This story gets weirder and weirder. Fresh from the humiliation of the Security Council deciding that Israel’s actions in building settlements on land it had prised away from Palestine during the 1967 six day war was illegal Israel has gone on the offensive.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is clearly not pleased. All ambassadors of the 14 Security Council members were summonsed to a meeting on Christmas day to be formally reprimanded. Senegal has had its aid suspended. Further sanctions against New Zealand have been threatened.
Netanyahu has been quoted in the Guardian as follows:
Two countries with which we have diplomatic relations co-sponsored the resolution against us at the UN; therefore, I ordered yesterday that our ambassadors be recalled from Senegal and from New Zealand. I have ordered that all Israeli assistance to Senegal be halted, and there’s more to come.
Those who work with us will benefit because Israel has much to give to the countries of the world. But those who work against us will lose – because there will be a diplomatic and economic price for their actions against Israel.”
And the Obama administration has been subject to threats that Israel will release information to Donald Trump in an effort to discredit America’s semi principled decision to not veto the resolution which had the support of all other nations. From the Times of Israel:
Confirming claims made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman a day earlier, Dermer said Israel has proof the White House drove the resolution, and will “present this evidence to the new administration through the appropriate channels.”
Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Netanyahu’s spokesman David Keyes said Arab sources, among others, had informed Jerusalem of President Barack Obama’s alleged involvement in advancing the resolution.
“We have ironclad information, frankly, that the Obama administration really helped push this resolution and helped craft it, from sources internationally and sources in the Arab world,” Keyes told the US media outlet.
So who is in the right and who is in the wrong? I appreciate that many, many words have been thrown at this problem but I believe the answer is quite simple. As pointed out by Bob Carr in the Sydney Morning Herald the relevant principle of International Law is quite clear, and his view is held by none other than Theodor Meron, the chief legal adviser to the Israeli Government in 1967. The principle is that a nation may not settle its citizens on land that it has gained by conquest to usurp the rights of the original residents. And Carr details a history of further resettlement being used by Israel to undermine successive attempts to achieve peace.
If you want the source of the principle then read Article 49 of the Geneva Convention on the proteciton of Civilian Persons in Time of War. This prohibits the forced removal of citizens from land gained by war, precisely the thing that is occurring in the settlement areas as Palestinians are shunted out of their homes to make way for Israeli Apartment blocks. Fancy arguments to the contrary the applicable principle seems clear.
Threatening sanctions against member countries of the Security Council for pointing this out is Donald Trump quality petulance. And no doubt they are hoping that the Donald’s ascension to the Presidency will mean they have a solid ally for their convention breaching behaviour.
Trump has already signalled how he will handle the middle east by his appointment of a hard right bankruptcy lawyer to be the next US Ambassador for Israel. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Last week, Trump named David Friedman – a New York bankruptcy lawyer who has given strong financial support and other backing to the Israeli settlement movement and has said Trump supports Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory – as his ambassador to Israel.
During the campaign, Trump also charged that Obama had helped promote terrorism by supporting “the ouster of a friendly regime in Egypt” – that of long-standing autocrat Hosni Mubarak – and more recently by failing to fully back the military government that overthrew Mubarak’s democratically elected replacement.
He has already upended decades of US policy by speaking directly with Taiwan’s leader, and he has spoken out regularly on events like this week’s terrorist attack in Germany. But his push to stop a UN resolution criticising Israel was more directly aimed at decisions still being made by his predecessor in his final days in office.
Combined with his pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and his selection of a pro-settlement ambassador to Israel, Trump’s involvement Thursday signalled an intent to play an active role in Middle East peace issues by backing Israel’s right-wing coalition government.
So these are scary times. Either International Law holds and prevents the worst excesses of human right abuse and international conflict or the barbarians win and anything can happen. Stay tuned …