After the six-day war with Arabs in 1967, it had become evident to Israel that the strip of West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem were strategically important for its defence. It, therefore, introduced a long-term policy of settlements to diffuse any chances of war in the future. Israel might have built military bases in these areas, but such a decision would have been controversial with questions of legitimacy. There were also fears among the Israeli authorities that the military bases could have been attacked or recaptured by the Palestinians. Consequently, they came up with a policy of civilian settlements, which though were illegal, but yet had some moral justification. The number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank has now crossed four hundred thousands, in addition to three hundred and fifty thousands in East Jerusalem.

Such settlements by an occupying power are in violation of international humanitarian law, governing situations of armed conflicts and military occupations. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits an “occupying power” (Israel) from transferring any part of its own civilian population into the occupied territory. The Hague Convention of 1907 also prohibits an occupying power for making any permanent change in the occupied territory. Therefore, Israeli civilian settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are a clear violation of the above-referred laws. Moreover, the illegality of settlements is the consensus position of the international community, including the European Union, the United Nations, and the United States of America.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had already passed nine resolutions against illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the 10th one was adopted on December 23, 2016. The passage of a resolution by the UNSC means the consensus of international community, including the world’s five most influential and powerful countries - the permanent members – and 10 non-permanent member countries. Through these resolutions the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Peoples Republic of China have unanimously agreed that Israeli occupations are unlawful and in violation of international law. Since all the resolutions have been passed in the last 50 years, therefore, a large number of countries being the non-permanent members of the UNSC, had voted against the Israeli occupations.

The recently passed resolution also contains references to the nine previous ones. They all not only stress upon the illegality of the occupation, but, clearly state that Israel immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The resolutions further demand that Israel should fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard. The last resolution also states that the cessation of Israeli settlement activities in occupied areas is indispensable for attaining the two-state solution, besides calling for favorable steps to immediately reverse the negative trends on the ground, which are hurdles in its way.

The working of the United Nations are based on the principles of idealism. The international organisation came into being to fix problems or settle disputes or conflicts among nations, but that needs power as is the case in our real world issues. Since the world body lacks ‘power’, its role has become limited to only raising its concerns over humanitarian crisis in the time of war and counting causalities and losses. Sometimes, issues of extra-ordinary importance are discussed by the General Assembly, or the Security Council adopts a resolution, but they have no influence over implementation.

Let me clarify the position of the United Nations. It is not the UN which has no influence over international community; rather the prevailing international system of states grants no such powers to the world body to assert its influence over sovereign states. However, as far as the UN peace-keeping operations and humanitarian assistance are concerned, efforts of the United Nations are matchless.

The real world problems, particularly disputes and disagreements which could be of power, or of an economic or territorial nature, can only be resolved through political will and a democratic strategy.

It is interesting to note that settlements in the Gaza Strip had ceased in 2005. Pressure from the international community was one of the factors, but this pressure is still there and the settlements continue to expand. Hence, international pressure and settlements are independent of each other. Cessation of the settlements in Gaza was the part of realpolitik strategy pursued by the then Israeli government keeping in view the then ground situation. Withdrawing from Gaza was a win-win situation for Israelis because they had to sacrifice a little for enormous gain. Israel had withdrawn around eight thousand settlers only, whereas it gained appreciation from the entire international community regarding its so-called commitment towards peace and settlement of the dispute. Secondly, pressure on the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) was released by this decision with lessening of their friction with Hamas. Moreover, Israel successfully showcased its democratic facade to the world as the cessation plan was designed by the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and approved by majority vote of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament).

International politics nowadays is a complex labyrinth designed by the influential players of this system. The UN Security Council has always put its sincere efforts to overcome complicacies through different tools; consequently it has had to adopt two thousand three hundred and thirty five resolutions. Most of the resolutions are still pending e.g. resolutions on the Kashmir dispute, Syrian crisis, Yemen war, situation in Sudan, Iraq civil war, Kurd settlements, nuclear non-proliferation, peaceful use of nuclear weapons and many on terrorism. All the resolutions reflect the thoughts of optimists who believe that war is an unacceptable means of settling international disputes. Whereas, today’s world is structurally anarchic, therefore, strategies of realpolitik are more suitable than the ideally crafted strategies by international organisations.