To Veto or Not to Veto – What a Question

Believe it or not, the only source where I could find the complete unedited text of the Palestinian resolution placed before the UN Security Council objecting to Israeli settlement activity this past week was from the Palestinian MAAN News Agency. It wasn’t reported fully in ANY US newspaper that I read, and I read a lot of them, nor even in UN reference archives.


So, thank you Maan agency.

“The Security Council,

Recalling its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 452 (1979), 465 (1980), 476 (1980), 478 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), and 1850 (2008),

Reaffirming the applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other Arab territories occupied since 1967,

Reaffirming that all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of peace on the basis of the two-State solution,

Condemning the continuation of settlement activities by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of all other measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Territory, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,

Bearing in mind also the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,

Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,

Taking note of the strong support expressed by the Quartet for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for the resolution of all final status issues within one year,

Stressing the urgency of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace on the basis of the relevant resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap,

Reaffirms that the Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

Reiterates its demand that Israel, the occupying Power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;

Calls upon both parties to act on the basis of international law and their previous agreements and obligations, including under the Roadmap, aimed, inter alia, at improving the situation on the ground, building confidence and creating the conditions necessary for promoting the peace process;

Calls upon all parties to continue, in the interest of the promotion of peace and security, with their negotiations on the final status issues in the Middle East peace process according to its agreed terms of reference and within the timeframe specified by the Quartet in its statement of 21 September 2010;

Urges in this regard the intensification of international and regional diplomatic efforts to support and invigorate the peace process towards the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East”

The ONLY word that I object to in the whole resolution, the only word of disagreement that I bear, is the word “THE settlements” in 8th paragraph.

And, oh what a critical word.

Many dissenters have reasonably (and some unreasonably) criticized the US veto of the resolution. Jerry Haber (a pseudonym, I forgot his real name) posted two articles on the veto. and

He makes excellent points supporting every word in the resolution except for the word “THE” that I’ve bolded.

He speaks of the absence of consistency of US policy on the settlements, specifically, that the US supported a 1969 resolution insisting that Israel cease and renounce settlement creation in East Jerusalem, and then later in the West Bank. Since that time, the US has verbally opposed Israeli settlement activity, but voted no on all (I actually don’t know if it is “all”) general assembly resolutions, and vetoed security council resolutions on settlements.

It was ONLY in George W Bush’s administration that the US policy towards settlements officially and overtly changed to more than turning a blind eye acceptance. He was the first US president not to condemn the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem. I don’t remember his wording.

Back to the word “THE”. The problem with the word is that it becomes law. Every other line in the resolution refers to current settlement expansion. That word is the sole reference to a blanket statement that all settlements, and by extension all Jewish/Israeli residence in the West Bank is illegal, and by UN decree.

According to Jerry Haber’s reasoned presentation, the nature of Israeli obligation as an occupying power (still, following the 67 war) is to maintain temporary administration and to maintain the demographic status quo, and to not prejudice the ultimate settlement patterns of the occupied regions. Further, that according to the 1949 Geneva conventions, acquisition of territory in war and  certainly subsequent to war, is legally inadmissable.

The duration of the Israeli occupation, and the difficulty in maintaining a static relationship of population and land use for that time period, is inevitably strained, nearly impossible to maintain (including prohibiting Palestinian expansion of territory in use), thereby putting the whole law into question. That is a much bigger topic, and subject to all kinds of opportunism, which I prefer to avoid and prohibit even.

There is though a double standard at play with regard to the settlements. The majority of settlement land is expropriated. I don’t dispute that. A minority however was land purchased and owned by Jewish Zionist organizations that were taken in war by Jordan in 1948, and Jewish residence was prohibited. The land was ethnically cleansed of Jews, Jewish owners,  a legally inadmissable action per the 1949 Geneva Accords.

To claim that THE settlements are illegal are then to flaunt that law that Palestinians seek the protection of. It declares that those residents are not returning to their homes after wartime, but are prohibited from doing so.

The period from 1948 to 1967 (and the 69 resolution that Haber referred to) was around 20 years. In that short 20-year time period, the acquisition of territory during war was accepted as admissable by Jordan, Egypt, US, France, England, Germany, China, Soviet Union, etc.

Its stone in my shoe.

The US ambassador to the UN didn’t mention this reasoning as the basis of the security council veto, the establishment of a general legal judgment incorporated into the resolution.

