posted on Fri 23 Dec 2016 9:42 AM
Vote on Resolution on Israeli Settlements

This afternoon, the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution that condemns Israeli settlements. The text, drafted by Palestine, was put in blue by Egypt on Wednesday (21 December) evening with a vote scheduled for Thursday afternoon. However, on Thursday morning Egypt called for the vote to be postponed, and this morning (23 December), it withdrew the text in blue. However, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela decided that the draft resolution should be put to a vote, and this morning asked for the same draft to be circulated in blue, with the four countries as co-sponsors, and for a vote to be scheduled.

The draft has not been discussed formally by the Council although Egypt and the Arab Troika have had informal discussions with members of the Council over the last few weeks. It seems Egypt has indicated that while the preferred Arab position would be for a more comprehensive text, the draft could generate consensus at this critical juncture regarding the prospects of the two-state solution.

The draft resolution inter alia reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution; reiterates the Council’s demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem; and underlines that it will not recognise any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations. It also stresses that the cessation of settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution, and calls upon all states to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the state of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. It also calls upon both parties to act on the basis of international law and to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.

While this text has not been discussed by the Council as a whole, the Council has had two informal meetings this month (on 13 and 20 December), initiated by New Zealand, to discuss options for Council action before the end of the year. A number of outgoing members would like to see a Council decision on the conflict before they leave the Council. In addition, there is a general sense that the period before the 20 January inauguration of US President-elect Donald 
J. Trump is a rare window during which outgoing US President Barack Obama might be open to the adoption of a resolution on this highly contentious issue.

New Zealand had for several months been consulting with the US and the parties on a separate draft resolution focused on preserving the two-state solution and getting the two sides back to negotiations, and had hoped to allow the Palestinians to pursue their draft resolution on settlements prior to presenting its initiative. However, by mid-December when momentum on the Arab draft appeared to be stalled, ostensibly to allow time for the Arab League to deliberate on the matter, New Zealand initiated the discussions on prospects for action. It appears that during the two meetings, most Council members expressed their support for any text that aims to bolster the prospects of achieving a two-state solution, and the majority of members conveyed their preference for adopting a text before the end of the year. However, some members expressed the view that if there is indeed currently a small window of opportunity for the Council to agree on an outcome, attempting a more substantive and actionable resolution would be desirable, and it appeared that there was more support for a resolution on settlements.

While it appears that the draft would be supported by most members of the Council, including four of the permanent veto-wielding members, it remains unclear what the Obama administration’s position is, and whether it would veto the draft, as it did with a similar settlements resolution in 2011 (the lone veto cast by the Obama administrationduring his two terms), or abstain and allow the resolution to be adopted. (The US last abstained in 2009 on a Israel-Palestine resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza following hostilities between Israel and Hamas.) Although the Israeli government has called on Obama to veto the text, a message echoed by President-elect Trump, who called the resolution “extremely unfair to all Israelis”, a number of Council members are hoping that the US will abstain on this draft resolution.

Postscript: The resolution was adopted with 14 affirmative votes, and one abstention (US).