UN Probe Calls Israeli Settlements ‘Creeping Annexation’

A United Nations human-rights investigation of Israeli settlements said the construction is leading to “creeping annexation” of the occupied Palestinian territory on the West Bank that must stop.

The report, conducted by a fact-finding mission for the UN Human Rights Council, says Israel is in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit an “occupying power” from transferring its own civilian population into territory it occupies. Israel must “cease all settlement activities without preconditions” and “immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers,” the report says.

The findings, rejected by Israel, may give Palestinians ammunition to take their complaints to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The report shows practices that make Israel “liable to prosecution” for war crimes, said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.

About 250 settlements in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, have been set up since 1967 either with or without authorization by the Israeli government, according to the UN report. The number of settlers is estimated at 520,000, it said.

Successive Israeli governments’ support for construction of Jewish housing in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which were captured in the 1967 Six Day War, has been criticized by the U.S., European Union and UN. The report also cites what it says are human-rights violations by Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers against Palestinians in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Israel’s Rebuttal

The 47-nation Human Rights Council has repeatedly condemned Israel’s actions over the years, drawing criticism from the U.S. and also UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for overlooking the record of other nations to focus almost exclusively on Israel.

“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel,” according to a statement by Israel’s foreign ministry today. “The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions.”

The Palestinians, emboldened by a UN vote last year granting them non-member-state status in the General Assembly, have threatened to bring Israel to the war crimes court in The Hague if Israel carries out plans to build settlements in a particularly sensitive area east of Jerusalem known as E1.

Israel -- along with the U.S., Israel, China and Russia -- hasn’t signed the 2002 founding treaty that created the court.

Still, should Palestine use its enhanced status to ratify the treaty it “may lead to accountability for gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law,” the report said.

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