Israel has urged Colombia to vote against the forming of a Palestinian state in an upcoming U.N. resolution and denies that Israeli construction projects in the West Bank are settlements, newspaper El Tiempo reported Sunday
The infrastructure minister of Israel delivered a letter to President Juan Manuel Santos Monday urging his government not to vote for Palestinian statehood.
Uzi Landau visited Colombia as part of a multi-nation campaign to persuade governments not to back a Palestinian bid for statehood in the United Nations. After nearly two decades of stalled negotiations dealing with Israel, the Palestinian Authority announced earlier this year that it would seek formal recognition from the U.N.
Landau urged Santos to oppose this move and expressed the need for Palestinians to continue direct negotiations with Israel to avoid what he called “unilateral” action through the United Nations. Landau argued that U.N. recognition of Palestine would destabilize the area and questioned what sort of principles a Palestinian state would follow.
Landau questioned whether the state would acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and whether or not it would be demilitarized. He also drew attention to Fatah’s recent effort to make peace with Hamas, which he called a terrorist organization that has “turned Gaza into the Islamic Republic of Gaza.”
When asked about Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Landau denied that they were settlements at all, responding “These are not settlements, sir. These are Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. They belong to us. King David, the Bible says, was born in Bethlehem in Judea, it does not say he was ‘born in Bethlehem in the West Bank.’ This is our site. One does not develop settlements on a site that belongs to you, it belongs to us.”
Laundau said that his “biggest problem” with the Palestinians was their opposition to the “right” of Jews to settle in “Judea and Samaria” which corresponds to the current West Bank and the heart of the proposed Palestinian state.
Laundau is in charge of the Israeli ministry that overseas Israeli construction projects in the West Bank.
Israel’s refusal to halt the construction of new settlements in the West Bank has been one of the major sticking points holding up negotiation between the Palestinians and Israel.
In 1993, Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Front and Fatah, sent a letter to the president of Israel formally acknowledging the right of Israel to exist. Hamas, which controls Gaza, has yet to do so. Political experts have predicted that the resolution has a good chance of passing the general assembly, but will face difficulty seeking the approval of the security council.