Israel faces condemnation over new settlement plans

DEFIANT::Despite a rare rebuke from the US and calls by allies to halt all new construction, Israel’s prime minister vowed to continue building in east Jerusalem


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 - Page 6

The Palestinians said on Tuesday that all UN Security Council members except the US would condemn Israel’s recent announcements of new settlement construction which are making a two-state solution more difficult to achieve.

Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said the 14 other council members would tell reporters after the council’s monthly Mideast meeting yesterday that continuing settlement activity is illegal and must be stopped.

The US delivered a rare blunt rebuke to Israel, its top Middle East ally, on Tuesday for its new settlement construction, but Mansour said the US administration would not approve a Security Council resolution or statement.

He said there was near global unanimity against Israel’s actions, pointing to the 169-6 vote in the General Assembly on Tuesday on a non-binding resolution condemning settlement activities by Israel and demanding their immediate cessation.

“Unfortunately, one powerful country with veto power does not want the Security Council to act accordingly,” Mansour said. “Therefore, the 14 other countries in the Security Council, in their own creative way, will make their position clear, collectively or separately, to the media outside the chamber on Wednesday.”

He said the four West European council members — Germany, France, Britain and Portugal — would issue a statement of condemnation, followed by India speaking on behalf of the Nonaligned Movement of mainly developing countries, and other council members, likely including South Africa, Russia and China.

“Therefore one can say 14 versus 1 is the reality of the Security Council in condemning Israel settlement activity — although the one is also condemning,” Mansour said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced plans to build thousands of homes in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in response to the UN General Assembly’s decision last month to upgrade the Palestinians’ status to a nonmember observer state. On Monday, he said Israel would push forward with plans to build 1,500 apartments in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.

US Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland accused Israel of engaging in a “pattern of provocative action” that runs counter to the government’s commitment to peace. She said settlement activity only puts the goal of peace “further at risk” and urged both Israel and the Palestinians to halt all provocations and take steps to revive long-stalled peace talks.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday called all Israeli settlements “illegal under international law.”

He urged Israel to reverse its latest expansion plan in east Jerusalem, warning that if implemented “it would make a negotiated two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, very difficult to achieve.”

The EU, Israel’s biggest trading partner, has been increasingly vocal in its criticism of new settlements just as Israel is gearing up for general elections next month. In an unprecedented move, a string of European governments summoned their local Israeli ambassadors to lodge protests following the Israeli settlement announcements.

Yesterday’s expected statement by key European countries on the Security Council would be a symbolic, but nonetheless high-profile show of displeasure with the Israelis.

Netanyahu has been unshaken by the criticism and on Tuesday vowed to continue building in east Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel, and we will continue to build there. A united Jerusalem expresses a wide national agreement,” he said in the northern Israeli town of Acre.