The UK has told the United Nations Security Council that London still deems Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be “illegal” under international law, in a sharp rebuke to the administration of US President Donald Trump.
It follows an announcement this week from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the White House no longer considers settlements illegal, in a radical policy shift.
The comments came during a UN Security Council (UNSC) session on Wednesday, assessing “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question,” and after Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon had addressed those present.
Diplomats also heard from Tania Hary from Israeli non-profit organisation Gisha, which works to ensure Palestinian rights, who was asked about Gaza and Israel’s policy of restricting access to goods and services into and out of the territory.
“Rather than allowing the minimum access necessary to prevent further crisis, the international community should insist that Israel allow the maximum access possible, subject only to necessary and reasonable security procedures,” she said.
Karen Pierce, the UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, said: “The UK position on settlements hasn’t changed. They are illegal under international law, they present an obstacle to peace, and they threaten the physical viability of a two-state solution. This was reflected in our support for UNSC Resolution 2334.”
Referring to the recent violence, she added: “I want to stress the complete unacceptability of indiscriminate violence against civilians by [Gaza-based] Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
However Pierce paid tribute to Hary’s evidence of how movement and access restrictions had constrained Palestinian trade and impacted on the Palestinian economy, saying: “We look to Israel to apply the same conditions on Palestinian traders as they do on Israeli traders.”