Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a campaign trail in the east Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Har Homa, on March 16, 2015. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told an Israeli news website Monday that if he is elected in Tuesday's national elections,
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a campaign trail in the east Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Har Homa, on March 16, 2015. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told an Israeli news website Monday that if he is elected in Tuesday's national elections, "there will be no Palestinian state." (Xinhua/JINI)

The applause that rang through the UN Security Council chambers over passing of resolution 2334 was the sound of a resounding failure for Israeli government over the issue of settlements.

The resolution that condemned Israeli settlements said they had “no legal validity.”

While Netanyahu responded with alarm and harsh language, the resolution is not legally binding and will most likely join other resolutions which are more declarative and do not translate into actions.

“It’s a slap in the face politically for Israel — there’s no doubt about it. That doesn’t mean, however, that it will have any operational effect,” said Prof. Robbie Sabel, an expert on international law from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Since the resolution was not passed under the binding chapter of the UN charter, it cannot directly call for any action against Israel. There will be no sanctions of punitive measures.

“Those elements who want to take action against Israel may continue to do it and will find support in the security council resolution. But it doesn’t oblige them to do so, it doesn’t provide them with any legal reasoning,” Sabel added.

Netanyahu’s immediate response was a personal attack on U.S. President Barack Obama. It seemed like the Israeli premier was waiting for the moment when he could personally attack the leader with whom he has been at odds with for the past eight years of his administration.

“From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama Administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting days after the resolution was passed.

The U.S. abstained on the vote, rather than vetoed it as the Israeli government expected the Americans to do.

The harsh criticism by the Israeli government brought to light the discord that the Jewish state is at with the entire international community. Israel has no allies when it comes to its settlement policy.

“The Israeli government has been aware for many years that there is no international support for settlements,” Sabel said.

Since the government is aware that the resolution itself has no real implications for Israel, the vocal response serves two political goals.

The spotlight that Netanyahu put on the U.S. abstention diverted attention from his foreign policy failure to secure abstentions from countries he says Israel has excellent relations with.

Netanyahu is also the country’s foreign minister.

According to Sabel, the voting pattern is no surprise.

“Voting in the United Nations is done by blocs for political reasons, most states do not want to harm their bilateral relations with Israel,” he explains.

Netanyahu summoned the ambassadors of the countries that voted against Israel to his office in Jerusalem. On Christmas day, one by one, they arrived in order to be reprimanded. In itself, this was a controversial move.

The Israeli reaction and the subsequent coverage of it in the country prevents a real discussion within Israel on the actual issue.

Has the current Israeli government, a clear-cut right wing hawkish one, abandoned the idea of a two-state solution even though Netanyahu says he still supports it? And will Israel continue its settlement policy at the price of further international condemnation and perhaps isolation?

The avoidance of such a debate is critical for Netanyahu in order to maintain his right-wing coalition.

Nadav Eyal, a foreign affairs editor for Israel’s Channel 10, summarized the official Israeli reaction as an inherent contradiction.

“A collective panic attack that on the one hand explains that the resolution is meaningless and on the other hand explains it is awful,” Eyal wrote on his Facebook page.

Israel has its own legal arguments as to why it can settle the territory. Sabel said Israel “has a valid point — this is an area in dispute. There has never been a Palestinian state there.”

While the resolution itself is not a prelude to action, it can be used by the Palestinians in order to strengthen their claim to the land.

Israel captured the territory from Jordan during the 1967 Mideast War. Since Jordan has said it has no claim over the land, Israel says its future needs to be decided by both parties through negotiation.

For the current Israeli government, the West Bank and East Jerusalem belong to the Jewish people. For the Palestinians, the settlements are a major stumbling block to their future state.

The Israelis and the Palestinians have not sat at the negotiating table since April 2014. They can both be blamed for their lack of ability to sit down and hammer out the issues together.

The United Nations can table any number of resolutions dealing with the conflict but until the two sides begin a dialogue with each other, the conflict will continue. As long as the resolutions are not binding, both sides can maintain their current patterns.

As Netanyahu’s Israel continues with it’s diplomatic offensive, the country may find itself even more isolated in in the international arena. The consequences of such a personal attack on the American president may echo long after Obama is replaced and may be relevant regardless of who is in the White House. Enditem

Source: Keren Setton, Xinhua/

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