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Five Years Since UNSC Resolution 2334
Five Years Since UNSC Resolution 2334
Five years ago, on 23 December 2016, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, reaffirming several Security Council resolutions relevant to the question of Palestine, including resolutions in which the Council had unequivocally condemned the acquisition of territory through the use of force and referred to Israel’s settlement activities as illegal under international law and demanded their immediate and complete cessation.
Nevertheless, the importance of UNSCR 2334 is not only in its reaffirmation of principles well enshrined in the UN Charter and international law explicitly prohibiting such colonial settlement activities but also in its articulation of fundamental principles at the core of the longstanding parameters for the Middle East Peace Process, including, inter alia:
- The non-recognition of “any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations”;
- The demand for Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard”;
- The affirmation that the cessation of all settlement activities is “essential for salvaging the two-State solution”, linking such cessation to the viability of the two-State solution and thus the prospects of the peace process;
- The call upon all States “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”.
Overall, UNSCR 2334 reaffirmed the international consensus for a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel per international law and based on the two-state solution, which Israel continues to actively oppose and undermine through an ongoing process of colonization and annexation, where the absence of accountability to counter such impunity has led to a recognized situation of apartheid. This report highlights Israel’s main violations of UNSCR 2334 and stresses the critical role of members of the international community in fulfilling their obligations towards this unlawful situation and ultimately bringing it to an end.
Home Demolitions: Forcible Displacement and Consolidation of Israel’s Colonial-Settlement Enterprise
Israel’s Colonial-Settlement Enterprise: An Ongoing Process of Annexation
UNSCR 2334 directly links Israel’s illegal colonial-settlement enterprise and the need to cease it to achieve peace in the region. In the words of the Security Council:
“the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”. 
However, to the State of Israel, this illegal enterprise is part and parcel of an endorsed official policy that is being actively and systematically implemented in violation of international law and contempt of the Security Council.
Since January 2017, following the adoption of UNSCR 2334, Israel has deliberately advanced, in different stages, no less than 63,729 colonial-settlement units in occupied Palestine. The construction of more illegal settlements since 2016 has not just focused on the areas in and around occupied Jerusalem but also deep into the rest of the occupied West Bank, including between Bethlehem and Hebron (south), the Jordan Valley (east) and in Ramallah and Nablus governorates (north). Particular examples of plans aimed at entrenching the Israeli occupation, rather than reversing it as called for by the Council, and aimed at further dividing and segregating Palestinian cities, include:
- In May 2017, Israel established a new colonial settlement called “Amichai,” in the proximity of the colonial settlement of “Shilo,” on lands belonging to Turmus’ayya village, on the road between Ramallah and Nablus.
- During the second half of 2017, Israel advanced projects for thousands of colonial-settlement units, including 31 new housing units on Shuhada Street in the Old City of Hebron.
- In June 2018 alone, 1,064 units were promoted for the “Pisgat Ze’ev” colonial settlement between Ramallah and occupied East Jerusalem.
- In December 2018, the Israeli government announced “Givat Eitam,” a new colonial settlement to be built on lands belonging to Artas village to the south of Bethlehem. Connected to the colonial settlement of “Efrat” and through them to a network of colonial-settlements west and east of Bethlehem, they effectively seal Bethlehem to the south, separating it from Hebron.
- Following up on the plans to strangle Bethlehem from the south, in April 2019, Israel approved 1,000 colonial settlement units for the colonial settlement of “Efrat.” On the same day, 603 units were approved for the colonial settlement of “Ma’ale Adumim”, which splits the occupied West Bank between north and southeast of Jerusalem.
- In October 2019, Israel approved the expansion of a bypass road for Israeli settlers (Number 60) west of Bethlehem, including a new tunnel road leading to the confiscation of more Palestinian land and the advancement of annexation plans, including affecting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Battir (“Palestine, Land of Olives and Vines”).
- During the first half of 2020, over 1,000 units were approved for the colonial settlement of “Gilo,” which separates Bethlehem from East Jerusalem. On 27 February, 3401 units were advanced for the “E1” plan, aimed at connecting the colonial-settlement of “Ma’ale Adumim” to the Israeli colonial settlements in occupied Jerusalem, thus effectively splitting the occupied West Bank.
