UNITED NATIONS (AP) — An Israeli human rights group urged the U.N. Security Council on Friday to take decisive action now to end the country's occupation of Palestinian territory.
Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B'Tselem, told an informal council meeting Friday on "Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution" that Israel has controlled Palestinian lives in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem for the past 49 years "and counting."
With the 50th anniversary approaching next year, he said, "the rights of Palestinians must be realized, the occupation must end, the U.N. Security Council must act, and the time is now."
El-Ad stressed that the council "has more than just power: you have a moral responsibility and a real opportunity to act with a sense of urgency before we reach the symbolic date of June 2017 and the second half of that first century begins."
Another Israeli rights group, Peace Now, was invited to speak but it was represented by its sister organization, Americans for Peace Now, which has also campaigned for an end to Israeli occupation.
"The occupation is a threat to Israel's security and to Israel's very existence," said Lara Friedman, the group's director of policy and government relations.
"I urge you here today to finally take action in the Security Council to send a clear message to Israel that the international community stands by the two-state solution and unambiguously rejects policies that undermine it — including Israeli settlement policies."
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon accused B'Tselem of joining "Palestinian attempts to wage diplomatic terror against Israel at the U.N."
He also accused the group of choosing "to slander and besmirch Israel's good name" and vowed that "we will continue to fight and tell the truth about Israel despite the attempts to spread lies about us.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. Ambassador, called the informal meeting "a very positive exercise" that builds on his discussions about a new U.N. resolution that would demand an end to Israeli settlement building.