UN: Israeli settlement law crosses ‘thick red line’

A picture taken from the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday shows a view of the Kiryat Arba Jewish settlement on the outskirts of the Palestinian city. (AFP)
Updated 08 February 2017

UN: Israeli settlement law crosses ‘thick red line’

JERUSALEM: The United Nations’ Mideast envoy on Tuesday said a new Israeli law legalizing dozens of unlawful West Bank settler outposts crossed a “very thick red line,” while Israeli rights groups said they would fight to overturn the measure in the Supreme Court.
The explosive law, approved by Israeli lawmakers late Monday night, was the latest in a series of pro-settler steps taken by Israel’s hard-line government since the election of Donald Trump as US president. It is expected to trigger a number of challenges in the Supreme Court, while members of the international community have already begun to condemn it.
The law legalized dozens of outposts home built unlawfully on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. According to the law, Palestinian landowners would be compensated either with money or alternative land, even if they did not agree to give up their property.
Critics say the legislation enshrines into law the theft of Palestinian land. It also marked the first time that the Israeli parliament has imposed Israeli law on Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank. The area, captured by Israel in 1967, is not sovereign Israeli territory and Palestinians there are not Israeli citizens and do not have the right to vote.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said the legislation “opens the floodgates to the potential annexation of the West Bank.” If Israel moves to solidify its control over the area, it would imperil the internationally backed idea of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel as part of a negotiated peace deal, he said.
“It will have a drastic legal consequence for Israel and for the nature of its democracy,” Mladenov said. “It crosses a very, very thick red line.”
Britain’s minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, condemned the law, saying it “damages Israel’s standing with its international partners.” He spoke a day after Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, met with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London.
The law also cast a cloud over a visit to Israel by Turkey’s tourism minister. Israel and Turkey recently repaired ties after a six-year rift, and the tourism minister, Nabi Avci, was visiting as part of that reconciliation.
Asked about the law, Avci said he hoped Israel’s Supreme Court would strike it down. “I think, I hope, that on this issue, the high court will make the right decision, a decision in accordance with international law, a decision in accordance with United Nations decisions,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist coalition is dominated by West Bank settlers and their allies. After repeated clashes with President Barack Obama, they have grown emboldened by the election of Trump, who has signaled that he will take a much softer approach toward the settlements than his predecessors or the rest of the international community.
The law was “a first step in a series of measures that we must take in order to make our presence in Judea and Samaria present for years, for decades, for ages,” said Israeli Cabinet Minister Yariv Levin, using the biblical name for the West Bank. “I do believe that our right over our fatherland is something that cannot be denied.”
Since Trump took office last month, Israel has announced plans to build over 6,000 settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — occupied territories claimed by the Palestinians.
After ignoring a string of Israeli announcements, the Trump White House last week finally said that settlements “may not be helpful” for peace.
But after the law was passed late Monday, it said only that it would wait for Israel’s courts to rule on the legislation before taking a stance.
Prominent Israeli human rights groups plan to ask the Supreme Court to strike it down. A number of prominent legal experts have said the law will not survive a judicial review, and even Netanyahu’s own attorney general has refused to defend it in court.
“There’s going to be a legal battle against this bill,” said Lior Amihai, spokesman for Peace Now, an anti-settlement watchdog group. He said his group was already preparing its legal challenge, but that it could take about two weeks to file the case.
Netanyahu also expressed misgivings about the law, reportedly saying that it could invite international legal actions against Israel. But under heavy pressure from the Jewish Home party, a coalition partner linked to the settler movement, he reversed course and allowed the bill to pass. Netanyahu was flying home from London late Monday and missed the vote.
Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, told Israel’s Army Radio on Tuesday that the goal of the bill was create the same conditions in the settlements as in Israel proper.
“At the end of the day, behind all the talk there is a simple question: what do we want for the future of Israel?” he said.
The Palestinians, meanwhile, have also condemned the vote and urged the international community to punish Israel.
“Nobody can legalize the theft of the Palestinian lands. Building settlements is a crime, building settlements is against all international laws,” said Palestinian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Rula Maayaa. “I think it is time now for the international community to act concretely to stop the Israelis from these crimes.”
The vote passed 60-52 in Israel’s 120-member Knesset. The raucous debate saw opposition lawmakers shouting from their seats at governing coalition lawmakers speaking in favor of the vote. Some spectators in visitors’ seats raised a black cloth in apparent protest.

Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

Updated 23 January 2020

Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

  • Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region
  • Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region

DUBAI: The US special representative for Iran said the successor to Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike, would suffer the same fate if he followed a similar path of killing Americans, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region. US President Donald Trump ordered the Jan. 3 drone strike in Iraq after a build up of tension over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran responded to the killing of Soleimani, who was charged with expanding Tehran’s influence across the Middle East, by launching missile strikes on US targets in Iraq, although no US soldiers were killed.

After Soleimani’s death, Tehran swiftly appointed Esmail Ghaani as the new head of the Quds Force, an elite unit in the Revolutionary Guards that handles actions abroad. The new commander pledged to pursue Soleimani’s course.

“If (Esmail) Ghaani follows the same path of killing Americans then he will meet the same fate,” Brian Hook told the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said in the interview in Davos that US President Donald Trump had long made it clear “that any attack on Americans or American interests would be met with a decisive response.”

“This isn’t a new threat. The president has always said that he will always respond decisively to protect American interests,” Hook said. “I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it.”

After his appointment, Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region, which has long been Iran’s stated policy.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have steadily increased since Trump withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and imposed tough news sanctions that have hammered the Iranian economy.

This month’s military flare-up began in December when rockets fired at US bases in Iraq killed a US contractor. Washington blamed pro-Iran militia and launched air strikes that killed at least 25 fighters. After the militia surrounded the US embassy in Baghdad for two days, Trump ordered the drone strike on Soleimani.