Netanyahu earns universal disdain for illegal building speed-up

November 2, 2011
Sarah Benton

US, EU criticize Israeli plans to speed W. Bank building

Washington ‘deeply disappointed’ by Israeli response to Palestinian’s acceptance to UNESCO; Ashton: We call on Israel to reverse this decision; Palestinians: We will “not change our course of action.”

By staff and Reuters

The United States and European Union both expressed concern and disappointment on Wednesday at Israel’s decision to accelerate settlement building in response to the Palestinians’ acceptance to UNESCO.

The White House said it was “deeply disappointed” with Israel’s speeding up of settlement building. White House spokesman Jay Carney told a briefing that the move did not advance the goal of bridging differences between Israelis and the Palestinians.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton joined the US in condemning Israel’s settlement plan on Wednesday, saying that she was “deeply concerned by the latest Israeli decisions to expedite settlement activities in response to Palestinian accession to UNESCO.”

Ashton joined other European leaders in asserting that the plan to accelerate building in settlements serves as an impediment to getting Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

“Israeli settlement activity is illegal under international law including in east Jerusalem and an obstacle to peace. We have stated this many times before. We call on Israel to reverse this decision and call on both sides to continue their engagement with the Quartet on advancing peace efforts,” Ashton stated.

Earlier on Wednesday, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague leveled harsh criticism at and condemned Israel’s announcement, calling it “a serious blow to the Quartet’s efforts to restart peace negotiations.”

The plan announced by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government on Tuesday “is illegal under international law and is the latest in a series of provocative and unhelpful settlement announcements,” Hague charged.

The UK foreign secretary also expressed concern over Israel’s decision to withhold the transfer of Palestinian tax revenue, which it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. “This is in no-one’s interests, least of all Israel’s, since it has direct implications for the Palestinian Authority’s ability to maintain effective security in the West Bank,” he said.

The UK, he added, calls on Israel to reverse both decisions and for both Israelis and Palestinians “to show the courage and leadership necessary to achieve a return to negotiations.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Wednesday also addressed the announcement, saying that “it’s clear that the policy of continued settlement makes the renewal of talks more difficult.”

Westerwelle urgently called on both Israelis and Palestinians to refrain making additional unilateral moves that delay the peace process.”

A statement from the German Foreign Ministry added that Westerwelle was very concerned by the hardening of stances in the region. “Germany supports the goal in which an independent Palestinian state is established as part of a just solution of two states for two peoples,” the statement added.

Criticizing the Palestinian application and subsequent acceptance to UNESCO, Westerwelle said he believes that two-states can be achieved only through negotiations. “There are no shortcuts, such as requests for membership in international organizations, though which one cannot change the reality on the ground and which are an obstacle to progress in negotiations.”

Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian Authority official, said in a statement that Israel’s latest decisions would “not change our course of action,” signaling the Palestinians will push ahead regardless in their UN initiative.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the PLO, told Voice of Palestine radio, said on Wednesday that Israel was trying to undermine the PA through the decision. “It is very serious. Israel wants to strive to destroy the role of the Palestinian National Authority,” Rabbo said.

PCHR strongly condemns Israel’s illegal reprisals in response to admission of Palestine to UNESCO
Press release,Ref: 111/2011, PCHR

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the punitive measures enacted by the Israeli government in response to the admission of Palestine to UNESCO. In the immediate aftermath of Palestine’s admission, Israel announced that it would withhold tax revenues and speed up settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Israel was scheduled to transfer more than 300 million NIS in tax revenue to the government in Ramallah prior to the upcoming holiday of Eid Al Adha. Withholding this money, with which government salaries are paid, constitutes an illegal reprisal and amounts to collective punishment; it is unequivocally prohibited under international law, including Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Equally, the announcement of expedited settlement construction on occupied Palestinian territory is a clear violation of international law. Settlement construction is prohibited under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and criminalized as a war crime, inter alia, under Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The illegality of Israel’s settlement enterprise was authoritatively confirmed by the International Court of Justice in its Advisory Opinion on The Wall. Accelerating these systematic violations of international law as a political and punitive tool in response to a legitimate measure of the international community is a clear manifestation of Israel’s contempt for the rule of international law

These latest illegal measures cannot be separated from the pervasive impunity enjoyed by Israel. For example, with respect to collective punishment, the 1.8 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip have been subjected to collective punishment through the illegal absolute closure imposed on the territory since June 2007. Until now this large scale and systematic crime has not been met with sanctions or enforcement measures from the international community. In the absence of accountability, collective punishment has become a consistent and publicly stated Israeli policy, often referred to as ‘economic warfare’.

It is inconceivable that Israel be allowed to enact such straightforwardly illegal reprisals in response to a legitimate action undertaken by the international community. Israel’s illegal response to a decision of UNESCO may be in violation of its obligations under Article 2 of the UN Charter, while Israel’s persistent violation of the principles of the UN Charter may warrant its expulsion from the UN, in accordance with Article 6 of the Charter.

PCHR reiterates the recommendations it made in a previous report, strongly advising High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to convene a conference on the legal mechanisms available to them as they fulfill their obligation to enforce, and ensure respect for the principles laid down in the Convention.

PCHR strongly condemns these measures which constitute reprisals and collective punishment prohibited under international law, including Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and:

1. Calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to fulfill their obligation to ensure respect for the Convention under all circumstances;
2. Calls for a Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions on measures to enforce the Convention in the occupied Palestinian territory, and to ensure its respect in accordance with common Article 1.

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