Settlement Spotlight: A 3-Week Recap

The last three weeks in brief:

UN Security Council Resolution 2334:

On December 23, 2016 the UN Security Council reaffirmed in Resolution 2334 it condemns the construction of Israeli settlement housing in the occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  It is illegal according to international law, as stated in the Fourth Geneva Convention[1], for an occupying force (Israel) to populate its occupied territory.

The resolution describes the Israeli building as “flagrant violation under international law” that is “dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines.”[2]  The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, abstained from vetoing the resolution explaining, “Today the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity. …The United States has been sending a message that settlements must stop privately and publicly for nearly five decades.”

OCHA's map offers a good sense of how much of the West Bank is occupied by settlements (red), reserved as state land for Israel and Israeli Jews (Area C, purple), and available to Palestinians (Areas A and B, light and dark beige):

Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks on settlements and Resolution 2334: 

“… Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who does not support a two-state solution, said after the [UN] vote… “It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share,” and veto this resolution.  

“…[T]he United States did, in fact, vote in accordance with our values, just as previous U.S. administrations have done at the Security Council before us.  … We cannot properly defend and protect Israel if we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes.

“… [T]he vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution. That’s what we were standing up for: Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors. That’s what we are trying to preserve for our sake and for theirs."[4]  Yet, “The status quo is leading toward one state and perpetual occupation.”[5]

“My job, above all,” he clarified, “is to defend the United States of America – to stand up for and defend our values and our interests in the world.  And if we were to stand idly by and know that in doing so we are allowing a dangerous dynamic to take hold which promises greater conflict and instability to a region in which we have vital interests, we would be derelict in our own responsibilities.” 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Response:

Netanyahu declared Kerry’s speech “a big disappointment.” ‘“A full hour, and that’s all he has,” Netanyahu said, in brief Hebrew remarks which he then followed with a longer, bitter English critique of the speech and of the conduct of the Obama Administration in its final weeks.’[6]

At the start of his cabinet meeting the last week of December Netanyahu announced he, ‘Had a tough-talking telephone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry. “I told him that friends do not take friends to the UN Security Council,” he said.  …“Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments had disagreed about settlements, but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue. We knew that going there would make negotiations harder and drive peace further away.”

Settlement Involvement: Jared Kushner, Son-In-Law and Senior White House Advisor to President-Elect Trump:

Newly elected Senior White House Advisor, Jared Kushner, is also a director of his family’s foundation which has made large charitable donations to settlements in the West Bank totaling approximately $58,000 from 2011-2013.[8]  During that time the foundation granted $315,000 to the Israel Defense Force by way of Friends to the IDF, as well.[9]  The foundation’s largest donation to the region went to New York-based American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva ($10,000 in 2011 and $28,000 in 2013).[10]  The organization is headed by David Friedman, Donald Trump’s real estate lawyer for 15 years and nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Israel. [11]   He is considered more right-wing and even more passionate about settlement construction than Netanyahu.

Congressional Response to UN Security Council Resolution 2334, House Resolution 11:

House Resolution 11 objects to Resolution 2334, calling it an obstacle to peace.  The main message of H. Res. 11 is: the US Government should not have abstained, but rather vetoed UN Resolution 2334 because it sought to “impose solutions to final status issues”, specifically solutions to the settlements, by way of the UN Security Council.  Instead, as previously agreed, such final status issues should have been and continue to be resolved “through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties”.  House Resolution 11 also interprets UN Resolution 2334 to be “one-sided and anti-Israel”.  The danger of such a claim is it conflates being “anti-Israel” or “one-sided” with accountability.  It is vital we hold all our allies, including Israel, accountable when they continue to break international laws and diverge from United States policy, values, and interests. 

80 members of congress agreed the House Resolution was problematic, including Georgia Representative John Lewis.  You can thank him here if you so wish: