Israel's plan to build more settlements is an attempt to usurp the Palestinian land further and create new 'demographic facts' to solidify its illegal presence on Palestinian land.

The United States has given a harsh public rebuke to Israeli settlement plans in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

US State Department recently expressed 'deep concern' over Tel Aviv's plans to build 3,100 new units in the West Bank and its bids for over 1,300 additional units.

In early October, senior US officials 'discreetly' told Naftali Bennet that their concerns mainly relate to upcoming constructions marked in areas that they consider a deeper part of what has been left of Palestine. 

Compared to previous US administrations, it appears to be one of the harshest statements against Israel's longstanding settler policy. 

Twelve EU nations, including Germany, have also called on Israel in a joint statement to reverse its plans to construct more than 3,000 new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In a joint statement by the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden, the countries said they opposed settlement expansion across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Still, words alone mean nothing for many Palestinians as long as Israel continues with its expansion of settlements. 

Fragmenting Palestinian land

"The Israeli government was not serious about peace and the two-state solution from the beginning. They wanted to buy time to be able to annex the West Bank. It continued building settlements even during the golden time of peace agreement," Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro told TRT World.

Amro said, "The purpose of Israeli settlement expansion is to fragment Palestinian land so there wouldn’t be the connection of Palestinian geography."

"International condemnation is neither serious nor making any pressure on Israel to stop its criminal policy.’ Amro explained, ‘The remaining option for Palestinians is to resist the Israeli occupation and the international community should make the Israeli government accountable according to international law standard which clearly indicates that settlements are war crimes.”

“Israel would stop human rights violations against the Palestinians, only by making the Israeli occupation costly for Israeli officials, through international law and ICC.’

War crime

According to Fourth Geneva Convention, forcible transfer of the protected population is prohibited, and the occupying power is forbidden from applying its laws to the occupied territory.

Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, Michael Lynk, said in a report that Israeli settlements amount to a war crime. 

Lynk's research suggests that the settlements violated the absolute prohibition against “settler implantation” of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 

In his report, Lynk said the "creation of demographic facts" on the ground to "solidify a permanent presence, a consolidation of alien political control, and an illegitimate claim of sovereignty trampled upon the fundamental precepts of modern international humanitarian and human rights law". 

He called upon the international community to develop a menu of accountability measures for Israel, should it continue to defy international law, including reviewing trade, investment and cultural agreements and ending arms sales with Tel Aviv.

READ MORE: UN investigator: Israeli settlements in West Bank amount to 'war crime'

Widespread outrage

The so-called "gardening works" carried out by Israeli settlers near Palestinian graves in Al Yusufiya Cemetery outside the Old City of Jerusalem has sparked an outcry among Palestinians. 

The incident comes weeks after clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces broke out after workers at the graveyard reportedly uncovered human bones. 

A video of a Palestinian woman named Alaa Nababta that showed her holding onto her son's grave in the area as Israeli forces attempted to desecrate it went viral on social media.

Israeli researcher Aviv Tatarsky said in The Jerusalem Post that projects which seemed to be apolitical were actually political attempts to form a "ring of settlements" around the Old City of Jerusalem.

Tatarsky explained that the park in question is part of a series of government-funded projects aimed at linking settler compounds with the Old City Basin. 

He said that similar projects are taking place "on the Mount of Olives, Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah,” adding, "The incidents at Al Yussefiya Cemetery are an extreme example of the Israeli government's lack of respect towards Palestinian property rights, heritage and holy places.”

Violations in Hebron too

Israeli human rights group, Peace Now, denounced the ongoing construction of 31 settlement units for Jewish settlers in the heart of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. 

"The [Israeli] government is acting like an annexation government, not as a change government," the group said in a statement.

Peace Now added: "Since the 1980s, no government has dared to build a new settlement in the heart of the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank."

"The settlement in Hebron is the ugly face of Israeli control of the territories. The moral and political price of having a settlement in Hebron is unbearable."

Destroying the two-state solution 

Last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of destroying the two-state solution with actions he said could lead Palestinians to demand equal rights within one binational state comprising Israel, the occupied West Bank, and besieged Gaza.

Abbas UN General Assembly that Israel is "destroying the prospect of political settlement based on the two-state solution through its illegal settlements in occupied West Bank."

READ MORE: Palestine's Abbas: Israeli 'apartheid' could lead to 'one state'

Source: TRT World