March 20th, 2010
11:00 PM ET

U.N. chief arrives in Mideast amid settlement row

[10:59 p.m.] United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the West Bank and Jerusalem on Saturday and called for an immediate end to Israeli settlement building. There was no immediate reaction from the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

"All settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and it must stop," he told reporters in Ramallah.

He called for those involved to make progress toward forging a lasting peace, saying plans for diplomatic discussion between the Israelis and Palestinians through intermediaries are "important," but do not obviate the need for direct negotiations.

"It's high time now that Palestinians and Israelis should be able to live side by side in peace and security," he said. "They can be good partners in working together to achieve peace."

[10:21 a.m.] United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in the West Bank on Saturday as part of a two-day visit to Palestinian territories and Israel amid concerns about Israel's recent announcement to construct settlements in disputed territory.

Ban met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah and said the Middle East Quartet - the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia - "strongly supports" Palestinian efforts to create their own state. Ban said Friday that the group condemns Israel's plans to construction of 1,600 new housing units on territory in East Jerusalem that is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace is returning to the region this weekend as the United States continues its discussions with Israel over the Obama administration's demand that the country reverse its decision on its construction plans.

Ambassador George Mitchell is expected in Jerusalem on Sunday. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has suggested "mutual confidence-building measures" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, according to his office. Netanyahu's response has been unanimously backed and approved by the seven ministers of Israel's inner cabinet.

Officials in Washington and Jerusalem says Netanyahu will be in Washington on Monday for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.

An Israeli official said the gestures the Israelis could take include easing some roadblocks and releasing some Palestinian prisoners - measures Israel said it was prepared to take before the announcement of the East Jerusalem settlement project. Israel came under fire earlier this month when it announced the construction plans during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel.

Filed under: Middle East • World
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. asimantophobe

    The sensitive Middle East area should be demilitarized and named 'Holy Lands'
    where the Israelis and Palestinians can live wherever they wish.

    It would be a win win for both adversaries. On one side the creative Israelis will excel
    in a larger market and the hard working Palestinians would fuel the economic engine of
    the Holy Lands.

    The current situation will eventually implode because as long as one Israeli or one
    Palestinian is left standing they will continue to fight. After all, our own hero
    Patrick Henry said 'Give me liberty or give me death'.

    A demilitarized Holy Lands can succeed as it has for thousands of years where
    people lived in harmony with each other until the major powers tried to alter
    the landscape in 1948 by force.

    March 21, 2010 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. mitch

    The UN is never in Israel's corner, it's well known as cherry pie. They should call it UNAS, United Nations Against Israel. The western wall is the only vestige of the Holy Temple, like the jews will give it to the gentiles to guard. Right....! Under the Dome of the Rock the actual holy temple lies buried and it is such holy ground that a jew cannot even go near the Dome of the Rock. As usual, at the end of the day, it's us against the world with G-D as our only shield, as usual. We approach on Passover and as usual we read the story of how G-D saved His children with miracle after miracle, things haven't changed we are always protected by G-D except the world can't see the subtle nuance of His protective hand for His chosen people.

    March 21, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  3. JB

    agreed – neither side deserves to 'own' Jerusalem. Neither side can be trusted to /own' Jerusalem.

    March 21, 2010 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  4. ASH

    Muslims already prevent Jews from entering Jewish reliegious sites in Jerusalem; and this is when Israel is purportedly in "control" of Jerusalem Imagine what it would be like if that "control" was taken away. Muslims will do everything in their power to destroy Jewish AND Christian reliegious sites (not merely prevent them from visting those sites).

    March 21, 2010 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. Carlos

    The whole world wants to see peace in the Middle East, however, it looks to me that Israel couldn't care less while bullies the Palestinian every single day. Its conduct remind me South Africa and the Apartheid. If I am not mistaken the boycott against South Africa worked very well. Don;t you think it is about time to stop Israel and his criminal behavior with a global boycott? It might work.

    March 21, 2010 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. AJustice

    Does the UN know Palestine or its people even exist?

    March 21, 2010 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. Andrew Lauman

    Israel shouldn't listen to a biased and corrupt UN. If the world wants to give Palestines land...then give it to them. Jerusalem belongs to Israel. It will never be owned by anyone other than God's people.

    March 21, 2010 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. TreadMill

    Since the world community is not doing enough to enforce a total freeze in settelment activities in the west bank and Jerusalem and hence not serious about the two state solution, it's time to re-visit the one state solution where everyone is equal and has a vote in a secular state with a US like constitution.

    March 21, 2010 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. Zach Leach

    I believe things are going in the right direction. Israel is capable of defending itself militarily. It has proven that several times in the past. The U.S., as a good ally, should let Israel understand it's current problem, particularly that Israel's actions have the most repercussive effect on the nation of the U.S. While there are organizations, religiously speaking, that would not want the nation's existence to continue, the immediate nations around Israel seem "kosher" enough. The sides should make sensible decisions, and the United States should not be apart of the process, except for telling the small country that it's decisions are theirs unto their own. Let the small nation solve its own problems, stand firmly on its own feet, and maybe there will be good things in the days ahead. A proud Libertarian and Ron Paul supporter.

    March 21, 2010 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. tom

    Seems like it times to consider sanctions against Israel by US, Russian, EU, and UN to get encourage them to act like a responsible nation.

    March 21, 2010 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. kevin

    I think that William Marlowe idea is a very good one, but why not take it farther. Why not promote the city as one, both isreali and the palistinian. Both side would have a stake in keeping there and I mean both side, there city clean and an example to other world cities. They both could take pride together creating a city the world would love to visit. It would not be controlled by either side. If money is a driver, how much would it bring to it's citizens. The old idealist need to go. they only have revenge on there minds and the young could change it all. People like to root for the underdog so I bet the world would root for the new city of Israelistine. A new beging for all. No rockets, no tanks no rock throwers I wonder how the palistinians would react if all barriers were taken down permanantly. I bet they would be able to breath fresh clean air, and the isrealis could look in the eyes of what they considered there enemies and call them partners. I think there afraid that it would work.

    March 21, 2010 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  12. alexander

    Mister Marlowe's suggestion is brilliant!
    By Israel accepting it, the suspicion that it's ultimate goal is the extinction of any idea of a Palestinian state will be removed from the motivations of its multiple enemies in the region, and will help Israel gain the high moral ground it has damaged with its excessive use of overwhelming force (1300 X 13) when exercising its necessary right to protect its citizens.
    All other parties, by accepting this status for Jerusalem, will implicitly need to accept the right of Israel to coexist without fear, nor urge of revenge.
    One can only hope the media will at last do something positive!

    March 21, 2010 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. Justin

    Did Secretary General Ban tell Palestine to stop rocketing Israel?

    March 21, 2010 at 3:02 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jeff

    The Israelis would never cede Jerusalem to the UN or to the jurisdiction of UN forces. The UN is an enemy of the state of Israel. Additionally, UN Forces are a bunch of cowards who run and hide whenever threatened, usually after making sure that any endangered civilians are turned over to the local thugs for execution. As for the Swiss, well, do you seriously think that the Israelis are going to allow historic Nazi collaborators into their country?

    March 21, 2010 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. Amjad Yusif

    I am a Palestinian, and I Agree with William Marlowe

    March 21, 2010 at 3:49 am | Report abuse |
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