Israel is defying UN resolution on halting settlements, envoy says

Plans for nearly 2,000 housing units still being advanced, Security Council told

Continuing construction work at Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-annexed eastern sector of Jerusalem. AFP
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Israel is still ignoring a 2016 UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate halt to all settlement activity in lands the Palestinians want for their future state, the UN's Middle East envoy has said.

Plans for construction of nearly 2,000 housing units in the past three months were still being advanced, Tor Wennesland told the council on Wednesday.

Mr Wennesland, the UN Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said no progress had been made by Israelis and Palestinians on other demands in the resolution. These include preventing violence against civilians, refraining from acts of provocation, inflammatory rhetoric, and distinguishing between Israeli territory and territories occupied since the 1967 war.

"We continue to see little progress," Mr Wennesland said, referring to the enforcement of the resolution since its adoption in December 2016.

He said several positive steps had been taken during the three-month period, including two contacts between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and high-level Israeli officials in July. He also highlighted Israel issuing about 16,000 permits for workers and businesses for Palestinians in Gaza, and a 1.5 per cent increase in imports and 54 per cent increase in exports through the main Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel to Gaza.

The resolution was approved by the Security Council when the US, in the final weeks of the Barack Obama administration, abstained rather than using its veto to support long-time ally Israel as it had done many times previously. The Donald Trump administration strongly opposed the resolution.

US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council on Wednesday that from day one, the Joe Biden administration had supported a two-state solution. This was a position Mr Biden emphasised to world leaders at last week’s high-level meeting at the General Assembly.

Ms Thomas-Greenfield said many leaders made similar calls, praising Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s “courageous and impassioned speech that articulated his vision of `two states for two peoples’.”

“The significance of his appeal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians should not be underestimated,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield said. “And I also want to acknowledge President [Mahmoud] Abbas’ stated commitment to non-violence and reaffirmation of his support for a two-state solution.”

She said now it was time “to turn these words into action” and make real progress, stressing that “there are no shortcuts to statehood.”

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, called for the Security Council to start enforcing its resolutions.

It should now propose “practical steps” to open the doors “for a meaningful political process” to begin implementing the “global consensus” for a two-state solution, he said.

Mr Wennesland warned that “the absence of a meaningful peace process to end the Israeli occupation and resolve the conflict is fuelling a dangerous deterioration” across the Palestinian territories, particularly the West Bank, “and driving the perception that the conflict is unresolvable”.

“Israelis and Palestinians must determine how they envision the future,” he said. “Negotiations can no longer be pushed indefinitely.”

“The current course is leading us towards a perpetual state of violence and conflict,” Mr Wennesland said. He said “meaningful initiatives” were needed quickly to turn this trajectory around.

Updated: September 29, 2022, 6:48 AM