More than 200 companies have Israeli settlement ties: U.N

A construction site is seen in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, in the occupied West Bank December 22, 2016.

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations human rights office said on Wednesday it had identified 206 companies so far doing business linked to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and it urged them to avoid any complicity in “pervasive” violations against Palestinians.

Israel fears that companies in the U.N. “blacklist” could be targeted for boycotts or divestment aimed at stepping up pressure over its settlements, which most countries and the world body view as illegal.

“Businesses play a central role in furthering the establishment, maintenance and expansion of Israeli settlements,” the U.N. report said.

The settlements alter the demographic composition of the occupied Palestinian territory, seized by Israel in 1967, and threaten the Palestinians’ right to determination, it said.

The majority of the companies, or 143, are domiciled in Israel or the settlements, followed by 22 in the United States, it said. The remainder are based in 19 other countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, France and Britain.

The report, which did not name the companies but said that 64 of them had been contacted to date, said that the work in producing the U.N. database “does not purport to constitute a judicial process of any kind”.

But businesses operating in the occupied area have a responsibility to carry out due diligence and consider “whether it is possible to engage in such an environment in a manner that respects human rights”, it said.

The office’s mandate was to identify businesses involved in the construction of settlements, surveillance, services including transport, and banking and financial operations such as loans for housing that may raise human rights concerns.

Human rights violations associated with the settlements are “pervasive and devastating, reaching every facet of Palestinian life,” the report said. It cited restrictions on freedom of religion, movement and education and lack of access to land, water and jobs.

Israel assailed the Human Rights Council in March 2016 for launching the initiative at the request of countries led by Pakistan, calling the database a “blacklist” and accusing the 47-member state forum of behaving “obsessively” against it.

Israel’s mission in Geneva said on Wednesday that it was preparing a statement responding to the U.N. report. There was no immediate reaction by its main ally, the Untied States.

“We hope that our work in consolidating and communicating the information in the database will assist States and businesses in complying with their obligations and responsibilities under international law,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.

Zeid’s office deferred the report last February saying it needed more time to establish the database. It is to be debated at the U.N. Human Rights Council session of Feb 26 – March 23.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

‘God bless you’, Netanyahu tells Guatemalan president over Jerusalem embassy move

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands as they deliver statements to the media during their meeting in Jerusalem November 29, 2016.

JERUSALEM/GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Guatemala with a “God bless you” on Monday for deciding to move its embassy to Jerusalem, while the Palestinians said the Central American country was “on the wrong side of history”.

In an official Facebook post on Sunday, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said he had chosen to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv – siding with the United States in a dispute over Jerusalem’s status – after talking to Netanyahu. [L1N1OO0F7]

U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Dec. 6, reversing decades of U.S. policy and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.

On Thursday, 128 countries rebuked Trump by backing a non-binding U.N. General Assembly resolution calling on the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem.

“God bless you, my friend, President Jimmy Morales, God bless both our countries, Israel and Guatemala,” Netanyahu said, switching to English, in remarks to a weekly meeting of his Likud party faction in parliament.

Guatemala and neighboring Honduras were two of only a handful of countries to join Israel and the United States, which has pledged to move its embassy to Jerusalem, in voting against the U.N. resolution.

The United States is an important source of assistance to Guatemala and Honduras, and Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that supported the U.N. resolution.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki as saying that Morales was “dragging his country to the wrong side of history by committing a flagrant violation of international law”.

Prior to 1980, Guatemala – along with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, The Netherlands, Panama, Venezuela and Uruguay – maintained an embassy in Jerusalem.

Israel’s passage in June 1980 of a law proclaiming Jerusalem its “indivisible and eternal capital” led to a U.N. Security Council resolution calling upon those countries to move their embassies to Tel Aviv, prompting their transfer.

Israel’s ambassador to Guatemala, Matty Cohen, said on Army Radio that no date had been set for the embassy move, “but it will happen after” the United States relocates its own embassy to Jerusalem. U.S. officials have said that move could take at least two years.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem and Bill Barreto in Guatemala City; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Edmund Blair)

Israel’s Netanyahu calls U.N. ‘house of lies’ before Jerusalem vote

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem December 17, 2017

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the United Nations as a “house of lies” ahead of a vote on Thursday on a draft resolution calling on the United States to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“The State of Israel totally rejects this vote, even before (the resolution’s) approval,” Netanyahu said in a speech at a hospital dedication in the port city of Ashdod.

The 193-member U.N. General Assembly will hold a rare emergency special session on Thursday at the request of Arab and Muslim countries to vote on the draft resolution, which the United States vetoed on Monday in the 15-member U.N. Security Council.

