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Another Voice: United Nations was right to call for a halt to settlements

By Greg Slabodkin

The U.N. Security Council’s Dec. 23 resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank has sent a powerful message to the Jewish state that the world sees these settlements as illegal under international law and as a major obstacle to a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The resolution rightfully calls for an immediate and complete halt to all Israeli settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. Israel’s continued expansion of West Bank settlements is a direct threat to the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian state and the concept of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council before the 14-0 vote that Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories is not only harming the prospects for a two-state solution, which has been a long-standing axiom of U.S. policy, but has escalated to the point that it is now putting at risk the very viability of such a land-for-peace deal between the parties.

Power referenced a July 2016 report from the Middle East Quartet that raised international concerns about Israel’s systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions and legalizations. In her speech, she placed blame squarely on the shoulders of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has described his government as “more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history” and cited one of Netanyahu’s leading right-wing coalition partners who last month declared that “the era of the two-state solution is over.”

The U.N. resolution, which passed due to the U.S. decision to abstain from the vote rather than use its veto, calls on the nations of the world “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

For its part, U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently issued guidance to the trade community regarding the country of origin marking requirements for goods that are manufactured in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The agency emphatically stated that products entering the United States that are produced in the West Bank must be marked as such and that it is not acceptable to label them with the words “Israel” or “Made in Israel.”

Businesses play a critical role in facilitating the expansion and operations of the 237 settlements in the West Bank. As consumers, we have the right to know where the goods we purchase come from and to  make the decision not to buy them as a form of political protest.

The accurate labeling of Israeli settlement products allows Americans to exercise that right and to advocate for an economic boycott to bring about political change, which is protected by the First Amendment. Only by exerting such pressure on Israel will it bring an end to its oppressive and discriminatory settlement policies in the West Bank.

Greg Slabodkin, of Buffalo, is a former opposition researcher for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C.

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