UNSC warns Israeli settlement expansion threatens peace in a watered down resolution

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA, and Agencies): The UN Security Council unanimously showed “concern” and “dismay” Monday Israeli plans to greatly expand its construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law in a watered-down resolution which would have demanded a halt to Israeli settlement activity.

The Reuters news agency said on Monday that the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which had drafted the resolution along with Palestinian Authority (PA) officials, informed the UNSC that the resolution and vote would be dropped.
The resolution would have demanded Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory”.
“Given the positive talks between the parties, we are now working on a draft PRST [presidential statement] which would garner consensus,” the note by the UAE, sent on Sunday, said. “Accordingly, there will not be a vote on the draft resolution on Monday. Much of the language of the PRST will be drawn from the draft resolution.”

Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, tweeted that the UNSC did not condemn the illegal settlements due to pressure from the US.

“While it’s helpful to have the UN Security Council criticize Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinians, today’s statement, diluted under pressure from the US and #Israel, is a far cry from the full-throated condemnation the grave situation deserves,” tweeted Charbonneau.

In December 2016, the Security Council demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” It stressed that halting settlement activities “is essential for salvaging the two-state solution.”

That resolution was adopted after President Barack Obama’s administration abstained in the vote, a reversal of the United States’ longstanding practice of protecting its close ally Israel from action at the United Nations, including by vetoing Arab-supported resolutions, reported AP.

The final  agreed lengthy statement, which is not binding, read aloud in the council chambers, “expresses deep concern and dismay with Israel’s announcement on Feb. 12, 2023 announcing further construction and expansion of settlements and the legitimization of settlement outposts.”

“The Security Council reiterates that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines,” said Vanessa Frazier, Malta’s UN envoy who is serving as the council’s president for the month of February.

“The Security Council strongly underscores the need for all parties to meet their international obligations and commitments, strongly opposes all unilateral measures that impede peace, including, inter alia, Israeli construction and expansion of settlements, confiscation of Palestinian lands, and the legitimate legalization of settlement outposts, demolition of Palestinians homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians,” she added.

The statement further condemned all acts of violence against civilians, including those that have targeted Palestinians and Israelis, and called “on all parties to observe calm and restraint and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, with the aim, inter alia, of escalating the situation on the ground.”

Israel’s government on Feb. 13 moved to advance 10,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank, and moved to retroactively legalize nine settler outposts that were previously illegal under Israeli law. The announcement drew stern international backlash, including from Palestine, which had sought to hold a Security Council vote condemning the expansion.

Ramallah reportedly agreed to suspend that effort over the weekend after the council agreed to issue the statement regarding Israel’s actions.

Tor Wennesland, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace, told the council that the international community is “witnessing a surge in violence including some of the deadliest incidents” in the past two decades while unilateral actions “are moving the parties further apart, exacerbating tensions and driving conflict.”

“Immediate efforts are required to reduce tension. But restoring calm is not on its own a recipe for progress,” he said.

Wennesland said a “significant number” of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli raids in the West Bank, and other clashes during the past month, and documented attacks in which Israeli civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks.

“The current escalation of violence is deeply worrying. There can never be any excuse for acts of terrorism. The targeting of civilians must be clearly condemned and rejected by all. Celebration and glorification of such attacks is abhorrent, and must be unequivocally condemned,” he said.

Outside Israel and the occupied territories, the UN agency responsible for Palestine refugees raised alarm the worsening conditions facing those who fled conflict or were forced from their homeland amid mounting crises.

“A growing number of Palestinian refugees in the region stand on the brink of despair. Multiple crises, conflicts, the never-ending occupation, the socio-economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, and rising global food and fuel prices caused by the conflict in Ukraine have pushed a growing number of Palestine refugees into poverty,” said Leni Stenseth, the deputy chief the UN’s Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA) said.

“This year has already witnessed a record high number of deaths among Palestinians, including Palestine refugees. Casualties among Israelis are also of grave concern. We can almost anticipate that coming weeks will likely bring more violence, deaths and life-changing injuries, including for bystanders and children in the West Bank,” she added.

Additional reports by The Muslim News

[Archive Photo: : Israeli forces demolishing Palestinian Mohammed Al-Afar family’s house, in East Jerusalem, on January 4, 2023. Photographer: Saeed Qaq/AA]


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