Report: Is Peace Possible With The Israeli Settlement Resolution?


On December 23rd, 2016, a resolution was passed by the United Nations Security Council (Liebermann, 2016). Details of the resolution condemn Israel from further advancements in their settlement program in the West Bank, as well as in East Jerusalem, which is known to be under Palestinian territory (Ferziger & Arnold, 2016). Currently, there are approximately 600,000 Israelis living in multiple authorized settlements in the West Bank and in various sectors of East Jerusalem (Ferziger & Arnold, 2016). Coming out of the resolution process, it became apparent that the United States, a permanent member of the Security Council, abstained from applying its veto power, which effectively allowed the resolution to proceed swiftly to condemn Israel’s actions (Ferziger & Arnold, 2016). U.S. President Barack Obama was accused by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of orchestrating an international ‘gang up’ with the fourteen other members of the Security Council to vote against Israel’s wishes (Liebermann, 2016).

This report will highlight the political repercussions and the implications for the United States and the United Nations. Overall, the report will conclude that promoting peace from this moment forward will become a much more complicated process, particularly if there are reasons to believe the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump could repeal the resolution (Liebermann, 2016). But first, the history of U.S.-Israel relationship and the previous negotiations to bring settlements issues to the attention of the international community will be explored (J. Rosen, 2012).

 

The U.S and Israel’s relationship: then and now

There have been no doubts that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) have taken advantage of the UN Security Council as a means for gaining favorable results, especially on the matters of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory (J. Rosen, 2012). Such diplomatic discussions are the perfect opportunity for the PLO to apply pressure to the United States to veto any resolution that would result in Israel’s approval to secure the rights for settlement constructions (J. Rosen, 2012). As such, the Security Council is a strategic stage to place the Americans right in the middle of the Israel-Palestine conflict (J. Rosen, 2012). Steve J. Rosen (2012) explains that if the Americans were to prevent political efforts to delegitimize Israel, then the American principles would be questioned and jeopardized. But, as discussed in past international negotiations, the resolution may not have actual means to officially put an end to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which further delays the efforts to achieve any sense of peace in a significant hub of the Middle East (Liebermann, 2016). Limitations in international agreements have been the habitual problem that seems to not have found any real sort of solution that would place the aggressor state or leader in legal consequences.

Drafts of resolutions that favor Palestinian results does not actually have the support from past administrations in the United States (J. Rosen, 2012). J. Rosen (2012) states that all drafts presented to the UN Security Council in previous attempts have declared Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. This concept to the resolution is a policy that has not been widely accepted in the United States (J. Rosen, 2012). Any efforts in criminalizing Jewish communities in Jerusalem contrasts proposals set out by President Bill Clinton, who backed Israel’s attempts to restructure Jerusalem as their own property (J. Rosen, 2012). The issue of holding Israel accountable also goes against the acknowledgments of Clinton’s successor, President Bush, who, again, reaffirmed Jerusalem as a part of Israel (J. Rosen, 2012). In actuality, since the Geneva Convention, relative to the Protection of the Civilian Persons in Time of War (also known as the Fourth Geneva Convention), all U.S. presidents, including and after Ronald Reagan, have rejected any notion to legally condemn any Israeli settlement efforts, with the exception of President Jimmy Carter (J. Rosen, 2012). Even today, President Obama has stated that Israel’s efforts to advance their settlements in Palestinian territory undermines the process to attain peace (J. Rosen, 2012). This statement has been made clear without any indication that the settlements were in fact ‘illegal.’ The next step is for policymakers to ask themselves whether or not a resolution draft can legitimately make Israeli settlements illegal and if such drafts can consider the possible interference from entrenched U.S. foreign policy (J. Rosen, 2012).

 

Is change on the ground in Palestine possible?

The Palestinian Authority government have recognized the challenges they are facing to stop the violence on the streets and have requested the UN Security Council to call for the cessation of Israel’s activity in the West Bank (VOA News, 2016). The Security Council’s resolution passed on the 23rd of December, but it is only seen as guidelines for both parties to consider when taking action, effectively making the UN bill non-binding (Liebermann, 2016). Oren Liebermann (2016) expresses the idea that follow-up action needs to be implemented by the UN if the international community is serious about pushing for consequences against Israel. Only then, if such measures to punish Israel for violating the terms of the resolution have been explored by the UN, would Israel have to start worrying about the long-term effects of their activity in the conflict (Liebermann, 2016). After all, the goal of any resolution is to apply strict rules to the aggressor and, in this case, having Israel follow the strict conditions and parameters presented in the draft (Liebermann, 2016). However, it is not an easy task to place accountability measures on Israel. Jonathan Ferziger and Michael Arnold (2016) discuss the continuous attempts enforced by the Palestinians to bring cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and other conventions, which has included difficult processes for enforcing the rules in the resolution. If cases against Israel receives the approval by the ICC, then sanction movements can be made possible to pursue where the international community and the Security Council would seriously consider cutting ties with Israel (Ferziger & Arnold, 2016). But, there is another problem: any efforts that require the attention of the global criminal court system takes a considerably long time (Ferziger & Arnold, 2016). Given the circumstances, time is of the essence, especially for the civilians in the West Bank that continue to be victims of escalated violence (Ferziger & Arnold, 2016).

