What is UN SCR 2334? Does it make the West Bank settlements illegal?

  • In December 2016 the UN Security Council passed a Resolution number 2334 (UNSCR2334)  which includes the following: 
    1. It refers to Israel as an “Occupying Power”, and reaffirm’sIsrael’s obligations to abide by its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention (see Article 12A for details of the Fourth Geneva Convention) 
    2. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the “Palestinian territory” occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law
    3. Says the settlements are “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”; 
    4. Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, 
    5. Calls upon all States to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;  
  • UN SCR 2334 straddles the divide between politics and law since although it is a “Resolution” it is not legally binding on Israel.
  • The legal status of a UN Security Council Resolution depends on whether it is made under Chapter VII or Chapter VI of the UN Charter, and then on whether it is classed as a “decision” or a “recommendation”. 
  • Resolutions made under Chapter VII of the UN Charter are its strongest legal tool and are immediately binding on all member states and  will explicitly state that they are made under Chapter VII. If not, it is made under Chapter VI of the UN Charter and is only binding if it is a “decision”, rather than a “recommendation”.  
  • The international legal framework combines treaties and customary law. International law is said to be influenced by the pronouncements of international agents, but their positions must embody objective international legal standards.  
  • Political condemnation from the international community does not make something illegal. If that political condemnation is targeted at a specific group or only one particular instance of an activity it is not objective, but is politically biased. In this case all the political condemnation is aimed at Israel and at no other country that is in a similar position. 
  • Resolution 2334 is not explicitly made under Chapter VII so whether or not it is legally binding will depend upon whether it is a decision or a recommendation.
  • Resolution 2334 is inherently vague and there is no reference to a decision except at the very last line of the resolution where the Council “decides to remain seized of the matter.”  There is no indication in the language that it was intended to be legally binding. Thereforeit is likely that Resolution 2334 is not legally binding, and that it is only a recommendation, made under Chapter VI. 



The UN Security Council Chamber

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