Israel Rebuked at United Nations. Will Security Council Take Action?

Article excerpt

Israel is used to weathering criticism at the United Nations, particularly over settlement activity. But now, Palestinians and their supporters are threatening to seek Security Council intervention.

Israel's approval last week of 238 new Jewish housing units in Arab East Jerusalem provoked widespread condemnation in a United Nations Security Council session Monday focused on the stalemated Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

At least one country speaking at the meeting - Nigeria - bluntly characterized the resumption of settlement construction as "a move to kill direct talks" between the two parties, and it called on Israel to "rescind" recent settlement approvals.

Egypt, representing the Non-Aligned Movement (which sets forth the interests of 118 developing countries), suggested that the time is quickly approaching when the international community will be left with no alternative but to impose the conditions of an Israeli- Palestinian settlement.

Israel is accustomed to weathering criticism in the Security Council, particularly over settlement activity that is illegal under international law. The UN's assistant secretary-general for political affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, repeated this view of the illegality of Israel's settlement activity in his report to the Council. He added, "If the door to peace closes, it will be very hard to reopen."

But Monday's Security Council session on "the Palestinian question" drew particular interest because the Palestinians, and their supporters in the Arab League, are threatening to seek Security Council intervention if Israel does not pave the way for direct talks to resume through renewal of a settlement moratorium. Palestinians and others are even contemplating whether they could obtain Council approval of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of an independent state.

President Obama launched direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the beginning of September, but they stalled after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a moratorium on settlement construction that ended Sept. …