Generating outrage from Palestinians and the Arab and Muslim world, and concern among Washington’s Western allies, President Donald Trump abruptly reversed decades of U.S. policy on Dec. 6 when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians have protested daily in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip since Trump’s announcement, throwing stones at security forces and burning tires. Gaza militants have also launched sporadic rocket fire.

Eight Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire during the demonstrations and dozens wounded, Palestinian health officials said. Two militants were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza after a rocket attack.

Trump threatened on Wednesday to cut off financial aid to countries that vote in favor of the U.N. draft resolution, and his ambassador to the world body, Nikki Haley said the United States “will be taking names”.

Netanyahu, in his speech, thanked Trump and Haley for “their brave and uncompromising stance”. He repeated his prediction that other countries would eventually follow Washington’s lead in pledging to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“The attitude towards Israel of many countries, on all continents, outside the walls of the United Nations, is changing and will ultimately permeate into the U.N. – the house of lies,” he said.

Most countries regard the status of Jerusalem as a matter to be settled in an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, although that process is now stalled.

Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent Palestinian state to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.

Several senior diplomats said Haley’s warning was unlikely to change many votes in the General Assembly, where such direct,public threats are rare. Some diplomats brushed off the warning as more likely aimed at impressing U.S. voters.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Ori Lewis and Angus MacSwan)

Palestinians may seek U.N. Assembly support if U.S. vetoes Jerusalem resolution

A protester carries a Palestinian flag at the end of a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital opposite to the American embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel December 12, 2017.

DUBAI (Reuters) – The Palestinian leadership may turn to the U.N. General Assembly if Washington vetoes a draft U.N. Security Council resolution to reaffirm Jerusalem’s status as unresolved, after President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize it as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinian United Nations envoy raised this option in remarks published in Saudi daily Arab News on Monday, ahead of a Security Council vote on an Egyptian-drafted resolution about Jerusalem’s status which the United States is expected to veto.

The draft says any “decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded”.

Trump’s Dec. 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the U.S. Embassy to the city has provoked widespread anger and protests among Palestinians as well as broad international criticism, including from top U.S. allies.

Israel says Jerusalem is its indivisible capital. It captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move never recognized internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they seek in territory Israel captured a half century ago.

Arab News quoted Ambassador Riyad Mansour as saying that the Palestinians and Egyptians have worked closely with Security Council members while drafting the resolution to ensure that it gets overwhelming support.

“The Europeans in particular asked us to avoid terms like ‘denounce’ and ‘condemn,’ and not to mention the U.S. by name,” it quoted Mansour as saying. “We acceded to their request but kept the active clauses rejecting all changes to Jerusalem and the reaffirmation of previous decisions.”

Israel has long accused the United Nations of bias against it in its conflict with the Palestinians and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump’s move again on Sunday.

The Palestinians have the option of invoking a rarely-used article of the U.N. Charter that calls for parties to a dispute not to cast a veto, Arab News said. But, it said, they are more likely to take the issue to the General Assembly under Resolution 377A, known as the “Uniting for Peace” resolution.

Resolution 377A was passed in 1950 and used to authorize the deployment of U.S. troops to fight in the Korean war.

Mansour said Palestinians resorted to the “Uniting for Peace” resolution in the 1990s after Israel began building a settlement on Jabal Abut Ghnaim, a hilltop on occupied West Bank land south of Jerusalem, but left that session in suspension. However, they could seek a resumption of the session, he said.

“If the resolution is vetoed, the Palestinian delegation can send a letter to the U.N. Secretary General and ask him to resume the emergency session,” he said, according to Arab News.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; editing by Mark Heinrich)

President Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

U.S. President Donald Trump gives a statement on Jerusalem, during which he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as he appears with Vice President Mike Pence in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 6, 2017.

By Steve Holland and Miriam Berger

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – President Donald Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy on Wednesday and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in defiance of warnings from around the world that the gesture risks creating further unrest in the Middle East.

In a speech at the White House, Trump said his administration would begin a process of moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is expected to take years.

The status of Jerusalem — home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions — is one of the thorniest obstacles to reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”

Israel considers the city its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent Palestinian state to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump’s announcement as a “historic landmark” and urged other countries also to move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem.

He said any peace deal with Palestinians must include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This would be a non-starter for Palestinians if it means the entire city would be under Israeli control.

The Palestinians have said Trump’s move would mean the “kiss of death” to the two-state solution, envisaging a Palestinian state in territory – the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – that Israel took in 1967.

Ahead of Trump’s announcement, Washington’s allies in the region warned of dangerous repercussions.

