South Africa has told the United Nations Security Council that no member state is exempt from the obligations of the UN Charter just days after the United States shifted its policy on the illegality of civilian Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Ambassador Jerry Matjila was speaking during the regular monthly meeting on the Palestinian question in the wake of Washington’s announcement that settlements in the West Bank we not in their view, per se, inconsistent with international law. This controversial position flies in the face of UN policy and Council resolutions that deem settlements an obstacle to peace, of no legal validity and a violation of international law.

Pretoria’s envoy Ambassador Matjila lamented the continued disregard for prevailing and longstanding internationally accepted concepts that are circumventing final status issues between Israel and Palestine such as borders, the status of Jerusalem and the right of return of refugees.

“I would like to remind this Council of its adoption, unanimously, of resolution 2334 on 23 December 2016. It clearly states that the Council and I now quote: Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. End quote. There is no ambiguity in these words or this resolution, legal or otherwise.”

The UN earlier expressed its regret at the US decision, calling it inconsistent with international law and like all Council members except the US, affirmed that its position on the illegality of settlements had not changed.

“Israel’s security and that of its future generations does not lie in the annexation of all of Palestinian territory, the imprisonment of Palestinian, the erecting of high concrete walls and checkpoints or the continued blockade of Gaza. Rather it lies in a peaceful, stable and happy neighbour, a sovereign and independent Palestinian State.”

European Union Ambassadors warned that settlements erode the viability of a two-state solution as articulated by UK Ambassador Karen Pierce on behalf of the group.

“We call on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power. We also reiterate our concern about the calls for a possible annexation of areas in the West Bank. We will continue to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties.”

Israel’s envoy Danny Danon said he didn’t believe the conflict would be resolved in the Council chamber.

“The only way to move forward it to have direct negotiations, coming here and having resolutions and statements – they’ve been doing it for the last 71 years and it didn’t help them. Maybe it’s about time to start something else and I call on the Palestinian to engage in direct negotiations.”

Ambassador Riyad Mansour, for Palestine, condemned the declaration by the US.

“The US administration once again makes another illegal announcement on Israeli settlements in order to sabotage any chance to achieve peace, security and stability in our region and for our people. We strongly reject and condemn this unlawful and irresponsible declaration.”

Several council members also pointed out dire conditions for people living in the Gaza strip and urged Israel to end its blockade. Others also reflected on a ceasefire that continues to hold between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. PIJ Militants in Gaza earlier this month launched 500 rockets into Israel after the IDFs targeted killing of PIJ Commander Baha Abu al-Ata in Gaza.

The subsequent rocket fire into southern Israel- which several council members condemned – prompted the IDF to conduct a number of strikes against PIJ targets killing 34 Palestinians, including several alleged militants with the UN continuing to call for maximum restraint from both sides.