A panel commissioned by the Israeli government recommended Monday that the state legalize dozens of unsanctioned West Bank [JURIST news archive] settlements. The government has not yet endorsed the recommendations [AP report], which include facilitating settlement construction by annulling orders of the Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] and other legal rulings. The Palestinians, 2.5 million of whom live in the West Bank, claim the West Bank for a future state and have refused to continue peace negotiations with Israel until settlement construction is frozen. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and claims that it has a legal right to settle the territory because it is not legally occupied. In contrast the Palestinians and most of the international community argue that the West Bank was controlled by Jordan at the time of its capture, making it occupied territory that does not belong to Israel. A 2004 World Court ruling held all Israeli West Bank settlements illegal, and a 1967 UN Security Council resolution called for Israel to withdraw its forces following the Mideast conflict. The Israeli government has been accused of providing infrastructure and military protection to West Bank settlers in contravention of its own state law. There are currently over 200 settlements and outposts in the West Bank, home to more than 500,000 Israeli settlers.
Last week the Israeli Supreme Court postponed the demolition of illegal West Bank settlements [JURIST report], with 30 apartments having had been scheduled for demolition on July 1. West Bank settlements have caused tension between Israel and Palestinian authorities, as well as criticism by international groups, despite the Israeli parliament's vote [JURIST report] against legalizing the unauthorized settlement last month. Also last month the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Richard Falk demanded [JURIST report] Israel cease its demolition [press release] of Palestinian buildings in the West Bank settlements after finding that the demolition of Palestinian structures such as houses, animal shelters, water cisterns and roads have risen by 87 percent from last year. Israel responded to international investigations into these settlements by announcing [JURIST report] in March that it will sever ties to the UN Human Rights Council. The announcement came after the UN body initiated its investigation to determine the effect that Israeli settlements have had on the civil, political, economic and cultural rights of the Palestinian people. Even in March 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called [JURIST report] in a press conference Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank "illegal."