Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is furious about last week’s United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, and he’s directing his fury at President Obama, the U.N., the Palestinians, and a big chunk of the international community.
The U.N. Security Council Resolution that passed by a vote of 14-0, with the United States abstaining, affirmed that Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land was a “flagrant” violation of international law. Israel first took over the West Bank and eastern parts of Jerusalem after winning the Six-Day War in 1967, and has administered military rule over Palestinians in those areas ever since.
The resolution is nonbinding, which means it doesn’t compel the Israeli government to do anything, and Netanyahu has vowed to keep building settlement housing. Though there is nothing in the resolution that differs from the international law and official U.S. government policy for decades, it is the first U.N. resolution to specifically refer to Israeli settlements as illegal since 1980.
Netanyahu’s rage comes from the international community’s view of settlement construction. Netanyahu and the Israeli right wing believe they have a right to build on land to which they have religious and cultural ties; among Israelis and Israeli media, the West Bank is commonly referred to as “Judea and Samaria,” Biblical Jewish names for the region. The vast majority of the rest of the world, and international law, view such construction as an illegal act on Palestinian or “disputed” land, abetted by Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
Netanyahu is particularly infuriated by America’s abstention, and has accused the Obama administration, with which he has had a tumultuous relationship for the last eight years, of collaborating with the Palestinians to get the resolution passed. Netanyahu and his allies have declined to provide a source for their claims, instead citing their own intel. Obama foreign policy consigliere Ben Rhodes denied the allegations on a call with reporters last week.
The Obama administration, which failed to push a long-sought-after Israeli-Palestinian peace deal under Secretary of State John Kerry, has been concerned with Israeli settlement construction that further strains any hope for a two-state solution. According to the Israeli activist group Peace Now, the Jewish population of the West Bank and East Jerusalem grew 21 percent to 594,000 between 2009 and 2015. And recent Israeli census figures show that population growth in the West Bank is twice as much as in the rest of the country.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu had the opportunity to pursue policies that would have led to a different outcome today,” Ben Rhodes said on the call with reporters, according to the New York Times.
At the same time he’s lambasting President Obama, Netanyahu has reportedly ordered Israel to recall ambassadors from and indefinitely cut diplomatic ties with the 12 United Nations member states that supported the resolution — a list that includes France, Britain, Russia, and China. Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a far-right ultranationalist, escalated diplomatic rhetoric when he referred to a scheduled January 15 peace conference in France as “a Dreyfus trial in a modern version.” The tough-talking Lieberman went on to implore France’s jews to leave the country: “If you want to stay Jewish and keep your children and grandchildren Jewish, leave France and move to Israel.”
On the ground, the Israeli government is preparing to hasten new housing construction in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, which are largely Palestinian. Municipal authorities in Jerusalem have reportedly given a green light on 600 of 5,600 units.
Though Netanyahu lost the most recent U.N. vote and has loudly blasted the current White House, President Obama finalized a $38 billion aid agreement for Israel this past September. Netanyahu can expect a more sympathetic partner in President Trump to help him out once he takes office on January 20. Israeli TV media reports that Netanyahu has already reached out to Trump about imposing economic consequences on countries that oppose Israel in the U.N.
In the coming weeks, Secretary Kerry is expected to give an outgoing speech that will present the administration’s “comprehensive vision” for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.