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Israel defiant, vows retaliation after UN settler vote

December 25, 2016

Israel has vowed to take a host of measures to counteract a UN resolution condemning illegal settlements. Some right-wing members of the government have advocated for annexing parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Symbolbild Israel Siedlungen im Westjordanland
Image: Getty Images/AFP/T. Coex

Israel continued to lash out at the international community on Sunday over a UN Security Council vote last week condemning settlements on Palestinian land. 

Israel's Foreign Ministry on Sunday summoned the ambassadors from countries that voted in favor of the UN resolution, including permanent members China, the UK and France. The US ambassador was also summoned.

The US abstention opened the way for the Security Council on Friday to pass a resolution demanding "Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."

The resolution said the settlements had "no legal validity" and were "dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution."

Chairing a security meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the resolution a "shameful blow against Israel."

"We feel betrayed, extremely frustrated. We are angry. This is not how you treat friends," Cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz commented.

US military aid

Critics of Israel's statements against the United States point to the nearly $3 billion (2.9 billion euros) a year in US military aid to Israel. The US and Israel recently signed a 10-year deal that will increase aid to $3.8 billion a year.

In response to the vote, Netanyahu has ordered officials to develop a "plan of action" against the UN.   

Israel has recalled its ambassadors to Senegal and New Zealand for consultations. The two countries had helped sponsor the resolution. On Sunday, a visit by Ukraine's prime minister scheduled for next week was cancelled as was a meeting with British Prime Minister planned to take place on the sidelines of Davos. 

Earlier on Sunday, hard-line Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the Israeli security establishment that rules over Palestinian territories to cease all cooperation on civilian matters with the Palestinians, while maintaining security coordination.

Several right-wing members of the government have suggested Israel should annex parts of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider the capital of a future state.

While the resolution is largely symbolic and imposes no sanctions, Israel worries it could open the way for the Jewish state to be challenged in the International Criminal Court. It also fears it could lead to economic action targeting goods produced in Israeli settlements.

There are nearly 600,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem living amid some three million Palestinians. The settlements include those that Israel considers legal as well as at least 100 "wild cat" outposts that the Israeli right wants to legalize. 

Settlement increase

Since the 1993 peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, the number of settlements has increased threefold, threatening the viability of a two-state solution.  The settlements have turned the land of a future Palestinian state into a patchwork marked by Jewish-only roads, security barriers and military checkpoints.

"We cannot stand in the way of this resolution as we seek to preserve a chance of attaining our longstanding objective of two states living side by side in peace and security," said Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN.  "The settlement problem has gotten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the very viability of that two-state solution."

Israel and its backers in the US Congress argue that imposing the terms of peace would be detrimental to future talks.

The UN resolution comes a month before Donald Trump is to take over the White House. Trump responded to the vote by vowing change at the UN, and the Republican leadership has threatened to cut funding to the world body.


Trump has said he wants to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move likely to enrage Muslim countries. 

cw/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)