Pope Francis called for Jerusalem’s status quo to be respected, saying new tension would further inflame world conflicts. China and Russia expressed concern the plans could aggravate Middle East hostilities. A Palestinian envoy said the decision was a declaration of war in the Middle East.

Trump said his move is not intended to tip the scale in favor of Israel and that any deal involving the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by the parties.

He said he remained committed to the two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians if they parties want one.

Amid warnings of potential unrest in the Middle East, the president called on the region to take his message calmly and with moderation.

“There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement—but we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation,” Trump said.

His announcement fulfills a core pledge of his election campaign last year

Trump said his move reflected the reality of Jerusalem as the center of Jewish faith and the fact that the city is the seat of the Israeli government.

Trump’s decision is likely to please his core supporters – Republican conservatives and evangelical Christians who comprise an important share of his political base.

He acted under a 1995 law that requires the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem. His predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, had consistently put off that decision to avoid inflaming tensions in the Middle East.

Trump signed a waiver delaying the embassy move from Tel Aviv since the United States does not have an embassy structure in Jerusalem to move into. A senior administration official said it could take three to four years to build one.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Matt Spetalnick and John Walcott in Washington and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Costas Pitas in London, Philip Pullella in Vatican City, Babak Dehghanpisheh in Beirut, Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alistair Bell)

Israeli, Palestinian killed in two violent incidents

Israeli, Palestinian killed in two violent incidents

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli and a Palestinian were killed on Thursday in two separate incidents in Israel and the occupied West Bank, officials said.

An Israeli man was stabbed to death in the southern Israeli city of Arad in what police said was “most probably a terrorist attack”.

“The investigation is continuing and police units are searching for the suspect who fled the scene,” said a police spokesman.

Earlier in the day, an Israeli settler shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank, in what the Israeli army said was a response to an attack by Palestinians throwing rocks, an account that Palestinians denied.

The Israeli military said the shooter had opened fire in self-defense as part of a group of settlers hiking near the village of Qusrah who had come under attack.

Local villagers identified the Palestinian who was killed as Mahmoud Odeh, a 48-year-old farmer. They denied that any clash had taken place before the shooting.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the incident as a “cowardly act and evidence to the world of the ugly crimes conducted by settlers against unarmed Palestinians”, his office said in a statement.

The Israeli military said troops arrived at the scene after the shooting. Israeli police said they were investigating the incident.

A wave of Palestinian street attacks that began two years ago has largely dissipated and it is uncommon for two deadly events to occur in the same day.

(Additional reporting by Mustafa abu-Ghaneyeh and Nidal al-Mughrabi, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

Israel’s Netanyahu expresses hope for US peace push in Middle East

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures towards a world map as he attends a question and answer event on Israel's foreign policy at Chatham House in London, Britain, November 3, 2017.

LONDON (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu said on Friday he hoped a U.S. peace initiative would work and praised President Donald Trump for taking a fresh approach to bringing the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations.

For at least two decades, the goal of U.S.-led diplomacy has been a ‘two-state solution’, meaning an independent Palestinian state living side-by-side and at peace with Israel.

But neither Trump nor his aides have publicly recommitted to a two-state solution, instead saying it is up to the two parties to work out in peace talks.

Asked during a visit to London to commemorate the 1917 British declaration of support for a Jewish homeland if he felt now was the moment for peace in the region, noting Trump’s involvement in peace efforts, he said: “Hope so.”

“What’s being discussed now is an American initiative. Obviously we make our interests and our concerns known to Mr Trump. He’s coming with a sort of refreshing ‘can-do’ thing… they’re trying to think out of the box,” Netanyahu said at London’s Chatham House think-tank.

Netanyahu has previously expressed doubts about the Trump initiative, telling France’s President Emmanuel Macron in July that it would be difficult to move forward quickly because he felt Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may not be able to deliver on commitments he had made.

But he said that more countries in the region were now beginning to engage constructively with Israel.

“The reason I draw hope from the moment is because of the larger shift in Arab-Israeli relations with the countries of the region. I cannot emphasize how dramatic that is,” he said.

The Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the Israeli occupied West Bank, territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Most Israelis want all of Jerusalem as their capital and reject a full return to 1967 borderlines as a threat to their security.

 

(Reporting by William James, writing by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Alistair Smout, Editing by William Maclean)

 

U.S. pressure delays Israel’s ‘Greater Jerusalem’ bill

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks on a road in the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit in the occupied West Bank

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. pressure delayed an Israeli ministerial vote on Sunday on a proposed bill that Washington fears entails annexation of Jewish settlements near Jerusalem, an Israeli lawmaker said.

