Israeli settlement expansion has surged in the two months since the diplomatic Quartet called for a halt to the construction of illegal Jewish outposts on Palestinian land, the U.N. envoy said Monday.
In a much-awaited report, the Quartet—the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations—urged Israel to stop building settlements and called on the Palestinians to cease the alleged incitement of violence.
But Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. coordinator for the Middle East peace process, acknowledged that this appeal had fallen on deaf ears.
“Its recommendations continue to be ignored, including by a surge in Israeli settlement-related announcements and continuing demolitions,” Mladenov told the Security Council.
The Quartet report was to serve as the basis for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that has been comatose since a U.S. initiative collapsed in April 2014.
There has been growing alarm that the construction of Jewish settlements on land internationally recognized as part of a future Palestinian state is killing off prospects for a peace deal based on the two-state solution.
Since July 1, Israel has advanced plans for over 1,000 housing units in occupied east Jerusalem and 735 units in the West Bank, Mladenov said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is also seeking tenders for 323 units to expand east Jerusalem settlements and for 42 units in Kiryat Arba near Hebron, for which it is allocating US$13 million in new funding.
Israel has undertaken a land survey on the outskirts of Bethlehem for the establishment of a new settlement in a move that would contribute to the “dismemberment of the southern West Bank,” said Mladenov.
The U.N. envoy warned that demolitions of Palestinian homes are on the rise in the West Bank, with over 130 structures destroyed this year alone.
Mladenov singled out the Bedouin communities from east Jerusalem and the Susiya area in the southern West Bank, warning that “the demolition of this community would set a dangerous precedent for displacement.”
Netanyahu, who is currently overseeing the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, has repeatedly rejected calls for a halt to settlement expansion, arguing that the illegal projects are not an obstacle to peace.
“All of these plans would essentially create new illegal settlements and I call on Israel to cease and reverse these decisions,” Mladenov added.
The U.N.’s warning comes at a time when tension are high in Israel and Palestinian amid a new wave of violence in the West Bank as attacks target soldiers at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank as well as illegal settlers who live on Palestinian lands.
Thus a settlement expansion will not only kill off chances in a two-state solution but also continue to alienate Palestinians and exacerbate their sense of hopelessness in the face of the decades-long occupation.
Earlier this year, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the recent escalation of violence in the West Bank, was the result of growing Palestinian frustration “under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process.”
Also Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate head Major General Herzi Halevi said last November that despair and frustration among young Palestinians are driving much of the violence, with many feeling they have nothing to lose.
The Security Council declared Israeli settlements in occupied territory to be illegal in a resolution adopted in 1979. Mladenov said that determination was “equally true and even more urgent a concern today.”