UN envoy slams Israel for settlement building

(JTA) – A special United Nations (UN) envoy condemned Israel for continuing to build in West Bank settlements and neighbouhoods in eastern Jerusalem.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, criticized Israel for going against the recommendations of the Mideast Quartet, the diplomatic group including the United Nations and others, during an appearance Monday at the Security Council.

Afterward, the Security Council scheduled a meeting for Oct. 14 to discuss concrete steps to be taken against Israel over its building in the settlements.

Mladenov said there has been a “surge in Israeli settlement-related announcements and continuing demolitions,” the latter noting the razing of family homes of Palestinian terrorists.

“It is difficult to read in these actions a genuine intention to work towards a viable two-state solution,” he said. “This appears to reinforce a policy, carried out over decades, that has enabled over half a million Israelis to settle in territory that was occupied militarily in 1967.”

The Quartet, made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the U.N., called on Israel in June to stop building in the settlements and on the Palestinians to halt incitement.

The Prime Minister’s Office of Israel rejected Mladenov’s contentions, saying in a statement his remarks “distort history and international law and push peace farther away.”

“Jews have been in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for thousands of years, and their presence there is not an obstacle to peace,” the statement said, referring to the biblical names for the West Bank. “The obstacle to peace is the unending attempt to deny the Jewish People’s connection to parts of their historic land and the obdurate refusal to recognize that they are not foreigners there.

“The claim that Jewish construction in Jerusalem is illegal is as absurd as the claim that American construction in Washington or French construction in Paris is illegal. The Palestinian demand that a future Palestinian state be ethnically cleansed of Jews is outrageous and the UN must condemn it instead of adopting it.”

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