UN: Israel ignores demand to stop settlement building

UN Middle East envoy says Israel has failed to end illegal settlement activity and abide by UNSC Resolution 2334.

Jewish boy waving an Israeli flag in an illegal settlement
Palestinian leaders said the settlements are the main obstacle in the path of the two-state solution [Damir Sagolj/Reuters]

Israel has not taken any steps to halt illegal settlement building on occupied Palestinian territory as demanded by the Security Council, the United Nations said on Friday,

In his first report to the council on the implementation of a resolution it adopted in December, UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said on Friday that Israel had instead authorised “a high rate” of settlement expansions in violation of international law.

“The resolution calls on Israel to take steps ‘to cease all settlements activities in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem.’ No such steps have been taken during the reporting period,” he said.

Speaking to reporters, Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour said: “Settlements need to be stopped, not only because they are illegal, but they are the main obstacle in the path of the two-state solution.” 

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The UNSC Resolution 2334, which reaffirmed long-standing positions of the international community, was adopted with 14 votes after the United States abstained in the vote.

The abstention defied pressure from then President-elect Donald Trump, Israel and some US politicians who urged Washington to wield its veto.

The resolution condemned Israel’s settlements on Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, saying they had “no legal validity”.

It also demanded a halt to “all Israeli settlement activities”, saying this “is essential for salvaging the two-state solution”.

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Israeli settlements are seen as a major stumbling block to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

The UN maintains that settlements are illegal, but the body’s officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months.

Mladenov called “the January spike” in illegal settlement announcements by Israel “deeply concerning.” During that month, he said, two major announcements were made for a total of 5,500 housing units in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank exclusively controlled by Israel.

“Overall, the last three months have seen a high rate of settlement-related activity, especially when compared to 2016, which saw tenders for only 42 (housing) units issued and some 3,000 units advanced over 12 months in Area C,” Mladenov said.

Last year, Israel built 2,630 illegal settler homes in the occupied West Bank in 2016, an increase of 40 percent compared with numbers from 2015.

Some 430,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 Israelis live in occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

Source: News Agencies