The statement followed what the United Nations’ Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland called « an alarming spike in violence » in the West Bank that has claimed numerous Palestinian and Israeli lives. He warned the council that « unless decisive steps are taken now to curb the violence, there is a significant risk that events could deteriorate further. »
Wennesland said he was particularly alarmed by « extreme levels of settler violence, including large numbers of settlers, many armed, who systematically attack Palestinian villages, terrorizing communities, » sometimes with the backing of Israeli forces.
Council members called for restraint and « encouraged further steps to restore lasting calm and ease tensions ».
This year has been one of the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank in years, and last week saw a major escalation in settler violence. At least 137 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank in 2023. As of Saturday, 24 people on the Israeli side have been killed in Palestinian attacks.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, backed the council’s statement, and Deputy US Ambassador Robert Wood told the council that the Biden administration shared Wennesland’s alarm.
He said the United States was « horrified by the brutal terrorist attack against Israelis » near the West Bank town of Eli on June 21, which killed four people and injured many more, and condemned it « in the strongest terms « . He also condemned « recent attacks by extremist settlers on Palestinian civilians, which have resulted in deaths, injuries and significant damage to their property. »
At a time of escalating violence, there has been widespread criticism from the Council of Israel’s far-right government’s plans to build more than 5,000 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and speed up settlement approvals.
Wennesland warned that Israel’s « relentless expansion » of settlements is fueling the violence « and cutting off Palestinian access to their land and resources, reshaping the geography of the occupied West Bank and threatening the viability of a future Palestinian state ».
Wood called on Israel to refrain from building settlements, evicting Palestinians and demolishing their homes, and called on both sides to refrain from terrorism and incitement to violence, « which only serve to further inflame the situation. »
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia also expressed serious concern about the escalation of violence, pointing to a June 19 Israeli raid on Jenin refugee camp that killed seven Palestinians, clashes between Israeli and Palestinian settlers and the intensification of Israeli activity to expand and legalize settlements.
Nebenzia has warned that the situation will remain « explosive » until negotiations on a two-state solution that sees Israel and the Palestinians live side by side in peace resume. And you reiterated Russia’s call for a meeting with the Arab League and neighboring countries to give impetus to the long-stalled talks.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, accused the Israeli government of « creating a settler state in place of the Palestinian state ». He said the settlers know their actions are condemned around the world, but they have the military, financial and political backing of the Israeli government, while the Palestinians have no real backing to curb them despite having the « high moral standard » and international law on their side.
Palestinians are more convinced every day that « there is no help coming, » Mansour said, urging the council: « Show them that help is coming. »
Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan accused the council of underreporting the 3,500 attacks he said Palestinians have committed against Israelis since the beginning of the year.
He condemned the violence against Palestinian civilians and said Israel was « working tirelessly » to find and hold those responsible accountable. You duly noted that the Palestinians have not condemned the murders of innocent Israelis.
Erdan accused the Palestinians of seeking « the destruction of the very notion of a Jewish state ». He said that if Israel withdraws from the West Bank, the militant group Hamas would take over as it did in Gaza.