‘Occupation must end’: Israeli rights group calls on UN Security Council to take action

© Ammar Awad
A prominent Israeli human rights group has called on the UN Security Council to help end the country’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

Israel will not cease being an oppressor simply by waking up one day and realizing the brutality of its policies,” Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem group said on Friday.
Palestinian lives in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem have been under full Israeli control for the past 49 years “and counting,” he told an informal council meeting on “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution” on Friday.

With the 50th anniversary approaching next year, “the rights of Palestinians must be realized, the occupation must end, the UN Security Council must act, and the time is now,” he said.
El-Ad noted that the UN council “has more than just power: you have a moral responsibility – and a real opportunity – to act with a sense of urgency, before we reach the symbolic date of June 2017 and the second half of that first century begins, to send to the world, to Israelis and to Palestinians, a clear message, backed by international action: Israel cannot have it both ways. You cannot occupy a people for fifty years and call yourself a democracy.”

“Clearly, the occupation is internationally sustainable. It is so, because so far the world refuses to take effective action,” he added.

Another rights group, Americans for Peace Now, has also called for an end to Israeli occupation.

“This occupation is a threat to Israel’s security and to Israel’s very existence,” Lara Friedman, the group’s director of policy and government relations, said. “Israel has the military capability to address any of its external security threats, which indeed exist. It has no effective or moral answer to the security challenges imposed by perpetual occupation, as chillingly embodied by the ongoing wave of attacks against Israelis, in many cases by Palestinian children effectively committing suicide by Israeli soldier.

Friedman noted that when Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993, the settler population in the West Bank was around 116,000. At the end of 2015, it was nearly 390,000.

“This population explosion could not have occurred without Israeli government support and encouragement, including, most obviously, the approval and construction of new housing,” she said, calling “to finally take action in the Security Council to send a clear message to Israel that the international community stands by the two-state solution and unambiguously rejects policies that undermine it — including Israeli settlement policies.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon slammed the two rights groups for their criticism, saying “Israeli organizations chose to slander and besmirch Israel’s good name at an event organized by the Palestinian delegation.”

“We will continue to fight and tell the truth about Israel despite the attempts to spread lies about us. It is unfortunate that Israeli organizations have joined the Palestinian attempts to wage diplomatic terror against Israel at the UN,” Danon said in a statement, the Times of Israel reported.

The Palestinians pushed for the Security Council to adopt a resolution against settlements in 2011, but it was vetoed by Washington, Israel’s chief ally.

US Deputy Ambassador to the UN David Pressman told the meeting on Friday that “the United States remains firmly committed to advancing a two-state solution… we are deeply concerned about continued settlement activity,” AP reported.
Pressman noted that last week, the United States condemned new Israeli settlements and said that over 2,400 settlement units had been advanced in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since July 1. This makes “a viable Palestinian state more remote,” he said, adding that “In short, we need to start implementing the two-state solution on the ground right now.”

While a peace deal can only be achieved by means of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, “significant progress towards creating a two-state reality can be made now that will help restore hope and lay the groundwork for successful negotiations,” Pressman concluded.

“We continue to stress the urgency and importance of taking these steps now and refraining from actions that corrode the prospects for two states,” he said.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN Ambassador, said it is too early to say whether Pressman’s words will eventually translate into US support for a new settlements resolution.