UN Chief Ban doubles down on Israel comments

UN chief Ban doubles down on Israel comments in NY Times, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his comments encourages terrorism

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

In this Jan. 30, 2016, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 26 ordinary of the African Union Summit in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Israeli criticism of attacks on its settlement policy unsustainable in an opinion piece published on Sunday by The New York Times, doubling down on comments earlier in the week that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said encouraged terrorism.

In the piece entitled, "Don't Shoot the Messenger, Israel," Ban reiterates many of his earlier comments to Security Council on Tuesday, calling Israeli settlement activity "an affront to the Palestinian people," adding that "it is human nature to resist occupation." He also called for a freeze on settlement activity, which most of the international community views Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal or illegitimate.

"Criticism of the United Nations — or attacks against me — comes with the territory. But when heartfelt concerns about shortsighted or morally damaging policies emanate from so many sources, including Israel's closest friends, it cannot be sustainable to keep lashing out at every well-intentioned critic," Ban wrote.

Ban wrote that he would always stand up for Israel's right to exist, but added: "the time has come for Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to read the writing on the wall: The status quo is untenable. Keeping another people under indefinite occupation undermines the security and the future of both Israelis and Palestinians."

Ban's criticism was sparked by Israel's recent approval of 150 new homes in settlements on the West Bank.

In the opinion piece, Ban also pointed out that last month Israel declared 370 acres in the West Bank, "state land," which he said "typically leads to exclusive settler use."

The continued construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - both of which came under Israeli occupation following the Six-Day war in 1967 - often raises tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, and last year resulted in the breaking-off of peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

Since an ongoing wave of violence in the Israeli occupied territories began in October more than 165 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces after alleged attacks or during protests and 30 Israelis and foreigners have been killed over the same period.

Israel walked out of talks after the Palestinian Authority announced the formation of a joint government with Palestinian resistance group Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

The collapse of talks led to a brief war between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014, which killed over 2,200 Palestinians - mostly civilians. Seventy-two Israelis, mostly soldiers, were also killed.

According to Israeli government and think-tank statistics, nearly 550,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Almost 350,000 Palestinians reside in East Jerusalem and 2.7 million in West Bank.

TRTWorld, AP