UN envoy: Israel defies UN resolution on halting settlements

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Israel continued its defiance of a 2016 U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an immediate halt to all settlement activity in lands the Palestinians want for their future state, advancing plans for construction of nearly 2,000 housing units in the last three months, the U.N. Mideast envoy said Wednesday.

Tor Wennesland told the council that no progress was made by Israelis and Palestinians on other demands in the resolution — preventing all violence against civilians, refraining from acts of provocation, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, distinguishing between Israeli territory and territories occupied since the 1967 war, and exerting “collective efforts to launch credible negotiations.”

He did cite several positive steps during the three-month period ending Sept. 20 — two contacts between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and high-level Israeli officials in July, Israel’s issuance of some 16,000 permits for workers and businesses for Palestinians in Gaza, and a 1.5% increase in imports and 54% increase in exports through the main Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel to Gaza compared to the monthly average for the first two quarters of 2022.

But Wennesland said “We continue to see little progress” in implementing the resolution since its adoption in December 2016.

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

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council Wednesday that from day one the Biden administration has supported a two-state solution, a position President Joe Biden reiterated to world leaders at last week’s high-level meeting at the General Assembly.

She 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,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “And I also want to acknowledge president Abbas’ stated commitment to non-violence and reaffirmation of his support for a two-state solution.”

She said now it’s time “to turn these words into action” and make real progress, stressing that “there are no short-cuts to statehood.”

Speaking to reporters afterward, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, called for the Security Council to start implementing 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.

Wennesland warned that “the absence of a meaningful peace process to end the Israeli occupation and resolve the conflict is fueling 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,” The Mideast envoy warned, and “meaningful initiatives” are needed quickly to turn this trajectory around.

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