Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, emphasized that the global community must persevere in its efforts to prevent violent escalation in the region and encourage leaders on both sides to takes steps towards enabling a return to negotiations, not a retrenchment of conflict.
On the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), Mladenov noted that there has been continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
“Over the past year, Israeli authorities advanced controversial settlement plans that had been frozen for years,” he said, pointing out that half of them are deep in the West Bank, in areas crucial for the contiguity and viability of a future Palestinian State.
In the strategic location of E1, he added, plans for some 3,500 units were advanced after an eight-year delay. If implemented, the E1 plan would sever the connection between the northern and southern West Bank, he warned, stressing that settlements entrench Israel’s occupation and undermine the prospect of a two-State solution.
He reported that, on 13 December, the Israeli authorities announced a tender for 290 housing units in the settlement of Gilo, East Jerusalem. On 16 December, the Knesset advanced, in a preliminary vote, a bill that sets a two-year time frame within which to legalize 65 outposts, he said, adding that the legislation would mandate that those outposts be treated as authorized settlements in the interim.
Stressing that continuing violence, attacks against civilians, and incitement to violence are unacceptable, he said all perpetrators must be held accountable. In particular, “children should not be the target of violence or put in harm’s way”. Security forces must exercise maximum restraint and may use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life, he said, underlining that Israeli and Palestinian authorities must carry out thorough, independent, impartial and prompt investigations into all instances of possible excessive use of force.