Friday, 23 December 2016

Why Israel's reaction to UN Security Council settlement vote was so vehement?

The condemnation of Israeli settlements in a UN Security Council resolution sparked angry, if not borderline psychotic, reactions by Israel's political leadership. 

Although the resolution's big print showed that Israel was dismayed with how Obama apparently stopped shielding it at the UN, the fine print is much more significant. 

The details reflects huge loss of what the Israeli government has been trying to cement the status quo with a new lexicon over the past eight years. Indeed, the importance of this resolution is not in what it said, but rather in what it did not say.

Settlements to be "part of Israel"
The resolution, whose text can be found here, reiterated an old language that Israel sought to replace, if not erase, by creating facts on the ground.

The resolution was clear that "all settlement activity" must stop and that it has no "legal validity".

The text did not add any reference to the "lands swaps", a phrase that has become part and parcel of all US statements on the conflict under Obama.

Therefore, Israel can no longer say that "we're building in settlements that will be part of Israel". This, which has been the official explanation to any building spree over the past few years, was underlined as false by the new resolution.

The Quartet and the Road map

These two were brought back to the fore. The text of the resolution underlined Israel's commitment to remove all illegal outposts built since 2001 (which are sought to be retroactively legalised by the settlers' government in Jerusalem). 

Noted is how the resolution did not refer to any Palestinian failure in meeting their commitments under the Road map. Rather, the text extolled the work of the Palestinian security services i.e. it implied the Palestinians did their part in the Road map and mentioned en passant the issue of "incitement". 

Refugees and Jerusalem

The most important part in my opinion is the fact that "all final status issues" were subject to negotiations, as mentioned by the resolution.

This came in response to the blase attitude by Israeli officials to talk about the status of Jerusalem as an undivided city. Not only did Israeli officials consider Jerusalem as a foregone conclusion, they even went to repeat again and again that Area C of the West Bank would be annexed. 

By highlighting that all the final status issue are subject to negotiations, the resolution put Jerusalem back on the agenda. 

The other and more important part is the issue of Palestinian refugees and their Right of Return. 

Netanyahu et al waged all kinds of attacks on US aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA for nearly a decade. They worked day and night to weaken the latter, either by fabrication of its ties to Hamas, or sometimes by physical violence (i.e. air strikes) against its facilities, especially in the Gaza Strip. Further, this relentless campaign sought to force the Palestinians to forgo the right of return from the outset, before any negotiations, without even providing anything in return. All of this work was undone by the resolution.

New vocab: Differentiation 

The "differentiation" part, which echoes a language used by the EU, is rather a new component. 

UN member-states were asked by the resolution to gradually ease out their investments in the settlements. They should make it clear to their companies that doing business in Israel is one thing but doing it in the West Bank settlements is another. This should make it easier for the activists especially to lobby companies such as Hewlett Packard (HP) and others who provide much high tech and services that are either used indirectly to improve the quality of life in the settlement or directly in the oppression of Palestinians, such as on checkpoints and screening systems. 

The hysterical responses by Israeli officials certainly reflected the sense of failure. The biggest losers are bound to be the cabal of settlers who suddenly realised that all their work over the past decade went down the drain. 

You have to read/watch what the settler leader and Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said at the UNSC. He really lost his mind, invoking ancient symbols such as the Maccabees' revolution and King David in his short note. He seemed to be talking at a synagogue in a right-wing settlement rather than at the UN Security Council. 

Mind you, Israeli opposition MP Tzipi Livni warned the Israeli Knesset few months ago that this exactly what was going to happen. However, the resolution was a strong message to Netanyahu that obstinacy will be met by a reset to all the sweetened language that appeared to favour the Israeli positions in the many attempts to make him accept the two-state solution. 

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