UN chief hails Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements as ‘significant step’

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 24 (APP): UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon has welcomed the adoption of a Security Council resolution which calls the establishment of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 as illegal and a ‘major obstacle’ to a two state solution peace in the Middle East.
“The resolution is a significant step, demonstrating the Council’s much
needed leadership and the international community’s collective efforts to reconfirm that the vision of two States is still achievable,” the UN chief’s spokesperson said in a statement.
“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,” the spokesperson added. “The United Nations stands ready to support all concerned parties in achieving this goal.”
On Friday afternoon, the 15 member Council adopted the resolution by a vote of 14 in favour and with one abstention the United States abstained from the vote, a move that allowed the text to pass. The resolution had been put forward by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela, after Egypt postponed the vote under Israeli pressure.
In the resolution, the Council reiterated its demand that Israel
immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard.
The Council also underlined that it will not recognize any changes to
the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.
The resolution called for immediate steps to prevent all acts of
violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, and for accountability in that regard, as well as for both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and previous agreements and obligations, to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.
It further called for compliance with obligations under international
law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism.
The Council also urged for intensification and acceleration of
international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967.
Meanwhile, tensions have intensified between outgoing President Barack
Obama and Israel after the US leader refused to veto the resolution, defying extraordinary pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the incoming US president, Donald Trump.
There was applause in the Security Council chamber following the vote,
which might be the final bitter chapter in the years of antagonism between Obama and Netanyahu.
The Obama administration has grown increasingly frustrated with
Israel’s illegal settlement construction, describing it as an obstacle to peace and a “two state solution.”
The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said the US chose not to veto the resolution because settlement building has no legal validity.
“The United States has been sending a message that settlements must stop privately and publicly for nearly five decades,” she said.
In a statement, Netanyahu accused the Obama administration of
“colluding” with the Palestinians and said he looked forward to working with Trump, as well as Israel friendly members of Congress, “to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”
Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, reacted angrily to the vote and
issued a sharp rebuke at the Obama administration’s role. “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,” he said.
The vote came a day after Trump personally intervened to keep the
measure from coming up for a vote. Israeli officials said they were aware of such plans by the White House and had turned to Trump for support.
Minutes after the Security Council vote was announced, Trump made his anger known in a Twitter posting, vowing, “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20,” referring to his inauguration day.
However, given that most of the world is opposed to Israeli settlements,
the UN action will be almost impossible for anyone, including Trump, to reverse.