December 29, 2016 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1294

Reactions By Palestinian Leaders And Palestinian Press Following UNSC Adoption Of Resolution 2334 Against Israel's Settlements: 'An Historic Day And A Victory For International Legitimacy'

December 29, 2016 | By D. Hazan and C. Jacob*
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1294


UN Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted on December 23, 2016, and according to which Israel's establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation under international law,[1] was received with great excitement in the Palestinian Authority (PA). Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas called it a declaration by the world that the settlements were illegal. Likewise, Palestinian officials and columnists in the PA press referred to it as an important and historic Palestinian victory and as a blow to Israel, and noted that the resolution's importance lay in the global recognition of the settlements' illegality. Some stated that this important achievement and the sense of triumph that it instilled would encourage the PA to continue to take steps against Israel in the international institutions, would bolster its international status, and would allow the PA to promote the two-state solution via an international committee and via a Security Council resolution. They also saw the resolution as a vindication of 'Abbas's policy, in contrast to recent criticism of this policy by 'Abbas' opponents within the PA.[2]

The sense of victory and joy were also conveyed in PA press coverage of the resolution's adoption; there were also, however, writers who called for restraint.

This paper will review reactions to the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2334 among PA officials and in the PA dailies.

PA Press: Resolution 2334 Is A Victory For Palestine

As stated, the Palestinian joy and excitement over Resolution 2334 was also reflected in the coverage of the event in the PA press. On December 24, the day after the resolution's adoption, the PA mouthpiece Al-Hayat Al-Jadida came out with the headline "Palestine Wins" in large red letters, alongside a photo of PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas smiling and raising his arms in a gesture of triumph. The front-page report stated further that the PA presidency regards the vote at the Security Council as "a resounding slap to the Israeli policy and [a show of] absolute international support for the policy of President 'Abbas." A report on Israeli responses to the resolution was headed "Panic in Israel," and also quoted PA officials who praised the Palestinians' historical triumph and contrasted it to the Israeli defeat. PLO Executive Committee secretary Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying that this was "an historic day and a victory for international legitimacy." [3]

The resolution's adoption was also extensively covered in other Palestinian media, and there were reports of candy handed out in the streets.[4]  

Front page of PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on day after resolution's passage: "Palestine Wins." Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 24, 2016.

"Resolution 2334" and "international consensus" about to flatten Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Al-Quds, East Jerusalem, December 27, 2016.

'Abbas: The World Recognizes The Illegality Of The Settlements; Israel Is Called Upon To Attend Paris Conference

Following the Security Council resolution, Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas said that the world had declared that "the settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including in East Jerusalem, are illegal... The world is calling upon Israel to wake up and renounce this misguided policy that cannot possibly bring about peace... What happened yesterday [i.e. the adoption of the resolution] did not solve the [Palestinian] problem but merely delineated it and underscored the legal foundations for a solution, namely the illegality of the settlements."

He added: "We say to the Israeli side: Let us sit down at the negotiating table and discuss all the issues pending between us and resolve them in good faith, for we are neighbors in this holy place and we want peace, [with] us [living] in our state and you in yours. Let us live side by side in security and stability. If you agree to this, 57 Arab and Muslim countries will be willing to recognize the state of Israel. At the moment you are living on a lonely island, but if you accept the Arab [peace] initiative you will live with us in peace and stability. The Paris Peace Conference will be held this January, with the participation of 70 countries, to reiterate what was said yesterday at the Security Council. Come and take part in it; sit and negotiate with us according to these principles that were approved by the international community 70 years ago... The terms of reference for the negotiation will be on the table, and an international mechanism for realizing them will be formulated, so that the negotiation will be sponsored by seven or 10 countries... and a timetable for implementation will be set. Once all this is accomplished, the gates will be open to realizing peace."[5]

PA Foreign Minister: We Will Act To Implement The Resolution In Order To Actualize The Palestinian Refugees' Right To Return To Their Homes

Other PA officials welcomed the resolution. PA Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki undertook "to continue working along with the international community to realize the Palestinian rights... end the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories, establish the state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital and return the refugees to the homes from which they were expelled, in accordance with [U.N.] Resolution 194."[6]

PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi thanked Security Council members Venezuela, Malaysia, Senegal, and New Zealand, which had submitted the draft resolution, for their "support for the Palestinian cause."[7] Palestinian Permanent Observer at the UN Riyad Mansour stated that the resolution's adoption had opened the door for the Security Council to rectify its past mistakes, and added: "We thank all the member countries that supported this resolution, and our brothers in Egypt, the Arab representatives in the council, for all the efforts that Egypt invested in this move."[8]

