On Friday, the United Nations passed a resolution calling for Israel to stop settlements on Palestinian territory. The vote passed unanimously, after the United States abstained, declining to use its veto power against the resolution, as it has consistently done in the past on this issue.
According to the resolution, settlements built on land occupied by Israel since the 1967 war, which includes East Jerusalem, have “no legal validity.” It specified that such settlements detract from the viability of a two-state solution, and urged Palestine and Israel to resume negotiations seeking a solution that would facilitate two independent nations.
Particularly notable was the abstention on the part of the US, showing the increasing frustration of the Obama administration with continued settlement activity, considered by the administration to be an obstacle to peace. With the administration left with only a month in office, the move was a mostly symbolic gesture to express that frustration. Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser, said:
“In the absence of any meaningful peace process, as well as in the face of the acceleration of settlement activity that put at risk the viability of a two-state solution, we took the steps we did today.”
Danny Danon, who is the Israeli ambassador to the U.N., had harsh words for the UN resolution, that implied Israel will continue its settlement activities despite the decision.
“We overcame those decrees during the time of the Macabees, and we will overcome this evil decree today,” he said.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N, Samantha Power, said after the resolution passed that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have warned Israel that the failure to move towards a peaceful resolution was threatening Israel’s prospects of remaining both Jewish and Democratic. Power also added that the US would not have allowed the resolution to pass if it hadn’t also condemned terrorism and incitement of violence on the part of Palestine, which it did. Power also criticized the UN itself, for repeatedly condemning Israeli actions without holding Palestine equally accountable for inciting violence.
President-elect Donald Trump called for a veto on Thursday, and just an hour after the resolution passed, tweeted “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.” Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel believes the nation should annex and settle the West Bank.
As with similar resolutions, it isn’t clear whether this one will have any tangible effect on Israeli policy. Legal interpretations vary as to how binding, if at all, these UN resolutions are. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that Israel does not plan to abide by the resolution.