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US backs UN Security Council statement denouncing Israeli settlements in rare move

Statement is the first time the US has allowed the security council to take action against Israel in six years
Members of the UN Security Council meet on 20 February 2023 (AFP)

The UN Security Council issued a formal statement on Monday condemning Israel’s plan to expand settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, after the United States made a rare decision to support the motion.

The UN Security Council expressed its "dismay" at plans by Israel's hard-right government to retroactively legalise settlements in occupied Palestinian lands, warning in a statement Monday that such measures "impede peace".

"The Security Council reiterates that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution," the Council said in a statement supported by all 15 members.

The US backed the statement as part of diplomatic talks to convince the Palestinian Authority to halt efforts advocating for a stronger UN Security Council resolution promoted last week.

The earlier draft of the resolution was proposed by the UAE on the behalf of the Palestinians. It called on Israel to "immediately and completely cease" settlement activities in occupied Palestinian areas.

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The statement is the first the United States has allowed the security council to issue against Israel in six years.

'United front' 

Asked if the new declaration was a disappointment, the Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, stressed the fact that it was a unanimous stance by the Security Council. 

"We have a united front," he said. "To isolate one side is a step in the right direction. We are fast approaching a breaking point that no one should care to explore.”

Israel was quick to hit back at the declaration, with the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying it denied the "historic" rights of the Jewish people. 

"The UN Security Council has issued a one-sided statement which denies the rights of Jews to live in our historic homeland," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

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The move came as the US sought to tone down language criticising its close ally. As a permanent member of the Security Council, the US has the right to veto any resolution.

Last week, the White House said the draft being put together by the UAE was "unhelpful", and managed to stop the resolution from being put forth to a vote - which would have triggered a US veto.

The new statement on Monday said the Council "strongly opposes all unilateral measures that impede peace, including, Israeli construction and expansion of settlements, confiscation of Palestinians' land, and the 'legalization' of settlement outposts, demolition of Palestinians' homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians”.

Tensions in the region are running high. Israeli forces have killed 42 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem this year so far.

In 2022, at least 220 people died in Israeli attacks across the occupied territories, including 48 children. At least 167 were from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

Meanwhile, 30 Israelis have been killed, including one child, the highest death toll since 2008.

The renewed Israeli violence comes as the military increases operations in the West Bank amid a resurgent Palestinian armed resistance.

CIA director William Burns warned this month that violence in the region was beginning to resemble the Second Intifada.

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