US pushes back at UNSC’s stance on illegality of West Bank settlements

The US refused to use its veto power at the time and allowed the resolution to pass with the support of the other 14 committee UNSC members.

Construction near Efrat in the West Bank (photo credit: REUTERS)
Construction near Efrat in the West Bank
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United States pushed back against the United Nations Security Council stance that West Bank settlements are illegal, declaring that the Trump Administration opposed the 2016 Resolution 2334 that condemned such activity.
“It will not surprise anyone in this chamber to hear me say that the Trump Administration strongly opposes Resolution 2334. It is one-sided. It is unfairly critical of Israel,” US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft told the UNSC in New York on Wednesday. The US holds the rotating UNSC presidency position this month.
“Had I been the Ambassador at the time of the vote on the resolution, I would have vetoed it,” said Craft, who also presided over the quarterly meeting on the implementation of Resolution 2334, which was approved during the Obama administration.
The US refused to use its veto power at the time and allowed the resolution to pass with the support of the other 14 committee UNSC members.
UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov reported to the council on the resolution’s failure, noting it was the resolution’s third anniversary and that settlement activity had only accelerated. “The situation on the ground since then has only deteriorated. Settlements have expanded significantly, demolitions have accelerated, violence and incitement have continued, achieving intra-Palestinian unity remains elusive, and credible negotiations have yet to be launched,” Mladenov said. He continued, “I remain greatly concerned by the persistent lack of progress toward ending the occupation and realizing a negotiated two-state solution.”
Over the last three years, Mladenov said, plans were advanced for 22,000 Jewish homes in West Bank settlements or in east Jerusalem. “Tenders for some 8,000 units have been issued,” he added. “These numbers should be of serious concern to all those who continue to support the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state alongside Israel,” Mladenov said.
Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that his country did not consider West Bank settlements to be illegal.
Mladenov told the council that Resolution 2334, however, clearly stated that it was illegal. Settlement activity over the pre-1967 lines in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, he said, “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.”
“Settlements must therefore cease immediately and completely,” Mladneov stated. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in a fragile phase with the occupation deepening, political uncertainty prevailing, and volatile regional dynamics threatening to further destabilize the situation.”
He added that he regretted Israeli statements, including those by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in support of the annexation of parts or all of Area C of the West Bank. “Such steps, if implemented, would constitute a serious violation of international law,” Mladenov added.
UNSC members also spoke out against West Bank settlements and possible annexation efforts.
Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said the UNSC had failed to enforce Resolution 2334, and that Israel had only entrenched its “illegal occupation” to the deterrent of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights.