The US prevented a UN Security Council condemnation of Israel on Wednesday over
a spate of settlement construction decisions, leading the other 14 countries on
the 15-member council to issue separate condemnations of their own
France, Britain, Germany and Portugal issued a joint statement,
which was read out after a meeting on the Middle East in the Security Council.
It said the countries were “extremely concerned by, and strongly opposed, the
plans by Israel to expand settlement construction in the West Bank, including in
The same four EU countries issued a similar statement
last December at the UN.
This year’s statement, which highlighted plans
to develop the area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim known as E1, said that
initiative would jeopardize “the possibility of a continuous, sovereign,
independent and viable Palestinian state, and of Jerusalem as a future capital
of both Israel and Palestine.”
The statement said that “the viability of
a two-state solution is threatened by systematic expansion of settlements,” and
that “all settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, must cease
It then went on to praise Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas for publicly rejecting “the recent inflammatory statement by Hamas
leaders that deny Israel’s right to exist.”
Addressing the press after
the various condemnatory statements from the countries on the Security Council
were read out, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor rejected both the notion
that the settlements were the major obstacle to peace and that Abbas had been
forceful in distancing himself from Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal’s recent
statements calling for Israel’s destruction.
Prosor pointed out that the
Security Council decided to focus on building in the “Jewish people’s ancient
capital of Jerusalem” in a week that also saw Syrian President Bashar Assad fire
Scuds on his own people and drop bombs on a mosque in a Palestinian refugee camp
that killed dozens, as well as an explosion that took place in a Hezbollah
warehouse 300 meters from a school in a densely populated village in southern
The main obstacle to peace was not the settlements, Prosor said,
but rather terrorism, incitement, the Palestinians’ insistence on the “socalled
right of return” and their refusal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of
the Jewish people.
He also said he had difficulty understanding how
people could conclude that “the Palestinian state can’t exist if there is
contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim,” but had no problem talking
about contiguity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, something that would
cut Israel in two.
Regarding Abbas’s condemnation of Mashaal’s statement,
Prosor said one needed “good, sensitive equipment to hear him condemn
The ambassador clarified that despite a flood of reports,
Israel had only granted final approval for 3,000 housing units in Jerusalem and the settlement blocs – a decision made on
November 30 following the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN General
“Any other announcement that you hear about is part of planning
and zoning,” he said, calling it all “a bureaucratic process that can take
In any case, Prosor said, all construction necessitates a
decision by the government before it can begin.
As part of that
bureaucratic process, the Jerusalem Local Planning and Construction Committee
gave final approval on Wednesday to 2,610 apartments in Givat Hamatos, the first
completely detached new Jewish neighborhood over the Green Line since the
construction of Har Homa in 1997. Givat Hamatos will be located between Talpiot
and Beit Safafa.
This stage of the project, Givat Hamatos A, was
originally slated to receive final approval last month, but the planning and
construction committee meeting occurred on the last day of Operation Pillar of
Defense, last month’s round of violence with the Gaza Strip. The item was
hastily scratched from the agenda when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
arrived to try to negotiate a cease-fire, due to fears that it would upset the
Givat Hamatos, which is planned in four separate stages,
will eventually have 4,000 homes in the full plan.
These include around
800 units for Arab homes built inside Beit Safafa. Left-wing activists oppose
Givat Hamatos because it will cut off Beit Safafa from
Wednesday’s approval occurred in the midst of four days of
marathon meetings in the municipal office and the Interior Ministry to discuss
approvals for 6,500 apartments in east Jerusalem.
On Monday, the 1,500
apartments in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo received final approval
from the Interior Ministry. On Thursday, the ministry is expected to give final
approval to the Slopes of Gilo South, with approximately 1,000
In addition, the Construction and Housing Ministry announced
on Wednesday that it intended to publish tenders for 1,048 new homes in West
The homes are set for Betar Illit (398); Karnei Shomron
(108); Efrat (167); Emmanuel (102); Givat Ze’ev (167); and Adam
The ministry also announced the publication of tenders for 168 new
homes in the east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa.
statement was read out in New York on behalf of the four EU countries on the
Security Council, the representative of India read out a similar statement on
behalf of eight Non- Aligned Movement members on the council. This was followed
by a statement on behalf of India, South Africa and Brazil that said that not
only must settlement construction be frozen, but that “settlements must be
dismantled and the occupation must end,” not as “a concession to be made in the
course of negotiations” but rather as “an obligation under various [Security
Council] resolutions and international law.”
Despite the censure, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel would continue – as it has always done –
to build in the capital.
Overlooking the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City
while standing on the terrace of the King David Hotel with the ambassadors of 11
Asian and Pacific countries, Netanyahu said before the Security Council
discussion that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000
years, and that he will continue to build there.
“I do want to use the
opportunity that we’re here in this fantastic panorama to point out a simple
fact: The walls of Jerusalem that you see behind us represent the capital of the
Jewish people for 3,000 years,” he said. “All Israeli governments have built in
Jerusalem. We’re not going to change that.”
Netanyahu said building in
the country’s capital was “natural,” and asked the envoys to “imagine that you
would limit construction in your own capital. It doesn’t make sense.”
prime minister said Israel was committed to its capital and “to peace, and we’re
going to build in Jerusalem for all its residents.
This is something that
has been done by all previous governments; this is something that my government
will continue to do.”
While his comments came before the Security
Council’s monthly briefing on the Middle East, they did follow an unusually
sharp rebuke from US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who on
Tuesday called the construction plans “provocative.”
“With regard to the
larger settlement issue and statements recently and actions on the ground, we
are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of
provocative action,” Nuland said.
“These repeated announcements and plans
of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders
continually say that they support a path toward a twostate solution, yet these
actions only put that goal further at risk.”
She said her “strong
statement” reflected Washington’s concern about “what’s going
Despite Nuland’s tough language, she made clear that Washington did
not think it would be “helpful at this point” to put the condemnation of
settlement construction into a Security Council resolution.
Lazaroff contributed to this report.