They cited the realpolitik of proceeding towards a two-state agreement, which I support very strongly. I support the reasoning of creating and nurturing the conditions by which a successfully negotiated reconciliation are achievable.

If the word “THE” hadn’t appeared in the paragraph cited, in exception to the careful earlier language, then I would be one of the critics of the US veto. I would conclude that the resolution would have furthered the successful formation of an agreement, rather than distracted or hindered it.

I wish that the US vetoed the resolution for the word “THE” for the legal principle. Words matter. I really wish that they had approached the PA and asked them to change the wording to tone that was consistent with every other word of the resolution, and then voted for it. “We object to the action of settlement expansion.” (My paraphrase).

Israel NEEDS that reality check.

One frigging word.

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17 Responses to To Veto or Not to Veto – What a Question

  1. Richard,

    Nice to see that you are blogging. Some points, although I am in no way an expert in international law.

    1) The game changed in 1949 with the Geneva Convention. Everything before that is besides the point.

    2) You are confusing sovereignty and private ownership. An occupying power cannot transfer its population into areas even where there had been ownership by nationals of that population. Were the Palestinians able to capture Haifa, there would not be allowed to settler their population in places which had been owned by Arabs. So your emphasis on the word “the” is absolutely irrelevant.

    As I always like to say, if Cubans buy up half of Florida — even if a Cuban National Fund buys up half of Florida — that gives Cuba no claim to sovereignty.

    And as for realpolitik — it is highly possible that the US vetoed the resolution because had it passed, that would have opened the possibility of lawsuits against Israel for grave violations of international law.

  2. Jeremiah,
    I’ve been blogging for a couple years. I have another blog at

    If there is one thing that I make a point to clarify, its the distinction between sovereignty and title.

    If there is any ambiguity as to the distinction between sovereignty and title, it is in the resolution itself, which does NOT distinguish.

    I agree with you on the transfer concept, that it is illegal for Israel to expropriate, then facilitate the migration of residents.

    I firmly oppose ethnic cleansing (I can only affect the present). I oppose it in East Jerusalem of Arabs/Palestinians. And, I oppose it of Jews.

    The significance of the term “the” provides new legal principles to forcefully remove half a million.

    I resent the way that the facts on the ground occurred. But, I do not deny that it is a fact on the ground. I don’t seek for illegal Mexican or Salvadoran immigrants to be deported. I seek a legal way for them to be normalized.

    I don’t see that you are clarifying the distinction between “return” and “occupation”.

    Many assert a general Palestinian right of return to Israel, NOT a return to their or their families specific land that they can demonstrate or even suggest through third party anecdotal evidence.

    And, many deny Jews right to recent return to the settlements that they, families, or those that legally convey title to, desired to return to.

    I am curious as to your comments on the double standard of the UN, US included, admitting that the lands of Jewish residence in the West Bank and particularly in Jerusalem, could be ethnically cleansed and return prohibited (inadmissable), but that important similar claims are made on the same legal basis with regard to Palestinians.

    If its law, then it applies to everyone. Yes?

    By saying that the game changed in 1949 with the Geneva convention, then are you saying that that international law would not apply to 1948- January 1949 actions, either regarding Jews in the West Bank or Palestinians in Israel?

    That by that reasoning, the Palestinians do NOT have a legal right of return? If I got it right, I’m surprised.

    I personally assume that the land in the West Bank IS Palestine. I was last in Israeli in 1986 (a long time ago), and every time I crossed the green line, I sought out a visa, literally, permission to enter. (There was never anyone official to ask, so I actually did ask well-dressed Palestinians on the street, “I would like to visit the West Bank. Do I have permission to do so?” I got some incredulous and some appreciative responses.)

    But, the land is not yet Palestine by international law. It is “occupied land”, only. Formerly Jordanian land, only.

    It takes a treaty, a clarification of borders, for there to be a Palestine at all, except for the limited jurisdiction of the zones.

    • Koshiro says:

      Israel had no right whatsoever to designate any land inside the West Bank as “state land” and give it to Israeli civilians.
      Israel likewise had no right to expropriate any land for civilian settlement.

      These two facts alone make the settlements illegal, and the settlers’ continued presence equally as illegal. That’s not an arbitrary decision by the UN, it’s the law, as specified by the Geneva Conventions.

