Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Linda Thomas-GreenfieldReuters

The UN Security Council on Monday published a statement expressing its "dismay" over Jewish settlement activity in Judea and Samaria during a briefing on the situation in the Middle East.

The statement, which received the support of all 15 members of the Security Council, including the US, reads: “The Security Council reiterates that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution.”

The statement is non-binding, unlike a resolution which was proposed last week, which would have demanded that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory." That resolution was shelved at the behest of the Biden Administration.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in explaining the Biden Administration's support for the non-binding statement in an address which condemned both the recent terrorist attacks in Jerusalem in which 11 Israelis have been murdered and Jewish "settlement" activity, appearing to draw a moral equivalence between the murder of civilians and the building of homes by Jewish people in the disputed region of Judea and Samaria.

"Colleagues, we are deeply troubled by the spiraling violence across Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. We strongly condemn the recent terrorist attacks in Israel, including the horrific attack outside of a synagogue in East Jerusalem on January 27 and the attack on civilians, including children, at a bus stop in Jerusalem on February 10," Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield began.

"The deliberate targeting of innocent civilians is unconscionable. And the United States supports Israel’s right to self-defense," she said. "Terrorist attacks on religious sites, attacks by settlers, attacks on security services, rockets launched against civilian areas, and other forms of violence create a cycle of increasingly dangerous escalations. This concern is raised by the upcoming period of religious holidays in Jerusalem."

She called on "all parties to take steps to restore and maintain calm. And we underscore all visitors and worshippers should respect and maintain the historic status quo of the holy sites – in word and in practice."

"It is essential Israelis and Palestinians immediately break the cycle of violence and de-escalate, and refrain from any unilateral or divisive actions that will bring us even further from peace and stability," she said, not mentioning the incitement to violence and murder which precipitated the recent spate of terrorist attacks or the Palestinian Authority's role in said incitement.

Turning to the issue of Jewish "settlements", she said: "Now, let me add a clear, unequivocal statement: We strongly oppose Israel’s announcement that it will advance thousands of settlement units. And we strongly oppose Israel’s announcement that it begin a process to retroactively legalize nine outposts in the West Bank that were previously illegal under Israeli law."

"These unilateral measures exacerbate tensions. They harm trust between the parties. They undermine the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution. The United States does not support these actions. Full stop," she said. "The clear and longstanding position of the United States is settlement activity is unhelpful and puts us further away from a negotiated, two-state solution. These actions are simply detrimental to Israel’s long-term security and to our vision of a sustainable end to the conflict."

 "So we call on all parties to work toward the conditions necessary for direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, which is the only path to a sustainable end to the conflict and a two-state solution. 

Turning to the statement published by the Security Council today, she said: "That’s why we strongly support the Presidential Statement, put forward by the United Arab Emirates, which demonstrates the Security Council’s unanimous, collective voice on these issues. The PRST is real diplomacy at work, and we believe it signifies to all parties how seriously this Council takes these threats to peace."

The ambassador did not mention the fact that the Israeli government has agreed not to legalize any additional outposts in Judea and Samaria in the coming months as part of an agreement with the Biden Administration not to engage in any further unilateral actions. Nor did she specify that the nine that were authorized, such as Beit Hogla, have been awaiting legalization for years and that the upcoming "religious holidays" refers to Islam's month of Ramadan which begins March 22 and is a period rife with incitement and inflammatory speeches that take place in mosques.

The Prime Minister's Office had announced Monday afternoon that the government will not move forward with any plans to legalize any additional unregulated Israeli outpost communities in Judea and Samaria for the next few months, without specifying a specific timeframe.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the UN Security Council's statement on settlement activity.

"The UN Security Council issued a one-sided statement that denies the rights of Jews to live in our historic homeland and ignores the Palestinian terror attacks in Jerusalem over the past month in which 10 Israeli civilians were murdered. It turns a blind eye to the fact that the Palestinian Authority subsidizes terrorism and pays the families of terrorists, and dwarfs the antisemitism that led to the murder of millions Jews," Netanyahu said.

He added: "The statement should not have been made and the United States should not have joined it."