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Abbas: ‘Dangerous consequences’ for new settlement construction

After Israel announces 2,500 new West Bank homes, PA president said working to have international forums impose a halt

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda (unseen) in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, January 18, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda (unseen) in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, January 18, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there would be “dangerous consequences” following Israel’s announcement on Tuesday approving the construction of 2,500 housing units in settlements in the West Bank, Israel Radio reported Thursday morning.

Speaking at a meeting of his Fatah party in Ramallah, Abbas also reportedly said that Palestinian diplomats will work to try and put a halt to the construction and that he is in consultations with officials from both Arab and other unspecified countries on how to introduce the subject in international forums.

Following Tuesday’s announcement, numerous Palestinian officials condemned the move, including Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi. “Such a deliberate escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise constitutes a war crime and the flagrant violation of international law and conventions, in particular UN Security Council Resolution 2334,” she said, a reference to a resolution from last month that condemned Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “a flagrant violation under international law.”

That resolution passed 14-0 after the United States withheld its veto and abstained on the measure. In 2011, the administration of former US president Barack Obama vetoed a similar UN Security Council resolution.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss Israel’s announcement of new settlement construction in the West Bank, but took no action.

During the closed council meeting on Wednesday, the US representative did not take the floor to speak, diplomats said.

The settlement building “needs to be condemned,” Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog told reporters.

“We believe that any action that is taken in violation of international law or Security Council resolution 2334, regardless of who violates that resolution, needs to be condemned,” he said.

The ambassador, who holds the council presidency this month, said council members received an update on the situation but that no one pushed for immediate action during the talks, which were requested by Bolivia.

Riyad Mansour, right, addresses the UN Security Council on October 19, 2016. (Kim Haughton/UN)
Riyad Mansour, right, addresses the UN Security Council on October 19, 2016. (Kim Haughton/UN)

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters the council must ensure that its own resolutions are upheld and that Israel must not “get away with it” by building in settlements.

He said the Palestinians are discussing “all kind of ideas” with council members and others to ensure that the resolution is implemented.

The Swedish ambassador said that despite taking no immediate action, “everyone in the council [who] spoke today is eager to make sure we find ways to minimize the effects of unilateral action.”

The possibility of passing a joint Security Council resolution condemning resolution appears unlikely, as US President Donald Trump harshly criticized the Obama administration’s decision to withhold the US’s veto last month, writing on Twitter that “we cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect” and encouraging Israel to “stay strong” until he assumed the presidency.

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that US President Donald Trump was reportedly preparing two executive orders that would halt US funding to the UN and other bodies that grant full membership to the PA and the PLO.

This latest White House moves coincide with Republican efforts in the Senate to defund the United Nations over the Security Council passing a resolution last December that condemned Israeli settlements as illegal.

While that measure — introduced by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) — aims to punish the world body for its censuring Israel, it also aims to incentivize the UN to reverse course. The motion would strip the UN of American assistance until the president can certify to Congress that UNSC Resolution 2334 has been repealed.

Palestinian laborers work at the construction site of a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Ariel near the West Bank city of Nablus on January 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
Palestinian laborers work at the construction site of a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Ariel near the West Bank city of Nablus on January 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Amid condemnation from the EU, UN, Germany and a number of other countries, the US did not condemn Tuesday’s announcement on settlement construction, with White House press secretary Sean Spicer saying during Tuesday’s daily press briefing that “we’re going to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and we’ll continue to discuss that.”

“Israel continues to be a huge ally of the United States, [Trump] wants to grow closer with Israel, to make sure that it gets the full respect that it deserves in the Middle East,” Spicer said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump have plans to meet in Washington next month.

Eric Cortellessa and AP contributed to this report.

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