UN human rights experts in Geneva stated yesterday that the international community should be taking serious practical steps to prevent Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
The statement was responding to a decision earlier this week by Israeli occupation authorities to advance more than 2,000 housing units in settlements across the occupied Palestinian territory.
The approvals included retroactive authorisation for so-called "outposts".
"These settlement housing units are clearly meant to solidify the Israeli claim of sovereignty over the West Bank," said Leilani Farha, the Special Rapporteur for the right to housing, and Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.
"Building civilian settlements in occupied territory is illegal, as is the annexation of territory. The international community has spoken out against the Israeli settlements, but it has not imposed effective consequences for the country's defiance of international law."
According to the senior officials, "Israel's actions indicate it plans to remain permanently and advance a claim of sovereignty", noting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared "No settlement and no settlers will ever be uprooted".
"Should we not take him at his word that Israel has no intention of complying with international law?" the experts asked rhetorically.
As stated by the UN experts, occupying powers are forbidden under the Fourth Geneva Convention from building civilian settlements in occupied territory.
"The Rome Statute has defined the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory, as a war crime."
Farha and Lynk stressed that "criticism without consequences is hollow", noting that "the international community has a wide menu of commonly-used countermeasures to push recalcitrant states into compliance with their international duties."
"If the international community is serious about its support for Palestinian self-determination and its opposition to Israeli settlements then, surely, the time has come for meaningful action."