Palestinian Senior Official: Our Plan Was To Ambush Israel With A Surprise Draft Resolution

The PA daily Al-Ayyam quoted a high-level Palestinian official as saying: "The plan was to submit a draft resolution as a surprise, as an ambush for Israel, so that it would have no time to phone Security Council member countries to try to influence them, or even to threaten them."[9]

On December 27, the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' wrote that the plan to put forth the resolution was coordinated with the Obama administration during a December 12-15 meeting by the Palestinian delegation, led Saeb Erekat and Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj, with the American delegation, headed by Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice. It stated: "Kerry and Rice clarified that they were willing to cooperate with a balanced resolution."[10]

Editorial In PA Daily: Diplomatic Struggle The Correct Path

The PA Al-Hayat Al-Jadida's December 25 editorial praised 'Abbas: "President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud 'Abbas] neither gambles nor experiments; rather, he is a leader who believes in the steadfast position of his people and the power of its free will. He is a wise leader, who believes that intense political activity is the proper way to overcome difficulties and even make the impossible possible, so long as its principles are based on firm national positions...

"Therefore, it is now perfectly clear that this political move is the right one by the struggle and resistance... and has today yielded an historic victory for Palestine at the Security Council – the highest body of international legitimacy – which overwhelmingly voted to condemn the Israeli settlements and to call for an immediate stop to them, thus affirming the Palestinian position on this matter... This is a victory of the wise path, a victory of the correct view of the pragmatic struggle, a victory of standing for principles, a victory of adhering to independent national decision. Above all, it is a victory of Palestine, thanks to the massive sacrifices of its sons; a victory of the mighty steadfast position of the courageous martyrs, wounded, and prisoners."

The editorial also attributed the Palestinians' diplomatic victory to the Fatah conference: "This victory is the first outcome of Fatah's Seventh General Conference. It is this success – which has proven the movement's unity, the strength of its legal frameworks and organizational structure, its aspirations for renewal, and its journey that does not stray from the correct national path – that has made the political move at the Security Council so powerful and so present. The [Security] Council members, and the entire world, now know that the appreciable success of the Seventh General Conference has, despite massive challenges, made Fatah the strongest Palestinian element, that can neither be ignored or passed over, and that its national plan holds a just solution in accordance with international legitimacy, because [Fatah] is the exemplar, the leadership, and the correct path."[11]

Columnists Welcome The Resolution And Call For Implementing It – And For Taking Further Steps Against Israel

The PA press published numerous articles welcoming the victory and the situation they said it had created, with Israel on the defensive and the Palestinians taking the initiative. Many of the articles called for making sure to preserve this advantage, implement the resolution, and use this opportunity to follow up with further measures against Israel on the international and diplomatic levels.

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida columnist Yahyah Rabah wrote: "The resolution absolutely puts an end to Israel's claims and lies that the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 are disputed territories."[12]

The Resolution Will Encourage The PA To Continue Diplomatic Action Against Israel

Columnists in the PA dailies maintained that further measures would follow the resolution. Hassan Al-Batal, a columnist for the PA daily Al-Ayyam, wrote that the PA's sense of victory following the approval of Resolution 2334 will prompt it to continue its diplomatic action against Israel, including attempts to upgrade the PA's status in international bodies, appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and promote a U.N. Security Council resolution on a two-state solution as well as ramping up the anti-Israel boycott: "An analysis of [its] victory will motivate the PA to start upgrading Palestine's representation in the U.N. from observer state to member state and to apply for membership in hundreds of international bodies. The international BDS movement for boycotting Israel and the settlements will increase its activity, and it should be noted that France is the first country in the E.U. that has decided to implement the recommendation of the European Parliament to label products from the [Israeli] settlements... If Israel ignores the new resolution, Palestine can confront it by bringing the issue of the settlements and Israel's policy before the ICC... After all, the settlements constitute an international war crime, because it is forbidden to transfer the population of one state into another... Next month, in early 2017, Sweden will take the rotating presidency of the Security Council, replacing Spain, and Palestinian diplomats will then have the opportunity to leverage the outcomes of the Paris Conference by submitting [to the Security Council] a proposal relating directly to realizing the two-state [solution]."[13]

Muwaffaq Mattar, a columnist for Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote that the PA was headed in the right direction and that the language of the resolution demonstrated that the powers, especially the U.S., had become convinced of the Palestinian people's right to establish its independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. He added: "We can be optimistic and say that Resolution 2334 hastens the day when our country, Palestine, will be a member of the Security Council as an independent sovereign state."[14]