      By the way, the right of return is based on a different part of international law, namely the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Your conflating the two issues is therefor irrelevant.

      So much for the legal aspects. The practical implications I already laid out for you, and you have so far refused to answer this point, so I can only draw the conclusion that in spite of your claims, you do not support anything resembling a viable Palestinian state.

      Note that your stance is somewhat bizarre, since even the most right-wing Israeli government entertains no desire to place any settlers under Palestinian sovereignty. So you’re going against what is pretty much the only consensus of all involved parties. Again, makes sense if sabotage is your aim, but not under any other circumstances.

      • “Israel had no right whatsoever to designate any land inside the West Bank as “state land” and give it to Israeli civilians.
        Israel likewise had no right to expropriate any land for civilian settlement. ”


        I was of two minds whether to allow this posting to appear, given your use of the term “bizarre”, and also the vanity of “I’ve already laid out for you”, without restating your point. I do not read your posts to that level of detail or approval.

        I hope you got the point that at least some of the settlements were on purchased land and pre-existed 1948. That those settlements were evacuated was the result of an ethnic cleansing of the region by Jordan.

      • Koshiro says:

        “I hope you got the point that at least some of the settlements were on purchased land and pre-existed 1948. That those settlements were evacuated was the result of an ethnic cleansing of the region by Jordan.”
        That is legally irrelevant for the matter at hand. Furthermore, it’s also irrelevant in practice, seeing how tiny these lands were and how few people were affected. Providing that the same rights are extended to Palestinians – which you will of course vehemently oppose – these matters can be handled by individual claims. This would still make ~99% of the settlements illegal, and still mean removal of the vast majority of settlers who are not affected by the generous Palestinian land swap offer.

        But you would rather let all settlers stay, eh?
        How do you imagine a state dotted with Jewish Araberrein settlements to be viable? Will those Jewish settlers give up their Israeli citizenship? Be okay with the fact that they cannot marry Israelis (just as Israeli Arabs cannot marry Palestinians) and stay in Palestine? Will they learn Arabic? Maybe take a loyalty oath to the Muslim state of Palestine?

        There is maybe a very tiny minority of mostly non-nationalist religious Jewish settlers who would stay without causing trouble.

  3. You’re attacking imagined attitudes. You are in another “living room” now. Please abide by some personal decorum.

    The sole reasoning for not wanting to remove civilians, is that they are civilians, living en masse in homes. There is no implication that they have perfected title, nor that they deserve special privileges. Its just a statement of compassion, that I DO reserve for Palestinian civilians as well.

    The anti-colonial framing of political and legal issues, distorts law to my understanding. There is a distinction between the action of expropriation by an expansionist state that facilitates civilians settling in the occupied territories, and the action of individual settlers which is residence. (The individuals may even hold complimentary political views, but their action is only residence, and only actions may be criminal or not.)

    The perfection of title should happen through fair compensation. If that is not accomplished, then they “haven’t paid the mortgage”. In most states in the US, there is a “homestead clause” that prohibits eviction even for those that haven’t paid the mortgage, if they have filed the homestead declaration. The concern for civilians’ homelessness is that profound.

    In order to stay in Palestine, settlers will have to abide by Palestinian law. Simply. If they don’t want to, then they should leave. If they abuse Palestinian law, I assume that they (individuals, not mass) would be prosecuted.

    I’m glad that you acknowledge your last point, that actually many of the ultra-orthodox settlers desire to reside in the holy land, and are indifferent to who is sovereign, as they regard Israel as equally a secular state to Palestinian, though with more confidence of protection of their rights and safety. That so many dissenters regard the ultra-orthodox as uber-enemy is an irony to me, more indicative of prejudice, than analysis of rights or even political criticism.

    I don’t know the percentage of land that was legally purchased prior to 1948. My estimate would have been in the range of 10 – 15%, but that is just a guess.

    The point of accomplishing a negotiated settlement is that the rule of law becomes accepted, rather than the assertion of angers or decrees. So, rather than a mob declaring, “we want justice”, the access to due process under the law in an open court with the right of appeal IS justice. Not justice denied. “Justice denied” then occurs only in individual exceptions (though prejudices remain and the unfairness of moneyed access to good lawyers remains).

    The delay of negotiated settlement keeps the rule of law far away. It is the opportunism of oppressors that don’t want to accept the rule of law. AND, it is the opportunism of militancy that don’t accept that even their opponents have legal rights, even the accused. (They don’t have the “right” to win a case, but they do have a right to present it calmly and be adjudicated by legal principles.)

