In a sudden reversal of the Obama administration’s retaliation against Israel last December, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of the Trump administration has proposed a campaign for “considerable reform” within the UN’s Human Rights Council through the threat of the country’s withdrawal of membership. Though the threat is nothing extraordinary within the context of these decades, the proposed reform campaign may be the last nail in the coffin for the pro-Palestinian camp (or anyone in favor of neutrality for that matter), given a contention of the campaign: the Human Rights Council’s “biased agenda” against Israel.
This wrestling for influence within the council (and by extension the UN), is no surprise. Last December, the UN Security Council charged in a 14–0 vote that Israel must halt its settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1969, including East Jerusalem,” a “flagrant violation” of international law. Amusingly, this is nothing but a symbolic dulya that has lost all meaning within the dozens of resolutions raised against Israel: a finger wagging, so to speak. That is not to say that the vote was met with silence; though the United States had abstained in the vote and had generally favored neutrality in matters of Israel-Palestine relations, Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post reported that the resolution was met with bipartisan opposition from the United States’ House of Representative, perhaps an indication for a troublesome future for Palestine’s independence movement to come. Unlike the United States, Israel continues to espouse its long-held position that “the only way to reach any agreement with the Palestinians was through bilateral negotiations, not international organizations.”
Of course, this returns back to the geopolitical nightmare that is named a two-state solution (bilaterally negotiated, at that). While both Israeli and Palestinians generally support the two-state solution, Israel refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of Palestine beyond the realm of a completely demilitarized state that has not only doubled-down on its fifth official acknowledgement of Israel but also acknowledge Israel as the “Jewish state” to the chagrin of the right of return for Palestinian refugees, explains Rory McCarthy of The Guardian. However, as to provide perspective to Palestine’s own struggles in understanding diplomacy, the Palestine Authority has yet to reform the infamous Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund, “stipends for families of Palestinians killed or wounded in the conflict” inclusive to Palestinian terrorists and rioters. Moreover, unlike Israel’s picturesque image of a Middle Eastern democracy, however tainted by its insistence as a Jewish state and reported claims of an “apartheid state,” Palestine’s government is also dominated by human rights violation as well as corruption and the presence of the Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization Hamas; in a stark contrast to relatively tamed Fatah, formerly named the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Hamas is a Sunni Islamist, anti-Semitist, and far right political faction, now disputably reeling Palestine into devastating, violent interactions with Israel over the assassination of Hamas senior activist Mazen Faqha.
Returning to the contemporary, not all recent criticism at Israel has passed without impact, as the resolution was not solely accompanied by symbolic gestures. Aside from the resolution, the “General Assembly’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (known as the Fifth Committee) has approved a request from the Human Rights Council and appropriated of $138,700 to create a ‘database’ of all companies that conduct business—directly or indirectly—relating to Israeli “settlements” in Arab-claimed territories.” Though seemingly harmless, the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BSD) movement—a Palestine-led movement that aims to pressure Israel into compliance with its goal of “freedom, justice, and equality”—is to gain. However, whether the BSD movement is a successful political movement is for another day, given a noticeable economic interdependence between Palestine and Israel and disputably significant effect of Israeli occupation on Palestine’s revenue.
However, while there is little hope in the enforcement of international law against the developed Israeli illegal settlements, the Trump administrations has recently cautioned Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel for his colonization of the area. Last month, the White House unsurprisingly lectured Israel: “While the existence of settlements is not in itself an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace.” On the other hand, this lukewarm stance, the compromise between support for Israel and the dangers of Israeli occupation to the viability of diplomatic solutions to Israel-Palestine relations, is yet to yield all but mixed signals, as Ruth Eglash of The Washington Post reports; though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump had come to an agreement to isolate settlement development to the already developed or developing areas, Netanyahu has faltered quickly to appease the Israeli conservative wing, announcing the “construction of a new settlement, the first in two decades, to be built deep inside the West Bank.”
Without a doubt, the Trump administration will inherit the burden of maneuvering through the tense, inflexible Israel-Palestine relations from former President Obama’s administration, but there is little to hope for beyond further provocation between the two nations, it would seem.
—Rene Gamino Jr.