We Must Ensure Sure That Resolution 2334 Against The Settlements Will Be Implemented

Al-Ayyam columnist Akram 'Atallah wrote: "The resolution neither ends the occupation nor dismantles the settlements. This [goal] cannot be achieved all at once. International policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians is advancing at a snail's pace, but importantly, it is advancing towards realizing the Palestinians' rights and isolating Israel... It is important to translate the resolution into [action, by making sure that] every country that voted for it takes punitive measures against the settlements, boycotts their products and places their residents on the list of individuals banned from entering [the country], thereby turning every settler into an outcast... We must prepare a plan for dealing with the settlements."[15]

Another Al-Ayyam columnist, Hanni Habib, wrote: "The countries did not merely declare that the settlements are an impediment to peace, but stated explicitly that they are illegal and place Israel [in violation of] international law, since the West Bank and East Jerusalem are Palestinian land and must become [part of] a Palestinian state established through negotiations. This resolution will, to an unprecedented extent, lay the groundwork for the [various] U.N. bodies and committees to act in a different manner, because it was very explicit about the Israeli settlements. [It will be especially effective] if the ICC discusses PA complaints about Israeli violations against the Palestinian people and its land. The Paris Conference, which will take place next month and discuss [even] more important issues concerning the Israeli occupation and all the issues pending since the Oslo Accords, may strengthen the Palestinians' position... [It may also] bolster the European position that has recently begun to emerge in favor of seeking a Security Council [resolution] to force the end of the occupation, even if Israel does not attend the conference... We must certainly not talk about renewing any negotiations right now, but only after the Security Council resolutions are realized, especially the latest one regarding the settlements."[16]  

Israel Is On The Defensive In Diplomatic Arena; The Palestinians Are Taking The Initiative

Hussein Hijazi wrote in Al-Ayyam that, since the conflict with Israel is a test of endurance, the Palestinians have the upper hand, and that following Resolution 2334 the initiative is in Palestinian hands whereas Israel is on the defensive. He wrote: "The question is ultimately one of endurance, not of cunning... The settlements as a project and a strategy are doomed to fail, not only because they are illegal and lack any international legitimacy, but because Israeli expansion in such a narrow and limited region [the occupied territories]... cannot succeed, for in this small region, which is smaller [even] than Homs governorate [in Syria], there can be no third option: We will either live on it in peace as neighbors, or go on fighting over it for 1,000 years... The Palestinians are able to keep up this ongoing war, under occupation, for another century, but the question is how long Israel can endure [a state of war]...

"Today, [after the adoption of Resolution 2334], Israel is on the defensive in the diplomatic [arena], trying to fend off repeated attacks, and is not on the offensive... The ones who hold the initiative and determine the overall strategic agenda are the Palestinians, and if not them then France and the U.S. And if the West fails [to act] at this last and decisive moment, perhaps the time is not far off when the initiative will pass to the new tripartite power-balance comprising Russia, Turkey and Iran, which is presently taking shape under Russian leadership. [This troika] is now the most important strategic variable in the global [power-]balance... Obama is currently removing his protection from the thug [i.e. Israel] who until recently was pampered and shielded."[17]

Montaser Hamdan, a member of the secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists Union, wrote in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: "The adoption of a resolution such as this is real proof of 'Abbas's [staunch] adherence to his position that opposes renewing the negotiations unless [construction of] settlements is stopped – despite all the criticism and all the efforts to sway him from this position and to depict him as 'having climbed a tall tree and does not know how to climb back down.' That the Security Council passed this resolution proves the justness of President 'Abbas's staunch position, for he has climbed down from the tree bearing this international resolution, which is so important for the Palestinian cause and which forms a solid basis for any future negotiations with the Israeli side...

"The battle is not yet over. In fact, maximal attention must be paid to assessing the tactical measures [that must be taken] to deal with the Israeli response [to the resolution], on the local, Arab and international levels, and we must act to capitalize on this achievement, especially since, in refraining from vetoing this resolution in the Security Council, the U.S. temporarily removed its backing from the occupation state [called] 'Israel.' This provides a golden opportunity to tighten relations with the Democratic Party in the U.S. and reach the decision-making [echelons] in the Republican party and Congress as well, in order to put them to a diplomatic test [and see whether] the U.S. is [really] one of the sponsors of the peace process, no matter who is president..."[18]

Other Writers: Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Resolution Is Only A Boost For Our Morale

