As I wrote earlier this week, the UN Security Council’s unanimous decision to condemn Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory has resulted in Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to cancel millions of dollars in UN contributions and to sever relations with 12 countries.
As reported Monday by the New York Times, Israel will not abandon construction in West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Middle Eastern nation declares it will “not turn the other cheek” and plans to move forward with thousands of new homes.
Netanyahu and other pro-settlement leaders criticize the US for failing to block the UN resolution, and many believe Obama orchestrated the whole thing.
The White House claims it did not organize the resolution nor work with the Palestinians on it. The document was written by Egypt and sponsored by Malaysia, New Zealand, Venezuela, and Senegal.
“This is a responsible, measured, and vigorous response,” said Netanyahu, referring to his isolationist actions following the UN resolution. “The natural response of a healthy people that is making it clear to the nations of the world that what was done at the UN is unacceptable to us.”
President Obama’s failure to veto the resolution has convinced many that Obama is “inherently anti-Israel,” reports the Times.
“All of the American presidents after Carter fulfilled the American commitment not to try to dictate to Israel the conditions for a final settlement at the Security Council,” said Netanyahu. “Yesterday, in complete contradiction to that commitment, including an explicit commitment from President Obama himself in 2011, the Obama Administration carried out a disgraceful anti-Israeli blitz at the UN.”
The Council insists that Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory are illegal and will impede progress towards peace. The vote passed 14-0, with the US abstaining instead of using its ability to veto.
Trump, who pushed for a veto and has long questioned the UN’s effectiveness, criticized the UN as “a club for people to get together, talk, and have a good time.” The President-elect has chosen a pro-settlement advocate as his ambassador to Israel, and Netanyahu has expressed the desire to work with his “friend” Donald Trump.
“Things will be different after January 20th,” tweeted Trump after the UN vote.
Palestinian leaders, who welcomed the UN’s decision, say they will use the resolution to support their case against Israel.
“Now we can talk about the boycott of all settlements, the companies that work with them, et cetera, and actually take legal action against them if they continue to work with them,” said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki.
“We are looking to devise a comprehensive vision, and hopefully 2017 will be the year when Israeli occupation ends,” Malki continued, adding that he hopes to use the resolution to enable displaced Palestinians to file lawsuits, to prosecute Israeli leaders, and to convince authorities to investigate whether Israel has violated the Geneva Conventions.
Israel rightly argues that the UN resolution will make peace talks more difficult and in effect has removed the only advantage Israel had: land.
Israel’s settlement project has grown substantially in recent years. There were 193,737 people living in East Jerusalem and 297,000 in West Bank in 2009. By the end of 2014, there were 208,000 in East Jerusalem; by the end of 2015, there were 386,000 living in West Bank.
Planning committee chairman Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman says he won’t “get worked up over the UN or any other organization that might try to dictate to us what to do in Jerusalem.”
“I hope that the government and the new administration in the US will give us momentum to continue,” he added, insisting that Israel will be moving forward with the construction of over 5,000 units.
Anat Ben Nun of Peace Now worries that “Netanyahu’s attempt to avenge the UNSC resolution through approval plans beyond the Green Line will only harm Israelis and Palestinians by making it more difficult to arrive at a two-state solution.”
Israeli leaders continue to insist there is no reason to halt construction.