Paris Condemns Israeli Decision to Legalize Housing in West Bank

Paris, Feb 7 (Prensa Latina) French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault condemned today the adoption of a law in the Israeli Parliament aimed at endorsing thousands of houses built on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

In a statement, the minister questioned that the legislation contributes to perpetuating 'the existence of dozens of colonies and settlements by giving them a legal basis for their future development.'

That fact, he added, could aggravate tensions in the region, so 'I call on Israel to respect its international obligations and to reconsider this law.'

Ayrault recalled the resolution adopted at the United Nations on December 23, 2016 declaring colonization an illegal act under international law.

He also pointed out that the law passed by Israel undermines the two-state solution, endorsed by much of the international community as the only way to resolve the conflict peacefully.

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Israel approves 2,500 new West Bank housing units

Israel will build 2,500 additional homes in the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank territories, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced. Most of them will expand the existing settlement areas.

The plans have been authorized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and are intended to allow the settlements “to maintain regular daily life,” the ministry said in a statement.

“It will be one of the largest industrial zones in the West Bank, in which we are planning to set up warehouse and fuel storage infrastructure, along with other elements,” the statement reads.

The news comes days after Israel announced a similar expansion of housing units in East Jerusalem.

READ MORE Israel approves 560 new illegal homes in E. Jerusalem as Trump takes office

The Israeli settlement policy goes against international law and has been the subject of much criticism from other nations, including the US under the Obama administration. Observers believe that the announcements, made in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration last Friday, are intended to signal Israel’s expectation of support from the new US president.

The ministry said that 100 of the homes would be built in the town of Beit El, Reuters reported. This settlement has received funding from the family of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to Israeli media.

On Monday, Netanyahu reportedly told members of his security cabinet that he had decided to lift all restrictions on Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, which were put in place under diplomatic pressure, Haaretz newspaper wrote, citing senior officials briefed on the situation. The PM also announced his plans for moving forward with settlement expansion in the West Bank, according to the paper.

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Cuba reiterates its call upon the Security Council to end the situation in Palestine

Cuba, once again, condemned the “very complex” situation in the Middle East, marked by “instability and insecurity”. At the Security Council Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, Ambassador Humberto Rivero Rosario, after mentioning statistics that describe the severity of the situation considered that the figures, as alarming as they seem, do not show the real magnitude of this reality for Palestinian families and for future generations of Palestinians.

At this forum, and led by the international community’s debt with the Palestinian people, he called to break the silence and immobilism that have caused suffering and unfair humiliation to the Palestinian people and to end impunity over Israel's criminal actions against Palestine. In like manner, he called upon the Security Council to make the necessary decisions and demand that Israel immediately ends the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and other Arab territories, as well as to pronounce itself in reference to Palestine’s full membership of the Organization, “If it fails to do so, the General Assembly should act with all determination to decide the case”, he noted.

Likewise, the diplomat conveyed Cuba’s support to the Syrian people’s aspirations to live in peace and choose their own fate, while demanding a halt of violations of Syrian sovereignty and the withdrawal of foreign military presence.

“We would like to reiterate our support for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to conflicts in the Middle East, which will safeguard the sovereignty, safety and territorial integrity of all States in the region”, he concluded. (Cubaminrex-Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations)

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Israel to approve 100s of new homes in East Jerusalem in defiance of UNSC resolution – reports

Jerusalem’s zoning committee is expected to approve construction permits for hundreds of new homes in East Jerusalem, in a move which is illegal under international law. Settlement construction was slammed by the latest resolution adopted by the UN Security Council.

The Jerusalem Local Planning and Construction Committee is expected on Wednesday to approve permits to build 618 apartments in Jewish neighborhoods across the Green Line, Haaretz reported. 

Some 140 homes will be erected in Pisgat Ze’ev, 262 in Ramat Shlomo and 216 in Ramot, Haaretz reported, adding that even more permit requests for Pisgat Ze’ev and Ramot may be added before this week’s meeting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) told President Obama (C) that Israel was not considering a full-scale invasion, as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas remains wary. © Tim Sloan According to other Israeli media reports, the Committee might approve as many as 5,600 homes in response to the United Nations Security Council resolution which condemned Israeli settlement activities and called for a halt to illegal construction.

The planning committee will approve 2,600 new housing units in the neighborhood of Gilo, another 2,600 units in Givat Hamatos, and 400 units in Ramat Shlomo, for a grand total of 5,600 units in East Jerusalem, reported Israel Hayom. 

“We remain unfazed by the UN vote, or by any other entity that tries to dictate what we do in Jerusalem. I hope the Israeli government and the new US administration will support us, so we can make up for the lack [of construction] during the eight years of the Obama administration,” Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Meir Turgeman who heads the zoning committee told Israel Hayom.

Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967. Israel subsequently annexed East Jerusalem and considers the entire city its capital. Palestine claims East Jerusalem as its future capital.

So far this year 1,506 housing units have been approved for construction in East Jerusalem, compared to 775 units in 2014 and only 395 units in 2015, Haaretz reported. But despite the UN resolution, construction is set to continue.

