UN urges Israel to stop settlement expansion in West Bank, east Jerusalem

12:40 AM | 26 Jun, 2021
UN urges Israel to stop settlement expansion in West Bank, east Jerusalem

NEW YORK— The United Nations has accused the Israeli government of flagrantly violating the international law by expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. 

It has declared the settlements illegal and urged the new Israeli government to halt the expansion immediately.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland reported on implementation of a 2016 Security Council resolution that declared settlements have “no legal validity”. The report demanded a halt to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Wennesland said in a briefing to the council on Guterres’ 12-page report that he was “deeply troubled” by the Israeli approval of a plan to add 540 housing units to the Har Homa settlement in east Jerusalem and establishment of settlement outposts. He said that is “illegal also under Israeli law”. 

“I again underscore, in no uncertain terms, that Israeli settlements constitute a flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions and international law,” the UN envoy said. “They are a major obstacle to the achievement of a two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

“The advancement of all settlement activity must cease immediately,” Wennesland said.

Israel disputes its settlements are illegal.

Both Guterres and Wennesland also called on Israel to stop demolition of Palestinian homes and other property and displacement of Palestinians “and to approve plans that would enable these communities to build legally and address their development needs”.

The December 2016 resolution, which the US abstained on in the final weeks of the Obama administration, also called for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians and urged Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint.

It called on all parties to begin negotiations on final status issues and urged intensified international and regional diplomatic efforts to help end the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieve a two-state solution.

Guterres and Wennesland made clear that 4½ years after the resolution’s adoption, none of these appeals have been met.

Wennesland said the period between March and June covered in the report “witnessed an alarming increase in the level of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, including hostilities between Israel and factions in Gaza at a scale and intensity not seen in years.”

He said the cessation of hostilities after last month’s 11-day Gaza war “remains very fragile,” adding that the United Nations is working closely with Israel, the Palestinians and partners including Egypt “to solidify a cease-fire, allow the entry of urgent humanitarian assistance and stabilize the situation in Gaza.”