Israel and Palestinians clash at UN meeting as tensions rise


Israel’s U.N. ambassador accused the Palestinians on Wednesday of stabbing a knife into any chance for reconciliation by seeking an advisory opinion from the U.N.’s highest court on Israel’s decades-old occupation — and the Palestinian U.N. envoy accused Israel’s new government of seeking to crush its people.

The always contentious monthly U.N. Security Council meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was even more vitriolic and threatening this week, and U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland warned that “a dangerous cycle of violence persists on the ground, amidst increased political tension and a stalled peace process.”

“Israelis and Palestinians remain on a collision course amid escalating political and inflammatory rhetoric as well as heightened violence in the West Bank — both with potentially grave consequences,” he said. “Absent a concerted and collective effort by all, with strong support from the international community, spoilers and extremists will continue to pour more fuel on the fire and we will move still further from a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

Underlying the ongoing violence is the Palestinians’ decades-long quest for an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.

In the latest confrontation, the Palestinians and their supporters won U.N. General Assembly approval on Dec. 30 of a resolution asking the International Court of Justice or ICJ to intervene in one of the world’s longest-running and thorniest disputes and render an advisory opinion on the legality of Israeli policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

While the court’s rulings are not binding, they do influence international opinion.

Israel’s new hardline government responded on Jan. 6 by approving steps to penalize the Palestinians in retaliation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they were aimed at what he called “an extreme anti-Israel” step at the United Nations.

The Palestinians responded by getting more than 90 countries to sign a statement expressing “deep concern” at penalizing the Palestinians for going to the court, and urging Israel to reverse the punitive measures. Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen rejected the statement.

At Wednesday’s Security Council meeting, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan accused the Palestinians of drafting “a poisonous and destructive resolution” referring Israel to the ICJ “with the sole purpose of destroying Israel as the Jewish state.”

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told the council the new Netanyahu-led government has said openly its program is to increase settlements, “annexation, systemic discrimination and oppression.”

“It does not recognize our rights anywhere, and proclaims a right for its settlers everywhere,” Mansour said.

Mansour said “peace is still possible,” but only if the Security Council and the international community “stand up to the supremacists” and take action to end Israel’s occupation, ensure accountability for its annexation of Jerusalem, recognize the state of Palestine, and reject Israeli settlers in occupied territory.

“We face the absurd situation where impunity is enjoyed by those who violate the law and collective punishment is endured by those entitled to its protection,” Mansour told the council.__Daily Hurriyet