Top UN and EU officials denounced the renewed plans for Israeli settlements [Reuters report] announced Wednesday by the Israeli Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of the Interior [official website, in Hebrew]. The plans include building more than 1,500 homes in Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton [official profile] in a statement [text, PDF] declared them to be illegal under international law. Ashton said the EU deplores the recent announcements and has "called on Israel to end all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001." UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] recognized and expressed appreciation for Israeli's release of Palestinian pre-Oslo prisoners but described the settlement plans as contrary to international law and an obstacle to peace. UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk [Al Jazeera profile], reiterated that the settlements are unlawful [UN press release] under the Fourth Geneva Convention [text], and that financial institutions and real estate companies may be held criminally accountable for their involvement.
On Monday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [BBC profile] announced that Israel would participate in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] review [review docket] of its human rights record, ending an 18-month boycott. This marked another chapter in Israel's tumultuous relationship with the UNHRC. The UNHRC originally planned the review of the country in January, but were forced to postpone [JURIST report] because the Israeli government failed to send a representative. Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman cut ties [JURIST report] with the UNHCR in March 2012, after the council commenced an international investigation [press release] into Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In 2010, before the boycott, the Israeli ambassador called for an end [JURIST report] to the UNHRC investigation into Israeli actions during the 2008-2009 Gaza campaign [JURIST news archive], Operation Cast Lead, which resulted in the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians. Despite this, the UNHRC in September of 2010 adopted a report [JURIST reports] criticizing Israel's raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla [JURIST news archive] and finding the country committed various violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.