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The United Nation's Human Rights Council issued a report calling on Israel to cease settlement of the occupied Palestinian territories and withdraw all of the half of a million Jewish settlers from the illegal settlements. The council also found that the illegal Israel settlement of occupied Palestinian territory is a violation of the Forth Geneva Convention which could be subject to prosecution as a war crime in the International Criminal Court. In  
U.N. rights inquiry says Israel must remove settlers, The Chicago Tribune reports:

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. human rights investigators called on Israel on Thursday to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all half a million Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices could be subject to prosecution as possible war crimes.

A three-member U.N. panel said private companies should stop working in the settlements if their work adversely affected the human rights of Palestinians, and urged member states to ensure companies respected human rights.

"Israel must cease settlement activities and provide adequate, prompt and effective remedy to the victims of violations of human rights," Christine Chanet, a French judge who led the U.N. inquiry, told a news conference.

Israel had refused to cooperate with the investigation by the Human Rights Council, and the Israeli foreign ministry called the report "counterproductive and unfortunate."

John Helprin, of Huffington Post provides additional information in UN Panel: Israeli Settlements Are Illegal:

GENEVA -- The United Nations' first report on the broad policy of Israeli settlements concluded Thursday that the government's practice of "creeping annexation" clearly violates the human rights of Palestinians, and called for an immediate halt.

In its report to the 47-nation Human Rights Council, a panel of investigators said Israel is violating international humanitarian law under the Fourth Geneva Convention, one of the treaties that establish the ground rules for what is considered humane during wartime.

The Israeli government has persisted in settling Palestinian-occupied territories, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank, "despite all the pertinent United Nations resolutions declaring that the existence of the settlements is illegal and calling for their cessation," the report said.

The settlements are "a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination," it concludes.

Although the U.N. has ruled that Israel's settlement of the occupied Palestinian territories is illegal many times over the last decades, this is the first time since Palestine has been accepted to the U.N. as an official observer nation, meaning that it can now pursue this claim in the International Criminal Court, although it is not clear yet if the Palestinian leadership will do so, as it is under tremendous pressure and threats of losing funding from the U.S. if it should do so.

It seems more likely that the intention and possible consequence, if any, of this finding, may be to create a greater sense of urgency about getting both the Palestinians and Israelis to pursue a negotiated settlement to a two-state solution before time runs out. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu has shown no sensitivity to such pressure in the past, and increasing numbers of observers have given up hope that the parties can successfully negotiate a two-state solution to the conflict, as the status-quo seems to be drifting towards a de-facto annexation.  

I'm hoping that with the election now behind us, President Obama might have greater latitude to reengage this issue at a higher level.  

Originally posted to HoundDog on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 08:28 AM PST.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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