Israel Markedly Increased Settlement Construction, Decisions in Last Three Months, Middle East Special Coordinator Tells Security Council
The last three months had seen a high rate of Israeli settlement plans and construction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory increased notably in the last three months, as did provocations from both sides, despite a call from the Security Council in late December 2016 to cease such activity, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process said this afternoon.
Nickolay Mladenov, briefing the 15-member Council on implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) — which called on Israel to take steps to cease all settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory — said “no such steps have been taken during the reporting period”. Instead, there had been a marked increase in statements, announcements and decisions related to construction and expansion.
Israel made two major announcements for a total of 5,500 housing units in settlements in Area C of the occupied West Bank, he said. Within three weeks, some 3,000 housing units had advanced through the planning process and more than 240 units had reached the final approval stage. Eighty per cent of the 4,000 settlement moves in the last three months were concentrated in and around major Israeli population centres close to the 1967 line, while some 20 per cent were in outlying locations deep inside the occupied West Bank.
Underscoring that all settlements activities were illegal under international law, Mr. Mladenov noted that, on 1 February, the Government announced its intention to establish a new outpost for the residents of the illegal Amona outpost, following its demolition by order of the Israeli High Court of Justice on 2 February. While there was no advancement of settlement plans in occupied East Jerusalem, building permits were granted for over 900 housing units in at least four East Jerusalem settlements. The reporting period also witnessed There were also large-scale demolitions of structures in Palestinian and Bedouin communities in Area C of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, due to a lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which were nearly impossible for Palestinians to acquire.
He pointed to a number of concerning legislative developments, underscoring that, on 6 February, the Israeli Parliament approved the so-called “Regularisation Law” which, if implemented, would effectively authorize confiscation of privately owned Palestinian land for settlement purposes. That contravened international law and was deemed unconstitutional by many Israeli legal experts, he stressed.
While the security situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained relatively calm, there had been an increase in certain incidents, namely rocket attacks, he continued. Palestinian extremists in Gaza had fired 10 rockets towards Israel and in response to those, the Israeli Defense Forces conducted 18 airstrikes at militant locations inside Gaza. Eleven Palestinians were killed and over 273 injured by Israel’s security forces and one Palestinian was killed while attempting to carry out a stabbing attack. Four Israeli soldiers were killed and 70 other Israelis were injured in attacks by Palestinians.
He also reported acts of provocation, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, noting that reactions by Hamas officials to terror attacks against Israelis had been particularly reprehensible, with appalling and racist language inciting violence against Jews. Statements issued by Hamas celebrated terror attacks against Israel as heroic and Palestinian Authority officials did not condemn those attacks either. Provocative statements also continued on the Israeli side, where a number of politicians had called for the annexation of parts or all of the West Bank and for a categorical denial of Palestinian statehood.
There had been some progress, however, with the Palestinian Authority taking steps to strength institutions, improve governance, and reduce its budget deficit. On 15 January, after six years of inactivity, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to reactivate the Joint Water Committee established under the Oslo Agreements to improve the water infrastructure and supply in the West Bank and Gaza. Gaza reconstruction had advanced with more than 225,000 tons of cement imported. Israel had approved nearly 3,300 residential construction and reconstruction projects, up from just 78 in the previous three months.
Mr. Mladenov called on Israel to do more to improve the daily lives of Palestinians and noted that as foreign aid continued to decline, it was critical that the Palestinian Authority and its international partners work together in a transparent manner. The continuing deadly violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained a concern as was the recent increase in rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel.
Underscoring that the two-State solution was the only means of realizing the national aspirations of both peoples, he said it was critical that the momentum built over the past year continued to expand and ultimately develop into a concrete vision to end the occupation and the wider conflict. International efforts must be accompanied by significant steps on the ground by all parties.
The representative of Uruguay said three months after the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016), the Security Council had not received the Secretary-General’s progress report on the text’s implementation. Israelis and Palestinians must be able live side by side in peace. Achieving that goal required meeting international obligations, complying with the Security Council resolutions and giving necessary political signals to break the vicious circle of conflict. In that regard, He called on Israel and Palestine to carefully think about the next steps for the sake of achieving the two-State solution, and engage in bilateral negotiations without any preconditions.
The representative of Bolivia said that the occupation of Palestinian territories had no legal validity and was a flagrant violation of human rights, obstructing the two-State solution. Israel’s extremist rhetoric, including the announcement of 6,000 new settlements in the West Bank, was not helping. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), since January, 105 Palestinian houses had been demolished in the Area C, leading to forced displacement of Palestinians.
He urged Israel to end its illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories, including the illegal blockage of Gaza. He reaffirmed Bolivia’s strong support for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and to establish an independent State based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Quoting Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, he said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:36 p.m.