Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday night twitted: “The US should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council on Thursday.” The vote has been the focal point of the Israeli PM’s thinking and anxiety since the Nov. 8 elections in the US, guiding his moves and statements, especially concerning the crisis he’s faced at home regarding the approaching eviction date for the Amona community in Samaria.
As of Wednesday night, the UNSC resolution draft text says Israel’s establishment of Jewish towns and villages in the liberated areas of Judea and Samaria bears “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” It suggests that the fact that there are Jews living in those areas “dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution,” because, naturally, while Arabs can live freely alongside Jews in 1949-borders Israel, having Jews anywhere inside the envisioned Palestinian state would be unthinkable.
The text decrees that freezing the Jewish settlement enterprise is “essential for salvaging the two-state solution,” calling for “affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground (See Israe’s Supreme Court ruling on the expulsion of the Jews of Amona).”
According to Al Jazeera, UN diplomats see Thursday’s vote as the final chance for council action on getting the Jews out of the liberated territories before President-elect Donald Trump takes over from President Barack Obama on January 20. Hence the Netanyahu twit, advising the US to veto, as it has done over the past eight years under the same president.
Last July, the UN and its diplomatic partners, the so-called Middle East Quartet – comprising the UN, Russia, the United States and the European Union – submitted a report that essentially calls for the strictest implementation of the Oslo accords, spelling an eventual end to the Jewish presence in the 1967 liberated territories. The Diplomatic Quartet’s recommendations, which are the basis for Thursday’s vote were:
1. Both sides should work to de-escalate tensions by exercising restraint and refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric.
2. The Palestinian Authority should act decisively and take all steps within its capacity to cease incitement to violence and strengthen ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including by clearly condemning all acts of terrorism.
With that lip service to the need to curb daily, ongoing Arab violence, the document gets to the real meat of the recommendations, namely, eliminating Israel’s right to rule over Area C:
3. Israel should cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, designating land for exclusive Israeli use, and denying Palestinian development.
4. Israel should implement positive and significant policy shifts, including transferring powers and responsibilities in Area C, consistent with the transition to greater Palestinian civil authority contemplated by prior agreements. Progress in the areas of housing, water, energy, communications, agriculture, and natural resources, along with significantly easing Palestinian movement restrictions, can be made while respecting Israel’s legitimate security needs.
And, having stated the essence of their demands, the Quarter returned to empty recommendations:
5. The Palestinian leadership should continue their efforts to strengthen institutions, improve governance, and develop a sustainable economy. Israel should take all necessary steps to enable this process, in line with the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee recommendations.
6. All sides must continue to respect the ceasefire in Gaza, and the illicit arms buildup and militant activities must be terminated.
The Thursday UNSC vote is the moment of truth between Obama and Netanyahu. A US abstention would not suffice in this case. The US has to actually vote against the resolution in order to kill it. A US vote in favor would give the resolution a powerful – albeit symbolic – stand. In reality, Netanyahu can defy it and, at least for the next four years under President Trump, suffer no real consequences. But once the resolution is on the books, it would take a unanimous vote of the five senior members to remove it – and that would be a rare thing indeed.