Security Council Resolution 2334
The last year closed with the Security Council’s clear reaffirmation of the illegality of the settler colonies and associated regime that the State of Israel maintains in the occupied Palestinian territory. The new resolution S/RES/2334 of 23 December 2016 was the first such resolution in eight years, with the USA, this time, withholding its veto privilege.
That resolution upholds the integrity of the foregoing series of Security Council resolutions since 1967, including its resolutions 242 and 338, which establish the boundaries of the internationally supported two-state solution. Significantly also, S/RES/2334 reaffirms S/RES/465 (1980), which “Calls upon all States not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connexion with settlements in the occupied territories.” Resolution 2334 also “Calls upon all States…to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
However, the cited obligation of states and their various spheres of governments not to recognize or transact with the illegal situation in occupied Palestine does not originate from this series of contested resolutions of the Security Council, a political body of the UN, but remains a prior duty of states erga omnes. In other words, that long-standing obligation of all states—whether Members of the United Nations or not—prohibits states, including their various spheres of government, from supporting, cooperating or transacting with parties to such illegal situations that violate peremptory norms of international law.
One of the peremptory norms violated by Israeli settlement activity in Palestine is the sacrosanct principle of self-determination, which the UN Charter enshrines in its Articles 1 and 55. This principle was subsequently underscored in several UN resolutions, among them General Assembly resolution 637 of 16 December 1952, where the “right” of peoples and nations to self-determination was considered a “prerequisite to the full enjoyment of all fundamental human rights.” This legal fact was further reinforced in the two treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), as well as hundreds of subsequent UN legal instruments. The General Assembly (GA) later compiled all previous resolutions on the subject into a single instrument—resolution 2625 of 24 November 1971, which it adopted unanimously. Although Palestinian self-determination was affirmed already in the League of Nations before its dissolution, it was the GA’s foundational resolution 3236 of 22 November 1974 in which the UN explicitly recognized the Palestinian people`s right to self-determination.
Building on that legal foundation, the recent Security Council resolution 2334 also recalls the 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on this point in connection with Israel’s wall in the occupied territory, settlement enterprise and “associated regime.” As clear as that ICJ advisory opinion is, it was preceded also by General Assembly resolutions A/RES/37/123 and A/RES/39/146, which provided further specificity the effective measures for states to take in response to Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land.
While the Security Council’s latest resolution on Israeli settler colonies presents little new, many commentators observed it as a rare gesture of US compliance with international law by upholding their prohibition. The vote was countered by the incoming 45th president of the United States who tweeted As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”