23 December 2016   Leave a comment

Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela took Egypt’s resolution on the illegality of Israel’s settlements and put it up to a vote.  The resolution passed 14-0-1 with the US abstaining and refusing to use its veto.  The decision to abstain was immediately attacked by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who said:

“Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. and will not abide by its terms….At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half a million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, and calls the Western Wall ‘occupied territory.’”

The move was also condemned by President-elect Trump who had earlier taken the rather extraordinary step of telling the Obama Administration to veto the resolution prior to the vote.  Trump tweeted:

“As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”

After 20 January he does have a right to speak for the US.  But not today.

 

Image result for map Israeli settlements

The international law on occupied territory is actually fairly clear.    The Fourth Geneva Convention deals with population transfers into and from Occupied Territories:

DEPORTATIONS, TRANSFERS, EVACUATIONS

ARTICLE 49 [ Link ]

Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.
Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand. Such evacuations may not involve the displacement of protected persons outside the bounds of the occupied territory except when for material reasons it is impossible to avoid such displacement. Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.
The Occupying Power undertaking such transfers or evacuations shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to receive the protected persons, that the removals are effected in satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition, and that members of the same family are not separated.
The Protecting Power shall be informed of any transfers and evacuations as soon as they have taken place.
The Occupying Power shall not detain protected persons in an area particularly exposed to the dangers of war unless the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand.
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

The US has regarded the settlements as an obstacle to peace since 1967 and has frequently called for the cessation of building additional settlements.  The US government’s position on the settlements has been very clear and the official US statements on them leave no room for doubt.  The Israeli interpretation of the Geneva Convention differs substantially from the almost total unanimity among legal scholars that the settlements violate the Geneva Convention and can be found here.  The Israeli position that the Jewish people have an historic tie to the land and that the land was never under the sovereignty of a Palestinian Arab state is unquestionably true.  The same argument, however, can be made for the non-Jewish populations that have occupied the land for a significantly longer period of time.

The UN resolution will, unfortunately, change nothing.  Israel will not abide by the resolution and the statements by President-elect Trump suggest that the US will stop putting pressure on Israel to cease building.

President-elect Trump ramped up his language concerning nuclear weapons, telling a morning talk-show host: “Let it be an arms race because we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”  It is hard to process such loose language since the language trivializes the extraordinary destructiveness of the weapons and fails to appreciate the incredible expense of a nuclear arms race.  There is also nothing in the current security context which suggests that there is some weapons deficiency.  Will we use nukes to confront terrorism?  To fight climate change?  Would the US use nuclear weapons to get Russia out of Ukraine?  Or China out of the South China Sea?

Posted December 24, 2016 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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