What's In Blue

Settlements Arria and Open Debate on Israel/Palestine

Tomorrow, Council members are scheduled to hold an Arria-formula meeting entitled “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution”. The meeting is hosted by Malaysia, with Angola, Egypt, Senegal and Venezuela co-hosting. Next week, on 19 October, the Council will hold its regular quarterly open debate on the Middle East, with a focus on Israel/Palestine. Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov and a representative from OCHA are expected to brief at the debate, which is likely to address settlement activity among other issues.

The speakers at tomorrow’s Arria-formula meeting will be Hagai El-Ad, an Israeli human rights activist and the Executive Director of B’Tselem, also known as The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories; Lara Friedman, Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now; and François Dubuisson, Professor at the Université libre de Bruxelles, who provided legal counsel to Palestine in the case before the International Court of Justice concerning the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Council members are invited to make interventions, and encouraged to engage in active interaction with the speakers and pose questions. The meeting is open to attendance by other UN Member States and Observers, accredited NGOs and media, without the right to speak.

According to the concept note for the event, the organisers hope the meeting will provide an opportunity to engage on the impact of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian people and their quest for self-determination and independence, and the prospects for achieving a just, lasting and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The note recalls that various Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 446 (1979), 452 (1979), and 465 (1980), deplored the Israeli settlements, describing them as having no legal validity and as constituting a “serious obstruction” to peace. These resolutions called on Israel, the occupying Power, to cease building settlements in occupied territories and to dismantle the existing settlements. It also notes that in its 9 July 2004 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice declared that “Israeli settlements.., including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace”.

Several aspects of settlement activities could be addressed in the discussion, such as outposts, Occupied East Jerusalem, settler violence and terrorism, land confiscations, home demolitions and forced evictions; the illegality of the settlements, impunity and legal recourse available to Palestinians; Israeli domestic perspectives on settlements, impact of settlements on Palestinian natural resources, and their impact on the two-state solution and the peace process. The role of the international community, particularly the Security Council, in halting settlement activities is likely to be addressed.

The meeting will provide an opportunity for Council members to engage on an issue that is likely to feature prominently in their discussions in coming months, as the Palestinians prepare to present a draft resolution on illegal settlements to the Council. Such a draft has been discussed among the Arab Group and with like-minded members of the Council, but it remains unclear when it may be presented, with many speculating that it will only be brought to the Council following the 8 November US presidential election.

Continuing settlement expansion will also be a focus of next week’s Middle East open debate. On 28 September, Israel’s Civil Administration Planning Commission decided to approve a plan for the construction of 98 housing units in the West Bank. In response, the US State Department issued an unusually sharp rebuke to the plan, which it said would further damage the prospects for a two-state solution and contradicts previous statements by Israel that it had no intention of creating new settlements. The statement notes that this settlement’s location “deep in the West Bank, far closer to Jordan than Israel, would link a string of outposts that effectively divide the West Bank and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote”. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement the new housing units do not constitute a new settlement, and are rather part of an existing settlement called Shilo. On 7 October Palestine sent a letter to the Council protesting the settlement activities.

The continuing wave of violence that began a year ago could also be addressed at the debate. On 9 October, Israel sent a letter to the Council following a shooting rampage in the streets of Jerusalem in which two Israelis were killed and at least six people were injured. In the letter, Israel accuses the Palestinian leadership of constant incitement to violence and glorification of terror in Palestinian schools, mosques, and on television. The letter further noted that Hamas called the incident a “heroic Jerusalem operation.” In a statement condemning the attack, Special Coordinator Mladenov said that it is deplorable and unacceptable that Hamas and others choose to glorify such acts which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis.

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