UN: Israel has advanced 22,000 housing units since 2016 anti-settlement measure

Head of world body says settlements have ‘no legal effect’ following Trump administration announcement that it doesn’t necessarily consider Israeli communities West Bank illegal

In this photo from January 1, 2019, men work on a new housing project in the West Bank settlement of Modin Illit. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
In this photo from January 1, 2019, men work on a new housing project in the West Bank settlement of Modin Illit. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Mideast envoy said Wednesday that Israel advanced or approved plans for over 22,000 housing units in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem in the three years since the Security Council adopted a resolution condemning settlements in lands the Palestinians want for their future state.

Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council that in addition, Israel issued tenders for some 8,000 housing units since the December 2016 resolution, which also declared that the settlements have “no legal validity.”

He said the numbers “should be of serious concern to all those who continue to support the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the Security Council circulated Wednesday that the settlements have “no legal effect.”

He declared that construction and approvals “must cease immediately and completely.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at the COP25 climate talks summit in Madrid, Spain, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

“The existence and expansion of settlements fuel resentment and hopelessness among the Palestinian population and significantly heighten Israeli-Palestinian tensions,” the UN chief said. “In addition, they continue to undermine the prospects for ending the (Israeli) occupation and achieving the two-state solution by systematically eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous and viable Palestinian state.”

Guterres said he regrets the Trump administration’s announcement on November 18 that it no longer views “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank” as “per se, inconsistent with international law.”

Mladenov was reporting to the council on implementation of the 2016 resolution.

The resolution was approved by the council when the United States, in the final weeks of the Obama administration, abstained rather than using its veto to support longtime ally Israel as it had done many times previously.

US Ambassador Kelly Craft told the council that she would have vetoed the resolution, which the Trump administration opposes.

The figures released by the UN are not new, but a collation of existing numbers over the last three years.

Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and quickly began settling the newly conquered territory.

After the war, it immediately annexed east Jerusalem, home to the holy city’s most important religious sites, in a move that is not internationally recognized.

Israel has never annexed the West Bank, even as it has dotted the territory with scores of settlements and tiny settlement outposts. In recent months Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex the Jordan Valley, a large part of the West Bank, if reelected.

While claiming the fate of the settlements is a subject for negotiations, it has steadily expanded them. Some major settlements have over 30,000 residents, resembling small cities and serving as suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo on December 17, 2015. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

Today, some 700,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which are both claimed by the Palestinians for their state.

The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal. This is based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory. Israel rejects the position that the territories are occupied, saying they were captured from Jordan in a defensive war.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report


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