By Ramzy Baroud
Three years ago, the UN Security Council passed resolution 2334. With 14 members votingin favor and one — the US — abstaining, the resolution was the equivalent of a political earthquake. It was the first time in many years that Israel was roundly condemned by the international body for its illegal settlement policies in the Occupied Territories. Unlike with previous attempts at holding Israel accountable, this time the Americans did nothing to protect its closest ally.
What has happened since then, however, is testimony to the failure of the UN to implement meaningful mechanisms that would force violators of international law, like Israel, to respect international consensus. In some ways, approving resolution 2334 — although it is externally supportive of Palestinian rights — turned out to be one of the most costly decisions ever made by the international institution.
Just a month after its adoption on Dec. 23, 2016, Israel thumbed its nose at the whole world by announcingplans to construct thousands of new homes in illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his then-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman rationalized the provocative move as a “response to the housing needs” within the settlements. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as the subsequent three years have demonstrated.
It has become clear that the settlement expansion was part of a much larger strategy aimed at killing any chance of establishing a contiguous and viable Palestinian state, and parting ways with the so-called “land for peace formula,” which was itself molded through years of American mediation and “peace process.”
The Israeli strategy was a complete success. Thanks to the blank check issued by the Trump administration to Israel’s right-wing government coalition, Israeli politicians are now openly plotting what was once nearly unthinkable: The unilateral annexationof major Jewish settlement blocks in the West Bank, along with large swaths of the Jordan Valley.
Throughout the last three years, Washington has turned a blind eye to Israel’s sinister designs. Worse, it has fully embraced and validated the Israeli political discourse, while taking every necessary measure to provide cover for Tel Aviv’s actions. The declarationby US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month that Jewish settlements are “not per se inconsistent with international law” is just one of many positions adopted by Washington that pave the road for Israel’s insolence and violation of international laws.
Retrospectively, President Barack Obama had the chance to do more than merely abstain from voting against this UN resolution — which lacked any enforcement mechanism anyway — by using America’s generous financial aid to Israel as a bargaining chip. That way, he could potentially have forced Netanyahu to freeze settlement expansion altogether. Alas, Obama did the exact opposite: He bankrolled the Israeli military and financed every Israeli war on Gaza. His belated move at the UN set the stage for the Trump administration to unleash a cruel war on Palestinians, and on international law too.
In fact, it seems that the two-year term of former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was dedicated largely to rectifying the supposed “betrayal” of Israel by the Obama administration. In the name of defending Israel against perceived global “anti-Semitism,” the US severed its ties with several UN organizations, eventually isolating Washington itself from the rest of the world.
With the UN being designated as the common enemy by both Washington and Tel Aviv, international law was rendered irrelevant. Gradually, the US government fortified its protective shield around Israel, thus rendering resolution 2334 and many others meaningless. In other words, the US managed to turn international consensus regarding the illegality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine into an opportunity for Tel Aviv to disown any commitment not only to the UN, but also to the so-called two-state solution and the “peace process.”
While Israel has accelerated its settlement projects unhindered, the US ensures that the Palestinian leadership is denied the opportunity to fight back, even symbolically, through the various international institutions and any available political and legal platform. This was engineered through systematic economic warfare, which saw the cuttingof all aid to the Palestinian Authority in 2018, followed a week later by an endto all funds to the UN agency responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
The US-Israeli war on Palestinians was staged on two fronts. One front focused on the seizure of more Palestinian land and the building of new and the expansion of existing settlements as a precursor to the imminent step of annexing most of the West Bank. The other front witnessed the relentless US administration pressure on Palestinians through political and financial means.
Three years after resolution 2334, a new status quo is upon us. Gone are the days of traditional American “peace-making” and its adjoining elaborate discourse centered on a two-state and other make-believe solutions. Now, Israel is single-handedly formulating its own “vision” for a future that is designed to meet the expectations of its unhinged and ever-growing right-wing constituency. As for the US, its role has been relegated to that of a cheerleader, unfazed by such seemingly trivial matters as international law, human rights, justice, peace or even regional stability.
Shortly after being appointedas Israel’s new defense minister on Nov. 9, Naftali Bennett tookthe dangerous and consequential decision of building a new Jewish settlement in the occupied Palestinian city of Al-Khalil (Hebron). Naturally, Jewish settlers rejoiced, as they will finally see the destruction of the old Hebron market, which is older than Israel itself, and the potential for further settlement expansion and more annexation in the city.
At the same time, Palestinians are cringing, for a move against Hebron is the final proof that Israel is now operating in Palestine without the slightest fear of political or legal repercussions. Not only did UN resolution 2334 fail to hold Israel accountable, it — in some way — facilitated further Israeli expansion in the West Bank, paving the road for the annexation that will surely follow.