The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted on Friday, December 23, to adopt resolution 2334 that calls on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The vote, with 14 member states voting in favor and the United States abstaining, was the first such vote to be held on the Middle East peace process in eight years, according to the UN. The resolution’s text, drafted by Egypt together with Palestine, reportedly demands that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and emphasizes that the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” The abstention vote by Obama came as a major reversal in American policy, as a similar resolution was vetoed by the US in 2011.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms. At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half a million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, and calls the Western Wall ‘occupied territory.'”
Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List faction, charged that Netanyahu’s policies, including the recently passed bill to legitimize unauthorized Israel building in the OPT, have demonstrated to the world he’s the “peace refusenik,” echoing Netanyahu’s own language, along with that of the right-wing Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. In his reaction to the vote, MK Odeh added that “the arrogance of Netanyahu and his ministers, the law to legalize settlement outposts and the stealing of Palestinian land, all those led the international community to understand that the true denier of peace is the government of Israel.” Odeh called to work for “the establishment of a Palestinian state and a peace agreement that will be good for both Palestinians and Israelis.” According to MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List), “The world has said no to settlements; the world has said no to the far-right government of Israel.”
Palestinian officials including veteran statesman and negotiator Saeb Erekat spoke of a “victory.” Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, said on Friday before the United Nations Security Council session on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question: “The Council’s action, while long-overdue, is timely, necessary and important. The resolution adopted reaffirms the Council’s decades-long position that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, (1) have no legal validity; (2) constitute flagrant breaches under international law, namely the Fourth Geneva Convention, and (3) constitute a major obstacle to peace, gravely diminishing the viability of the two-State solution based on the 4 June 1967 borders and the possibility of realizing it. Over the years we have made countless appeals to the Council to uphold its charter duties, convinced in its central role and the primacy of international law, insisting on the need for concerted action to confront Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and relentless colonization of our land under its half-century foreign occupation. Our appeals have sought, in the short term, to alleviate the suffering of our people, a defenseless civilian population denied their rights, dignity and humanity; but our appeals have also been calls for the Council to contribute to the cause of peace for the long-term – peace for Palestine, peace for Israel, peace for the Middle East region and for our world.”
According to Mansour: “The facts are that the only bashing being done is by Israel – of this Council and entire UN system, of the Charter and international law. For five decades, despite resolution 242 (1967) calling for Israel’s withdrawal from the territories it occupied in 1967 and all the resolutions thereafter, Israel has persisted in full force with its occupation. Its illegal settlements and the wall have severely fragmented our land, undermined its contiguity, and isolated East Jerusalem – the heart and capital of our State and de facto Israeli annexation which the international community has never recognized and continues to reject. It has destroyed convictions in the rationality, feasibility and fairness of the two-State solution, as reflected in the growing negative sentiments among Palestinians, whether those besieged and inhumanely blockaded for nearly a decade in the Gaza Strip, or those enduring the colonization onslaught and daily settler terror in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, or those in the Diaspora, including in our refugee camps across the region, whose patience in awaiting justice and a peaceful solution is legendary, yet now so frail… We thus urge intensification of international and regional efforts to achieve, without delay, an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and a comprehensive, just and lasting peace, based on the relevant UN resolutions, Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, Arab Peace Initiative and Quartet Roadmap, whereby the Palestinian people will realize their rights and justice, including a just solution for the Palestine refugees on the basis of resolution 194 (III), and can finally live in freedom and dignity, exercising their inalienable right to self-determination in their independent, sovereign and contiguous State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel in peace and within secure and recognized borders.”