(January 2017) Josh Cohen: Ukraine made right call in opposing illegal Israeli settlements

Between fighting corruption and battling Russian troops and Russian-supported separatists in the Donbas, Ukraine has plenty on its plate already. Despite these burdens though Kyiv also got caught up in one of the final dramas of U.S. President Barack Obama’s presidency.

In an unprecedented move, the U.S. abstained from a recent U.N. Security Council Resolution (Resolution 2334) condemning Israel’s continued expansion of West Bank settlements. 2334 called on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory” and declared all Jewish West Bank settlements to be violations of international law. The Resolution was supported by the other fourteen members of the Security Council – including Ukraine.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded with anger, canceling the trip to Israel his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Groysman in Israel. Although a number of sources – both Israeli and Ukrainian – have battered Kyiv for supporting the Resolution, President Poroshenko made the right decision to support 2334.

First and foremost, Israeli settlements are a clear violation of international law and risk permanently ending any hopes for a two-state solution. Several hundred thousand Israeli settlers now live on the West Bank, creating a complex geographic patchwork of settlements that will eventually end all hope for creating any semblance of a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank. While Israel’s future is ultimately its own to decide, Kyiv’s decision on 2334 was both morally and legally correct.

Furthermore, it would be hypocritical of Kyiv to condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a clear violation of international law, while simultaneously appearing to support Israel’s own ongoing international law violations. While the Kyiv-Tel Aviv relationship has blossomed since Ukrainian independence, this does not mean Israel can automatically expect Ukraine to automatically support it on every diplomatic issue the two sides confront.