Along with the praise for the resolution, there were those who called for not getting too excited about it, noting that energetic diplomatic action must continue. Former PA minister Ziad Abu Zayyad tried to cool the passions somewhat, writing: "We must curb our enthusiasm about the resolution, because it is only ink on paper and one more resolution that joins dozens of others... They have moral value, but no more, if they are not accompanied by a mechanism for [their] implementation... The only way for us to defend ourselves against the resentment, fury and outburst of the new [U.S.] administration is to immediately appeal for membership in the U.N., before Trump enters the White House on January 20, so as to shield ourselves from an Israeli-American campaign of revenge against the Palestinians."[19]

In a similar vein, columnist for the East Jerusalem-based Al-Quds daily and PFLP member Rasam 'Abidat wrote: "It is true that no resolution like this has been passed for 35 years... and that it constitutes a victory for truth and justice... and for the Palestinian cause – and is also a slap in the face for the occupation state... But it should [also] constitute motivation [for us] to continue applying diplomatic pressure on all levels, to make the occupation state implement the resolutions of international legitimacy...

"What the resolution means is that all of the world that believes in justice, humanity, and the peoples' right to freedom, independence, and self-determination has stood by our people. But we must not be overly optimistic on this matter, and must not use the terminology of illusion and emotion that is disconnected from reality, to overstate these accomplishments. This is because we are talking not about an historic victory, nor about a new phase of the struggle – because this [move by the outgoing] American administration, which spent its entire term absolutely biased towards the occupation state... [derives from] a personal vendetta and in its desire to slap Netanyahu in the face... This administration also – as Obama and Kerry have reiterated – sought to save the occupation state from itself... because the continuation of the settlements and the annexation of the West Bank threaten its security and its Jewishness... It is therefore critical not to raise expectations about the changes taking place in American policy, particularly since within the month we will be facing a very extreme American administration...

"Before talking about victories, and waxing over-optimistic about them, the PA and the other factions and power brokers must monitor the implementation of this resolution and its translation into facts on the ground... [must] strengthen Palestinian unity... and [must] act to revive the centrality of the Palestinian issue in the Arab world... On the international level, we must put into action all Palestinian embassies, representations, and communities, as well as our friends [worldwide]... in order to condemn the occupation and its crimes against our Palestinian people... [and] in order to deepen its [Israel's] isolation and to expand the economic and political boycott against it as much as possible."[20]

Al-Ayyam columnist Hani Al-Masri wrote that the Israeli reaction to the resolution's adoption showed how it had surprised Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and also showed what a slap in the face it was for Israel. However, he said, "the Palestinian leadership is overplaying the importance of the resolution, and is treating it like an historic turning point and a change in the American position... [but at the same time it is] disregarding the fact that it comes under Article 6 – meaning that it is not implementable. Besides that, the next American president has committed to take a different stand towards the resolution once his term begins on January 20 – that is, he will not honor it and will push other policies that will prevent its implementation, even though this will not be easy for him.  

"Likewise, the resolution does not recognize the Palestinian state that the world recognizes, and it puts the victim and the hangman on equal footing with regard to terrorism, incitement, and the murder of civilians. In contrast, it notes the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians, and the continuation of the interim phase. It is a good thing that the resolution says nothing about the principle of territorial exchange to which the Palestinian negotiators agreed – agreement that they reiterate even though this principle legitimizes the settlements...

"Mahmoud 'Abbas said that the Palestinian leadership chose to renew the negotiations after the resolution, which heralds the recreation of the so-called 'peace process' that led us to the catastrophe that we are living today. This means that the resolution missed [the target], and that it has turned from a good thing to a bad thing, while Israel is attempting to turn it from a harmful thing into a beneficial thing, by means of expanding construction in the settlements and continuing the annexation plan, and by encouraging the [incoming] Trump administration to actualize its promise to transfer the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, eliminate the two-state solution, and call for a renewal of the negotiations with no international involvement."[21]

* C. Jacob and D. Hazan are Research Fellows at MEMRI.


[1], December 23, 2016.

[3] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 24, 2016.

[4] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), December 24, 2016.

[5] Wafa (PA), December 24, 2016.

[6] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 24, 2016.

[7] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 24, 2016.

[8] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 24, 2016.

[9] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 24, 2016

[10] Al-Youm Al-Sabi' (Egypt) December 27, 2016

[11] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 25, 2016.

[12] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 26, 2016.

[13] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 25, 2016.

[14] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 25, 2016.

[15] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 25, 2016.

[16] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 25, 2016.

[17] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 25, 2016.

[18] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 26, 2016.

[19] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), December 25, 2016.

[20] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), December 27, 2016.

[21] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 27, 2016.

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