Monday, December 18, 2017

UNSC resolution a “very powerful base” for advancing BDS efforts


By The Palestine Monitor - December 27, 2016
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Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [UN] [settlements]

The resolution on Israeli settlements adopted last Friday by the UN Security Council (UNSC) unleashed a diplomatic storm over the Christmas season, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branding it as “anti-Israel”. Palestinian have generally welcomed the resolution as a good legal base to advance the BDS campaign, take Israel to the ICC and demand sanctions, stressing the urgency to translate words into action. Other analysts have argued the resolution is merely symbolic and too little too late.
 
The 15-member council passed the resolution with 14 votes in favour. The US abstained and opted for not using its veto power. The US had previously vetoed more than 40 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, including a similar resolution on Israeli settlements in 2011.
 
The resolution reaffirms that the establishment of Israeli settlements on land occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and reiterates the demand that Israel cease all settlement activity, calling for immediate steps to be taken to reverse current trends endangering the two-state solution. In addition, it calls on states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the state of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
 
Netanyahu immediately proceeded to summon the ambassadors of some the countries who voted in favour of the resolution, which was co-sponsored by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal, in a series of diplomatic steps which included the cancellation of all Israeli aid programs to Senegal – the only country that has experienced a real backlash from the diplomatic fallout.
 
In a statement issued on December 23 in response to the resolution, Netanyahu said: “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms.” Netanyahu lashed out at the Obama administration for “ganging up” against Israel with other Security Council members, adding that “Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”
 
US Secretary of State John Kerry said in his own press statement that “the United States acted with one primary objective in mind: to preserve the possibility of the two state solution,” adding: “That future is now in jeopardy, with terrorism, violence and incitement continuing and unprecedented steps to expand settlements being advanced by avowed opponents of the two state solution. That is why we cannot in good conscience stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.
 
In a last-minute bid to stop the vote, Netanyahu had tried to apply pressure via Trump. The resolution had originally been presented by Egypt, and a phone call from Trump to President Sisi did lead to a postponement of the vote last Thursday. After the vote, the US President-elect wrote in a tweet: “As to the UN, things will be different after January 20.”
 
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, the largest anti-Zionist Jewish activist group in the US, points out that while the US abstention can be seen as a strong sign of the need to hold Israel accountable to international law, halting settlement construction is a “necessary but not sufficient step.”
 
"With President-elect Trump urging a veto of even this mild resolution, as well as his nomination of an extreme right-wing ambassador to Israel, we are deeply concerned by increasing U.S. support for Israeli incitement, annexation and control under his administration,” Vilkomerson said, referring to Trump’s recent appointment of David Friedman, a man with economic interests in Israeli settlements and an opponent of Palestinian statehood, to the post of US ambassador.
 
Yousef Munayyer, Political analyst at the Arab Center of Washington, DC and executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights also believes the resolution does too little too late.
 
"If Trump's presidency provides the two-state solution's death certificate, this resolution can be looked at as the autopsy,” Munayyer said. “As problematic as it was, if the two-state solution ever had a chance, its cause of death is something the international community can agree on: Israeli settlement expansion that took place for decades with the international community providing cover and support for it.”
 
The total settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem now exceeds 590,000, and construction continues unabated. New legislation to retroactively legalise settlements built on private Palestinian land is currently advancing in the Israeli Knesset.
 
Other analysts argue that the resolution in an of itself may not be a game-changer, but some aspects of it should be welcomed for paving the way for further diplomatic moves by Palestinians and for providing a solid legal basis for the BDS movement to escalate pressure against Israel.
 
“Most important was the reference to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on the wall of separation and the call for third states to distinguish between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories,” said Zaha Hassan, human rights attorney and Middle East Fellow at New America. “This could potentially have far-reaching implications for Israel in its trade with the world and in all its financial transactions,” she added.
 
Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Mustafa Barghouti agreed these points provide Palestinians with “a very powerful base for enhancing the BDS campaign,” as well as “a very powerful legal and international base for demanding sanctions on Israel as long as it continues to violate international law.”
 
“This resolution has given us also a very powerful legal base for taking Israel to the ICC (International Criminal Court) and to court internationally. Not only Israel but any company or structure that will deal with Israel in the Occupied Territories,” Dr. Barghouti told the Palestine Monitor.
 
“As Palestinians we must use it, starting from today, to enhance the BDS campaign. This should become not only a popular act, but also an official act of the Palestinian official structures,” he said. In addition, according to Barghouti, the resolution has shown how isolated Israel is.
 
On Monday,secretary general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)Saeb Erekat vowed the resolution will be followed by other steps, such as taking Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other UN agencies.
 
“The Palestinian leadership will build on this and take steps in response to the arrogance and crimes Israel persists in committing,” he said in an interview with WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency. These steps will include asking again for full membership of Palestine to the UN Security Council and starting contact with different countries to “initiate steps to boycott the Israeli occupation.”
 
The resolution calls upon legal obligations already enshrined in the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s advisory opinion on the construction of the separation wall referred to above. As coordinator of the Palestinian Stop the Wall Campaign Jamal Juma’ pointed out in a recent op-ed, neither this nor the hundreds of non-mandatory UN resolutions supporting Palestinian rights have been able to change Israeli policy.
 
“If this resolution is to have any impact, people across the globe need to ensure that the pledge within the resolution to 'examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions’ translates into sanctions against Israel,” Juma’ wrote.

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