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The UN resolution that reshaped the Middle East

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When the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334 in December 2016, Israeli leaders seethed. Their fury was duly understood to stem from what they perceived as an unprecedented betrayal by the United States.

But that was not it at all, since Resolution 2334 - which asserted that Israeli settlements have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of human rights - was partly predicated on, and clarified and added to, previous UNSC Resolution 242 of 1967.

This means that 50 years of incessant Israeli attempts to absolve itself from any commitment to international law have failed, and terribly so.

Resolution 242, which stipulated that the Israeli army has to withdraw from territories occupied in the 1967 war, has been cited in various agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and later, the Palestinian Authority (PA), but only as if to say that these agreements were legally binding. The citations did not accept the full legal context, obligations and retributions of international law as stipulated in the resolution.

Instead, the Oslo Accords of 1993 and later agreements gave Israel the opportunity to use its leverage to bypass international law altogether: signing a peace agreement without ending its military occupation became the goal.

Then, over time, Oslo and the ensuing "peace process" developed a unique lexicon and served as an independent legal initiative, managed and interpreted by the US government as it saw fit.

Against this backdrop, it is no wonder Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quite shocked to witness that a recommitment to Resolution 242 last year at the UNSC did not garner US opposition. In fact, the long-standing resolution gained more substance and vigour.

But Resolution 242 was not always welcomed by Palestinians, for it was born out of the collective Arab defeat in the war of June 1967. European and US military backing ensured Israel's victory in that war and the collapse of Arab defences in a battle that expanded Israel's control over Arab land nearly three-fold.

Expectedly, Arabs fell into deep political discord from which they are yet to recover.

That division was highlighted most starkly in the August 1967 Khartoum summit, where Arab leaders clashed over their future priorities. A major dilemma was whether Israel's territorial gains should be allowed to redefine the status quo and whether Arabs should focus on returning to a pre-1967 border or to the situation before 1948, when a Jewish state........

© Al Jazeera