On Friday evening in Israel we learned that the United Nations Security Council had passed yet another resolution against Israel. This resolution condemned settlement building and referred to East Jerusalem as occupied territory. The full text of the resolution can be found here.
Originally this resolution was put together by Egypt but after some last minute behind the scenes wrangling Egypt dropped it only for it to be pushed forward by Senegal, Venezuela and New Zealand. The resolution passed with 14 votes for and none against with the USA abstaining. Every single member of the Security Council voted for this resolution with just one abstention, the USA.
Senegal and Venezuela are hardly countries to be pushing resolutions through the UN Security Council on the grounds of human rights and peace. Human Rights watch says of Venezuela’s position on the Security council;
Venezuela regularly voted to prevent scrutiny of serious human rights situations around the world, voting against resolutions spotlighting abuses in North Korea, Syria, Iran, Belarus, and Ukraine. Venezuela’s October 2015 campaign for a second term on the Human Rights Council was successful.
This is a country that actually makes sure nothing is done about Syria!
The big story around this resolution at the moment is that the outgoing Obama administration didn’t veto it. Netanyahu has spent the last eight years completely ignoring Obama’s initiatives when it comes to Israeli Palestinian peacemaking, making statements about expanding settlements when American diplomats arrive in the country, campaigning personally in Washington DC against Obama’s Iran deal and involving himself in US Presidential election campaigns against him. In the end it looks like Obama just had enough.
The response from Jerusalem was scathing against America. Netanyahu said;
The Obama administration not only failed to defend Israel from this harassment at the UN, it cooperated with it behind the scenes.”
The thing is that Israel gets $3.5 billion a year from the USA and will continue to do so until 2026. They aren’t the enemy. This isn’t really about the United States. This is about Israel and the rest of the world. This resolution passed with 14 members of the security council voting in favour and one abstention. Israeli diplomatic activity couldn’t even convince a single member without a veto to vote against it. While it is nice that the Americans have had Israel’s back in the United Nations for the past eight years their veto is not (despite what Bibi may think) a God given right.
If we were clever we would use this as an opportunity to take a look in the mirror. We would wonder whether Israel’s situation requires a full time Foreign Minister at the head of a powerful foreign ministry rather than Netanyahu holding on to the position (alongside Prime Minister, communications minister, economy minister, and regional cooperation minister) and dividing the responsibilities of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs among six other hastily created ministries.
We would question (again) the logic in appointing a full time deputy more interested in telling other countries what to do with their money than forging friendly links with them. Finally we would accept that treating the post of UN Ambassador as a dumping ground for your rivals rather than appointing people with the experience and diplomatic gravitas necessary to do the job effectively is a big mistake.
Samantha Powers opened her speech at the UN yesterday with a quote from Ronald Reagan in 1982;
The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements during the transitional period. Indeed, the immediate adoption of a settlement freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”
Ultimately the US position hasn’t changed since then. At some point it is time we started listening before we aren’t dealing with UN resolutions but with international actions.