UN vote on Israeli settlements - why is it significant

The UN Security Council on Friday adopted a resolution urging Israel to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory.

United Nations: The UN Security Council on Friday adopted a resolution urging Israel to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory with 15-nation council reaffirming the Israeli settlement activities have "no legal validity" and constitute a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel.

The landmark move by the Security Council came despite an effort led by Israel and backed by US President-elect Donald Trump to block the text.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately rejected the UN resolution and slammed the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama for refusing to veto it.

This is significant for following reasons - 

US abstention:

In a rare and momentous step, the United States instead abstained, enabling the adoption of the first UN resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy.

Samantha Power said the US abstention stemmed from concerns that the expansion of the Jewish outposts was threatening the two-state solution aimed at achieving peace by creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"We cannot stand in the way of this resolution as we seek to preserve a chance of attaining our longstanding objective of two states living side by side in peace and security," she said, as per AFP.

"The settlement problem has gotten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the very viability of that two-state solution." she added.

Leadership of UNSC:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the passage of the resolution as "a significant step, demonstrating the Council`s much-needed leadership and the international community`s collective efforts to reconfirm that the vision of two States is still achievable."

Support for two-state solution: 

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas`s office said the vote was "a big blow" to Israeli policy and a show of "strong support for the two-state solution."

Israeli settlements are seen as a major stumbling block to peace efforts, as they are built on land the Palestinians consider part of their future state.

The United Nations maintains that settlements are illegal, but UN officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months.

Some 430,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

The resolution demands that "Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."

It states that Israeli settlements have "no legal validity" and are "dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution." Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon bluntly told the council that the resolution would not have the hoped-for impact of spurring peace efforts.

(With AFP inputs)

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