Finally some good news at the end of a very bleak year: the UN Security Council vote condemning (illegal) Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem. Though it only called on Israel to build no new Settlements rather than dismantle existing ones it was noteworthy because for the first time the USA abstained rather than used its veto to block the vote. So, and again for the first time, the Security Council passed a resolution holding Israel accountable under international law. The UN General Assembly has passed many resolutions calling for a just peace for the Palestinians but this is the first time the Security Council has done so. Here I’ll pause a moment to explain that these Settlements are residential communities illegally built on Occupied Palestinian Territory that are only for Jewish Israelis. There are currently 125 of them (not including ‘settlement outposts’), with a total population of 547,000 (2013 figures from B’Tselem, an Israeli Human Rights organisation). Illegally annexed East Jerusalem has 12 Israeli settlements, with 200,000 residents. Readers please note that these settlements have been built on land conquered and occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, 50 years ago. To settle one’s population on occupied territory is absolutely illegal according to the Fourth Geneva Convention and international law. They are in fact creeping annexation for an eventual takeover of the entire Palestinian West Bank. It is certainly true that Israel will most likely blithely ignore the resolution, as it has all the General Assembly ones, but this Security Council one is of enormous importance for several reasons. It has brought the issue of these illegally built Israeli Settlements to widespread public attention, and it has for the first time put a very small dent in the bipartisan ‘Israel at any cost’ mindset that has dominated Washington politics for decades (Rabbi Joseph of Jewish Voices for Peace, Online 26 December). Former ALP Foreign Minister Bob Carr also welcomed the Security Council vote, pointing out that illegal Israeli Settlement building is rendering a viable Palestinian state impossible. (SMH 27 December). Another worrying sign is that the incoming Trump administration promises to be detrimental for Palestinian human rights. The President Elect’s feverish advocacy against this UN resolution, along with his appointment of far-right settlement activist David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, show that he’s planning to pursue an extremist pro-Israeli agenda. Israel also uses Settlement building to sabotage any hope of a peace deal. As John Kerry explained, within days of a peace deal in 2014 along came an announcement of 700 new settlement units. “Poof!” he said, the deal got blown sky high. Since the Security Council vote Secretary Kerry has further strongly criticized Israel’s government, and also presented the principles of a future final status agreement: an Israeli and a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines; full rights to all citizens; a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue; Jerusalem as the capital of both states; an end to the occupation, while satisfying Israel’s security needs, and with a demilitarized Palestinian state” (Al Jazeera World News 29 December). Kerry’s vision is certainly achievable. Right now, for example, the Palestinians are offering a demilitarised state – a Palestine without an army – and Western peacekeepers within their borders. It is hard to imagine more explicit security guarantees.

by ray goodlass