    • Koshiro says:

      “Its just a statement of compassion, that I DO reserve for Palestinian civilians as well.”
      How convenient for you that Israel has already removed all the Palestinian civilians it wanted to remove then, eh?
      So for the Israeli civilians who have not yet been removed it’s ‘Oh, it’s so cruel, nobody should remove them’ and for the Palestinian civilians who have been removed it’s ‘Tough luck, suckers’, right?

      “There is a distinction between the action of expropriation by an expansionist state that facilitates civilians settling in the occupied territories, and the action of individual settlers which is residence.”
      In short words: No there isn’t. Israel is, by the Geneva and Hague conventions, required to prevent Israeli civilians from moving into the occupied territories. By Geneva, it is forbidden to transfer its own civilians to the territories, and by Hague, it is forbidden to alter the legal environment of an occupied territory. The Red Cross, the UN (on several occasions) the ICJ and just about every country on the planet agree.

      Your point that we are talking about ‘immigration’ here is without any basis. We are talking about cities, towns, municipal governments and myriad other parts of the Israeli state apparatus. (And just by the way: The genesis of the relevant part of article 49 makes it quite clear that it was designed to prevent the very type of colonization Israel is engaging in.)

    • Koshiro says:

      So much for the law. In addition I can also prove to you on yet another level how unethical your arguments are:
      You’re saying that Israeli settlers should be allowed to stay in Palestine, provided that they follow Palestinian laws.
      You’re saying that the same should be denied to Palestinian refugees, except for negligible fig-leaf numbers.
      Why? Because the Israeli settlers are already there, and the Palestinians aren’t.
      Why is that so? Because Israeli military power paved the way for the former and blocked return for the latter. (Illegally, in both cases, by the way.)
      So what is the essential difference in the situation of the two groups? That one had military might behind it and the other didn’t.

      Thus, what does your argument boil down to? Correct: Might makes right! Nothing else.

      The only way out of this conclusion would be if you were against all barriers to immigration, anywhere. I haven’t yet seen you as an active campaigner for the right of Palestinians to settle anywhere they want to – including Israel of course – though.

      • “Thus, what does your argument boil down to? Correct: Might makes right! Nothing else.”

        On return. I’m saying that those that have legal basis to return on a case by case basis, should be allowed to in conformance with law, color blind (but that can practically only follow negotiation of state boundaries defining jurisdiction).

        Its still a very ambiguous concept as the homes that were abandoned for the most part don’t exist, and most of the individuals aren’t alive. That is just a fact, due to the extended passage of time. It was opportunistic certainly.

        But, it is the current reality. The maximalist assertion that every descendant (however far removed and wherever they now live for even generations) of a former resident of anywhere in Palestine (where is that exactly, considering that the East Bank is also historic Palestine), can “return” to live in what is now Israel, is itself a grave injustice on present residents, advocacy of a forced taking, a forced removal, an ethnic cleansing.

        Again and again. Democracy is in the present.

        If the anti-colonialist theme distracts you from affirming democracy in the present (one-person one-vote within the jurisdiction, and equal civil and legal rights), then the same theme that was intended as an affirmation of democracy, becomes a tool for the denial of democracy.

        Anti-colonialism then shifts to an advocacy of a status quo a hundred years ago, rather than the affirmation of present human rights now. (It is that dangerous an ideology to make into the formative nucleus on one’s thinking.)

        Affirmation of Palestinian rights is a DIFFERENT assertion than your zero-sum. Peace realizes the affirmation of Palestinian rights justly (just to them, just to those that they affect).

        You falsely, and frankly malevolently, accuse me of promoting Israeli opportunism. You are just wrong in that.

        I support the PRESENT rights of Israeli civilians and Palestinian civilians to a healthy and safe life. More importantly, I support the EFFORT to realize that, rather than the litmus test of who is good and who is evil. The reality is that we are all human (a mix of charity and needs).

