The UN Security Council has passed a resolution demanding that Israel halt all settlement activities.
The 15-member council passed the resolution by a majority of 14 to none, with the US taking the unprecedented step of abstaining from the vote.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking after the vote, said Israel rejects the resolution, describing it as “shameful,” and adding that Israel would continue to construct settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu also angrily announced that his government would be suspending diplomatic cooperation with many of the nations who voted in favor of the resolution.
Last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a forceful speech in which he issued a robust defense of the US position and addressed Netanyahu’s reaction to the vote.
Kerry said that prior to the vote, the Israeli representative to the UN issued a statement expressing the hope that Security Council members would cast their votes according to “shared common values.”
Kerry responded by saying that the US did, indeed, vote in accordance with its values by abstaining from the vote.
Of course, it is unprecedented for Washington to abstain from a UN resolution on Israel.
However, Washington did not vote in favor of the resolution, which can be interpreted as allowing Israel to save face.
Otherwise, to uphold shared international values, the US would certainly have voted in favor.
For the past few decades, the US has been a staunch ally of Israel; often it is the nation’s only friend.
In the past, UN Security Council resolutions and condemnations of Israel always ended in a vote 14-1 in favor, with only the US voting against. Since the US holds a veto in Security Council votes, by voting against such resolutions it has always been able to thwart any attempts by the international community to pass resolutions requiring Israel to permit the creation of a Palestinian state.
This latest resolution came about after the Israeli government decided to continue expanding the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem, in doing so destroying the international consensus that the area should transition toward a two-state solution which would allow Israelis and Palestinians to coexist.
Just before stepping down from office, US President Barak Obama has finally stood up to Jeruslaem and in doing so redefined the US-Israeli relationship.
However, Obama’s successor, pro-Israel US president-elect Donald Trump might well return to the past by reverting to the old US-Israeli relationship that sits outside of international norms and values.
Israelis demand that the whole world unites to remember the massacre of the Holocaust — carried out when the Jewish people did not have their own nation in which to shelter — and to condemn political regimes that resort to violence, such as the condemnation by Israel of a cosplay event at Hsinchu Kuang Fu High School where students dressed up as Nazis.
Yet at the same time, Jerusalem continues to persecute stateless Palestinians and block the creation of a Palestinian state.
A nation that continues to behave in such a fashion will find it increasingly difficult to obtain the respect and support of the international community.
Chi Chun-chieh is a professor in the department of ethnic relations and cultures at National Dong Hwa University.
Translated by Edward Jones
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