Dec 27th 2016

Big Day at the United Nations

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

There was considerable drama leading up to the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 (UNSCR 2334) reaffirming the illegality of Israeli settlements.

It began with all hell breaking loose Thursday morning when it became clear that the Egyptians would submit their resolution on Israeli settlements for a vote at the Security Council and that the Obama Administration would support the effort, either by voting in favor or by refusing to veto it.   

On Wednesday, there had been a hint that something was up. The White House spokesperson appearing on a cable TV news program referred to Israeli settlements as illegal—the first time that had happened since the Carter Administration. While he later attempted to "clarify" his remarks, the point had been made. This was followed by an announcement that Secretary of State John Kerry would make a policy address Thursday in advance of the UN meeting that was to consider the resolution.   

President-elect Donald Trump sprang into action by tweeting—"The resolution being considered at the United Nations regarding Israel should be vetoed". This was echoed, minutes later, by a nearly identical tweet from Israel's Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu. It has been reported that both leaders made direct calls to Egypt's President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi pressuring him to withdraw the resolution. Egypt folded and pulled the resolution from consideration. Kerry's speech was abruptly cancelled.   

Late Thursday, New Zealand, working together with Malaysia, Senegal, and Venezuela, with the support of the PLO, issued an ultimatum to Egypt to either immediately introduce the resolution or they would do it themselves. When Egypt did not, the New Zealand-led group followed through and a vote was scheduled for Friday afternoon. In response to this development, the threats from the Israelis,the President-elect, and Members of the US Senate increased in intensity.   

At 2:00 pm, the Security Council convened. Members spoke and then voted—14 in favor, none opposed, with the United States abstaining, thereby, guaranteeing the resolution's passage. Adding to the day's drama, following the passage of UNSC 2334, the usually staid Security Council chamber broke into sustained applause.   

President-elect Trump, ever the bully, responded with an ominous threat: "As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th". Senator Lindsey Graham, Chair of the committee that oversees foreign operations' funding called the resolution a "provocative action" that "must be dealt with sternly and forcefully" and threatened to cut US support for the United Nations. For his part, Netanyahu reacted hysterically terming the vote "shamelessly anti-Israel", accusing the Obama Administration of "ganging up" against Israel", and declaring that Israel would not be bound by any of the terms of the resolution.

Looking at the text of Security Council Resolution 2334, itself, one might wonder why all the drama and overreaction. It is, in fact, largely a restatement of decades of US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution reaffirms well-established principles of international law regarding the inadmissiblity of the acquisition of territory by force and the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories. Seen in this light, the resolution declares that Israel's confiscation of land, construction of settlements, and the transfer of their population into the occupied territories are violations of international law.   

The resolution goes on to remind both the Israelis and Palestinians of commitments they have made to the international community citing the Madrid peace conference and the Quartet's Roadmap—specifically noting how the settlement enterprise endangers the possibility of a two-state solution and a peaceful negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while reminding the Palestinians of their responsibility to condemn all acts of violence against civilians and incitement to violence.   

There are those who may dismiss UNSCR 2334 as just another resolution without teeth that will be ignored. But last month's 156-3 vote in the UN General Assembly in support of a similarly worded statement and now this Security Council vote establish a growing world-wide united front against Israel's aggressive annexationist policies, threatening to further isolate Israel and a Trump-led United States in the international community.   

What the reactions of Trump and Netanyahu make clear is that, despite their hollow words to the contrary, they have no intention of supporting a just resolution to the conflict and apparently don't give a damn about what the rest of the world may think. This is what we may have expected—but we now see it playing out in real time a month before the new Administration takes office.   

Bullying and threats of temper tantrums might have intimidated Egypt, but they did not dissuade the nations of the world from speaking in one voice. Moving forward, this is something that both the future Trump Administration and Israel's Netanyahu must consider. As Israel continues to advance legislation "legalizing" illegal outposts; as Trump considers flaunting law and world opinion by moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; and as the Senate decides whether to make good on threats to cut or reduce US dues to the UN—they run the risk of international outrage, fraying ties with allies, and even sanctions. These are consequences to consider.  

This drama will continue to play out in the New Year—and it all began on December 23rd, a big day at the United Nations.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."