All Settlements Illegal under International Law, He Reiterates, Noting Prime Minister’s Approval of Some 3,000 Units in West Bank
The threat to annex Palestinian territory, as well as the exchange of fire between militants and Israeli security forces, are undermining the prospects for peace between the two sides, the senior United Nations official for the Middle East peace process warned today.
Urging the Security Council to help find a way towards peaceful coexistence between the two sides as neighbours, Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said: “It is not enough to reaffirm the internationally agreed parameters on how the conflict can be resolved.” Briefing Council members by video‑teleconference from Jerusalem, he said it is time to “find our way back to a mutually agreed mediation framework that ensures meaningful negotiations can resume”.
Detailing recent developments, including the threat of partial annexation, he recalled that Israeli and United States officials have said that such a step would only be taken after a joint committee completes detailed maps of the relevant areas in the occupied West Bank. The United States confirmed the joint committee’s formation on 15 February, he said, pointing out: “The Secretary‑General has consistently spoken out against unilateral steps and plans for annexation.” Such measures would have a devastating impact on prospects for a two-State solution, he said, adding that they would close the door to negotiations.
He went on to report that the situation in the Gaza Strip is escalating, with projectiles being fired from the Palestinian enclave towards Israel and that country’s defence forces responding with retaliatory air strikes. Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants fired more than 40 rockets since 23 February, and the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting aerial bombardment over the enclave in response, he reported.
More than 100 projectiles fired from Gaza towards Israeli communities injured four people, including a woman and a child, he said, adding that more than 100 incendiary balloons were released towards Israel, many carrying explosive devices. In response, the Israeli forces fired 102 missiles against Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.
Violence also continued in the West Bank, where Israeli security forces killed 7 Palestinians, he reported, adding that Palestinians injured 16 Israeli security personnel and 7 civilians. “With no meaningful bilateral negotiations on the horizon, developments on the ground continued to undermine prospects for a two-State solution,” he said.
Israeli authorities continued to demolish Palestinian structures and to advance settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, he said, noting that they destroyed or seized 28 Palestinian-owned structures, and 11 others were demolished by their owners, resulting in the displacement of 47 people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on 20 February that he had approved the construction of some 3,000 housing units in Giv’at Hamatos and some 1,000 units in Beit Safafa. He also declared that he could allow the beginning of planning processes for 2,200 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa.
“These projects, if implemented, would consolidate a ring of settlements cutting between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, significantly constraining the possibility of a future contiguous Palestinian State,” the Special Coordinator pointed out, stressing that all settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace.
Concerning intra-Palestinian developments, he reported that the prospects for reconciliation and elections remain stalled. With legislative and presidential elections not having been held since 2006, it is critical to renew the legitimacy of Palestinian national institutions, he said, underlining that Palestinians must be allowed to elect their leaders. While the United Nations continues to support the Egypt-led reconciliation effort, the Palestinian national movement continues to be weakened by lack of unity, he noted.
Turning to the situation in the wider region, he reported that a new Government was formed in Lebanon, but popular protests continue across the country. On 10 February, 15 individuals blocked a patrol of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Bar’ashit and sized a portable radio, a global positioning system device and other items, he said, adding that the Force has requested a prompt investigation of that incident.
As for the Golan, recent developments involving breaches of the ceasefire line and military activities in the area of separation demonstrate the continued volatility of the situation there, he said, reporting that the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) observed missiles fired from the Alpha side towards the Bravo side on 6 February, as well as anti-aircraft fire launched from positions on the Bravo side. UNDOF also observed drones and aircrafts flying from the Alpha side. The Force engaged both parties to prevent an escalation of tensions and reminded them of their obligation to respect the 1974 Disengagement of Forces agreement, he said.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 10:20 a.m.