Palestine seeks resolution against Israeli settlements

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast War and built settlements there

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The Palestinians have given Arab nations a proposed UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace, the Palestinian UN Mission said Thursday.

The draft resolution was immediately condemned by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “is taking a step that will push negotiations further away” to end the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians refused to provide any details of the text, but said the Security Council has unanimously agreed that Israeli settlements are illegal and it is their responsibility to act on this assessment and adopt a resolution on settlements.

They recalled the Security Council’s 14-1 vote on a resolution on settlements in February 2011. It was defeated by a US veto. That resolution would have condemned “illegal” Israeli settlements and demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast War and built settlements there. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but nearly 600,000 Israeli settlers remain in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Peace Now, a dovish Israeli group that tracks settlement construction, said Israel began building 1,800 new settlement homes in the West Bank in 2015.

The Palestinians claim the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as parts of a future state, a position that has wide global support. They view Israeli settlement construction as illegal and a major obstacle to resolving the conflict.

Though Israel’s closest ally, the United States has nonetheless opposed new settlements, saying they are an impediment to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. At the same time, the Obama administration in 2011 didn’t want the Security Council to take up the issue, arguing it would complicate peace negotiations.

Whether the US administration would adhere to that position and veto a similar resolution if it was put to a vote in the coming weeks remains to be seen.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which first reported on the resolution, said the Palestinians want the Security Council to vote when Abbas is in New York on April 22 to attend the high-level ceremony where more than 130 countries are expected to sign the landmark climate agreement reached in Paris in December.

Netanyahu accused Abbas of avoiding direct negotiations, and Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon said the only way to promote negotiations must start with the Palestinians “condemning terrorism and stopping the incitement.”

“They are continuing to deceive the international community by putting forward initiatives that do nothing to better the lives of either side of this conflict,” Danon said.