Israel’s prime minister has harshly blasted two Israeli rights groups for braving the regime’s pressure and speaking against its illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands at a UN Security Council meeting.
B’Tselem and Americans for Peace Now, affiliated with the former’s fellow Israeli rights body Peace Now, had on Friday joined an informal UN Security Council session on Tel Aviv’s continued construction of illegal settlements on the occupied territories.
At the meeting, B’Tselem had said that Israel’s occupation of the territories flew right in the face of its claim to be exercising “democracy” and reminded that occupation was affecting even the smallest aspects of Palestinian lives and had to end.
“The UN Security Council must act and the time is now,” B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad had said at the meeting, which later denounced Israel for building “illegal settlements,” paving the way for a Security Council resolution against Tel Aviv.
During the session, Lara Friedman, the director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now, also criticized Israeli settlement activities, calling them “illegal growth.”
She further said that the Tel Aviv regime had illegally granted settlement expansion permits, which would “lead inevitably to permanent occupation” of the expropriated lands.
The speeches angered Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who took to Facebook on Saturday and said the two organizations that joined the “chorus of mudslinging” against Israel and had recycled the calls that Israel “occupation and the settlements are the reason for the conflict” with Palestinians.
He also vowed he would bar Israelis from doing volunteer work at B’Tselem as means of doing their military service.
B’Tselem ‘won’t waver’
However, B’Tselem said it had, overall, three such volunteers and that it was not enlisting any now.
The group said in a statement in response that it would not be intimidated by Netanyahu.
“We will not stoop down to the prime minister’s level. We will not be cowed and neither will the hundreds of thousands in Israel who opposed the occupation,” it said. “We will continue to tell the truth: The occupation must end.”
Prior to the Security Council meeting, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon had reacted harshly to the speeches, saying it was “sad and disappointing that Israeli organizations are providing moral cover for anti-Israel activities at the UN.”
Israel came about in 1948, when it occupied the Palestinian land along with expanses of other Arab territories during full-fledged military operations. The occupied lands also include Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms and Syria’s Golan Heights.
In 1967, Israel occupied and later annexed the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem al-Quds, and the Gaza Strip. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but has been keeping the territory under a crippling siege and regular deadly forays.
Ever since the occupation, the territories have been dotted with 120 settlements. There is international consensus that these settlements have been constructed on occupied territory and are, therefore, illegal.