“There has been no change in the position of the Jerusalem municipality ... construction in Jerusalem is necessary, important, and will continue at full strength,” the Jerusalem municipality said following Friday’s vote.

As the city of Jerusalem prepares to approve new constructions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro on Sunday. Shapiro was contacted after Israel called in 10 representatives of 14 other states that voted for the resolution.

While the US has traditionally been an ally of Israel, vetoing numerous UN resolutions against the state, relations somewhat soured under the Obama administration, which has slammed Tel Aviv's increasingly aggressive settlement policies.

On Sunday, Netanyahu also used his weekly cabinet meeting to once again criticize Obama administration.

“From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it [resolution], stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed,” Netanyahu told ministers on Sunday.

“As I told John Kerry on Thursday, friends don’t take friends to the Security Council,” Netanyahu said. “Over decades American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements, but we agreed the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue.”

“This is of course in total contradiction to the traditional American policy of not trying to impose conditions of a final resolution ... and of course the explicit commitment of President Obama himself in 2011 to avoid such measures,” he added.

Netanyahu has also reportedly instructed his ministers not to travel to the countries who voted in favor of the resolution. Earlier Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered Israeli security forces to cease all cooperation with the Palestinians on civilian matters, while retaining security coordination, army radio reported.

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Trump wants veto for ‘extremely unfair’ UN resolution on Israel

President-elect Donald Trump is opposed to the resolution before the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlements, and wants the US to veto it.

The resolution proposed by Egypt says the "establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace," according to a draft put forward on Wednesday.

It also demands of Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

“The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed,” Trump announced Thursday morning on Twitter.

@realDonaldTrump The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed....cont:

In a lengthier statement, posted on his Facebook page, the president elect argued that “peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.”

“This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis,” Trump concluded.

Israel presently controls all of the territory of the old Palestine Mandate, which the UN Resolution 181 (II) partitioned into two states – one Jewish, one Arab – in 1947.

A war fought in 1948-49 resulted in the establishment of Israel, while the remaining Arab territories in the West Bank and Gaza were incorporated into Jordan and Egypt, respectively. Israel gained control of both territories during the June 1967 war against Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

While the West Bank and Gaza are considered occupied territories, and have been administered by the Palestinian National Authority since 1994, Israel considers all of Jerusalem its capital – including the eastern part of the city, held by Jordan until 1967. The proposed Egyptian resolution explicitly denies this claim.

During the campaign, Trump promised to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

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Trump once donated $10,000 to a West Bank Israeli settlement

In 2003, President-elect Donald Trump donated $10,000 to institutions in one of Israel’s oldest and most steadfast West Bank settlements, one of the community’s founders told an Israeli radio station on Sunday.

Yaakov “Katzele” Katz, one of the original settlers of Beit El, said on the radio that Trump had made the donation in honor of his good friend and Jewish adviser David Friedman, now Trump’s pick to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Friedman, a New York lawyer, serves as president of the American Friends of Bet El Institutions.

Katz told the radio station that more than a decade ago, the settlement honored Friedman at a gala dinner in New York. It was then that Trump made his donation.

“If I would have known he would be elected president, I would have saved the check,” Katz said. He said that Friedman was like a brother to him. The two have been friends for 40 years.

[Israel says no U.S. ambassador has been as right-wing as Trump’s pick]

Trump's pick for ambassador to Israel signals shift in foreign policy

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped David Friedman to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. The bankruptcy attorney welcomed the announcement, saying he's looking forward to taking up his post in Jerusalem, a nod to Trump's pledge to move the U.S. embassy out of Tel Aviv. (Reuters)

Friedman’s nomination as ambassador was warmly welcomed by many Israelis, especially those living in some 300 Jewish communities in the West Bank. But it also drew sharp criticism because Friedman is an outspoken supporter of the settlements, which the Obama administration has often said are the main impediment to achieving a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

[Israel rejects latest U.S. criticism of settlement policy]

Katz, a former member of the Israeli parliament, did not comment further on Trump’s donation but said the money was used for the settlement’s yeshivas, or Jewish learning institutions. Trump has donated money to many yeshivas in Israel and the United States.

The Jerusalem Post published an article Sunday showing a 2003 U.S. tax form from the Trump Foundation, which listed a $10,000 donation to American Friends of Bet El.

The group’s website also shows that financial support for the settlement came from the family of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. The website shows that his parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner, are on the fundraising organization’s founding board of trustees. The group recently held its gala fundraising event in New York.

Beit El was established in 1977 on a hill on the outskirts of the de facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah. Today, about 1,300 families live in the settlement. As well as the yeshiva, the settlers there also run a pre-military academy and house one of Israel’s most right-wing media outlets, Arutz Sheva.

Read more  Trump continues his post-election ‘thank you’ tour

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'I still have nightmares': 13yo girl shot 5 times by Israeli soldiers speaks to RT

A 13-year-old girl who was shot five times by Israeli soldiers has told RT she is still haunted by the incident, and hopes that soldiers will restrain themselves from shooting other “innocent children.” Her father says he wants Israel to compensate his family.

