UN Mideast envoy voices concern over Israeli settlements

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov on Monday voiced concern over Israel’s settlement expansion and the demolition of Palestinian property in occupied Palestinian territory.

“I remain deeply troubled by continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Over the past year, Israeli authorities advanced controversial settlement plans that had been frozen for years,” Mladenov told the Security Council in a briefing.

The total number of units advanced in 2020 is on par with 2019 numbers, despite an eight-month hiatus this year. Some 50 per cent of them are deep in the West Bank, in areas crucial for the contiguity and viability of a future Palestinian state, he said.

In the strategic location of E1, plans for some 3,500 units were advanced after an eight-year delay. If implemented, the E1 plan would sever the connection between the northern and southern West Bank. Similarly, a tender was issued for some 1,200 units establishing a new settlement in Givat Hamatos, threatening to further disconnect East Jerusalem from Bethlehem and the southern West Bank, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“If either project moves forward, it would significantly undermine the establishment of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution,” he warned.

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, constitute a flagrant violation of UN resolutions and international law. Settlements entrench Israel’s occupation and undermine the prospect of achieving a two-state solution. The advancement of all settlement activity must cease immediately, he said.

As the latest developments, the Israeli authorities on December 13 announced a tender for 290 housing units in the settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem. On Wednesday, the Israeli Knesset advanced, in a preliminary vote, a bill that sets a two-year timeframe for the legalisation of 65 outposts and mandates that they should be treated as authorized settlements in the interim, with their residents receiving all municipal services, he noted.

The continued demolition and seizure of Palestinian structures, notably humanitarian projects and schools, is also deeply concerning, said Mladenov.

He called on Israeli authorities to end the demolition of Palestinian property and the displacement and eviction of Palestinians and to approve plans that would enable these communities to build legally and address their development needs.