Palestine: Israel’s illegal settlement plans evoke global condemnation

By Nadine Osman

(The Muslim News): Israel’s decision to build 3,000 homes for illegal Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank has sparked widespread international opposition, including from its major allies.

An Israeli planning committee gave its final approval for 1,800 housing units and preliminary approval for 1,344 others in the occupied West Bank prompting condemnation by the UN, UK, US, Russia, and several major European powers.

The UN envoy to the Middle East peace process Tor Wennesland expressed his concern over “the continuation of Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem”.

“I repeat that all settlements are illegal under international law, remain a major obstacle to peace, and must stop immediately,” Wennesland said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, called on other nations – especially the US, to “confront” Israel over the “aggression” that settlement construction poses for the Palestinian people.

In a joint statement, issued on October 28, the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden, issued a joint statement urging Israel to shelve plans to build 3,100 new homes in illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse its decision to advance plans for the construction of around 3,000 settlement units in the West Bank,” the statement read.

“We reiterate our strong opposition to its policy of settlement expansion across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which violates international law and undermines efforts for the two-state solution.”

“We call on both parties to build on steps taken in recent months to improve cooperation and reduce tensions. We reiterate our call to implement United Nations Resolution 2334 with all its provisions, with the aim of rebuilding trust and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace. ”

James Cleverly, the UK’s Minister for the Middle East and North Africa echoed the sentiment in a separate statement, adding that “settlements are illegal under international law and present an obstacle to peace and stability.”

The United States has already criticised the move. Biden administration officials said Israel’s actions are provocative and inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions.

Israel’s Housing Minister, Zeev Elkin, said the continued construction was “essential to the Zionist vision” of strengthening the Jewish presence in the West Bank.

The West Bank is home to about 475,000 illegal Israeli settlements, which violate international law.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister, called on Washington to confront Israel over settlement expansion.Several Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated with the US’ unconditional support of Israel.

President Joe Biden has been urged to condemn acts that undermine regional peace efforts.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Moscow considers Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories illegal, noting they undermine chances for establishing a viable, geographically contiguous Palestinian state.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned Israel that its plans to double the number of Israeli citizens living in the Jordan Valley by 2026 can be regarded as the de facto annexation of most of the occupied Palestinian territories.

Russia also sees such a move as undermining the effectiveness of efforts by the international community to create conditions for the early resumption of Palestinian-Israeli political dialogue, Zakharova said.

The Elders, an international NGO of public figures noted as senior state leaders, peace activists, and human rights advocates who have expressed their grave concern.

‘Such action directly threatens the viability of the two-state solution, violates Palestinian rights and undermines the claims of Israel’s new coalition government to be following a more constructive path than its predecessor,’ the group said in a statement.

Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “The Israeli authorities’ advancement of plans for further settlement expansion in the West Bank is in clear violation of international law. Israel has acted with impunity for too long, and its continued expansion of illegal settlements constitutes a direct threat to the realisation of the two-state solution. It is now incumbent on Israel’s allies to respond with actions, not just words. This is the first major expansion of illegal settlement-building under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government, and the international community’s response must show that such actions will have consequences.”

The Elders also slammed the Israeli Ministry of Defence’s decision to designate six human rights organisations as “terrorist organisations”, which it said constitutes “an assault on Palestinian civil society, which is another indication of the alarming direction that this government is taking. This underscores the need for a robust response from the international community in support of human rights, justice and accountability.”

[Photo: Israeli forces block roads as Palestinians protest against building and expanding of Jewish illegal settlements at Yatta Town in Hebron, West Bank, on October 02, 2021. Photographer: Mamoun Wazwaz /AA]

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