Variously described as unbalanced, unfair, and a humiliating blow by Israeli politicians past and present, UN Security Council Resolution 2334 passed with 14 votes in favour and an American abstention. Yet beyond the rumours and accusations of British complicity and American collusion over the text’s wording lies the necessity of focusing on the resolution’s significance.
Israel’s criticisms are based around three arguments. The resolution is silent or muted regarding Israeli concerns, such as Palestinian terrorism and incitement. It indulges Palestinian intransigence by consolidating the belief that national goals can be achieved without negotiated compromises. And in failing to distinguish between Israeli construction over the former armistice line, the resolution erodes previous Israeli-Palestinian (and Israeli-American) understandings over territorial swaps, thus making future negotiations harder. As former head of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin wrote, “the approach underlying Resolution 2334, whereby the Western Wall is tantamount to the Yitzhar settlement…eliminates any chances of negotiations toward a two-state arrangement.”
However it is disingenuous to focus on external perfidy while ignoring how Israel’s own policies facilitated the resolution’s passage. Since 2011, when the US vetoed a similar draft resolution, Obama has lost his belief in the Netanyahu government’s commitment to a two state solution. Legal measures currently being considered by the Knesset – against the advice of the Attorney General – to regulate and legalise settlement homes and outposts built on private Palestinian land may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Indeed, Netanyahu warned of this exact scenario if the bill were to pass, although he ultimately supported it in order to maintain his coalition.
In the longer term, the Palestinian ‘victory’ lends credence and encouragement to its ‘internationalisation’ strategy, and so-called ‘Lawfare’ against Israel in international agencies may increase. One open question relates to domestic issues, where Netanyahu is positioning himself as protector of Israel’s national dignity against a deeply hostile world. Will this approach be strengthened in light of the international community’s apparent hostility? Or, stung by criticism from its closest allies over settlements, might the public become convinced of the centre-left’s argument that even if not the obstacle to peace, Israel’s policies in outlying areas of the West Bank, are ultimately damaging to the country’s national security?