US equates Israeli and Palestinian extremism, calls for condemnation

Robert Wood: "The United States expects to see equal treatment of extremists – whether Israeli or Palestinian."

 SETTLERS HURL stones at Palestinians during the annual harvest season, near the settlement of Yitzhar in 2020.  (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
SETTLERS HURL stones at Palestinians during the annual harvest season, near the settlement of Yitzhar in 2020.
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

The Biden administration called on Israel to crack down equally on Jewish and Palestinian extremism, in a sharply worded statement Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood delivered to the UN Security Council after a visit to the region that drew equivalency between the actions of both populations.

“The United States expects to see equal treatment of extremists – whether Israeli or Palestinian,” Wood told the UNSC, which on Monday held its monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The United States expects to see equal treatment of extremists – whether Israeli or Palestinian."

Robert Wood

In a statement that could only have been directed at Israel, Wood clarified that this meant “arrests, convictions and punishments, as well as equal allocation” by Israel “of resources to prevent and investigate violent attacks.”

Other statements he made were directed at both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, such as when he called for “the parties” to “take urgent action to reduce the troubling levels of extremist violence fueling instability in the West Bank.”

“It is also vital for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to both condemn all forms of violence irrespective of the nationality of the perpetrator,” he said.

 Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Jana Zakarneh during her funeral, in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, December 12, 2022. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS) Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Jana Zakarneh during her funeral, in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, December 12, 2022. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

Wood added, “Unilateral actions and unhelpful rhetoric by the parties only serve to escalate tensions, fuel violence and undermine the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution. These actions must stop.”

The deputy ambassador was among a number of envoys who make up the 15-member council to speak out against the shooting death last week of Jana Zakarneh, 16, as she stood on the rooftop of her home in Jenin. An initial IDF review of the incident found it likely she was accidentally killed by the IDF during armed clashes with Palestinian gunmen.

Wood said her death was a tragic reminder of the human cost of the conflict.

He also emphasized US support for maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif. Under the status quo, Jews can visit Judaism’s holiest site, but cannot pray there.

Members of the incoming Israeli government, which has yet to be sworn in, have spoken in support of Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount.

“We also underscore the imperative of maintaining the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and condemn provocative actions and rhetoric related to the holy site,” Wood said.

France condems terror, settlements and demolitions in West Bank

France condemned all Palestinian terror attacks, Israeli settlement building and IDF demotions of Palestinian structures, which it deems illegal.

It called on the incoming government to not authorize settler outposts, as many of its members have demanded.

“We call on the next Israeli government to not implement these decisions,” the French representative told the UNSC. “We will follow this very closely with our main partners.”

The French representative underscored that France would not recognize any “illegal” Israeli “annexation of territory.”

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland spoke of the Israeli-Palestinian violence in 2022, explaining, “150 Palestinians and more than 20 Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel, the highest numbers of fatalities in years.” He did not differentiate between Israeli victims of terrorism, Palestinian victims of accidental shootings and Palestinian terrorists and/or militants.

Wennesland also noted that Israeli plans for 4,800 settler homes were advanced in 2022 in Area C, an 11% drop over the 5,400 units that were advanced last year. He added that no settler homes in Area C had been advanced from September 21 through December 7.

The number of tenders for settler homes in Area C dropped by 91%, according to Wennesland, from 1,800 in 2021 to 150 in 2022.

The story was different in east Jerusalem, where “the number of housing units advanced more than tripled from the previous year – from some 900 units in 2021 to some 3,100 units in 2022, with tenders doubling from 200 to 400,” Wennesland said.