- In November 2020, Israel tendered 1,257 units for the colonial settlement of “Giv’at Hamatos”, aimed at linking the colonial settlements of “Gilo” and “Har Homa,” effectively separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
It is important to note that the last year of the Trump Administration (2020) witnessed a sharp increase in Israeli colonial-settlement plans, intended to create more facts on the ground before any policy change by a new US Administration. Although the Biden Administration has significantly changed the rhetoric on Palestine/ Israel, including by recognizing that both Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to “equal measures of freedom,” this has regrettably not translated into any concrete policies. The Biden Administration has yet to explicitly announce that the Trump Plan is off the table.
Israeli Attacks Against Palestinian Civilians - Including Settler Terror Attacks
UNSCR 2334 specifically called for steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror. However, Israeli attacks against Palestinians continue unabated, and settler terror attacks, in particular, have increased. Between January 2017 and November 2021, the Israeli occupying forces perpetrated 18,659 attacks against Palestinians, in addition to 3,165 settler attacks, leading to the killing of 926 Palestinians killed and injuring 20,301 others.
International Responsibility: Attempts to Implement UNSCR 2334 and Responsibility of States
Certain governments have opposed Palestine’s efforts in international forums claiming that Israel is being “singled out” while ignoring the fact that with such arguments, they are singling out Israel as a “State above the law” that is not being held to account despite its violations of international law and the grave impact as a result on the Palestinian people and the extended Middle East region. Such rhetoric ignores the serious consequences due to the lack of implementation of resolutions and signed agreements. They have turned a blind eye to Israel’s denial of Palestinians fundamental human rights, including to freedom and security, as well as ignoring Israel’s blatant disrespect for the rule of law and the rules-based world order as evidenced by its relentless illegal policies and actions.
In this regard, it is essential to go back to Article 1 of the UN Charter regarding its purpose
“to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace”.
Palestine’s efforts in multilateral forums are entirely in line with this principle, including as articulated in the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004 on the illegality of Israel’s Annexation Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt), which included a concrete reference to the responsibilities and obligations of the UN in this regard, including the following:
“The United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and the associated regime, taking due account of the present Advisory Opinion.”
In respect of UNSCR 2334, Palestine has taken several initiatives, including the promotion of measures to safeguard the parameters for a just and lasting peace, demanding international protection for the Palestinian people, and calling on the international community to make a clear distinction in all dealings with Israel and the Palestinian territory it has occupied since 1967, including occupied Jerusalem and its colonial settlement enterprise in its entirety.
One of the most important developments in that regard has been the issuance by the United Nations of a database of companies involved in the Israeli occupation (in February 2020) in implementation of the Human Rights Council’s call for the establishment of such a database for the promotion of accountability. The database, which does not constitute any kind of boycott and simply lists companies that profit from Israel’s colonial-settlement enterprise and its denial of the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination, was opposed by several governments in addition to the United States of America, including the United Kingdom, which stated that the step was “inappropriate” and that the UK would not cooperate with it. Such statements contradict UNSCR 2334 call for all States to distinguish between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
Since 2017, a growing number of diplomatic representatives have also violated that provision by accepting invitations of Israeli officials to visit areas in the occupied territory of Palestine, including in occupied and illegally annexed East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and even colonial settlements such as “Ma’ale Adumin.”
Such violations reached an extreme level during the time of the Trump Administration, which presented its so-called “Peace to Prosperity” plan that effectively endorsed the annexation of large areas of the occupied Palestinian territory, negating the two-state solution and any possibility for the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and normalizing Israel’s colonial-settlement enterprise. Despite such an egregiously unlawful approach, several governments called upon Palestine to “consider” the initiative. In addition, the Trump Administration took a further step to normalize Israel’s colonial settlements by permitting Israeli settlement products to be labelled as “Made in Israel” (November 2019). To date, the Biden Administration has unfortunately failed to revert this policy.
