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Palestinian leaders hail UNSC resolution against Israel

24 December 2016 17:04

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Palestinians have collectively welcomed a United Nations Security Council resolution that censured Israel for its settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Officials from the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad hailed the Friday decision, which was made possible as the United States uncharacteristically decided to abstain rather than veto it.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah described the resolution as “a major blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements, and strong support for the two-state solution.”

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki described the vote as a “victory for the Palestinian people.”

“It confirms the illegitimacy of settlements which form a clear violation of international law and obstacle to achieving a two-state solution,” he said.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, expressed optimism that the resolution could pave the ground for the restoration of peace in the occupied Palestinian territories.

He hinted, however, that the resolution may be too little, too late.

“After years of allowing the law to be trampled and the situation to spiral downward, today’s resolution may rightly be seen as a last attempt to preserve the two-state solution and revive the path for peace,” Mansour said.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum issued a statement on the movement’s official website praising the resolution, which he said “rejected the hostile Israeli settlements policy.”

“We welcome this important transformation and development in international positions supporting Palestinian rights in international forums… as we call for more of these positions,” the statement read.

Hamas also voiced support for the Palestinian leadership’s international strategy to achieve statehood but reiterated the need to continue resistance against Israel.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shahab separately described the resolution as a clear denunciation of “the occupation’s policies.”

“There is an international public opinion against Israel and its policies and it has become possible to isolate, boycott, and pursue Israel in international forums for the crimes and aggression it commits,” Shahab said.

“We know the decision itself will not deter Israel,” he cautioned, adding, “There are two factors that will deter Israel, which are the continuation of our resistance and the pursuit and boycott of Israel.”

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the Security Council’s adoption of the resolution.

He expressed hope on Friday that the decision would lead to the resumption of talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

“The secretary-general takes this opportunity to encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to work with the international community to create a conducive environment for a return to meaningful negotiations,” Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

A vote and a break with policy

Resolution 2334 was passed with 14 votes in favor and one abstention — by the US — on Friday. It was the first resolution on Israel and the Palestinians that the 15-member body has passed in about eight years.

The text of the resolution had originally been drafted by Egypt, which decided to withdraw it under “intense pressure.”

Israel had asked US President-elect Donald Trump to pressure Cairo to delay voting on the draft resolution. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is believed to maintain good ties with Trump.

After Egypt’s withdrawal, however, Senegal and New Zealand, two other members of the UN Security Council, forwarded a motion of their own for a vote on the text.

The US administration decided to break with a long-time policy of vetoing condemnatory resolutions against Israel by abstaining.

Infuriated Israel looks to a Trump administration

The resolution described Israeli settlements as a “major obstacle” to peace and demanded an end to their expansion.

Israeli officials responded with rage at the resolution and Washington’s abstention in particular.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon lashed out at the administration of President Barack Obama and expressed hope that both Trump and the incoming UN secretary general, António Guterres, would establish closer ties with Tel Aviv.

“It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share and that they would have vetoed this disgraceful resolution,” said Danon.

“I have no doubt that the new US administration and the incoming UN secretary-general will usher in a new era in terms of the UN’s relationship with Israel,” he added.

In a post on Twitter, where he has found a platform through which to air his views, Trump said after the vote that, “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20th,” referring to the date when he will be assuming office.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also rejected “this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN” and said the regime “will not abide by its terms.” He said Obama had failed to “protect Israel.”

“Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in [US] Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution,” the statement read.

Netanyahu’s office announced in the early hours of Saturday that Tel Aviv had recalled its envoys to Senegal and New Zealand for consultations, and had tasked the Foreign Ministry with cancelling a scheduled visit to Israel by Senegalese Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye and scrapping an aid program for the West African country.

Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said the US abstention vote “spits in the face” of incoming Trump.

Grabbing Palestinian land

Resolution 2334 condemned Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem al-Quds and the occupied West Bank as a “flagrant violation under international law,” which it said was “dangerously imperiling the viability” of peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Earlier this month, Israeli lawmakers approved a hugely-controversial bill legalizing some 4,000 settler units built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, in the first of three readings needed to turn it into law.

The United States, Israel’s strongest ally, Germany, the country least critical of Tel Aviv in Europe, UN officials, and the European Union all strongly criticized the bill.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds. Built on occupied land, the settlements are internationally condemned as illegal.

The Palestinian Authority wants the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinians state, with East al-Quds as its capital.

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