Palestinians seek UN Resolution to condemn settlements – despite US objections

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The Palestinians have turned down a US request to avoid seeking a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, the chief PLO negotiator said on Sunday.

Saeb Erekat said: ‘The Americans don’t want anything to be submitted to the Security Council, but we insist that we consider the Security Council our path toward international legitimacy.’

Erekat said the Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, was scheduled to consult all UN groups in order to determine when to submit the draft resolution, which has already been worded.

The PLO negotiator added: ‘We don’t want the draft resolution to be vetoed by the US.’

He stressed that the PA has been involved in consultations with Arab, regional, and international players including the US.

According to Erekat, the draft resolution is based on international positions including the US stance, which was expressed in President Barack Obama’s speech at the University of Cairo and in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments three weeks ago.

It condemns settlement construction as an illegal action and applies the Geneva Convention, signed in 1947, on the occupied Palestinian territories including Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The resolution is also meant as a request to end settlement activities so as to resume negotiations on final status issues.

Erekat said: ‘In case the US vetoes the resolution, we know that at least we have tried and used all available means.

‘We will not abstain from doing what we can do just because we think this side or another will oppose it.’

The PLO official reiterated that Israel was responsible for thwarting the peace process when it chose settlement construction at the expense of peace.

He added: ‘The Israelis are responsible for the collapse of the peace process, not only at Israeli-Palestinian level, but they are also responsible for the repercussions of that collapse in the whole region because the policy they chose leads to chaos, extremism and bloodshed.’

Erekat’s remarks came just after Israeli military radio reported on a massive new construction project of at least 1,400 homes in a settlement neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem.

The homes are to be built in the settlement of Gilo, near Bethlehem, and are expected to be given the green light by the district planning commission in coming days, the report said.

Speaking on the radio, municipal councillors confirmed the project.

‘There is no doubt that a green light for these constructions will deal a knockout blow to the peace process with the Palestinians,’ said Jerusalem city councillor Meir Margalit of the Meretz party.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have deadlocked over the issue of settlement in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel while it builds on land they want for their future state, but Israel has insisted on continuing settlement construction.

Elisha Peleg, a municipal council member from the right-wing Likud party of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, claimed: ‘Gilo is an integral part of Jerusalem.

‘There can be no argument in Israel over construction in that neighbourhood.’

The project, planned by private firms, could take close to four years to complete because of the difficulties of building on the steep slopes on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

The planned construction is likely to attract strong international criticism.

In March 2010, Israeli Interior Ministry announced a plan to build 1,600 homes in Ramat Shlomo, an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.

The announcement, which came as US Vice-President Joe Biden visited Israel, provoked fierce US opposition, and soured relations between Israel and Washington for months.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move the rest of the world never recognised. Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem to be its ‘eternal and indivisible’ capital.

The Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state and fiercely oppose any attempts to extend Israeli control over it.

Since 1967, Israel has built several settlements in the eastern part of Jerusalem, with Gilo among the first of to be constructed.

l Gaza’s health sector is on the verge of collapse due to a lack of medicine, a Gaza hospital director said on Sunday.

Medhat Abbas, general director of the Ash-Shifa medical complex in Gaza City, said medical care must be separated from political disputes.

Gaza’s Health Ministry has blamed its counterpart in Ramallah for a shortage of medicine in the Strip.

Bassem Naim, health minister in the Hamas-led government, said on Thursday that Gaza was lacking about 40 per cent of basic medicines and accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of withholding key stocks.

PA Health Minister Fathi Abu Mughli immediately rejected the charge, and said the shortage was the result of ‘mismanagement’ by the Hamas health ministry which he alleged had sacked 1,600 ministry of health employees and replaced them with people ‘with no experience in dealing with or storing medicine.’

But Gaza medical director Medhat Abbas said hundreds of patients were at risk due to the shortage of medicines, particularly those needing cancer treatment, dialysis and insulin.

The doctor’s comments were made during a rally to commemorate the second anniversary of Israel’s offensive on the coastal enclave, Operation Cast Lead.

Medical crews and ambulances joined crowds outside the hospital in Gaza City, and marched to the Ash-Shawa cultural centre.

Medhat Abbas said doctors examined samples taken from the bodies of those killed in the three-week war and found evidence that Israeli forces used internationally prohibited weapons against Gaza’s residents.

He condemned the silence of the international community over what he described as Israeli war crimes.

The medical director urged all delegations that visited Gaza after the offensive to submit their reports to international organisations.

He also called on Israel to lift its siege of the Strip and to allow medicine, medical equipment and spare parts to enter, as well as construction materials to rebuild medical wards and operating rooms.