UN envoy says Israel ignoring UN demand to halt settlements

Updated at: 09/25/2017 6:54 PM
By EDITH M. LEDERER

(AP) UNITED NATIONS - UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Israel is not complying with a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding a halt to all settlement activity and instead is continuing to expand settlements, making a two-state solution "increasingly unattainable," the U.N. envoy for the Mideast said Monday.

Nickolay Mladenov told the council that in the three months since June 20 Israel's settlement activity "continued at a high rate, a consistent pattern over the course of this year."

He said activity was concentrated primarily in east Jerusalem where plans were advanced for over 2,300 housing units in July, "30 percent more than for the whole of 2016."

Mladenov stressed that the United Nations considers settlement activities illegal under international law.

He was delivering the third report on implementation of a resolution adopted by the council in December condemning Israeli settlements as a "flagrant violation" of international law. The resolution marked a striking rupture with past practice by President Barack Obama, who had the U.S. abstain rather than veto the measure as then president-elect Donald Trump demanded.

Since becoming president, Trump has strongly supported Israel, and Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has repeatedly denounced the December resolution. Trump says he is working for a settlement of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mladenov said Israeli officials continue to use "provocative rhetoric" in support of settlement expansion. He cited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks on Aug. 28 saying: "There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel ... we will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle."

The U.N. envoy said continuing settlement expansion is also "undermining Palestinian belief in the international peace efforts." In addition, he said, Israel's demolition of structures in the West Bank and east Jerusalem that has displaced hundreds of Palestinians "undermines the prospects for peace."

"Overall, since the beginning of 2017, 344 structures have been demolished, a third of them in east Jerusalem, displacing over 500 people," Mladenov said.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war — for their future state. The international community, including Trump's predecessors, has long supported the two-state solution, believing that partitioning the land into Israeli and Palestinian states is the best way to ensure peace.

But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a warning in his address to the United Nations last week, saying that with hopes running out for an independent Palestinian state, he might have no choice but to seek a single, binational state with Israel.

Mladenov told the Security Council that "continued violence against civilians and incitement perpetuate mutual fear and suspicion, while impeding any efforts to bridge the gaps between the two sides."

He again urged Palestinians and Israelis "to demonstrate their commitment to rejecting violence, inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions." He welcomed recent moves toward reconciliation between Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which controls the West Bank, saying that "all parties must seize this opportunity to restore unity and open a new page for the Palestinian people."

(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)