by Robert Evans 24 March 2014 Reuters at Geneva
(Reuters) - The building of Israeli settlements and attacks by settlers on Palestinians are a major source of much abuse of rights in the occupied territories, the United Nations' top human rights official said on Monday.
Rampaging armed settlers usually protected by the IDF
Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay also expressed concern at a recent surge in violence in and around the Gaza Strip by both local groups and Israeli forces.
"Israeli settlement-related activities and settler violence are at the core of many of the violations of human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem," she told the U.N.'s 47-nation Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The settlements not only had a significant impact on the right to Palestinian self-determination, but activities around them "also violate the entire spectrum of Palestinians' social, cultural, civil and political rights," she said.
"Despite repeated calls for Israel to cease settlement activity, ongoing settlementconstruction and acts of settler violence continue with devastating consequences for Palestinian civilians," said Pillay, a former judge of the International Criminal Court who has visited Israel and the territories.
Most countries deem Israel's settlements in the West Bank illegal and an obstacle to peacemaking. Palestinians decry them as a barrier to achieving a viable state, while Israelconsiders some of its settlements as a security buffer.
Settlers view the West Bank as a biblical birthright.
Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas - an Islamist group which rejects Israel's existence -
seized control of the territory two years later, fuelling tension which often leads to cross-border violence.
The Gaza violence, Pillay declared, was reflected in increased rocket fire by Palestinian armed groups directed at Israel and Israeli airstrikes on the area.
She said "the targeting of civilians and the indiscriminate firing of rockets towards Israel is a violation of international law. The response through air strikes by Israel is excessive and often causes destruction to personal and public property."
Pillay said an Israeli blockade of Gaza must be lifted, "with due regard to Israeli security concerns." Egypt also blockades Gaza from its side of the border.
Referring to the West Bank administered by the Palestinian Authority, she said U.N. monitors there had documented "a dramatic increase in fatalities and injuries in incidents of use of force by Israeli security forces" in 2013.
There was an urgent need to ensure accountability for such incidents through independent investigations into allegations of unlawful killings or torture and ill-treatment and to prosecute those responsible, Pillay said.
Israel's foreign ministry has been on strike since Sunday. Other officials had no immediate response to Pillay's remark.
(Reporting by Robert Evans; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
Netanyahu Government gave record boost to settlements.
NewAge 16 Jan 2014
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government advanced a "record" number of settlements during its four years in power, an NGO said Wednesday as another 200 tenders for settler homes were issued.
In a report, Israel's Peace now settlement watchdog said the government's actions revealed "a clear intention to use settlements to systematically undermine and render impossible a realistic, viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
In 2012 alone, at least 1,747 new West Bank settler homes were built with the defence ministry approving discussion and promotion of another 6,676 units.
Last year also saw the housing ministry publish tenders for 762 West Bank settler homes and a list of another 1,048 upcoming tenders.
In the same period, the government decided to "legalise" 10 settler outposts built without authorisation, while activists set up another four new outposts, it said.
In a separate development, Terrestrial Jerusalem, another watchdog, said the government had issued new tenders for 84 units in settlements in the southern West Bank city of Hebron and another 114 units in Efrata settlement near Bethlehem.
"They are all residential units," the NGO's director Danny Seidemann told AFP.
Media said the Hebron homes would be in the Givat Harsina neighbourhood of the hardline Kiryat Arba settlement adjoining the city.
Later on Wednesday, officials were expected to rubber stamp a controversial plan to build a new National Defence College for the Israeli military on the Mount of Olives in annexed east Jerusalem.
"Bringing the military academy to this sensitive spot is provocative," Peace Now has said.
Israel does not view construction in east Jerusalem, which it captured in 1967 and later annexed, as illegal, although the Palestinians want it as the capital of their future state.
It differentiates between "legal" settlements and "illegal" outposts set up without government permission, but the international community views all settlement activity on occupied territory as a violation of international law.
The Palestinians refuse to hold peace talks while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.
Overall, the Netanyahu administration has been responsible for "a record number of tenders," Peace Now said, paving the way "for an explosion of construction in settlements in the coming years."
Since it took office in March 2009, construction started on 6,867 units in the West Bank, and tenders have been published for 5,302 units in both the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
"Many of these tenders are focusing on settlements... whose expansion directly undermines the possibility of achieving a two-state solution," the report said.
Israeli media on Wednesday were abuzz with a Bloomberg opinion piece purporting to give US President Barack Obama's view of Benjamin Netanyahu's "self-defeating" policies.
In the article, columnist Jeffery Goldberg said Obama appeared to see Netanyahu as a "political coward" over the peace process with the Palestinians who was completely "captive to the settler lobby," and whose settlement activity was moving Israel "down a path toward near total isolation."
The Netanyahu government advanced and approved 8,730 units in West Bank settlements over the past four years, Peace Now said, noting that the figures could be higher because the defence ministry does not make public its approvals for planning.
In east Jerusalem, over 10,000 settlement units have been approved during Netanyahu's term.
Central Bureau of Statistics figures show that at least 3.4 billion shekels ($1 billion/753 million euros) has been spent in "surplus funding to settlements, funding that would not have been spent if the settlers were living inside Israel proper," the report said.