U.N.: Israel must withdraw from settlements immediately


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A U.N. report on the impact of Jewish West Bank settlements on Palestinians said Israel immediately should begin withdrawing all settlers from the territory.

The report issued Thursday by the U.N. Human Rights Council based in Geneva said that settlements violate the 1949 Geneva Conventions and that failure to withdraw could lead to a finding of war crimes at the International Criminal Court. The Palestinians have threatened to take Israel to the ICC after the Palestinian Authority was recognized as a non-member state at the U.N. General Assembly last November.

The Human Rights Council’s investigation began last March. Israel did not cooperate, barring investigators from entering the West Bank and charging the council with anti-Israel bias. The council has issued more resolutions regarding Israeli human rights violations than resolutions for all other countries combined.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the report counterproductive.

“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematical, one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of such approach,” the ministry said. The report "will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” and "the only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions."

Investigators interviewed about 50 Palestinians in Jordan for the report, which found that Palestinians are prevented by settlements from reaching their farming lands and water resources.

Israel "must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions," the report said. "It must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT," U.N.-speak for "Occupied Palestinian Territories."

An estimated 520,000 settlers live in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem in some 250 settlements, which "prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination," the report said.

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