Palestinian leadership and members of the international community were victorious after the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution calling for an end to illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and reiterated that their existence is illegal under international law.
After days of diplomatic turmoil, the US shocked and outraged Israel by refusing to veto the resolution — by abstaining from the vote, US President Barack Obama allowed resolution 2334 to pass Friday night at the UNSC.
Palestine’s envoy to the United Nations Riyad Mansour noted that the resolution came after years of allowing Israel to “entrench its occupation and a one-state reality with absolute impunity, at times even being rewarded for its violations and intransigence”
“Against this backdrop,” Mansour said, “one Council resolution in nearly eight years is not disproportionate; it is shameful. But today’s vote rectifies this record and sets us on a new course.”
Meanwhile, Secretary General of the PLO Saeb Erekat described the event to Reuters news agency as “a day of victory for international law, a victory for civilized language and negotiation and a total rejection of extremist forces in Israel.”
“The international community has told the people of Israel that the way to security and peace is not going to be done through occupation … but rather through peace, ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state to live side by side with the state of Israel on the 1967 line,” Erekat said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly called the resolution “a slap in the face to Israeli policy” and an “absolute international condemnation to settlements and unanimous support for a two-state solution.”
He said in a statement earlier marking the occasion of Christmas that “Despite the Israeli occupation, our presence in our homeland and the preservation of our cultural and national heritage are the most important form of resistance in the face of the darkness of a foreign colonialist occupying power.”
Spokesperson for the Hamas movement Fawzi Narhoum said that Hamas applauded the countries who “rejected the Israeli occupation’s aggressive settlement policies against the Palestinian people.
“We ask for more such supportive positions seeking to bring justice to the Palestinian cause and end occupation.”
Leftist Palestinian faction the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also released a statement Friday welcoming the Security Council resolution, but warned that Israel and its allies would likely try to make the resolution null and void.
“Israel and its allies,” the statement said, “will try to impede implementation of the resolution or call attention to parts of the resolution’s content related to terrorism, violence, and incitement, which can be harmful to the Palestinians.”
Human rights organization Amnesty International called the decision to “finally” pass such a resolution a “welcome step.”
“This is the first time in almost four decades that such a resolution has been passed. During this time, settlements not only continued to be built, but at an accelerated pace,” Sherine Tadros, Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York wrote in a statment, noting that resolution not only demands a halt to settlement building but also recognizes their illegality.
“Amnesty International has campaigned for many years on this issue. Israel’s settlement policy is inherently discriminatory and has resulted in grave human rights violations including destruction of homes, forced evictions, unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions, and collective punishment.”
Meanwhile, Israeli officials and their allies expressed shock and outrage over the resolution, accusing the Obama administration of colluding with Palestine while betraying a decades-long relationship of supporting Israeli policies.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel “would not abide by the terms” of the “shameful anti-Israel resolution.”
Netanyahu also reportedly instructed Israel’s ambassadors in New Zealand and Senegal — two states that supported the resolution — to return to Israel for consultations. He also ordered the cancellation of a planned visit to Israel by Senegal’s foreign minister and the cancellation of all aid programs to Senegal, according to Israeli news site Ynet.
Israeli Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the United States had “abandoned” Israel by abstaining from the vote, adding that “the heart aches that after eight years of friendship… and cooperation with Obama, this is his final chord” in the departing Obama administration.
Ynet quoted an anonymous Israeli official as saying that Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry “secretly cooked up” the “extreme anti-Israeli resolution behind Israel’s back.”
He said the resolution would be a “tailwind for terror and boycotts,” calling the move “shameful” and “an abandonment of Israel which breaks decades of US policy of protecting Israel at the UN.”
Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon for his part insisted that “Neither the Security Council nor UNESCO will rewrite history and to sever the link between the people of Israel and the land of Israel,” warning that “Efforts to attack Israel” would not help the peace process.
A number of US officials also reacted with dismay to the decision, with President-elect Donald Trump saying ominously in a Tweet, “Things will be different after Jan. 20th.”
Netanyahu had said after the resolution’s passage that he looked forward to working with Trump and the pro-Israeli members of the US Congress to reverse the damages of the “absurd” decision.
US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan calling the abstention vote by the US “absolutely shameful,” while Republican Senator John McCain said the move made the US “complicit in this outrageous attack” against Israel.
Leading up to the vote, US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who oversees the Senate subcommittee that controls United States’ UN funding, had threatened to cut funding for the UN and any nation that backed the measure.
However, critics have pointed out that dozens of past UN resolutions condemning Israeli policies in the occupied territory have not been supported by the political will necessary to enforce such measures.
Many expressed worry that the Friday’s resolution would also be merely symbolic — noting in particular the resolution did not authorize any form of sanctions to compel Israel to respect international law.
Despite the US government, particularly under Barack Obama, having routinely condemned Israel’s settlement expansions, US officials have yet to take any concrete actions to end settlement building and instead inadvertently encouraged the enterprise through consistent inaction over Israel’s violation of international law and continued support of the Israeli government through inflated military aid packages.
Amnesty International continued in their statement, saying that going forward, the UNSC “must now ensure this resolution is respected. Indeed, it should go further and demand that the state of Israel not only fulfil its legal obligation to halt settlement-building, but also dismantle its settlements and relocate its settlers outside Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is the only way to a just and durable peace.”