Israel continues to build settlements “at a high rate,” in defiance of Security Council demands for an end to the expansion, the UN envoy for the Middle East said Monday.
Reporting to the council, envoy Nickolay Mladenov accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of using provocative rhetoric to shore up the drive for new settlements.
From June to September, new construction was mostly in East Jerusalem, which Israel claims as annexed territory, with plans for some 2,300 new housing units — a 30 percent increase from last year, he said.
“Israel’s illegal settlement activities have continued at a high rate, a consistent pattern over the course of the year,” Mladenov told the council.
Nine months ago, the Security Council adopted a controversial resolution demanding an end to settlements. The measure passed after the United States declined to use its veto and instead abstained.
The vote angered the incoming administration of then president-elect Donald Trump, who had called for a US veto and whose aides had lobbied council members to vote against the resolution.
The United Nations considers Israeli settlements illegal and has repeatedly called for a halt to their expansion on land the Palestinians seek for a future Palestinian state. Israel says the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, is disputed territory and the fate of the settlements must be resolved through negotiations with the Palestinians.
“Israeli officials continue to use provocative rhetoric in support of expansion,” said Mladenov.
At a ceremony launching new construction last month, Netanyahu praised his government’s push for more settlements, vowing to “deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle,” Mladenov noted.
Senior Israeli politicians have made repeated calls for annexing the West Bank, with one Knesset member saying this would “destroy” hopes for Palestinian statehood, Mladenov said.
Aside from new construction, Mladenov said the demolition of Palestinian homes and schools had continued, but at a significantly lower rate.
In all, 344 buildings have been destroyed, a third of them in East Jerusalem, displacing over 500 people, he said.
Israel says the homes are built without proper building permits, while Palestinians charge that it is often impossible for Palestinians to obtain such permits in areas under Israeli control.
Mladenov said the ongoing settlement expansion “is making the two-state solution increasingly unattainable.”