To Israel’s chagrin, the U.N. Security Council this week debated the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The issue was raised by the Palestine Liberation Organization in the wake of controversy late last year about the expansion of the settlement of Efrat.
Addressing the Security Council, Israeli Ambassador Gad Ya’acobi attacked the PLO for raising the issue at the United Nations, calling the move “incompatible with its signed commitments vis-a-vis Israel.”
The debate Tuesday concluded without any resolution being introduced.
The PLO’s U.N. observer, Nasser-al-Kidwa, insisted that “any settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem,” was a violation of the Declaration of Principles signed by the PLO and Israel in 1993, as well as of international law and past security Council resolutions.
Unless there is an “immediate and total cessation of any settlement activity, regardless of the type and volume,” he said, the peace process can be “seriously” undermined.
But Ya’acobi cited Israeli-PLO agreements and Israeli government decisions to dismiss the issue.
“Israel and the PLO agreed that the issue of settlements would be dealt with in the permanent-status negotiations — not at the present time,” said Ya’acobi, noting Article V, Paragraph 3 of the Declaration of Principles.
Ya’acobi further criticized the PLO for failing to address its concerns “through the agreed mechanism for settling differences and disputes that were specified in Article XV of the Declaration of Principles, as well as in Article XVII of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement,” referring to the document signed in Cairo in May 1994.
Defending the Israeli government, Ya’acobi said, “No new settlements have been established in the territories” since Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin formed his government in July 1992.
“No land has been or will be confiscated to establish new settlements,” he said.
Building in Jerusalem, he said, will continue among both Jews and Arabs.
“They have not stopped building, and this is their right. We have not stopped building, and this is our right,” he said.
Rather than debating settlements, Ya’acobi said, supporters of peace should “credibly address the growing sense in Israeli public opinion that the Palestinians are either unwilling or unable to meet their commitments to fight terrorism.”
Ya’acobi said, “The Palestinian Authority can and should do more to respect its commitment `to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities,’” as agreed upon in the Gaza Jericho Agreement.
While the United States echoed the Israeli argument that the U.N. debate was counterproductive, diplomats from Arab countries and Britain joined in the Palestinian criticism of the settlements.
An Israeli diplomat said the debate of the issue at this time reflected both the publicity given to Israeli activities in the settlements, and Palestinian frustration with the slow pace of the peace process.
“Since [the Palestinians] don’t see a rapid advancement in other areas, they try to get support from the international community for their policies,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.