‘OUR TIME has come’ said Israeli Premier Naftali Bennett on Sunday adding that the Tel Aviv regime intends to double the number of illegal settlements in the strategic Golan Heights.
The plan has the support of the United States and is a result of the normalisaton deal between some Arab states and Israel supported by the US.
‘This is our moment. This is the moment of the Golan Heights,’ Bennett told the Israeli cabinet as ministers unanimously approved the NIS 1bn ($317 million) development plan.
‘After long and static years in terms of the scope of settlement, our goal today is to double settlement in the Golan Heights,’ he added.
During Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Bennett also announced two new neighbourhoods in the town of Katzrin, as well as two new communities to be named Asif and Matar, each with about 2,000 housing units.
However, the United Nations has approved a resolution in condemnation of the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and Syria’s Golan Heights.
Bennett first announced the plan in October, saying that Israel’s ultimate goal is to double and eventually quadruple the Israeli settler population in the Golan Heights, from almost 27,000 to 50,000, and then increase it to 100,000 settlers in the coming years.
‘The Golan Heights is Israeli, full stop,’ he said at the time.
Bennettalso stressed that the US administration of Joe Biden had adopted former US president Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israel’s.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of its 1967 Six-Day War against the regional Arab countries, which also saw the regime occupy the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem (al-Quds), and the Gaza Strip.
Tel Aviv unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 in a move not recognised by the international community.
Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.
In March 2019, Trump signed a decree recognising Israeli ‘sovereignty’ over the occupied Golan during a meeting with then Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington.
Almost 22,000 Syrian Druze live in the Israeli-occupied villages of Majdal Shams, Buqata, Masada, and Ein Qiniyye, and are facing numerous Israeli settlement projects, including building wind turbines on their farm lands.
The Israeli regime’s pushing ahead with more settlements comes in light of the US-brokered normalisation deals between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain in September 2020.
Israel agreed to delay its plans to annex large chunks of the West Bank and other occupied lands under its normalisation agreement with the UAE, something Emirati officials have cited in response to Arab and Muslim criticism.
The UAE and Bahrain were only the third and fourth Arab states to normalize relations with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
The Palestinians have condemned the accords and branded the shift by the Persian Gulf nations as a ‘betrayal’.
- The United Nations has overwhelmingly adopted a resolution in condemnation of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights, and demanded cessation of their construction and withdrawal from the Golan.
On Tuesday, the United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee endorsed the resolution by 143-7 votes, with 16 abstentions.
It condemned Israel over construction of settlements in and around East Jerusalem, including the contentious E1 development plan which would entirely block the contested territory off from the West Bank.
The UN resolution also slammed the continued destruction of Palestinian homes, expulsion of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem, and deprivation of the Palestinians’ right to reside there.
At present, some 20,000 Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem are at the risk of demolition.
The document went on to denounce the Tel Aviv regime’s settlement expansion activities in the strategic Jordan Valley, which would further divide the occupied Palestinian territories and cut them off from each other.
And it slammed demolition of Palestinian buildings in the Wadi al-Hummus neighbourhood south of East Jerusalem as a violation of international law.
The UN resolution also condemned Israeli settlers for their violence against ordinary Palestinians, especially children, and their destruction of Palestinian properties, historical and religious sites, and farm lands.
It stressed that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and Syria’s occupied Syrian Golan Heights are ‘illegal’, and stand in the way of peace as well as economic and social development in those areas.
The UN resolution also called for an end to Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Arab territories.
Meanwhile, the representative at the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations welcomed the adoption of the anti-Israeli resolution
He declared Tehran’s strong support for the cause of Palestine and the Palestinians’ inalienable rights, and held the occupying Israeli regime accountable for crimes against Palestinians, particularly women and children.
‘From the beginning of the tragedy of Palestine, numerous initiatives have been taken by different concerned countries, the United Nations as well as other international and regional organisations in order to address this crisis and reduce the miseries of the Palestinian people,’ Mohammad Reza Sahraei said, adding:
‘Adoption of numerous resolutions condemning the occupying (Israeli) regime, presentation of different plans and initiatives for peace, and formation of fact-finding missions have all been in line with efforts to achieve such a goal.’
The Iranian diplomat also noted that the Tel Aviv regime’s non-compliance has, however, prevented the international community from finding a just solution to the Palestinian issue.
‘The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that support for the Palestinian people must continue until the realisation of their fundamental rights, in particular the right to self-determination and establishment of an independent State of Palestine with al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital.
‘Historical experiences and developments of recent years have shown that Palestinians have no choice but to continue their resistance against occupation, aggression and violations of their rights,’ Sahraei highlighted.
Iran believes that return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland coupled with a referendum for self-determination are the most effective solutions for the Palestinian issue.
Through such a referendum, Palestinian Muslims, Jews, and Christians will be able to choose their own political system and enjoy their rights freely and equally, the diplomat said.
Meanwhile, Palestinian resistance movement Hamas welcomed the overwhelming vote in favour of the UN resolution supporting the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination – noting that the United States had voted against it.
They called on the US to end its blind support ofthe Israeli regime.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem (al-Quds) as its capital.
Israel, which captured the territory in 1967 and later annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community, claims Jerusalem is its ‘indivisible capital’.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The United Nations Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian NGOs Network has urged the United Nations to provide international protection for Palestinian civilians against attacks conducted by Israeli settlers who are backed by the regime’s army.
In a statement, the network, which includes 145 organisations, demanded that the UN take urgent measures to provide international protection for Palestinians amid escalated settler attacks, especially in the northern part of the occupied West Bank.
The groups described the escalated settler violence as part of Israeli attempts to ‘forcibly deport’ the Palestinians, noting that the attacks amount to ‘war crimes’.
The attacks come as part of ‘an open and systematic war,’ and ‘are not individual’ or separate from Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the occupied territories, the statement said.
The Palestinian NGOs’ Network also urged the UN to pressure Israel to stop its practices against the Palestinians which they said amount to ‘war crimes’.
They also demand that all necessary steps be taken to support Palestinians’ right to remain on their land and to stop all Israeli moves to evacuate the territory of its indigenous people.
And the statement stressed the importance of setting up popular protection and security committees and supplying them with the necessary needs to confront ‘extremism and racism’.
The Network is calling for the formation of a broad international front to end the Israeli occupation and for the expansion of international campaigns of solidarity with the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights.
It also called for the occupying regime to be prosecuted and held accountable for the atrocities it has committed against the Palestinian people.
Palestinians are outraged by the sharp rise in settler attacks on their villages, which are backed by the Israeli military.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem has documented hundreds of such settler attacks this year alone.
However, Israeli authorities rarely prosecute the Israeli settler assaults on Palestinians and their property. Hence, the vast majority of the files are closed due to deliberate police failure to investigate properly.
The settler violence includes property and mosque arson attacks, stone-throwing, uprooting of crops and olive trees, and attacks on vulnerable homes, among other acts.
As a result of Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign, the Christian population in Palestine has sharply declined throughout the decades and besides suffering under the structures of the apartheid regime, Christians are also prevented from exercising their religion.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday strongly denounced the rising attacks by Israeli forces and settlers across the occupied territories, stressing that Palestinians have a lawful right to resist Israel’s occupation of their lands.
The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas on Friday warned that the Israeli military and settlers would pay the price for the increasing settler violence, after an Israeli settler ran over a 63-year-old woman near the town of Sinjil, northeast of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – territories the Palestinians want for a future state – during the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War in 1967. It later had to withdraw from Gaza.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank. All the settlements are illegal under international law. The United Nations Security Council has condemned the settlement activities in several resolutions.