What really motivated Israel’s allies to pass the UN settlement resolution

If one takes a bell-weather reading of Israel’s relationships with some of its closest allies, the lay of the land looks solid.

The UK is Israel’s second largest trading partner, the worth of bilateral trade having doubled in the last decade to US$5 billion.

In September 2016 the USA agreed a military aid package to Israel of US$38 billion, the biggest aid package ever pledged by the Americans to another country.

President Obama has refrained from using the US veto at the Security Council once, paling into insignificance in comparison to all other US presidents including Regan who allowed critical resolutions of Israel to pass through the Security Council 21 times, Bush Senior 9 times, and Bush Junior 6 times.

What is to be made of the accession of UNSC Resolution 2334 through the UN Security Council last week?

It is hard to paint a picture against this backdrop of thriving relations between Israel and the USA and UK that the decision by the USA not to veto the resolution and for the UK to vote in support was motivated by anti-Semitism or anti-Israel sentiment.

Countries do not deliver aid packages or trade deals to other countries of the nature that Israel is in receipt of, if they are not deemed close friends.

Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude something else must have motivated Israel’s allies to pass the resolution.

It is worth taking a close reading of the resolution’s wording. It reiterates Israel’s right to exist, and the right of Israeli citizens to live free from terror.

It condemns incitement and states the obligation on the part of the Palestinian Authority to dismantle terror infrastructure and seize illegal weapons.

It reaffirms commitment to the importance of negotiations. It says it will not recognise changes to the ‘4th June 1967 lines (the Green Line)’…’other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations’ highlighting that the expectation is there will be a peace agreement in which final borders including land swaps are negotiated and agreed.

Therefore, no assumptions are made within the body of the text about what the final borders of Israel will be, or, for example, how arrangements will be made regarding Holy Sites in Jerusalem.

The resolution demands that Israel ‘cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory’ and states it does not recognise the legal validity of the settlement enterprise which it believes it to be a major obstacle to achieving peace.

The resolution does not change the position of the UN, USA or the UK.

The policy of all three has consistently been that settlements are illegal under international law.

Demanding that Israel freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank was a policy adopted by all three via the Quartet Roadmap in 2003.

For those of us who believe in Israel’s future as a secure Jewish and democratic state, in which Israel’s citizens have a right to live free from terror, and share the concern that ongoing settlement building is endangering that prospect, our alarm bells have been ringing loudly of late.

Whether it’s the attempts currently at play in the Knesset to retroactively legalise the building of settlements considered illegal under Israeli law, built on private Palestinian land, a move described by Tzipi Livni as ‘a legalised land grab’, or Naftali Bennet’s gleeful delight in the news of Trump’s election declaring that ‘the era of a Palestinian state is over’.

The wording of the resolution suggests the Security Council shares the vision of Israel as a secure Jewish and democratic state. Perhaps it’s those same alarm bells that motivated the passing of the resolution?

About the Author
Hannah Weisfeld is Director of Yachad, a pro-Israel pro-peace group in the UK
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