Meanwhile, several governments have either failed to review their existing agreements with Israel to differentiate between it and the territory occupied in 1967 or even signed new agreements with Israel that did not make any reference to the 1967 borders, including, for example, the Free Trade Agreement between Israel and Colombia (August 2020). The Israel – Canada Free Trade Agreement has also allowed Israeli settlement products to benefit. In 2019, the Canadian Government appealed a Court decision to label settlement products as such. During a visit to Israel, Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, issued a joint statement with Israel which included reference to sites in occupied Palestinian territory, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
European companies have also contributed to Israel’s colonial enterprise, including Spanish companies INECO, CAF and OSSA building infrastructure to benefit Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Britain’s JCB provides machinery to Israel essential for its colonial settlement enterprise. Other international companies involved with infrastructure work in occupied East Jerusalem to benefit Israel’s annexation of the city include Alstom from France. While their governments have opposed Israel's occupation and its settlements and annexation policies, it is clear that European companies, in general, face no consequences for their engagement in such illegal activities and their contribution to the denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
In an important landmark, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling in November 2019, making it mandatory for the EU Member States to label settlement products. To date, however, this has been rarely implemented. Belgium did announce in November 2021 that it will label settlement products, but other countries have not made statements on the matter. Israeli settlement products and services continue to benefit from trade with European markets.
Conclusion: Failure to Implement UNSCR 2334 Means Failure to Achieve Peace
UNSCR 2334 represents a significant opportunity for the international community to support a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace for Israel/Palestine. This goal requires ending Israel’s occupation and colonial-settlement enterprise and promoting the implementation of international law, including as enshrined in UNSCR 2334. Its content simply reflects what the international consensus has been for decades. However, its lack of implementation reflects the prolonged lack of political will by States to respect and implement such principles, whether in bilateral or multilateral relations with Israel, the occupying power. Israel has fully exploited this gap to carry on with its illegal colonial-settlement campaign in occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, and entrench its illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, including through blatant apartheid policies.
Nevertheless, attempts by the Israeli government and the Trump Administration to change the parameters for a just peace failed due to the insistence of the Palestinian leadership on international law as the fundamental basis of a just solution and the resilience of the Palestinian people and their persistence on their inalienable human rights. Such cynical attempts also failed due to the conscientious refusal by the majority of the international community to engage with any initiative that normalizes war crimes and crimes against humanity, representing a threat to the very idea of rules-based world order.
What has been missing to date and urgently needed is the implementation of Resolution 2334, with serious, concrete and practical efforts by the international community to advance a just solution, including measures for accountability in the face of continued Israeli contempt for the law and the Council’s authority. Implementation is urgent to realize the vision of a future where the Palestinian people achieve their rights, including self-determination and freedom, and where Israel and Palestine can coexist as equals, in peace and security. Refusal to take action will only perpetuate the current reality of illegal occupation and apartheid and preclude the possibility of a just peace, with grave consequences for Palestine, Israel and the future of the Middle East region as a whole.
What UNSC Members said when UNSC Resolution was approved (23 December 2016)
- France: “Over the past few decades, Israeli settlement-building has undoubtedly accelerated, which only fuels tensions on the ground and exasperates the international community. Settlement-building, which is illegal under international law, is part of a deliberate policy aimed at presenting the population, including the international community, with a fait accompli in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It proceeds in various manifestations, including the expansion of settlements beyond the Green Line, including in East Jerusalem; the de facto annexation of Zone C; forced transfers of population; the demolition of Palestinian homes and structures; restrictions of access and movement; and the building of the wall beyond the 1967 border. This policy is not only illegal under international law, but also threatens the prospects for the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian State, which is the best guarantee for Israeli security and a lasting solution to the conflict. That is the message that France sought to send today by voting in favour of the resolution.”
- Egypt: “Egypt voted in favour of resolution 2334 (2016), based on our firm, principled and unequivocal positions. It should not be subject to negotiations or pressure from anyone. We were the first to bear arms to protect legitimate Arab and Palestinian rights. We were the first to make peace with Israel as we believe in peace rather than armed conflict. Egypt has been and continues to be one of the strongest believers in just and durable peace in the Middle East based on the principles of a two-State solution and land for peace, as has been internationally acknowledged.”
- China: “China has all along supported the Council in playing its due role on the question of Palestine. Resolution 2334 (2016) adopted by the Council today is significant in that it reflects the common aspiration and wish of the international community and heeds the just demand of Palestine and the Arab countries. We urge Israel to implement 2334 (2016) in a practical manner, immediately end its settlement activities and stop demolishing Palestinian homes in order to create conditions for the relaunch of the peace talks. China encourages both sides to honour their respective obligations, keep calm, exercise restrain and gradually establish mutual trust so as to come back to the path of peace negotiations as soon as possible.
