The math is simple: one down, 199 to go. Last Friday (March 24), the UN Secretary-General submitted his first quarterly report to the UN Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 2334. Adopted in December, the Resolution “[r]eaffirms that 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”. It further instructs the Secretary-General “to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the present resolution.”
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Four reports a year over another half-century of occupation would add up to 200 documents (minus Friday’s report, that leaves 199 more to expect). How high could a pile of 200 such papers be? Probably lower than the rubble of a single demolished home in Palestine.
Yet UNSCR 2334 was not meant to generate reams of international paper over decades of more-of-the-same. Indeed, carefully articulated in the Resolution is an expression of this very novelty: for it is not only Israel – the occupying power – that will find within 2334 certain provisions that it is expected to implement, and has thus far failed to carry out, but also the entire international community.
Israel’s total non-compliance with the Resolution is as blatant as it was predictable: more demolitions, more settlement expansion, more impunity. This ongoing, gradual fragmentation of Palestine is not only an effective mechanism for controlling Palestinians but also the inevitable outcome of leveraging control over the 60% of the West Bank known as Area C, which Israel treats as its own despite refraining from formally annexing it.
All these manifestations of exploitation and control have gone on for many a decade. Yet UNSCR 2334 did not stop at reiterating the international “demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” It went further.
The resolution called upon the global community and their governments to not stand idly by, but to meet the minimal moral and legal requirement of not being complicit, whether directly or indirectly, in this ongoing denial of human rights from an entire people. As stated in Section 5, it called “upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
On that specific call to action, the Secretary-General’s report to the Council is very clear: “During the reporting period, there have been no developments related to Member States’ distinguishing, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967.”
If the world ignores its own decisions, why shouldn’t Israel?
The report further details various negotiation efforts. To be sure, engagement between the parties, with the help of the international community, must be supported. But as long as the terms of engagement do not change, the results of these efforts are likely to repeat the failures of the past. Worse, they will provide further excuses not to act and will divert attention from the one process that is always advancing, always creating new facts on the ground, in the Occupied Territories.
The world can continue talking about the occupation over the next 199 quarterlies. Or, it can choose to act. The choice is between implementing Resolution 2334 – or allowing more rubble to replace what used to be a home, and more blood to flow instead of life.
One down, 199 to go, means that now is the time to act seriously upon UNSCR 2334. It is still possible for the world to demonstrate its sincerity about working against an occupation that has already lasted half a century. The resolution to act was already made in December; so far, the world has failed to implement it.
Three months in, Resolution 2334 is still a hopeful promise. Action will substantiate hope, and with time and commitment will bring about change. The rest is commentary.
Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of the human rights group B’Tselem.