ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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Palestinians readying Security Council resolution slamming Israeli settlement plans

Hoping not to have to use its veto, US reportedly urging Ramallah to instead pursue a symbolic joint statement condemning Jerusalem, which it would be willing to support

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Illustrative: A UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York, January 12, 2023. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Illustrative: A UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York, January 12, 2023. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Palestinian Mission to the UN is preparing a Security Council resolution condemning Israel for its recently decision to legalize nine outposts and advance plans for some 10,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank, two diplomats for countries on the top panel told The Times of Israel.

Once it has completed drafting the resolution, it will be submitted to the Arab League’s representative on the Security Council, the United Arab Emirates, in order for it to be weighed by other members.

The Palestinian mission is working to rally support for the resolution to be brought to a vote, though it currently is facing opposition from the United States.

According to the Axios news site, the US has told the Palestinians that it would be willing to support a non-binding joint statement from Security Council members condemning the Israeli announcement, as opposed to the binding resolution being drafted, which it would be more inclined to veto.

Israel is lobbying members of the Security Council not to back the resolution, but faces an uphill battle given that its policies in the West Bank face near-unanimous opposition.

The last time a resolution against Israel on settlements was passed by the Security Council was in December 2016. Fourteen of the body’s 15 members backed the measure while then-US president Barack Obama decided to abstain in order to allow the resolution to pass.

Samantha Power, center, then-United States Ambassador to the United Nations, votes to abstain during a UN Security Council vote on condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Friday, December 23, 2016, at United Nations Headquarters. (Manuel Elias/The United Nations via AP)

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan penned a letter to UN Security Council members on Tuesday, urging them to condemn a recent series of attacks in Jerusalem in which 11 Israelis were killed, claiming “they are a direct consequence” of incitement from the Palestinian Authority and terror groups.

The letter made no mention of the steps to further entrench Israel’s presence in the West Bank that were approved by the cabinet on Sunday and framed as a response to the Palestinian attacks.

The Security Council has raised its engagement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the December 29 establishment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government, largely seen as the most right-wing in Israeli history. Within weeks, the council held a pair of emergency sessions to discuss the visit by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount and an Israeli military operation in Jenin in which nine Palestinians, including one civilian, were killed.

A handful of Security Council members — including permanent members France, the UK and the US — have already condemned the latest Israeli cabinet decision independently.

The US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy issued a joint statement earlier Tuesday in which they said they were “deeply troubled” by the cabinet’s decision and “strongly oppose these unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution.”

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, the United Nations secretary-general, Norway, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have also joined the chorus of condemnations, while Abraham Accords countries UAE, Bahrain and Morocco have remained silent.

View of the illegally built Sde Boaz outpost in Gush Etzion, the West Bank, on October 11, 2022 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The outposts that Israel plans to legalize are Avigayil, Beit Hogla, Givat Harel, Givat Arnon, Mitzpe Yehuda, Malachei Hashalom, Asahel, Sde Boaz and Shacharit.

To legalize the outposts, the government will have to prove that they were established on what Israel considers to be state land. This will likely be difficult, given that many of them, including almost all of Sde Boaz and Givat Harel, were built on private Palestinian land.

The High Court of Justice is likely to object to such legalizations, making the process drag on for months, if not years. However, the new hardline government is simultaneously advancing a series of contentious bills that would significantly restrict the ability of the judiciary to overrule such cabinet decisions. This is partially why settler leaders are among the most ardent advocates of plans to overhaul the judiciary.

One of the outposts, Givat Arnon, is located on land designated as an Israel Defense Forces firing zone in the northern West Bank, exposing a discrepancy between how the government treats unauthorized Israeli and Palestinian construction, given that the state has moved to demolish Palestinian villages in an area known as Masafer Yatta that was also designated as a military firing zone.

Netanyahu also said that his cabinet members agreed to have the Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction convene in the coming days to advance plans for new Israeli construction in the West Bank.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a settler himself, said in a statement that plans for roughly 10,000 homes would soon be advanced, in what would be the largest-ever batch of settler homes approved by the ministry’s Civil Administration in one sitting.

While the international community considers all settlements illegal, Israel differentiates between settlement homes built and permitted by the Defense Ministry on land owned by the state, and illegal outposts built without necessary permits, often on private Palestinian land. However, outposts are sometimes established with the state’s tacit approval, and successive governments have sought to legalize at least some of the 100-plus unrecognized communities as a result.

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