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UN criticizes Israel for expanding settlements

Israel has taken no steps to stop settlement building on occupied territories, despite a UN resolution condemning such projects as illegal, the Security Council has heard. The resolution had enraged Israel's government.

Instead of halting the expansion, Israel authorized "a high rate" of new settlement schemes, UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council on Friday. The numerous announcements and new legislation indicate "a clear intent to continue expanding the settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territory," he said.

Israeli actions undermine key aspects of the two-state solution for peace with the Palestinians, Mladenov added.

In December, the UN passed a resolution that slammed Israeli settlements as a "flagrant violation" of international law. The move signaled a rare public break between Israel and its most important ally, the United States, led by then-President Obama.

Washington chose not to use its veto to block the document, prompting a furious response from Israel, which summoned the US ambassador and launched a series of diplomatic measures against countries backing the bill. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the subsequent peace summit in Paris "a relic of the past," and "the last gasp of the past before the future sets in," in an apparent reference to foreign policy changes under Donald Trump.

Israel points to Palestinian violence

In January, the UN noted a spike in announcements of new settlements. Mladenov described it as "deeply concerning" in his Friday speech, adding that Israeli authorities stated they would build thousands of new housing units.

"The resolution calls on Israel to take steps 'to cease all settlements activities in the occupied Palestinian territory including east Jerusalem.' No such steps have been taken during the reporting period," Mladenov told the council in his first report on the implementation of the document passed in December.

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Israel retroactively legalizes West Bank settlements

The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, responded by saying that "there is no moral equivalency between the building of homes and murderous terrorism."

"The only impediment to peace is Palestinian violence and incitement," he said in a Friday statement. "This obsessive focus on Israel must end."

dj/jr (AP, Reuters)

 

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