The year 2014 was a particularly harsh one for the war-beleaguered people of Israel/Palestine. From the murder of three Israeli boys, to the Israeli invasion of Gaza (which caused over 2,100 deaths), to massive flooding in Gaza, last year witnessed an unbearable amount of human tragedy.
At least on a political level, the year ended on an equally dismal note. The most recent resolution brought before the United Nations calling for an end to Israeli occupation was defeated. In a last-minute change, Nigeria, which had initially stated that it would support the proposal, abstained from voting. This decision shot down the proposal; however, a spokesperson for the US State Department spoke out against the resolution, and America had stated that it would use the veto power that it holds as a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC).
While this is a disheartening outcome, it is not at all unsurprising. This show of discussing an end to Israeli occupation in an international forum is yet another act in the long charade of peace talks that gives a false sense of momentum to a stultified “peace process.” In reality, dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli leaders began to seriously lose speed two decades ago with the failures of the Oslo Accords, and ground to a halt with the al-Aqsa Intifada.
And how can one expect the UNSC to have produced a different outcome, even if Nigeria had voted in favor of the resolution? The five permanent members of the UNSC (Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States) hold veto power. Given America’s consistent support for Israeli policies vis-à-vis Palestinians, it seems unlikely that the UNSC would be able to fulfill one of its Charter mandates, which is to “cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights.”
Israeli political response has been, as one would expect, hostile to the proposal from the start. In a statement opposing the resolution, Prime Minister Netanyahu asserted: “What we need is direct negotiations and not dictated terms.” Framing up the situation in Israel/Palestine in a way that suggests that Israel is ready to negotiate but simply lacks a willing partner in the peace process is incorrect, given the numerous actions taken by the Israeli government to entrench Israeli occupation and prevent a viable Palestinian state (including the siege on Gaza and continual construction of settlements in the West Bank).
Further, Netanyahu’s resistance to “dictated terms” is hypocritical, given the Israeli government’s historical tendency toward unilateral and arbitrary policies, evidenced, for example, by its 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, the administrative detention of hundreds of Palestinians a year, and the imposition of mobility restrictions on Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
According to a statement made by its spokesman, the Palestinian Authority is contemplating whether or not it will resubmit the resolution in light of recent changes to the composition of the non-permanent members of the UNSC. However, unless the UNSC’s permanent members are unanimously willing to support the resolution, this endeavor will join the long list of failed attempts at ameliorating the living conditions of Palestinians and facilitating meaningful dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.