to a vote,” he said. Trump has sig­naled he is likely to be far more fa­vor­able to Is­rael. David Fried­man, his nom­i­nee for am­bas­sador to Is­rael, fa­vors mov­ing the US em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and has voiced sup­port for set­tle­ment build­ing.

Some 430,000 Is­raeli set­tlers cur­rently live in the West Bank and a fur­ther 200,000 Is­raelis live in an­nexed east Jerusalem, which Pales­tini­ans see as the cap­i­tal of their fu­ture state. The resolution de­mands “Is­rael im­me­di­ately and com­pletely cease all set­tle­ment ac­tiv­i­ties in the oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory, in­clud­ing East Jerusalem.” It says set­tle­ments have “no le­gal va­lid­ity” and are “dan­ger­ously im­per­il­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of the twostate so­lu­tion”.

Fri­day’s vote was sched­uled at the re­quest of New Zealand, Malaysia, Sene­gal and Venezuela - each rep­re­sent­ing a dif­fer­ent re­gion and re­flect­ing the wide sup­port for the mea­sure - which stepped in af­ter Egypt put the draft resolution on hold. Af­ter the resolution passed, Is­rael re­called its ambassadors to Sene­gal and New Zealand for con­sul­ta­tions. He also can­celed a planned Jan­uary visit to Is­rael by Sene­gal’s for­eign min­is­ter and ended Is­raeli aid pro­grams to the West African na­tion. Is­rael has no diplo­matic re­la­tions with Venezuela or Malaysia. — Agen­cies

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