Edith M. Lederer
The Palestinians urged the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to adopt a resolution with serious measures to compel Israel to halt all settlement activities and threatening "consequences" if it continues to violate international law.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told the council Wednesday that an Israeli cessation of all settlement activities and an end to its nearly 50-year occupation of Palestinian territory "are imperative for realizing a just, lasting, comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace."
Mansour has been sounding out the 15 council members on a new settlements resolution and he is expected to report to the Arab Ministerial Committee which is expected to meet in Cairo before the end of the month to decide on next steps.
Israel's Ambassador Danny Danon made no mention of settlements and instead excoriated the U.N. for its anti-Israel bias.
Israel contends that the West Bank was not captured from the Palestinians and the issues of settlements and borders should be decided through negotiations. Israel annexed east Jerusalem after the 1967 Mideast war and says the entire city is its capital, and it has the right to build wherever it wants.
Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu also makes the argument that Arab hatred and attacks go back to long before the 1967 war, and therefore he thinks settlements are not a real cause of the conflict.
Danon denounced the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem whose executive director urged council members last Friday to take immediate and decisive action to end Israel's occupation. He said B'Tselem receives funds from three U.N. agencies and called on the council "to put an end to U.N. funding for extremist organizations that seek to harm Israel."
The U.N.'s special co-ordinator for Mideast peace, Nickolay Mladenov, warned the council that the Israeli-Palestinian situation is deteriorating.
"The absence of progress has led to growing anger and frustration among Palestinians and profound disillusionment among Israelis," he said. "It has strengthened radicals and weakened moderates on both sides."
"We must all avoid the risk of sleep-walking into another violent conflict at a time when the region as a whole needs moderate forces to unite and stand up to the radicalization that we see in the Middle East," Mladenov said.
He cited recent killings of Israelis and Palestinians, and Israel's continued settlement planning including its recent promotion of new housing units in Shilo which would a wedge between the north and south West Bank, jeopardizing prospects for a contiguous future Palestinian state.
Mladenov urged Hamas, which controls Gaza, to pursue reconciliation with Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and agree to the Palestine Liberation Organization principles which include recognition of the state of Israel.
In a message clearly directed at Israel, he warned that those who believe the people of Gaza can be punished by closing the strip or restricting entry of construction materials vital for the economy "should know that the temperature in Gaza is rising."
And in a message directed to Hamas, he warned that those building tunnels, firing rockets, smuggling military equipment and profiting from the black market are "dangerous and irresponsible" — and "are stealing from their own people and risk the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike."