Undeterred by a resounding defeat at the United Nations, Israel’s government said Monday that it would move ahead with thousands of new homes in disputed areas and warned nations against further action, declaring that Israel does not “turn the other cheek.”
Just a few days after the U.N. Security Council voted to condemn Israeli settlements, Jerusalem’s municipal government signaled that it would not back down: The city intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of town Wednesday in what a top official called a first installment of 5,600 new homes.
The defiant posture reflected a bristling anger among Israel’s pro-settlement political leaders, who not only blamed the United States for failing to block the council resolution, but also claimed to have secret intelligence showing that President Obama’s team had orchestrated it. U.S. officials strongly denied the claim, but the sides seem poised for more weeks of conflict until Obama hands over the presidency to Donald Trump.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at Security Council countries by curbing diplomatic contacts, recalling envoys, cutting off aid and summoning the U.S. ambassador for a scolding. He canceled a planned visit this week by Ukraine’s prime minister even as he expressed concern Monday that Obama was planning more action at the United Nations before his term ends next month.
The prime minister defended his retaliation. “Israel is a country with national pride, and we do not turn the other cheek,” he said. “This is a responsible, measured and vigorous response, the natural response of a healthy people that is making it clear to the nations of the world that what was done at the U.N. is unacceptable to us.”
The Security Council resolution that passed Friday condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation under international law” and an obstacle to peace. The council approved it 14-0, with the United States abstaining instead of using its veto, as it has in the past.
Trump publicly pressed for a veto of the resolution and has chosen a settlement advocate as his administration’s ambassador to Israel.
Palestinian leaders made clear Monday that they would use the resolution in international bodies to press their case against Israel. With the imprimatur of a U.N. finding of illegality, they said they would campaign to require that other countries not just label products made in the settlements, but ban them.
“Now we can talk about the boycott of all settlements, the companies that work with them, et cetera, and actually take legal action against them if they continue to work with them,” Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Palestinian news media.
He outlined other steps the Palestinians could take, using the resolution to press the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders, file lawsuits on behalf of specific Palestinians displaced by settlements and urge Switzerland to determine whether Israel is violating the Geneva Conventions.