By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) — Israeli officials said they would press on with plans this week to build 6,000 homes for settlers on Palestinian land, defying criticism from Western powers who fear the move will hit already faint hopes for a peace accord.
Stung by the de facto recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in a UN General Assembly vote last month, Israel announced it would expand settlements in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.
An Israeli interior ministry planning committee on Monday gave preliminary approval for 1,500 new homes in the Ramat Shlomo settlement.
The panel will now start discussing plans for another 4,500 homes in two other settlements, Givat Hamatos and Gilo, in back-to-back sessions that could run into next week, ministry spokesman Efrat Orbach said Tuesday.
Israel counts the three settlements as part of its Jerusalem municipality even though they are on West Bank land seized in the 1967 Middle East war.
Palestinians see the settlements as obstacles to achieving a viable state with a capital in East Jerusalem.
“Settlement activity is unilateral and is completely adverse to the continued viability of a two-state solution and the possibility for our people to continue to exist. It’s an attack on our people’s right to life, essentially,” Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Monday.
Netanyahu deputy defends
The settlements are illegal under international law and Western powers have been especially troubled by Israel’s declared intent to build in E-1, a wedge of land between East Jerusalem and the West Bank where it had previously held off under US pressure.
Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said the expansion of the Jerusalem-area settlements was a resumption of plans put on hold while Western powers tried to persuade Abbas to abandon the Palestinians’ UN status upgrade.
“We said, ‘We won’t build, so as not to give Abu Mazen (Abbas) an excuse to go to the UN and an excuse not to come to the table,'” Yaalon told Army Radio, “After he did what he did … we removed these restrictions from ourselves.”
He dismissed the international furor. “The world automatically condemns any construction over the Green Line, and then moves on,” Yaalon said, referring to the West Bank boundary.
“We will continue to build in accordance with the state of Israel’s strategic interests,” he added.
Critics in Israel have suggested Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pandering to the right-wing electorate as he prepares to run for re-election in a Jan. 22 ballot.
“States may not deport or transfer parts of their own civilian population into a territory they occupy.”
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in international armed conflicts.
International armed conflicts
The prohibition on deporting or transferring parts of a State’s own civilian population into the territory it occupies is set forth in the Fourth Geneva Convention.
It is a grave breach of Additional Protocol I.
Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts.
Many military manuals prohibit the deportation or transfer by a party to the conflict of parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies.
This rule is included in the legislation of numerous States.
Official statements and reported practice also support the prohibition on transferring one’s own civilian population into occupied territory.
Attempts to alter the demographic composition of an occupied territory have been condemned by the UN Security Council.
In 1992, it called for the cessation of attempts to change the ethnic composition of the population, anywhere in the former Yugoslavia.
Similarly, the UN General Assembly and UN Commission on Human Rights have condemned settlement practices.
According to the final report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Dimensions of Population Transfer, including the Implantation of Settlers and Settlements, “the implantation of settlers” is unlawful and engages State responsibility and the criminal responsibility of individuals.
In 1981, the 24th International Conference of the Red Cross reaffirmed that “settlements in occupied territory are incompatible with article 27 and 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention”.
In the Case of the Major War Criminals in 1946, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg found two of the accused guilty of attempting the “Germanization” of occupied territories.
 Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49, sixth paragraph (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 38, § 334).
 Additional Protocol I, Article 85(4)(a) (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 335).
 ICC Statute, Article 8(2)(b)(viii) (ibid., § 336).
 See, e.g., the military manuals of Argentina (ibid., §§ 346–347), Australia (ibid., § 348), Canada (ibid., § 349), Croatia (ibid., § 350), Hungary (ibid., § 351), Italy (ibid., § 352), Netherlands (ibid., § 353), New Zealand (ibid., § 354), Spain (ibid., § 355), Sweden (ibid., § 357), Switzerland (ibid., § 357), United Kingdom (ibid., § 358) and United States (ibid., § 359).
 See, e.g., the legislation of Armenia (ibid., § 361), Australia (ibid., §§ 362–363), Azerbaijan (ibid., §§ 364–365), Bangladesh (ibid., § 366), Belarus (ibid., § 367), Belgium (ibid., § 368), Bosnia and Herzegovina (ibid., § 369), Canada (ibid., §§ 371–372), Congo (ibid., § 373), Cook Islands (ibid., § 374), Croatia (ibid., § 375), Cyprus (ibid., § 376), Czech Republic (ibid., § 377), Germany (ibid., § 379), Georgia (ibid., § 380), Ireland (ibid., § 381), Mali (ibid., § 384), Republic of Moldova (ibid., § 385), Netherlands (ibid., § 386), New Zealand (ibid., §§ 387–388), Niger (ibid., § 390), Norway (ibid., § 391), Slovakia (ibid., § 392), Slovenia (ibid., § 393), Spain (ibid., § 394), Tajikistan (ibid., § 395), United Kingdom (ibid., §§ 397–398), Yugoslavia (ibid., § 399) and Zimbabwe (ibid., § 400); see also the draft legislation of Argentina (ibid., § 360), Burundi (ibid., § 370), Jordan (ibid., § 382), Lebanon (ibid., § 383) and Trinidad and Tobago (ibid., § 396).
 See, e.g., the statements of Kuwait (ibid., § 405) and United States (ibid., §§ 406–407) and the reported practice of Egypt (ibid., § 402) and France (ibid., § 403).
 See, e.g., UN Security Council, Res. 446 , 452 and 476 (ibid., § 408), Res. 465 (ibid., § 409) and Res. 677 (ibid., § 410).
 UN Security Council, Res. 752 (ibid., § 411).
 See, e.g., UN General Assembly, Res. 36/147 C, 37/88 C, 38/79 D, 39/95 D and 40/161 D (ibid., § 412) and Res. 54/78 (ibid., § 405); UN Commission on Human Rights, Res. 2001/7 (ibid., § 413).
 UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights, Final report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Dimensions of Population Transfer, including the Implantation of Settlers and Settlements (ibid., § 415).
 24th International Conference of the Red Cross, Res. III (ibid., § 419).
 International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Case of the Major War Criminals, Judgement (ibid., § 421).