Is­rael push­ing for more set­tler homes de­spite vote

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Is­rael could ad­vance plans this week for thou­sands more set­tle­ment homes in an­nexed east Jerusalem in de­fi­ance of a land­mark UN res­o­lu­tion demanding an end to such ac­tiv­ity. It would mark the first such ap­provals since Fri­day’s UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil vote demanding a halt to Is­raeli set­tle­ment build­ing in Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory. The res­o­lu­tion, which passed af­ter the United States took the rare move of ab­stain­ing, in­fu­ri­ated Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu who lashed out at Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and vowed not to abide by it.

A Jerusalem plan­ning com­mit­tee is to dis­cuss is­su­ing build­ing per­mits for 618 hous­ing units in the mainly Pales­tinian east­ern sec­tor of the city to­day, ac­cord­ing to the Ir Amim NGO, which mon­i­tors set­tle­ment build­ing. Jerusalem deputy mayor Meir Tur­je­man, who also heads the com­mit­tee, has re­port­edly also spo­ken of seek­ing to ad­vance plans for some 5,600 other units at ear­lier stages in the process. Yesterday he told AFP there were no plans to call off dis­cus­sions in re­sponse to the UN vote. The hun­dreds of build­ing per­mits were on the agenda be­fore the res­o­lu­tion was passed. “We’ll dis­cuss ev­ery­thing that’s on the ta­ble in a se­ri­ous man­ner,” he said. And on his Face­book page Tur­je­man: “I’m not con­cerned by the UN or any­thing else try­ing to dic­tate our ac­tions in Jerusalem. “I hope the gov­ern­ment and new US ad­min­is­tra­tion will give us the mo­men­tum to con­tinue and make up for the short­age cre­ated over the eight years of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said of set­tle­ment con­struc­tion.

Is­rael has al­ready taken diplo­matic steps in re­sponse to what it calls the “shame­ful” res­o­lu­tion, which passed with sup­port from all the re­main­ing mem­bers of the 15-strong Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. Yesterday, the for­eign min­istry said it was “tem­po­rar­ily re­duc­ing” vis­its and work with em­bassies of na­tions that voted for it. On Christ­mas Day it sum­moned am­bas­sadors of coun­tries that voted for the res­o­lu­tion while Ne­tanyahu met US am­bas­sador Daniel Shapiro on Sun­day.

Se­cu­rity Coun­cil mem­bers such as Rus­sia, China and Bri­tain are key to Is­raeli diplo­macy or trade and some an­a­lysts sug­gested the mea­sures being taken were more sym­bolic than sub­stan­tive. Wash­ing­ton is Is­rael’s most im­por­tant ally and pro­vides it with more than $3 bil­lion per year in de­fence aid. By de­clin­ing to use its veto, the US en­abled the adop­tion of the first UN res­o­lu­tion since 1979 to con­demn Is­rael over its set­tle­ment pol­icy.

Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has been frus­trated with set­tle­ment build­ing in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, which Is­rael oc­cu­pied in 1967. Is­rael later an­nexed east Jerusalem in a move never rec­og­nized by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Set­tle­ments are built on land the Pales­tini­ans view as part of their fu­ture state and seen as il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional law. Some 430,000 Is­raeli set­tlers live in the West Bank and 200,000 Is­raelis live in east Jerusalem, which Pales­tini­ans see as the cap­i­tal of their fu­ture state.

New ‘Drey­fus trial’?

The UN res­o­lu­tion de­mands “Is­rael im­me­di­ately and com­pletely cease all set­tle­ment ac­tiv­i­ties in the oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory, in­clud­ing east Jerusalem.” It says set­tle­ments have “no le­gal va­lid­ity” and are “dan­ger­ously im­per­il­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of the two-state so­lu­tion” to the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, the ba­sis of years of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The res­o­lu­tion con­tains no sanc­tions but Is­raeli of­fi­cials are con­cerned it could widen the pos­si­bil­ity of pros­e­cu­tion at the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court. They are also wor­ried it could en­cour­age some coun­tries to im­pose sanc­tions against Is­raeli set­tlers and goods pro­duced in the set­tle­ments. Plans by France to hold an in­ter­na­tional Mid­dle East peace con­fer­ence on Jan­uary 15 — op­posed by Is­rael which has called for di­rect talks with the Pales­tini­ans-is an­other point of con­cern.

Of­fi­cials fear the con­fer­ence could be lead to fur­ther ac­tion against Is­rael that would then be taken to the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil for ap­proval be­fore Don­ald Trump takes over as US pres­i­dent on Jan­uary 20. Pales­tinian lead­ers sup­port the con­fer­ence, say­ing years of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Is­raelis have not ended the oc­cu­pa­tion. Pales­tinian pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas on Mon­day said the UN res­o­lu­tion “paves the way for the suc­cess” of the con­fer­ence. He said he hopes it “comes out with an in­ter­na­tional mech­a­nism and a time­line to end Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion of our coun­try”. Is­raeli hard­line De­fence Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man dubbed the con­fer­ence a new “Drey­fus trial” and urged French Jews to move to Is­rael. — AFP

TUNIS: This file photo taken on De­cem­ber 24, 2016 shows Tu­nisian women shout­ing slo­gans dur­ing a de­mon­stra­tion out­side par­lia­ment against al­low­ing Tu­nisians who joined the ranks of ji­hadist groups to re­turn to the coun­try. — AFP

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