UN chief urges Israel to halt settlements

2012-02-02 13:04

Ramallah - Israel must halt settlement building and present detailed proposals for a border with a future Palestinian state, visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said as he tried to persuade the Palestinians to continue low-level meetings with Israel that the international community hopes will evolve into serious negotiations.

Ban on Wednesday praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his leadership and publicly backed him on key issues, including the demand for a freeze of settlement building on occupied lands the Palestinians want for their state.

With Abbas by his side, the UN chief affirmed that "all Israeli settlements are contrary to international law and prejudice" the outcome of a final peace deal.

At the same time, Ban urged the Palestinian leader not to let the current peace efforts lose momentum.

The dialogue on borders and security arrangements began last month at the urging of the Quartet of Mideast mediators - the US, UN, EU and Russia - which asked both sides to submit detailed proposals. The Quartet has said it wants a final deal by the end of the year.

Abbas has said the Jordanian-mediated exploratory meetings in Amman have run their course, but that he'll decide after consultations with the Arab League next week whether to resume them. "I don't like the word 'closing the door to negotiations'." Abbas said on Wednesday. "Israel did not present encouraging offers in the Amman talks, but if it does, we will be ready [to resume talks]."

Exploratory talks

Earlier on Wednesday, Ban met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has rejected Palestinian demands for a settlement freeze ahead of any full-fledged negotiations, arguing that this is an unacceptable precondition.

Israel has said it wants to continue the exploratory talks.

"We are at a critical moment for Israel and the region," Ban said after his talks with Netanyahu. "I remain hopeful that the direct, frequent exchanges between the parties with continue."

Formal peace talks have stalled for more than three years, in large part over the settlement issue. The Palestinians say there is no point in negotiating as long as Israel continues to settle its population in the West Bank and east Jerusalem - areas that the Palestinians want for their future state, along with the Gaza Strip.

Around 500 000 Israelis now live in these areas, and this week Netanyahu's government approved new financial incentives meant to lure more Israelis to the West Bank.

Continued settlement "does not help the ongoing peace process", Ban said. "They should refrain from further settlement for the sake of ongoing peace talks. This can be a way of expressing goodwill gestures."

Maintaining security

Netanyahu appeared to rebuff Ban's request, saying the question of settlements "should be part of the final peace talks and final peace agreements". Later on Wednesday, Netanyahu spoke by phone to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Israel is interested in continuing talks with the Palestinians while maintaining security for Israel's citizens," Netanyahu told Clinton, according to his office.

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired six mortar shells into southern Israel on Wednesday evening, Israeli police said. They exploded in open field without causing casualties.

On Thursday morning the UN chief is set to visit Gaza, as well as Sderot, an Israeli border town that is a frequent target of Palestinian rockets.

Ban on Wednesday appeared to take the Israelis to task for not having submitted detailed proposals on borders and security yet, as requested by the Quartet. The Palestinians say they have presented four-page papers on each issue, while Israel presented only general principles for border talks last week.

Ban said he noted "with appreciation that the Palestinian Authority is forthcoming in presenting concrete proposals for territory and security, as called for by the Quartet", adding that he hopes "that now Israel will present its proposals".

Painful agreement

Palestinian officials have said the Israeli principles mean, in effect, that Israel wants to keep east Jerusalem and large chunks of the West Bank. Any proposal that leaves all of east Jerusalem under Israeli control is likely to be rejected by any Palestinian leader.

Responding to Ban's comments, Netanyahu said he recognises "there has to be an agreement, probably a painful agreement for us given our passion for these historic lands". But he complained that "the real cause of this conflict" is the Palestinians refusal to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Israel has also accused the state-run Palestinian media of broadcasting hatred and incitement against Israel and Jews. Asked about the alleged incitement, Ban said: "Hate speeches or provocations, they are not helpful, they are not acceptable."

Also on Wednesday, two Palestinian journalists said they were detained for several hours and questioned by Palestinian security forces, one after mocking the Palestinian leadership and the other after reporting about alleged corruption at a Palestinian diplomatic mission.

