Israel's illegal settlement projects on occupied Palestinian lands were heavily criticized by the U.N., reporting that 22,000 settler homes in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, were approved by Israeli authorities in the past three years. Addressing the U.N. Security Council, peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned that tenders for another 8,000 units have been issued. This month alone, Israel has dispatched bulldozers to demolish or seize eight Palestinian-owned properties, resulting in 20 people being forced to move, said Mladenov, the U.N.'s special coordinator for Middle East peace.
"The continued demolitions and seizures of Palestinian structures, including internationally funded humanitarian projects, is ... not in line with international humanitarian law and must stop," Mladenov told diplomats in the top U.N. chamber in New York. "The high number of Palestinian households in east Jerusalem with eviction cases filed against them is alarming. Israel, as an occupying power, must abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law."
Palestinians have long argued that Israeli settlements could deny them a viable and contiguous state. More than 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, while a further 200,000 live in settlements in occupied east Jerusalem, over which Israel has already unilaterally imposed full sovereignty.
The international community regards all Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories to be illegal and a major obstacle to peace in the Middle East. The area, captured by Israel in 1967, is not sovereign Israeli territory, and Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and do not have the right to vote.
Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abandoned the position that settlements in Israeli-occupied territory were "inconsistent with international law," changing U.S. policy and further angering Palestinians.
According to official data obtained by The Associated Press (AP) in September, a spike in Jewish settlement construction in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem were recorded, along with strong evidence of decades of systematic discrimination illustrated by a huge gap between the number of construction permits granted to Jewish and Palestinian residents. The data was acquired and analyzed by the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, which says it only obtained the figures after a two-year battle with the municipality. It says the numbers show that while Palestinians make up more than 60% of the population in east Jerusalem, they have received only 30% of the building permits issued since 1991.
Peace Now found that in the first two years of Trump's presidency, authorities approved 1,861 housing units in east Jerusalem settlements, a 60% increase from the 1,162 approved in the previous two years. The figures show that 1,081 permits for settler housing were issued in 2017 alone, the highest annual number since 2000. A total of 1,233 housing units were approved for Palestinians in 2017 and 2018, according to Peace Now.