Again, the resolution only opens the doors for negotiations to be discussed between the two sides, but does not hold specific variables, such as the details surrounding the borders (Liebermann, 2016).  The resolution only calls for the other states to identify or recognize the difference between Israeli and Palestinian land (Liebermann, 2016). Prime Minister Netanyahu, however, announced that his country will not comply with the regulations produced in the recent resolution (Ferziger & Arnold, 2016). It is the Palestinians fear that the situations on the ground will not change quickly enough if Israel continues its settlement constructions before any sanctions get approved in the international court (Ferziger & Arnold, 2016). Furthermore, if the Israelis do not show any attempts to abide by the terms of the resolution, then the violence on the ground will only continue to escalate, as warned by Jim Kerry (Marshall, 2016). The U.S. Secretary of State has advised Prime Minister Netanyahu to consider negotiation strategies if the Israeli leader is serious about achieving peace, as opposed to agitating the Palestinian Authority by destroying homes and unleashing violence (Marshall, 2016). Unfortunately, Secretary Kerry’s warning only seems to be foreshadowing the events on the ground (Marshall, 2016).

Rachelle Marshall (2016) expresses her concerns on the ground as the number of fatalities only seems to be getting worse. Approximately 200 Palestinian victims, most of them in their youth were killed by Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem back in the spring of 2016 (Marshall, 2016). Marshall (2016) also states that the attacks conducted by the Palestinians should not be ignored as these attacks appeared to be more disorganized and unpredictable while the two sides are not showing any considerations of the possibility of innocent civilian casualties. The concern behind the motivation of the Palestinian forces attacking Israeli civilians seems to reflect the on-going frustration observed from the Palestinian perspective and suggests that the rampage exerted from Palestinians would stop once Israel recognizes their independence (Marshall, 2016). However, the Israelis have gone so far as to start conducting sweep arrests accompanied by raiding Palestinian schools and hospitals in search of persons-of-interests and suspected terrorists (Marshall, 2016). Certainly, as described by witnesses on the streets, it is even more difficult to achieve peace if events on the ground do not stop and if outside forces continue to be bystanders (Marshall, 2016).

 

What about the new U.S. administration?

It is no secret that President-elect Donald Trump has voiced his concerns about the Israeli settlements resolution and the role the U.S. played by not vetoing the process (Liebermann, 2016). In fact, Trump has revealed his intentions to the public (and certainly one of the main foreign policy designs that was evident in his campaign run) to alter the methods of how the United States involves itself in matters of global affairs and its membership in international bodies, such as NATO and the UN Security Council (Livni, 2016). Urging the U.S. to veto the UNSC resolution indicates that Trump has sided with Netanyahu in preserving Israel’s claim over Palestinian territory (Livni, 2016). Ephrat Livni (2016) expresses his concerns on the promising alliance between Trump and Netanyahu, which would only compromise efforts to reach peace, especially if Israel continues settlement construction against Palestinian wishes. Instead, what Trump fails to realize is that finding solutions to promote peace will restore the Palestinian’s faith in Israel, but only if they can see the similar determinations from the Israelis (Livni, 2016). Theoretically speaking, Trump can introduce a new resolution that would abolish the existing doctrine and get the support from nine Security Council members to vote on his proposal (Liebermann, 2016).

The dilemma with Trump’s proposal is the consensus that has already been established in the international community (Liebermann, 2016). Throwing in the idea of punishing Israel for further settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been favored by other international players for a while (Liebermann, 2016). With that, there is a broad understanding that the discontinuance of Israel’s settlement projects is the fastest and most compelling way to generate peace (Liebermann, 2016). Even if Trump got the support from nine other countries to vote on his resolution, a permanent member of the Security Council (either China, France, Russia or the United Kingdom) can certainly veto against the draft (Liebermann, 2016). However, if Trump is firmly positioned to fight against international institutions, and review America’s role in these international institutions, then other nations would feel vulnerable about accepting the fact that the United States, after inauguration day, might distance itself from future peacemaking discussions (Livni, 2016). From the Palestinian’s perspective, it is getting more difficult to bring peace to the discussion table, where Israel and Palestine are positioned at opposite ends and it is becoming noticeably impossible to reach unilateralism in the international community (Ferziger & Arnold, 2016). After all, based on a set of tweets sent out by the President-elect himself, things going forward will be different (Livni, 2016).

Steven J. Rosen (2012) states that if a U.S. president shows signs of ambition to identify peacemaking policies in Israel, then the U.S. and Israel must establish a meaningful partnership before highlighting the settlement issues. A partnership between the two countries can guarantee a process to start with the wider international issues, which can help generate trust, and once trust can be established, discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian feud can rise within the international community (J. Rosen, 2012). It is important for the dialogues to start in seclusion without public opinion or persuasion, which could sway the path toward a bilateral agreement (J. Rosen, 2012). As such, the American and Israeli leaders must understand the opposite perspectives and interests while determining the best results to attain peace without additional violence or political backlash from international organizations (J. Rosen, 2012). Lastly, it is important for President-elect Donald Trump to secure the knowledge presented by the Security Council, the Palestinian Authority government, and Israel in order to successfully consider the peaceful possibilities that would not spark any more conflict in the Israel-Palestine chaos (J. Rosen, 2012).

 

 

References

Ferziger, Jonathan and Arnold, Michael. “What UN Vote on Israeli Settlements Means—and What’s

Next.” Bloomberg, December 26, 2016. Accessed January 4, 2017.

 

Liebermann, Oren. “What the UNSC resolution means for the US and Israel.” CNN, December 27, 2016.

Accessed January 7, 2017.

 

Livni, Ephrat. “The UN Security Council passed a resolution to end Israeli settlements in Palestine

territories.” Quartz, December 23, 2016. Accessed January 5, 2017.

 

Marhsall, Rachelle. “Israeli settlements come at a high price.” Washington Report on Middle East

                Affairs. Vol 35.2 (March-April2016): 8.

 

“Palestinians Push for UN ‘Consequences’ for Israeli Settlement Activity.” VOA News, October 19, 2016.

Accessed. January 5, 2017.

 

Rosen, Steven J. “Israeli Settlements, American Pressure, and Peace.” Jewish Political Studies Review.

Vol. 24, No. ½ (Spring 2012).