UK ‘s UN Permanent Representative appalled at settlement building in West Bank
'Settlements are illegal under international law'
Ambassador Barbara Woodward, the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations, at the United Nations Security Council Meeting on the Middle East, yesterday 27th July, delivered a stinging rebuke to the government of Israel regarding rising settler violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the ‘unprecedented’ illegal settlement building in the region. She said:
‘We are appalled by the unprecedented scale of settlement advancement in Area C of the West Bank, which we urge Israel to reverse. Settlements are illegal under international law, raise tensions, and undermine the prospects for a two-state solution.’
In language that was a departure from the traditionally reserved diplomatic entreaties, she went on to harshly criticise the forced evictions of Palestinian communities in protected areas and the deliberate unsettling and removal of whole Bedouin communities by Israeli authorities, to make way for settlers. She said:
‘We also urge Israel to uphold its responsibility to protect Palestinian communities in Area C, particularly from rising settler violence that has recently led to violence in Turmusaya and the relocation of the Palestinian Bedouin community of Al-Baqa…We are concerned by the forced eviction of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family from their home in the Old City of Jerusalem. We urge Israel to desist from further settlement expansion, demolitions and evictions.’
Israel must 'uphold its responsibility to protect Palestinian communities'
In the strongest terms she issued a call urging Israel to cease its illegal actions and to ‘uphold its responsibility to protect Palestinian communities’.
Dame Woodward then moved on during her speech to strongly condemn the visit that same day, 27th July, by Israel’s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Givr to the Al Aqsa Compound in flagrant violation of the status quo protocols. She was forthright in asserting the disapproval of the UK government in an act, which she declared was a breach of recognition of the historical status quo. She said:
‘…the UK is concerned by the provocative visit and inflammatory language used by Israeli ministers at the Haram al-Sharif, the Temple Mount, today. We reaffirm our support for the historic status quo and Jordan’s role as custodians. The UK calls for all actors to respect the sanctity of the holy sites and avoid actions which undermine the cause of peace’
The Storming of Al Aqsa
The National Security Minister, Ben-Givr, toured the compound on Thursday accompanied by other senior Knesset members including Likud MK Amit Halevi and Negev and Galilee Development Minister, Yitzhak Wasserlauf.
They were amongst dozens of far-right Israeli ultranationalists, all of whom were afforded heavy protection by the security police. Addressing the media, Ben-Givr declared:
‘This is the most important place for the people of Israel…we need to return and show our governance’
The act, which has been described by the Arab community as ‘the Storming of Al Aqsa’ is the first of such incursions since the new Israeli government was formed and represents a clear continuation of the Security Minister's pledge to alter the status quo agreements.
The staus quo has for many decades been in place under international accepted protocols and agreements.The former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was among many who condemned the ‘Storming of Al Aqsa’, saying:
‘The occupation is trying to forcibly impose a new reality on Al Aqsa and Ben Givr’s statements are proof of this, but we will not give up our legitimate rights’
He added that the Palestinian community and the entire Muslim world will not stand idle and watch the ‘dividing up of the holy site physically and historically’
The visit of the ultranationalists to Al Aqsa was preceded the night before by a grand march of hundreds of far-right Israeli supporters through the Old City of Jerusalem, an occurrence which is repeated on an almost monthly basis and which is designed to intimidate and heckle local Muslim shoppers and shopkeepers – many of whom are forced to shut up shop.
Regional and International Community condemns incursion by National Security Minister and settlers
The U.S. Embassy in Israel issued a statement condemning Ben Givr’s visit, saying:
‘[We] stand firmly for the preservation of the historic status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem…Any unilateral action or rhetoric that jeopardizes the status quo is unacceptable’
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned the visit by Itamar Ben-Gvir, the other MK’s and the settlers and said:
‘the Israeli government provides official backing for continued raids and aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and attempts to change the status quo… [it] bears direct and full responsibility for this provocative event’
Saudi Arabia issued a statement in condemnation of the:
‘the Israeli Minister of National Security and a group of settlers storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard’
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also issued a statement of condemnation and called on the Israeli authorities:
'…not to allow such provocations that violate al-Aqsa's holiness as well as its historical status based on international law’