      • Koshiro says:

        “I’m saying that those that have legal basis to return on a case by case basis, should be allowed to in conformance with law”
        ‘Return’ is irrelevant to the argument. If any Palestinian or for that matter any other person were able to take ‘residence’ in Israel in defiance of national and international law, they should be allowed to stay once they are there – by your logic.
        Why are Palestinians not doing this? Because the state of Israel would – and indeed does as in the countless cases of illegal Palestinian workers – remove them by force.
        Why are Jews doing the very same thing on the West Bank (in a considerably more brutal manner)? Because they are enabled to by the Israeli state and the Palestinian state is powerless to stop them.

        You’re arguing that simply because the settlers were able to get away with illegal immigration by force, they should be immune to the consequences of said illegal acts. Might makes right, pure and simple.

    • Koshiro says:

      “I’m glad that you acknowledge your last point, that actually many of the ultra-orthodox settlers desire to reside in the holy land”
      Don’t twist my words. I said and meant a tiny minority. The voting patterns of the religious settlers are quite enough to dispel any illusions on how peaceful and open to Arabs the majority of them are.

      • You’d have to actually talk to them, to know their attitudes. I have only to a limited extent, enough to know that my prejudices of their attitudes, of their politics, are that, prejudices.

        I think your insistence on forced removal of settlers is cruel. I think that the appropriate attitude towards civilians residence whomever and wherever, is that however they came to reside here, they do and it is a cruelty to forcefully remove them.

        There is a moral and legal distinction between the actions of a state, and the actions and conditions of civilians, of residents.

      • Koshiro says:

        No I don’t and it’s not actually practical to talk to some 500,000 people. I’ll make do with polls and election results, thank you.

        “I think that the appropriate attitude towards civilians residence whomever and wherever, is that however they came to reside here, they do”
        As I said, how convenient for you that Israel has the military power to block all Palestinians from entering its borders and to insert its own civilians into the West Bank.

        Might makes right, as I said. The primitive, brutal rule of the strong over the weak, that’s what you’re advocating.

  4. Its impossible for you to talk to 500,000, so you don’t talk to ten. And yet, its not impractical to you to consider forcefully removing 500,000, but it is impractical to talk to them.

    You’ve stated the views of settlers so innaccurately in the past, that it is worth your time to go a little deeper than what confirms your prejudices.

    There is the possibility of establishing a new relationship than “the brutal rule of the strong over the weak”, and that is through peace.

    Your proposals continually result in pendulum swings in the transition from “the brutal rule of the Israeli strong over the Palestinian weak” to “the brutal rule of anti-Zionists over politically incorrect Zionists”. Its NOT a commitment to ending brutality, as much as you present it so.

    Peace accomplishes the end of brutality. Absence of threats and absence of random violence allow for free transit and interchange, not the presence of threats.

    • Koshiro says:

      “You’ve stated the views of settlers so innaccurately in the past”
      Like when and how?
      Not that their views have any relevance. But you know them well, eh? So why not answer my questions: How many of them would…
      … renounce their Israeli citizenship?
      … learn Arabic?
      … accept that they can no longer marry Israeli Jews, nor freely travel to Israel anymore?
      … give up their grossly over-proportional share of land and water resources? In fact, how many would be content with a grossly under-proportional share, as Israeli Arabs have to be?
      Taking the situation of Israeli Arabs as a guideline, these would be the very minimum conditions they’d have to face. I have the gut feeling that under these conditions, the problem would solve itself, because the few hardcore settlers who would stay in this case would either conform or end up in Palestinian prisons (or graveyards, as the case may be.)
      Unfortunately, I can already hear you and others scream bloody murder at the mere mention of such harsh and cruel treatment.

      “Its NOT a commitment to ending brutality, as much as you present it so.”
      Do I? Funny, I always thought I was committed to the end of the occupation. You, OTOH, are evidently committed to let Israel keep all the perks of the occupation while painting it as something different.

      • I think your right. Many would choose to return to Israel.

        And, only those that are firmly dedicated to residing in the holy land would stay.

        Some of them would be neo-orthodox for whom the state is the messiah, some overtly Kahanist, some more defensive. Others would be chasids who desire the privilege and joy of living on and honoring the land (including the people that reside there).

        You project a lot. I don’t desire privilege. I desire acceptance and safety. Some of the settlers desire privilege, some desire residence.

        The generalization is the problem. You know “THE” settlers, rather than individuals. Its the same generalization that you rightfully object to when applied to Arabs or Palestinians.

  5. I’ve received a few proposed comments that are aggressive, and will not be displayed. Sorry if this offends you.

    The comments included two different poles of “the other be damned”.

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