A United Nations committee on Palestinian rights today called on the international community to take steps to compel Israel to end its “illegal” settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, warning that such actions preclude the possibility of peace.
“The future of the peace process hangs in the balance,” the Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said in a statement, voicing “great alarm” at the recent upsurge in Israeli settlement activity, despite repeated international calls for a complete cessation.
“The international community should send a clear and unambiguous message: settlement activity is illegal and incompatible with peace. It must stop. This is imperative for having credible negotiations that can achieve the stated objective of the peace process,” it added, referring to various UN resolutions and internationally agreed objectives based on a two-State solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace.
Israel did not renew a 10-month settlement moratorium, which did not include East Jerusalem, when it expired at the end of September and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to resume peace talks with Israel until it ends all settlement activity.
The Committee, set up in 1975 by the General Assembly to enable the Palestinians to exercise their rights to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty and to return to their homes and property from which they were displaced, noted that Israel’s settlements were illegal under international law and a major obstruction to resuming the peace process for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine.
The recent allocation of more than $500 million in subsidies to expand settlements through 2012 signals “Israel’s clear intent to continue its illegal policies, thus rendering the negotiations with the Palestinians futile and further threatening the possibilities for achieving the two-State solution on the basis of the pre-1967 borders,” it said, referring to the lines that existed before the Six-Day War brought Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem under Israeli control.
“Palestinian homes continue to be demolished to make room for illegal settlers in defiance of universal condemnations of such unlawful and provocative practices,” said the Committee, referring to recent activities in East Jerusalem.
“In addition, actions by settlers, such as the uprooting of olive trees belonging to Palestinians, vandalism, theft, desecration of cemeteries, and harassment and intimidation of Palestinians have become an almost daily occurrence and often seem to be tolerated by the Israeli authorities. Such actions violate Palestinian human rights, raise tensions between the two sides, and must be halted,” the statement stressed.
The Committee declared its full support for the “principled stance” of the Palestinian leadership which “has demonstrated political maturity by engaging in direct negotiations with Israel, while making it abundantly clear at the outset that Israel would have to choose between settlements and peace.”
It regretted the lack of political will by the world community, despite an unambiguous consensus on the illegality of the settlements, to take action to stop settlement expansion and eventually remove them, and called on all international stakeholders to “unequivocally reaffirm their position of principle on the settlement issue with a view to compelling Israel to live up to its obligations.”
These obligations, it noted, stem from various Security Council resolutions, the Geneva Conventions on occupied territory, and the Road Map peace plan for a two-State solution sponsored by the diplomatic Quartet comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States.