UN Chief Urges Israeli Settlement Freeze

UN Chief Urges Israeli Settlement Freeze
UN Chief Urges Israeli Settlement Freeze

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon on Tuesday urged Israel to freeze its settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, calling it an “affront” to the world community.

“So-called facts on the ground in the occupied West Bank are steadily chipping away the viability of a Palestinian state and the ability of Palestinian people to live in dignity”, Ban told a periodic Security Council meeting on the conflict. “Progress towards peace requires a freeze of Israel’s settlement enterprise”.

Ban said he was concerned about reports Tuesday that the Israeli defense ministry had approved plans for more than 150 new homes in the occupied West Bank, as well as expropriation last week of approximately 150 hectares of land in the fertile Jordan Valley, World Bulletin reported.

“Continued settlement activities are an affront. They rightly raise fundamental questions about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution”, Ban said.

“These provocative acts are bound to increase the growth of settler populations, further heighten tensions and undermine any prospects for a political road ahead,” he added.

International law views the West Bank and Beit-ul-Moqaddas as “occupied territories”, considering all Jewish settlement building on the land illegal.

Ban also said that Palestinians’ frustration “is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process”.

“Some have taken me to task for pointing out this indisputable truth. Yet, as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism,” the UN chief said.

More than 160 Palestinians have been killed in a months-long wave of violence that began in October, according to Palestinian health ministry.

  Homes Demolished

Israeli forces on Wednesday tore down two buildings in occupied Beit-ul-Moqaddas, claiming one had been built without permits, while the other stood in the way of a new route connecting Israeli settlements.

Locals said that Israeli forces stormed and closed off an area in the Jabal al-Mukabbri neighborhood early Wednesday before bulldozers moved in and demolished a building under construction along with its surrounding wall.

The building’s owner, Ibrahim Ali Surri, told Ma’an that the building measured 60 square meters and he had been intending to move into it in coming weeks.

He said that Beit-ul-Moqaddas’s municipal authorities ordered him to halt construction a month ago and he had been trying to obtain the necessary permits since then.

He said Wednesday’s demolition took place “without prior notice.”

Some 579 homes have been destroyed in Beit-ul-Moqaddas over the last twelve years, leaving 2,133 Palestinians homeless in total, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

Israeli government policies make it nearly impossible for Palestinian residents of Beit-ul-Moqaddas to obtain building permits, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

  Law of Return

The Israeli government says it plans to restart its law of return program in Ethiopia.

Under the “Aliyah” rule, anyone who can prove their Jewish identity can move to Israel.

Israel stopped the program for Ethiopians in 2013, saying there was no one left who met the criteria–a move that split up thousands of families.

However, in light of the government’s recent change of heart, critics say Israel arbitrarily makes changes to increase the Jewish population, and treats Ethiopian Jews as second-class citizens.

Last year, Ethiopian Jews clashed with police in Tel Aviv during protests against institutionalized racism.

In Hebrew, Aliyah means “the journey to Israel”.

The Jewish Agency, which helps to organize the immigration of Jews to Israel, denies accusations that the government applies the law of return arbitrarily.

“Ethiopian immigration to Israel is the only example of a Western democracy investing money to bring people from Africa to serve as full-fledged citizens of that country, and not for other purposes,” Avi Mayer, Jewish Agency spokesman, said.

About 135,500 Jewish Israelis of Ethiopian descent live in Israel; more than 50,000 of whom were born inside the country.