Palestinians demand UN action over Israeli approval of settlement homes
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Palestinians demand UN action over Israeli approval of settlement homes

After another 3,000 housing units okayed in West Bank, Palestinian envoy to UN decries 'extreme barrage of illegal behavior'

The West Bank settlement of Alfei Menashe (Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Schilling/CC BY-SA 3.0)
The West Bank settlement of Alfei Menashe (Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan Schilling/CC BY-SA 3.0)

UNITED NATIONS — The Palestinian UN ambassador accused Israel of an “extreme barrage of illegal behavior” over the last 10 days and demanded that the UN Security Council take action.

Riyad Mansour said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval to build 6,000 new homes for settlers over recent weeks is “unprecedented,” saying it exceeds the number for all of 2016.

Mansour said Netanyahu is “destroying the two-state solution by the continuation of this illegal behavior.”

Mansour and the head of the Arab Group at the UN spoke to reporters Wednesday after meeting with Ukraine’s UN ambassador, Volodymyr Yelchenko, the current council president, to protest the action on new settler homes and call for the council to implement the resolution it adopted in December condemning Israeli settlements and demanding a halt to new construction.

Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks after the UN Security Council approved an anti-settlements resolution, December 23, 2016 (Frank Franklin II/AP)
Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks after the UN Security Council approved an anti-settlements resolution, December 23, 2016 (Frank Franklin II/AP)

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon hit back at the Palestinians, criticizing “the repeated attempts… to spread lies about Israel.

“The real obstacle to negotiations is the Palestinian recalcitrance and continued incitement towards violence. Instead of handing out candy in celebration of terror attacks, the Palestinians must put an end to incitement and terrorism,” he said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman approved the construction of around 3,000 new homes in the West Bank, some of them outside settlement blocs Israel hopes to keep in a future peace deal with the Palestinians. That announcement came a week after Israel approved the construction of 566 housing units in East Jerusalem and 2,500 homes in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visit the headquarters of the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division, near the Israeli settlement of Beit El in the West Bank. January 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visit the headquarters of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division, near the Israeli settlement of Beit El in the West Bank. January 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Wednesday’s announcement includes 700 homes in Alfei Menashe, 650 in Beitar Illit, 650 in Beit Arye, 200 in Nofim, 150 in Nokdim (Liberman’s home settlement), 100 in Shilo, 100 in Karnei Shomron and 100 in Metsudot Yehuda.

The announcement appeared to be an attempt by the government to calm settler anger over the court-ordered removal of Amona. The evacuation of the illegal outpost was near completion overnight Wednesday-Thursday.

Also on Wednesday, Netanyahu announced plans for the establishment of a new West Bank settlement to replace Amona.

The settlement would be the first new one to be built in some 25 years.

While Israel stopped establishing settlements in the early 1990s, outposts set up since then have been retroactively given approval, and existing settlements have expanded their footprints, sometimes being neighborhoods of existing settlements in name only.

The international community considers settlements illegal. But new US President Donald Trump has signaled that he will abandon the policies of his predecessors and be far friendlier toward settlements. He has appointed a prominent US supporter of the settlements to be his ambassador to Israel, and a delegation of settler leaders was invited to his inauguration.

This has emboldened Netanyahu, who repeatedly clashed with President Barack Obama over settlements, to announce a series of construction plans over the past week and a half. The Trump White House has remained silent, a dramatic departure from the vocal condemnations issued by former president Obama.

Last month, Obama withheld the US veto from UNSC Resolution 2334, which was highly critical of the settlements, designating them as having “no legal validity” and constituting “a flagrant violation under international law.”

The motion also called for a complete end to all construction in areas Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem.

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