Ban Ki-moon calls Israeli settlement expansion an ‘affront’ to the world
Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has accused UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, of giving a “tailwind to terror” after the UN head criticised Israel for continuing to build settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and describing it as an affront to the Palestinian people and the international community.
In unusually strong language, Ban also questioned Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution, claiming Palestinian violence was the result of “frustration”.
“Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half-century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process,” Ban told a UN security council meeting on Tuesday. He called the settlement building “an affront to the Palestinian people and to the international community”.
He also rejected the prospect of Israeli security measures on the West Bank bringing an end to the latest cycle of violence, which began in October.
“Security measures alone will not stop the violence. They cannot address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians – especially young people.”
Ban’s comments triggered the latest in a recent series of diplomatic spats between Netanyahu and various foreign leaders and organisations.
In recent weeks Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition have been embroiled in fierce exchanges with the EU, the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström, and with the US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, who have all made critical comments.
Ban attracted Israeli ire over remarks about the current violence between Israelis and Palestinians he made ahead of a UN security council debate on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, when he condemned attacks but added: “It is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”
The Israeli government claims the violence is the result of Palestinian incitement.
Responding to Ban’s remarks, Netanyahu said: “The secretary general’s remarks provide a tailwind for terror. There is no justification for terror. Those Palestinians who murder do not want to build a state, they want to destroy a state, and they say this openly.”
“They want to murder Jews for being Jews and they say this openly. They do not murder for peace and they do not murder for human rights.”
Netanyahu added: “The UN has long lost its neutrality and moral power; these comments by the secretary general do little to improve its standing.” Ban’s comments were also criticised by other Israeli political figures.
The latest row comes amid warnings from diplomats – and some Israeli analysts – that Israel is becoming increasingly isolated on the diplomatic stage.
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war. The last round of peace talks broke down in April 2014, and Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged in recent months.
Israel recently confirmed that it would appropriate a large tract of fertile land in the occupied West Bank. The land is near Jordan, in an area where Israel already has many illegal settlement farms built on land Palestinians seek for a state.
Ban said he was “deeply troubled” by reports that the Israeli government had approved plans for more than 150 new homes in “illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank”.
“These provocative acts are bound to increase the growth of settler populations, further heighten tensions and undermine any prospects for a political road ahead,” Ban told a United Nations security council meeting on the Middle East.
Samantha Power, US ambassador to the United Nations, said Washington also strongly opposed settlement activity.
“Steps aimed at advancing the Israeli settlement programme … are fundamentally incompatible with the two-state solution and raise legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions,” Power told the council.
About 550,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Israeli government and thinktank statistics. About 350,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem and 2.7 million in the West Bank.
Riyad Mansour, the chief Palestinian delegate at the United Nations, called on the security council take action against Israeli settlements.
“It must involve measures by all states and go beyond not rendering aid or assistance to holding Israel accountable for its actions,” Mansour said.
Source The Guardian