The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) will appeal to the United Nations Security Council over Israel’s release of thousands of tenders for new homes in Jewish settlements, a move that comes in retaliation to the establishment of a Palestinian unity government earlier this week.
“The executive committee of the PLO views this latest escalation with the utmost seriousness,” Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said in a press release on Thursday.
Ashrawi stated that the PLO plans to counter Israel’s unilateral moves “by addressing both the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly as the proper way of curbing this grave violation and ensuring accountability.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided today to unfreeze 1,800 settlement housing units in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, less than 24 hours after Israel’s Housing Ministry released an additional 1,500 tenders for new homes in the same areas. According to Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel, the move is “a proper Zionist response to the establishment of the Palestinian terror cabinet.”
“The right and duty of the state of Israel to build across the country to lower the housing prices is unquestionable, and I believe these tenders are just the beginning,” Ariel, a member of the far-right Jewish Home party, told Haaretz Thursday morning.
Israel’s effort to further expand its settlement network throughout the occupied Palestinian territory comes after pleas to the international community to refrain from recognizing the newly formed Palestinian unity government went unheard. The unity government was sworn in on Monday as a part of a reconciliation agreement between the two major political factions, Fatah and Hamas.
“Hamas is a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction, and the international community must not embrace it,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel’s parliament on Sunday, labeling the Palestinian government a “terror” cabinet.
“All those who genuinely seek peace must reject President Abbas’s embrace of Hamas,” Netanyahu argued. “Most especially, I think the United States must make it absolutely clear to the Palestinian President that his pact with Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s liquidation, is simply unacceptable.”
Despite Netanyahu’s emphatic warnings, the European Union, the UN, and the US have all agreed to work with the recently inaugurated technocratic government — a coalition of mostly unaffiliated ministers who will manage governmental affairs until national elections set to take place within the next five months.
On Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf defended the position taken by the US to back the unity government, stressing that none of the ministers named on Monday are part of Hamas or any other Palestinian militant group.
“They are all technocrats, unaffiliated with any political party, and are responsible for facilitating new elections,” said Harf. She went on to say that the US will be assessing the governing body on its actions, including compliance with pledges to renounce violence and its recognition of Israel.
In a press release on Thursday, PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat sharply criticized Israel’s actions, arguing that “Israel is using Palestinian national unity, a step welcomed by the international community, as their excuse to continue the colonization of Palestine.”
“We believe this latest announcement is a clear sign that Israel is moving towards a major escalation, such as new settlement construction, the annexation of occupied territory, and forcible transfer,” Erekat said.
The Palestinian Authority has sharply criticized Israel’s latest measures. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s adviser, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, warned that its response will be “unprecedented.”
Mustafa Barghouti, chairman of the Palestinian National Initiative and member of the Palestinian parliament, told VICE News that Israel’s actions over the last 24 hours “make it clear that it is set on unilaterally annexing Palestinian territory and consolidating its apartheid system. Their decision is a symbolic one too, seeing as it comes on the 47th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip — the longest occupation in human history.”
In an interview with Palestinian radio on Thursday, Erekat said that the time has come for Israel to take responsibility for its violations of international law, perhaps hinting that the Palestinian leadership might make good on its promise to move forward and apply to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
Legal action against Israel by way of the ICC has been available to the Palestinians since 2012, after they won observer status at the UN.
The Palestinian leadership had agreed to hold off on any international legal recourse for the duration of the US-sponsored peace negotiations with Israel, which fell apart in April.
“In my opinion, we should respond by immediately applying to all UN agencies and to the International Criminal Court as well,” Barghouti said. “It is obvious that Israel will not stop unless it is brought to a court of international law.”
Follow Dylan Collins on Twitter: @collinsdyl
Image via AP/Oded Balilty