A Palestinian government spokesperson confirmed one case but did not comment.

  • Ryan - 2012-02-02 13:19

    The Palestinian Authority does not recognise Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State. That is the beginning and end of the story. Without recognition in writing for all time, there will be no peace and all this talk of settlements and borders and international law is simply white noise.

      Jaba - 2012-02-02 15:02

      No land was stolen. Israel became larger every time they were attacked by the Arabs. The Arabs lost the wars they started and as such Israel became larger in a perfectly legal way – spoils of war they call it – if the Arabs want Israel to stop growing they must never attack her again!. BTW, Arabs were not expelled from their homes. Israel went to enormous lengths to reassure them, and to get them to stay. In fact, the ones who did stay are citizens of Israel, enjoying all of the rights and privileges of citizenship, although not all of the obligations (such as military service). The ones who left were voluntary quits, who heeded the call of their leadership to get out of the way of the "conquering Arab armies" (I trust you are aware that one day after Israel's declaration of modern statehood, it was attacked by five Arab armies). No one expected Israel to win, but win they did. Won five more subsequent wars, too, all of them started by the Arabs. If you are serious about the question of expulsion, I suggest you look no further than the one million Jews expelled from their homes in Moslem and Arab lands in 1948, with little more than the clothes on their backs.

      Nkulekweni - 2012-02-02 15:21

      So many different versions of this history. I am sure that Arabs living in Israel would not describe their stay there as ideal.

      Nkulekweni - 2012-02-02 15:22

      And Jaba I have been to Israel

      Jaba - 2012-02-02 15:37

      Jaba - 2012-02-02 15:38

      Jaba - 2012-02-02 15:39

      Jaba - 2012-02-02 15:42

      Nkulekweni I have to apologise – but your last statement is proof that you have never been to Israel! For if you had – you would see for yourself that it is not… especially with a name like yours.

  • Fred - 2012-02-02 13:21

    The land is not occupied. The land is disputed. Israel captured this land from Jordan in 1967 not Palestine.

      Dirk - 2012-02-02 13:51

      Dont think your name is AAron- probably Mohamed.Of course Banki Moon will support Abbas, regarded by most as extremely corrupt and for someone from SA to say that, tells a story.

      Jaba - 2012-02-02 15:10

      Muedes Jerusalem is the site of the Temple of Solomon and Herod. The stones of a palace erected by King David himself are even now being unearthed just outside the walls of Jerusalem. Everything that makes a nation state legitimate-- bloodshed, soil tilled, two millennia of continuous residence, international agreements ,argues for Israel's right to exist, yet that is still denied by the Arab League. For many of their governments, which are rich enough to have economically solved the Palestinian refugee problem decades ago, it is useful to have Israel as a scapegoat to divert attention from the tyranny, failure and corruption of their own regimes. The tragic truth is that it suits Arab states very well to have the Palestinians endure permanent refugee status, and whenever Israel puts forward workable solutions they have been stymied by those whose interests put the destruction of Israel before the genuine well being of the Palestinians. Both King Abdullah I of Jordan and Anwar Sadat of Egypt were assassinated when they attempted to come to some kind of accommodation with a country that most sane people now accept is not going away.

  • NinetiethOwl - 2012-02-02 13:23

    This will change nothing, of course. All the pleas in the world haven't halted Israel's aggression for over fifty years.

      Boaz - 2012-02-02 14:16

      If the Jews had not fought back against the Arab armies and had been destroyed in 1948, they would have received the most beautiful eulogies throughout the world. Instead, they chose to stand their ground and defend themselves. And in winning, they received the world's condemnation. Golda Meir said she would take the condemnation over the eulogies.

  • ludlowdj - 2012-02-02 14:08

    Israel seems to think it is above the law, 70 years on and the are still trying to hold the world to ransom, If they continue building settlement the UN must intervene and deploy troops if necessary........oh that's right the US only survive because of Jewish money so that will never happen.