- Spain: “(…) the international community does have an obligation to do everything it can to promote an agreement. With today’s vote, the Security Council did what it had to do. Over the past two years, as a non-Permanent Member of the Security Council, Spain has repeated on numerous occasions that we were in favour of the Council expressing its position on the Palestinian question when the time was right and, if possible, to adopt a text on which there was consensus that could truly advance the peace process. That day has come today. The text of the resolution that we adopted today fulfils, as we see it, the necessary requirements. It is a balanced text that strives for nothing more than to act in favour of peace.”
- Russia: “Today, we voted in favour of the resolution on the Israeli settlements, convinced that it was based on tested language reflecting the general position of the international community on the illegality of Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
- Venezuela: “Of course, this resolution represents a mere first step, but it is a step in the right direction. This conflict is extremely complex and fraught with obstacles. There is an urgent need to respond decisively to the greatest challenge to the two-State solution — the continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on the occupied territory of the State of Palestine. Illegal settlements violate international law and the rights of the Palestinian people by depriving them of their land, destroying their homes and means of subsistence, restricting their free movements and undermining their right to social and economic development.
- United Kingdom: “(…) But goodwill alone will not secure peace. Today’s resolution is a sober recognition that the two-State solution is slipping away. By undermining the prospects for a contiguous Palestinian State, settlement construction is corroding the possibility of a two-State solution. Since the Oslo process in 1993, the population of settlements has doubled to 570,000, including 85,000 settlers deep in the West Bank. The Quartet report warns of sliding into a one-State reality of perpetual occupation and conflict. That is no future at all.”
- New Zealand: “Today is a significant day for the Security Council, as the applause ringing around the Chamber earlier this afternoon attests. I was so very pleased that in this last meeting of the year we are able to adopt a very positive step on this most very difficult issue. The applause reflects the pent-up frustration that the Council has been unable for so long to adopt a resolution on the Israeli-Palestine issue, despite regular reports from the Secretary-General and the Special Coordinator that the two-State solution was slipping away and that urgent action was necessary to arrest it.”
- United States: “Today the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity. The United States has been sending the message that the settlements must stop privately and publicly for nearly five decades through the Administrations of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and currently Barak Obama, Indeed, since 1967, the only President who had not had at least one Israeli-Palestinian-related resolution adopted during his tenure is Barak Obama. Our vote today, therefore, is fully in line with the bipartisan history of how American Presidents have approached both the issue and the role of this body.”
- Angola: “A Council resolution represents only a positive contribution to peace and security in the world, which again is the primary raison d’ȇtre of the Council; that is, if the resolution can be implemented. I hope that resolution 2334 (2016), which we just adopted, will be effectively implemented, particularly by all key parties. This calls for the unity of the Security Council, unity by the Palestinians, unity in Israel. Above all, resolution 2334 (2016) calls for a commitment to peace, particularly by the two main parties, Israel and Palestine.”
- Japan: “We have been consistent in our position that settlement activity is in violation of international law and that it has been steadily eroding the viability of a two-State solution. With that in mind, Japan voted in favour of resolution 2334 (2016).”
- Malaysia: “Today the Council has redeemed itself to steer the parties in the right direction, away from violence and unjust and illegal acts. We are giving hope to both the people of Israel and the people of Palestine, the majority of whom still believe in the two-State solution and still want peace. This is not just a victory for Palestine, it is a victory for the Security Council, for the United Nations, for the rule of law, for peace and for humankind as a whole. It is also a victory for the people of Israel who still believe in living side by side in peace and security with the Palestinians and their Arab neighbours. In the next few months, the Council should continue to exert pressure on both sides to ensure compliance with resolution 2334 (2016). We also urge all Member States to abide by their obligations under the resolution to halt settlement activities.”
- Senegal: “My delegation reaffirms the urgency of relaunching the peace process. That is why we encourage the ongoing initiatives, such as that of France, and diplomatic efforts, such as those undertaken by Egypt and the Russian Federation; all of such initiatives, in our view, require greater coordination (…) In conclusion, it is up to the international community, and first and foremost the Security Council as the guarantor of international peace and security, to work on the two-State solution.”
- Ukraine: Didn’t issue a statement.
- Uruguay: “Uruguay voted in favour of resolution 2334 (2016), convinced that after eight years we finally had an historic opportunity to break the Council’s stalemate, which has seriously threatened the two-State solution and the peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
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