Will the UN decision force Israel to act?
He doesn’t have much time left before he leaves office in a few weeks, but U.S. President Barack Obama got in one final, parting shot against Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in revenge for the latter’s speech in Congress in March 2015.
On Dec. 23, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution demanding an end to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The United States did not veto the motion, abstaining instead, but the decision is of critical importance given that the U.S. opted not to stand by Israel, its most privileged ally.
Netanyahu immediately said Israel would not recognize or adhere to the decision before subsequently announcing diplomatic measures against the 12 countries that signed the UNSC decision, as well as a cessation of trade ties with them.
As such, the FMs of Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand will not be accorded meetings, while their respective ambassadors will not be received by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Even a planned visit next week that was to be organized by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, in which Volodymyr Groysman was to come to Israel as the first Ukrainian Jewish PM, was summarily canceled.
But the disappointment and fury elicited by the U.N. decision was not confined to these responses, as Netanyahu vowed to reveal that it was Obama who personally organized the U.N.’s move. At the same time, he also announced plans for new settlements.
Amid the furor, President-elect Donald Trump also waded into the fray on Twitter. “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”
Before long, he continued: “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”
It was ironic, because the very uselessness that Trump was alluding to is exactly what the Muslim world has been complaining about given how the U.N. has always sided with Israel for years in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Regardless, though, it is impossible for this decision to bring peace, because without a common will, there can be no peace.
As long as the violence targeting Israel does not end, unilateral attempts to impose solutions are bound to fail – particularly when it’s an extreme conservative coalition running the country.
At the same time, it’s undeniable that the increasing number of settlements violates the Oslo agreement and makes a two-state solution well-nigh impossible.
Technically, the U.N. decision will not force Israel to alter its settlement policy because the motion possesses no coercive power. However, in the event that peace talks are revived one day, the decision will constitute a key reference point possessing international legitimacy.
Still, the motion is likely to usher in a series of actions that will pile on the pressure against Israel in the international arena, including the strengthening of the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement, which has been spreading across Europe. Since November 2015, EU countries have forced goods produced in Israeli settlements to bear a special label indicating their origin. The BDS movement has called for a boycott of these goods and a halt to investments in settlements.
Furthermore, the UNSC decision could provide a legal basis for cases opened against Israel at the International Criminal Court. Following the failure of the last peace talks in 2014 and the subsequent explosion of a new war in Gaza, an international campaign by the Palestinian Administration described as a “diplomatic intifada” ultimately helped pave the way for Palestine to become a member of the ICC. Such developments could result in Israel being found guilty at the ICC.
Before the dust has even settled, a summit will be held in Paris on Jan. 15, 2017. Israel said at the outset that it would not participate, but suggested it would be open to engaging in direct talks with Palestine if the French agreed to cancel the gathering. Now, however, there is speculation that if the summit produces a decision that goes against Israel on the subject of a two-state solution, the U.N. could attempt to pass another motion calling for sanctions against Israel before Obama hands over his post to Trump.
And it’s not as if Trump can just undo everything that Obama does, as explained by Haaretz’s diplomacy reporter, Barak Ravid. “In order to overturn the resolution, Trump would have to pass an opposite resolution, which will in fact state that the settlements are legal and are not an obstacle to peace, get the support of at least eight members of the Security Council not including the U.S. and ensure that Russia, China, France, and the U.K. don’t veto it. This is unlikely, to say the least.”
But let’s suppose that Trump, who will assume office on Jan. 20, 2017, follows through on his promise and moves the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; when there’s a clear U.N. decision on East Jerusalem, is peace likely to ensue from the chaos that such a step will foment in the Middle East?
The best thing to do would be to fasten our seatbelts for the wild ride that awaits us in 2017.