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PA drafts new UN resolution against Israel's illegal settlements

April 8, 2016 1:33 P.M. (Updated: April 10, 2016 3:53 P.M.)
Palestinian children play near the illegal Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (AFP/Ahman Gharabl, File)
By: Emily Mulder

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to present a draft resolution condemning Israeli settlements to the UN Security Council, in two weeks in a move likely to spark fury among Israel’s supporters.

A Palestinian official familiar with the resolution told Ma'an Friday that the Palestinian Authority put the draft resolution into circulation among members of the UN Security Council this week in preparation for Abbas’ visit to the UN headquarters in New York from April 21 to 23.

The resolution will be the first to directly condemn Israeli settlements as illegal under international law since the United States vetoed a similar resolution in 2011, the official said.

“It will be difficult for anyone to vote against it -- it reaffirms positions (Member States) have already taken on settlements,” said the official, who wished to remain anonymous.

The Palestinian leadership had garnered the support of the entire Security Council prior to the 2011 vote -- including Britain, France, and Germany -- but it was vetoed by the Americans due to alleged concerns that passing it would be harmful to peace negotiations.

The construction of Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land has long been considered a violation of international law by the UN, although Israel contests this.

In response to reports of the draft resolution, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday it would “push negotiations further away.”

“The only way to advance peace is by direct negotiations and Abu Mazen is avoiding this,” Netanyahu said on his Twitter feed, using another name for Abbas.

“The Palestinians educate their children on a daily basis that the settlements are Tel Aviv, Haifa and Acre,” the Israeli premier went on, referring to cities inside Israel.

Despite Netanyahu’s concerns, the Palestinian official told Ma’an the decision to return to the resolution on settlements in two weeks stemmed directly from decades of failed negotiations in preventing their expansion.

“If not now, when? There’s always an excuse when it comes to Palestinian issues. In 2011, people still had hopes for negotiations, but people don’t believe in negotiations anymore,” he said.

The PA has built momentum in taking Israel to task in the international arena over the past year, and last month passed four landmark resolutions in the UN Human Rights council that addressed Israeli transgressions in the occupied Palestinian territory.

One of the four resolutions passed obliges the UN council to form a database of actors conducting business in areas under military occupation, specifically companies operating out of illegal settlements.

“The idea is to help keep the issue of settlements going,” the Palestinian official said Friday. “Everyone says settlements are an obstacle to peace, but very few are actually doing anything about it.

“You have the EU representative [Federica Mogherini] right now presenting major Israeli violations on occupied land simply as a consumer rights issue.”

While the EU in November passed a law to label products made in Israeli settlements, the official said giving a choice to consumers whether or not to purchase products made in illegal settlements in no way addressed the daily violations taking place on Palestinian land.

Since its takeover of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967, the Israeli government has established and expanded Jewish-only settlements across the occupied territory, and many now fear a contiguous Palestinian state would be impossible.

This year, meanwhile, has seen a new wave of land grabs in the occupied Palestinian territory that rights groups say marks a return to an Israeli government policy not seen since the pre-Oslo period in the 1980s.

The Israeli authorities have also carried out record high demolitions of Palestinian homes that have displaced more than 650 Palestinians since the start of the year.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that in the first three months of 2016 Israel tore down nearly the same number of homes that were destroyed throughout the entirety of 2015.

Despite repeated condemnations by the international community, Israel has come under little actual pressure to halt its settlement program, land seizures, or the forced displacement of Palestinian communities.

Since 2000, the US has used its veto in the UN Security Council 11 times, 10 of them to protect Israel from critical draft resolutions.

However, US President Barack Obama, whose relations with Netanyahu have been frosty throughout his time in office, said last month that his administration may be willing to back a UN resolution obligating Israel to abide by a permanent agreement with Palestinian leadership.
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