Settlement construction and the project for gradual demise of Palestine

Iran Review|Mohammad Khajouei: The year 2016 was a time for political wonders. This was the year when Britain left the European Union through a national referendum; the government of Colombia and FARC guerrillas reached a peace deal after many years of bitter conflict; Donald Trump won presidential election in the United States; Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated; and finally, in a bizarre turn of events, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution, which was not vetoed by the United States, to condemn Israel’s settlement construction on the Palestinian land and called for an end to Tel Aviv’s settlement activities.

UN Security Council Resolution 2334 can be viewed from six standpoints:

  1. This resolution was drafted by four countries; that is, Malaysia, New Zealand, Venezuela, and Senegal, which hailed from four corners of the world and different continents. On the other hand, 14 member states of the Security Council voted positive for the resolution and even the United States, which usually vetoed such anti-Israeli resolutions, abstained from voting and did not bar its final approval. All these facts point to an important point, which is the emergence of a global consensus against occupationist policies of Israel. They also prove that criticism of and opposition to Israel’s policies are no more limited to a number of Islamic or Arab countries and this issue has turned into a global phenomenon. For a while now, recognition of the state of Palestine has been sweeping various countries, especially in Europe, like a powerful wave. This shows that despite everything that Israel has done to erase the issue of Palestine, this issue is still alive in the world and is getting more prominent day by day.
  2. Approval of the UN Security Council Resolution 2334 came after the United States gave up its usual policy of supporting Israel within the world body and did not veto an anti-Israeli resolution after the lapse of 38 years. The agreement of the United States to approval of this resolution shows that opposition to Israel’s expansionist policies has become so rampant that even the United States cannot ignore it anymore. For long years, Washington was a strategic ally for Tel Aviv, but its unbridled support for this regime undermined its credit among countries in the Middle East. Of course, the United States tried for years to keep peace talks between Israel and Palestinians going through its own mediation, but the problem was that it failed to follow the impartial policy that is expected from a mediator. It is, however, important, though belated, that the United States is trying at the present juncture to keep its distance from Israel. This measure can be taken as a step to mend President Barack Obama’s damaged reputation in the last month of his term in office. It seems that the pressure from public opinion has finally made some American leaders understand that despite close ties between Tel Aviv and Washington, it is time for the Zionist regime to be held accountable before international law.
  3. At the present time, construction of the Zionist settlements stands as symbol of the expansionist policies of Israel. Of course, inhuman measures taken by this regime are not limited to this issue and it must be added to a long list comprising illegal detentions, suppression, massacre, and imposing economic embargo on Palestinians. However, the issue of settlement construction is a systematic policy followed by Israel in order to ignore the rights of Palestinians. More than half a million Israelis are currently living in 150 settlements, which have been built by Israel in those territories that the Tel Aviv regime has occupied in the West Bank after a war in 1967, including the East al-Quds. According to norms of international law, these settlements are illegal. Israel has occupied about 70 percent of the so-called Area C of the West Bank, which accounts for over 60 percent of all territories occupied on the western bank of Jordan River. Most of this area includes farmland, natural resources and underground reserves. In parallel, Israel has been making an effort to reduce social presence of Palestinians in this area. For example, Israel has not issued a single construction permit for Palestinians in this area during 2015.
  4. A point, which has received less attention than it really deserves, is the position of Palestinian territories occupied since the Arab-Israeli war in 1967. On the contrary to the common perception, Israel does not advance in Palestinian territories in a continuous and concentrated manner. In other words, it was not like that Israel would start its occupation process from one point and gradually occupy areas around it by increasing its radius. The point is that Israel has occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank in a step by step manner. This issue is indicative of Israel’s large-scale project to do away with conditions that may pave the way for the establishment of the Palestinian state and, in other words, is an effort made to bring about gradual demise of the dream of a Palestinian state. In other words, by occupying Palestinian territories in a discontinuous and step by step manner, Israel seeks to practically turn those territories into an archipelago in a sea of Israeli settlements. This situation will finally render the concept of sovereignty over a well-defined and continuous region, as the main pillar of a state, basically meaningless and infeasible.
  5. UN Security Council Resolution 2334 was a firm message to Israel. From the viewpoint of international law, this resolution is considered as a creditable international document, which can be even used by the Palestinian Authority and human rights bodies to build a case and file complaints at international or even national courts of certain countries against Israel. Since the legal procedure in such courts is not open to the veto right wielded by any power, this can cause a lot of trouble and problems for Israel.
  6. Let’s not forget that despite its importance, UN Security Council Resolution 2334 lacks any executive guarantees and this is one of the most important impediments on the way of its implementation. The world is faced with a regime, which blatantly refuses to comply with international regulations. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described this resolution as “shameful” and has ordered the Zionist regime’s cooperation with the United Nations to be revised. Blame game and appearing as victim has been a constant policy used by Israeli politicians in order to shield themselves in the face of criticism of the expansionist measures of this regime.

Israel is like a spoiled child that cannot be controlled even by Western states, which have been constantly supporting it. On the whole, it does not seem that UN Security Council Resolution 2334 would be able to bring about any practical change in Israel’s settlement construction policy in occupied Palestinian territories. Therefore, for the Palestinian side, this resolution would be nothing but a merely legal and symbolic achievement, so that, in case of any change in global power relations in the future, it would be able to claim some of its ignored rights by relying on this resolution. On the other hand, Netanyahu hopes that after Donald Trump takes over as the new president of the United States, he would have a more powerful backing to go one with his expansionist policies. The question is “can a regime, which brazenly defies international regulations, be forced to desist its expansionist policies through such unbinding resolutions?” Under these circumstances, how can Palestinians, who see themselves sinking more and more into the Israeli quagmire, be expected to show self-restraint and merely pin their hope on slow moving international procedures?

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* These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review’s viewpoints.