The “Greater Jerusalem” legislation would put some settlements in the occupied West Bank, built on land Palestinians seek for a future state and viewed as illegal by most countries, under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem’s municipality.

The bill, proposed by a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, was to have been submitted for approval on Sunday to a ministerial committee on legislation, a first step before a series of ratification votes in parliament.

But Likud lawmaker David Bitan, chairman of Netanyahu’s coalition in parliament, said a vote by the cabinet committee would be delayed because Washington told Israel the bill’s passage could impede U.S. efforts to revive peace talks that collapsed in 2014.

“There is American pressure that claims this is about annexation and that this could interfere with the peace process,” Bitan told Army Radio.

“The prime minister doesn’t think this is about annexation. I don’t think so either. We have to take the time to clarify matters to the Americans. Therefore, if the bill passes in a week, or in a month, it’s less problematic,” he said.

Proponents of the legislation say it falls short of formal land annexation to Israel but will enable some 150,000 settlers to vote in Jerusalem city elections. Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, a supporter of the bill, has said this would “ensure a Jewish majority in a united Jerusalem”.

Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern sector it captured along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a 1967 Middle East war, has not won international recognition. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they seek to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli media reports said the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, had conveyed misgivings about the legislation, under which the large Maale Adumim and Beitar Illit settlements would become part of a Greater Jerusalem municipality.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper quoted Netanyahu as telling cabinet ministers on Sunday: “The Americans turned to us and inquired what the bill was all about. As we have been coordinating with them until now, it is worth continuing to talk and coordinate with them.”

A U.S. embassy spokeswoman declined immediate comment.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians. Israel disputes that its settlements are illegal, citing historical, Biblical and political links to the territory, as well as security considerations.

 

 

(Editing by Catherine Evans)

 

Israel approves building plans for 31 settler homes in West Bank’s Hebron

Israeli soldiers stand at a military camp in the West Bank city of Hebron October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Monday approved building plans for 31 settler homes in Hebron in the West Bank, a spokeswoman said, a first such move in the Israeli-occupied area for some 15 years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has felt increased pressure for settlement expansion from the rightist flank of his coalition, though construction is not imminent as a bureaucratic process must still run its course.

His government has made numerous announcements of settlement building recently, angering Palestinians seeking a state on land Israel captured in a 1967 war but no longer eliciting serious U.S. criticism with President Donald Trump in the White House.

Still, settlement advocates say that despite a string of announcements for construction of thousands of settler homes in the West Bank, only a fraction might be built eventually.

Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank with a population of some 216,000. About 1,000 Israeli settlers live in the heart of the city, which for decades has been a focus of religious friction between Muslims and Jews.

Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now detailed the project’s plans in an area of Hebron where the settlers live and its web site showed a graphic of what the prospective four-storey, stone-clad apartment block would look like.

It said that the last time settler homes were built in this area was in 2002.

Hadar Horen, a spokeswoman for the Israeli body that runs civilian affairs in the West Bank, could not confirm the details issued by Peace Now and said the planning committee decision would be published later.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Palestinian gunman kills three Israeli guards at West Bank settlement

Israeli emergency and security personnel work at the scene where a police spokeswoman said a Palestinian gunman killed three Israelis guards and wounded a fourth in an attack on a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank before himself being shot dead, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

HAR ADAR, West Bank (Reuters) – A Palestinian man with security clearance to work at a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank opened fire at a checkpoint on Tuesday, killing two Israeli security guards and a paramilitary policeman.

The assailant, who was armed with a pistol and also seriously wounded a fourth Israeli, was shot dead, police said.

The incident was unusual in that the 37-year-old man had been issued an Israeli work permit – a process that entails security vetting – unlike most of the Palestinians involved in a wave of street attacks that began two years ago.

A police spokeswoman said the gunman approached Har Adar among a group of Palestinians who work at the settlement, and aroused the suspicion of guards at the entrance checkpoint.

Challenged to halt, the Palestinian “opened his shirt, drew a pistol and fired at the security staff and troopers at close range,” the spokeswoman said.

Residents of the settlement told Israeli media the man worked as a cleaner. One of them, Moish Berdichev, said he had domestic problems – his wife had left him – and speculated he may have carried out the attack knowing he would not survive.

“He was a guy with a good head on his shoulders. It’s a shame. Very sad,” Berdichev told Army Radio.

The Shin Bet internal security service identified the man as Nimr Jamal and said he had “severe personal and family issues, including domestic violence”.

The man lived in the nearby Palestinian village of Beit Suriq, the police said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in public remarks to his cabinet that the man’s house would be demolished and any work permits issued to his relatives would be revoked.

(Writing by Dan Williams and Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)