Speaking to RT, 13-year-old Bara'a Owaisi said she had traveled to a West Bank checkpoint after dreaming about her aunt, who had been killed there.

“She called to me saying, 'I want to see you.' So I went to the checkpoint to see where my aunt died, because I miss her,” Owaisi explained.

“The Israeli soldiers spoke to me, but I couldn't understand them, so some Arab workers explained. They asked me to take my bag off my back and put it down. I removed my bag. I said I wanted to see where my aunt died. They asked for my aunt's name and I answered...then they opened fire on me. The two soldiers said, 'This one is a terrorist,' and ordered the others to open fire,” she said.

Owaisi went on to say that she constantly replays the incident in her mind.

“I have nightmares. I was terrified of [the soldiers], and I see them in my dreams. They shoot at me all the time. I hope the soldiers don't shoot at any more innocent children,” she said.

Her father spoke of how incomprehensible it was to shoot his daughter so many times.

“They wanted to kill her. They shot her five times. One bullet is enough to take someone down, not five. They shot her in cold blood. She wasn't doing anything. The Israeli soldiers were shouting at her without any reason. My daughter can't do anything.”

He went on to state that his wife must now carry the young girl to the bathroom, and that he hopes his daughter will walk again. He said he wants Israel to pay compensation for the incident.

“I want Israel to pay compensation. It is not the first time this has happened. The Israelis try to kill many Palestinian children, and I want the world to know about this.”

RT reached out to the Israeli Defense Ministry, but received no response. A statement from the ministry following the shooting said the girl told interrogators that she went to the checkpoint “to die.”

The Wednesday shooting came amid a new wave of violence against Israeli soldiers by Palestinian assailants.

Just two weeks ago, Israeli forces shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian after he stabbed soldiers at a checkpoint at a village west of Hebron. Two other Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a holy site to both Muslims and Jews in Hebron.

While Israel claims most Palestinians are killed while carrying out attacks, the Palestinian authorities have accused Israel of often using excessive force, saying most of those killed posed no actual threat.

Palestinian leaders say the attackers are acting out of desperation over collapsed peace talks in 2014 and Israeli settlement expansion on territory which Palestinians are seeking for the creation of an independent state.

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UN Tells Israel to Stop Building Settlements. Building Surges.

The U.N.’s Middle East envoy told the Security Council that its warning against illegal settlement expansion fell on deaf ears.

Israeli settlement expansion has surged in the two months since the diplomatic Quartet called for a halt to the construction of illegal Jewish outposts on Palestinian land, the U.N. envoy said Monday.

ANALYSIS: Is International Palestine Solidarity Just a Symbolic Gesture?

In a much-awaited report, the Quartet—the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations—urged Israel to stop building settlements and called on the Palestinians to cease the alleged incitement of violence.

But Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. coordinator for the Middle East peace process, acknowledged that this appeal had fallen on deaf ears.

"Its recommendations continue to be ignored, including by a surge in Israeli settlement-related announcements and continuing demolitions," Mladenov told the Security Council.

The Quartet report was to serve as the basis for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that has been comatose since a U.S. initiative collapsed in April 2014.

There has been growing alarm that the construction of Jewish settlements on land internationally recognized as part of a future Palestinian state is killing off prospects for a peace deal based on the two-state solution.

Since July 1, Israel has advanced plans for over 1,000 housing units in occupied east Jerusalem and 735 units in the West Bank, Mladenov said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government is also seeking tenders for 323 units to expand east Jerusalem settlements and for 42 units in Kiryat Arba near Hebron, for which it is allocating US$13 million in new funding.

Israel has undertaken a land survey on the outskirts of Bethlehem for the establishment of a new settlement in a move that would contribute to the "dismemberment of the southern West Bank," said Mladenov.

The U.N. envoy warned that demolitions of Palestinian homes are on the rise in the West Bank, with over 130 structures destroyed this year alone.

Mladenov singled out the Bedouin communities from east Jerusalem and the Susiya area in the southern West Bank, warning that "the demolition of this community would set a dangerous precedent for displacement."

RELATED: Palestinians Can't Use PayPal—but Israeli Settlers Can

Netanyahu, who is currently overseeing the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, has repeatedly rejected calls for a halt to settlement expansion, arguing that the illegal projects are not an obstacle to peace.

"All of these plans would essentially create new illegal settlements and I call on Israel to cease and reverse these decisions," Mladenov added.

The U.N.’s warning comes at a time when tension are high in Israel and Palestinian amid a new wave of violence in the West Bank as attacks target soldiers at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank as well as illegal settlers who live on Palestinian lands.

Thus a settlement expansion will not only kill off chances in a two-state solution but also continue to alienate Palestinians and exacerbate their sense of hopelessness in the face of the decades-long occupation.

Earlier this year, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the recent escalation of violence in the West Bank, was the result of growing Palestinian frustration “under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process."

Also Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate head Major General Herzi Halevi said last November that despair and frustration among young Palestinians are driving much of the violence, with many feeling they have nothing to lose.

The Security Council declared Israeli settlements in occupied territory to be illegal in a resolution adopted in 1979. Mladenov said that determination was "equally true and even more urgent a concern today."

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