An Israeli human rights group urged the UN Security Council to take decisive action now to end the country's occupation of Palestinian territory.
Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B'Tselem, told an informal council meeting Friday on “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution” that Israel has controlled Palestinian lives in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem for the past 49 years “and counting”.
“Israel will not cease being an oppressor simply by waking up one day and realising the brutality of its policies,” he said.
With the 50th anniversary of the occupation approaching next year, El-Ad said: “The rights of Palestinians must be realised, the occupation must end, the UN Security Council must act, and the time is now.”
Mr El-Ad stressed that the council “has more than just power: you have a moral responsibility and a real opportunity to act with a sense of urgency before we reach the symbolic date of June 2017 and the second half of that first century begins.”
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict intensifies
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict intensifies
Medics evacuate a wounded man from the scene of an attack in Jerusalem. A Palestinian rammed a vehicle into a bus stop then got out and started stabbing people before he was shot dead
Israeli ZAKA emergency response members carry the body of an Israeli at the scene of a shooting attack in Jerusalem. A pair of Palestinian men boarded a bus in Jerusalem and began shooting and stabbing passengers, while another assailant rammed a car into a bus station before stabbing bystanders, in near-simultaneous attacks that escalated a month long wave of violence
Palestinians throw molotov cocktail during clashes with Israeli troops near Ramallah, West Bank. Recent days have seen a series of stabbing attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have wounded several Israelis
Women cry during the funeral of Palestinian teenager Ahmad Sharaka, 13, who was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes at a checkpoint near Ramallah, at the family house in the Palestinian West Bank refugee camp of Jalazoun, Ramallah
A wounded Palestinian boy and his father hold hands at a hospital after their house was brought down by an Israeli air strike in Gaza
Palestinians look on after a protester is shot by Israelis soldiers during clashes at the Howara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus
A lawyer wearing his official robes kicks a tear gas canister back toward Israeli soldiers during a demonstration by scores of Palestinian lawyers called for by the Palestinian Bar Association in solidarity with protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, near Ramallah, West Bank
Undercover Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian in Ramallah
Palestinian youth burn tyres during clashes with Israeli soldiers close to the Jewish settlement of Bet El, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after Israel barred Palestinians from Jerusalem's Old City as tensions mounted following attacks that killed two Israelis and wounded a child
Another Israeli rights group, Peace Now, was invited to speak but it was represented by its sister organisation, Americans for Peace Now, which has also campaigned for an end to Israeli occupation.
“The occupation is a threat to Israel’s security and to Israel's very existence,” said Lara Friedman, the group’s director of policy and government relations.
When Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation signed the Oslo peace accords 23 years ago, the settler population in the West Bank was 116,000, she said. At the end of 2015, it was almost 390,000.
“I urge you here today to finally take action in the Security Council to send a clear message to Israel that the international community stands by the two-state solution and unambiguously rejects policies that undermine it – including Israeli settlement policies,” Ms Friedman said.
Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon accused B'Tselem of joining “Palestinian attempts to wage diplomatic terror against Israel at the UN”.
He also accused the group of choosing “to slander and besmirch Israel’s good name” and vowed that “we will continue to fight and tell the truth about Israel despite the attempts to spread lies about us”.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, called the informal meeting “a very positive exercise” that builds on his discussions about a new UN resolution that would demand an end to Israeli settlement building.
The Palestinians pushed for the Security Council to adopt a resolution against settlements in February 2011 but it was vetoed by the United States. The 14 other Security Council members voted in favour of the resolution, reflecting the wide support for the draft which had more than 100 co-sponsors.
What the United States might do about a new settlements resolution remains to be seen.
US deputy ambassador David Pressman told the meeting that “the United States remains firmly committed to advancing a two-state solution ... [and] we are deeply concerned about continued settlement activity”.
He recalled that last week the United States condemned new Israeli settlements and said that since 1 July more than 2,400 settlement units have been advanced in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This makes “a viable Palestinian state more remote”, he said.
“In short, we need to start implementing the two-state solution on the ground right now,” Mr Pressman said.
While a peace deal can only be achieved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, he said, “significant progress towards creating a two-state reality can be made now that will help restore hope and lay the groundwork for successful negotiations”.
“We continue to stress the urgency and importance of taking these steps now and refraining from actions that corrode the prospects for two states,” Mr Pressman said.
Mr Mansour called Mr Pressman’s use of the word “now” twice very interesting, saying his comments are in line with strong messages from Washington expressing “outrage against the intensification of settlement activities”.
He said it was too early to say whether this would translate into US support for a new settlements resolution.
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