  • Theodor - 2012-02-02 14:09

    Israel the non aggressor gained these lands in a war with Jordan. If they should surrender these lands, then should the US surrender Texas etc. to Mexico...where will it then end?

  • Jaba - 2012-02-02 14:10

    I agree with Fred. Dear Ban Ki-moon, the world has changed in 63 years while your mind has stood still. In 1948, most land was not private and the land Israel was created on (which included mostly Jewish land purchased, with resulting land deeds) was neither sovereign nor negated the private ownership rights of people. In 2011, the land "Palestine" would be created on is disputed land, that which still has no set ownership since 1948, when Jordan illegally annexed it. Most private land was ethnically cleansed of its Jewish population and stolen which adds a degree of complication. In 1967, the UNR242 declared the land "disputed" (not occupied), and called for a return to a safe border (not 1967, which would be a violation of the 1949 Armistice Agreement). Adding more complication to the matter. Finally, Arabs demand a "Palestinian" State which they say the absence of is the reason for hostility - yet, they claim once they get a State, they will continue attacking Israel and trying to ethnically cleanse it of Jews (read Hamas Charter please). In 63 years, Arab racist terror hasn't subsided, and neither has their support from uber-Leftists in the Western world like you. How ironic.

  • Jerzy - 2012-02-02 14:35

    The phrase "right to exist", is so overplayed that is becoming rather amusing. If you really tried, Im quite sure you could come up with another fabrication to justify Israeli apartheid occupation. It is overused by Zionist apologist and Islamophobes alike, in an attempt to legitimize Israels modern day apartheid practices. David Ben Gurion, categorically stated that," We must expel Arabs and take their places". Does that sound like Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinians??

      Jaba - 2012-02-02 14:48

      Just more Islamofacism! There is no Apartheid in Israel what-so-ever; your misrepresentation of border posts and security as racist practice is hogwash. The irony, Arafat turned down an offer that would have created the Palestinian state. Furthermore, in the Gerrymandering of the Middle East by the UK, France and Dutch after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, did in fact create a de facto Palestinian state - it is called Jordan! ...despite Jordan's refusal to acknowledge the fact with their autocratic rule! Now, as the Palestinians declare that their state will be "Jew Free", Israel should immediately adopt the same stated policy of the Palestinians and immediately close ALL checkpoints and refuse enter to ALL Muslims who are dependent upon Israel for employment and then watch as the Palestinians howl in protest over their "we can make the rules but we don't have to follow them" mentality. Funny how the US & the West is expected to provide the foundation for economic aide to SO many Arab nations, but the Arabs don't do squat to support their "own people" as they follow their 8th century tribal orientation - all the while demanding to be accepted into modern society while they meanwhile do NOTHING to build an economy and an infrastructure in their slum where the only skills learned are bomb making..

  • Jerzy - 2012-02-02 15:40

    You must be talking of Chinese and Saudi money backing the now defunct US and Euro economies. Did you know that Brazil just passed the UK as the worlds 6th largest economy and there is no stopping China's march to the top. By the way, there is no disputing what ben gurion said about the Palestinians. I suppose there was no apartheid in SA too? Ha Ha!!!

      Jaba - 2012-02-02 15:51

      There was apartheid in South Africa! What Hamas promises to do to Jews in their Charter is worse than Apartheid policy of segregation – its mass scale murder! To take the words of an Israeli president while Israel is under attack by 5 Arab Armies is clever of you… but non the less, it Israel that wishes and prays for peace every day – not the religious fundamentalist who believe it is their right and mission to kill Jews.

  • Jerzy - 2012-02-02 15:41

    Dirkie Tereblanche at it again

  • Fidel - 2012-02-03 00:42

    That these actions are criminal has not been in doubt since late 1967, when Israel’s leading legal authority, international jurist Theodor Meron, advised the government that its plans to initiate settlements in the occupied territories violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, a core principle of international humanitarian law, established in 1949 to criminalize the horrors of the Nazi regime. The Nazi bastard child is a rogue, just like its father.

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