Jerusalem responded to the UN Security Council’s special debate on the settlements on Friday by saying that characterizing the settlements as the “obstacle to peace” recycles the “scandalous Palestinian demand that Palestine be cleansed of any Jews.”
“In any other case, a demand such as this would be completely rejected by the international community,” senior sources in Jerusalem said. “No one, for instance, would even think about saying that a condition of peace would be that Israel be without Arabs.”
These comments came in response to a discussion in the Security Council, where left-wing Israeli NGOs Peace Now and B’Tselem joined an informal meeting, held under a process known as the Arria Formula, which focused on the question of whether West Bank settlements are a stumbling block to peace. The debate was convened at the request of Angola, Malaysia, Venezuela, Senegal and Egypt.
“There is an endless list of human rights violations that the Palestinian people are victims of, and we are convinced that Israel has committed war crimes against Palestinians that have to be investigated and punished,” Venezuela’s Ambassador Rafael Ramirez said.
Sources in Jerusalem said that the claim that the settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace are baseless, and deny the deep connection between the Jewish people and its land, similar to what UNESCO did last week in its resolution denying a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.
The sources continued, saying, “The settlements are not the root of the conflict, nor an obstacle to its coming to a conclusion.
The true obstacle to peace is the continued Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any borders. This refusal is expressed by the demand to cleanse Judea and Samaria of Jews, and in the endless Palestinian incitement toward terror.”
By stating that objection to settlements stemmed from a Palestinian desire to have a state cleansed of Jews, the sources in Jerusalem were echoing a controversial video Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released last month. In that video, Netanyahu said that while Israel has nearly two million Arabs living inside its borders, the Palestinian leadership “actually demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: no Jews.”
At the UN, Ramirez vowed to “put an end to Israeli occupation, saying, “We say we reject any terrorist acts, but we are using that argument to establish an equivalency between the disproportionate violence of Israel against the Palestinian people and the isolated acts of violent reactions of the Palestinian people against Israel.
“Here, certainly there can’t be a double standard. We cannot allow the continuation of settlements and killings of Palestinian people,” Ramirez continued. “We believe the time has come for this Security Council to do something specific and concrete.
We have had enough rhetoric and declarations... Israeli settlements are illegal, everything Israel has done in Palestine is illegal.”
Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon responded that Ramirez’s statement is “hypocritical and laced with anti-Israel hatred.”
Back in May, during another informal Security Council meeting on the Palestinian question, Ramirez asked if Israel aims to perpetrate a “final solution” against the Palestinian people, Danon recalled.
“Nothing is more ludicrous than accusing Israel of war crimes. Our record on behalf of human rights and democracy speaks for itself. We do not accept hypocritical criticism from countries whose own record on human rights can only be described as horrendous,” he said.
Representatives from Peace Now and B’Tselem urged the international community to act to stop settlement expansion.
Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now, accused the Israeli government of conducting an “ugly campaign” against “courageous” NGOs and activists who are against the country’s settlement policy.
“The occupation is a threat to Israel’s security and Israel’s existence,” she said.
“If these policies are not rolled back, they will destroy the possibility of ever reaching a political agreement between Israel and Palestine.”
The executive director of B’Tselem, Hagai El-Ad, added that the Security Council has “a moral responsibility” to act on the issue.
“Israel cannot have it both ways,” he said.
“You cannot occupy a people for 50 years and call yourself a democracy.”
Netanyahu slammed both of the organizations for taking part in the “mudslinging choir” against Israel. Citing El-Ad’s appeal to the UN to take action against Israel on the issue, he said that “what these organizations did not succeed in achieving through democratic elections in Israel, they are trying to achieve through international coercion.
“We will continue to defend the righteousness of our cause and our state against all international pressure,” he said.
Netanyahu spoke Saturday night with coalition chairman David Bitan about amending the National Service law to prohibit women doing national service from doing it for B’Tselem.
Danon harshly criticized the statements to the council. “Just two days after anti-Israel forces approved a resolution intending to sever the historical bond between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, Israeli organizations chose to slander and besmirch Israel’s good name at an event organized by the Palestinian delegation,” he said. “We will continue to fight and tell the truth about Israel, despite the attempts to spread lies about us.”
Another panelist invited to speak was François Dubuisson, a law professor at the Université libre de Bruxelles. He urged the international community and member states of the UN to take economic measures to ensure the end of settlement activities and called on them to ban imports of products coming from the settlements, end the financing of entities established there and adopt measures to sanction national companies carrying out economic activities linked to the settlements.
Dubuisson then compared the situation in Israel to the one in South Africa in the 1970s.
“Apartheid was a violation of international law, a situation which was condemned universally,” he said. “But because of certain political alliances, no binding measure was able to be adopted by the Security Council for a long time.
“It’s only with the pressure of certain states within the United Nations and pressure by civil society around the world that the Security Council put an arms embargo and adopted a resolution asking states to take economic measures against the apartheid regime,” he said. “Today we should be inspired by that precedent.”