UN sees danger in Israeli settlements, Palestinian split

Houses are seen in the settlement of Ofra in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, established in the vicinity of the Palestinian village of Baytin (background) (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - A UN envoy warned Wednesday that the situation in the Middle East was changing "dangerously" as Israel builds new Jewish settlements and Palestinians remain divided.

Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that Israel's planned new settlements in east Jerusalem were part of "increasingly worrying" developments and urged Israel to halt the construction.

"The situation on the ground is changing steadily, dangerously, as proponents of Israeli settlement expansion feel emboldened, internal divisions among Palestinians flare up, and the prospect of a future Palestinian state comes under threat like never before," Mladenov said.

He spoke after Israel revived plans to build 500 new homes for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians hope to make the capital of their future independent state.

The announcement was seen by some as sign that Israel planned to forge ahead with settlements in the wake of the US presidential election victory of Donald Trump, who is expected to be less critical of Israel than Barack Obama.

The United Nations maintains that settlements are illegal and has repeatedly called on Israel to halt them, but UN officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months.

Mladenov told the council that "inaction has a cost -- a cost measured in human lies and suffering" and took a veiled swipe at Israel by arguing that those who oppose a Palestinian state "offer no viable alternative."

"The alternative is an open-ended occupation, a perpetual conflict which breeds anger among the people of Palestine and Israel, and feeds radicals across the Middle East torn by ethnic and religious strife," he said.

Arab governments are discussing a proposed draft Security Council resolution demanding a halt to Israeli settlements, even though a similar measure was vetoed by the United States in 2011.

Security Council diplomats said such a measure could be adopted by the council next month if the United States, in the final weeks of Obama's administration, decides to refrain from using its veto.

Mladenov again called on the Palestinians to unite under a single administration that would end the split between the militant Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah in the West Bank.

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