Israeli settlements - UN vote was a lost opportunity

IT was entirely predictable but nonetheless disheartening that Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned a parade of ambassadors to his apartments on Christmas Day to administer a “personal reprimand”.

Envoys from some of the countries that, last Friday, voted at the UN security council to support a resolution condemning Israeli settlements long regarded as illegal by international

law were singled out for this anti-democratic, we’re-right-and-you’re-wrong hectoring.

What else might be expected from a hardline leader who has built his career on blinkered defiance?

What else might be expected from a politician whose default position is encouraging

the idea that the besieged people of Israel must respond with ever-more violent and draconian measures against neighbours often dispossessed by “settlers”?

On an island so deeply scarred by the tit-for-tat cycle of terrorism and increasingly heavy-handed state responses, Mr Netanyahu’s reaction is sadly all too familiar.

So too is the likely outcome to his and his cabinet’s intransigence.

This pattern is sustainable for only so long and then the peace talks must begin in earnest, a reality Mt Netanyahu has rejected with dire consequences for the last number of years.

Those subjected to Mr Netanyahu’s predictably hostile reaction, according to various reports, were the ambassadors from the countries with permanent missions in Israel: Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, France, Britain, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay and Spain.

It is tempting to suggest that these diplomats should take as much notice of the bellicose, bullying Mr Netanyahu as he and his government have taken of the international community’s consistent, well-established and entirely justified opposition to the persistent establishment of settlements.

In other words, offer a polite acknowledgement but do absolutely nothing.

Mr Netanyahu has probably been emboldened by the appointment, by President-elect Donald Trump, of David Friedman as America’s next ambassador to Israel.

Mr Friedman, who has worked with Mr Trump for years, is ardently pro-settler.

He has described American Jews opposed to Israeli occupation of the West Bank as worse than kapos, Naziera prisoners who served as concentration camp guards.

Mr Netanyahu has probably been emboldened too by the bizarre and dangerous dishonesty advanced as fact by the most strident elements among his supporters who have, with considerable success, created the impression that opposition to their more extreme positions is a manifestation of antisemitism.

This nonsense is cold, calculated propaganda and should be regarded as such.

The real tragedy of last week’s UN sanction is that it came so very late in the Obama presidency.

How sad it is that Mr Obama left it to the dying moments of his administration to abstain on a UN security council vote condemning Mr Netanyahu’s version of Israel.

Though he was stonewalled at home and abroad it is hard not to think that, as more extreme, intolerant views move centre stage, that this was a lost opportunity, one that will not recur for at least another four years.


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