Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Jan. 22 he will be lifting restrictions on Israelis building settlements in East Jerusalem. The statement said, "My vision is to enact sovereignty over all the settlements." Immediately after the announcement, hundreds of building permits were approved by the municipal government. According to Haaretz, Netanyahu delayed lifting restrictions for two weeks to wait for then-US president Barack Obama to leave office. (The restrictions on Jerusalem's urban planning committee had been imposed in response to pressure from the Obama White House.) Netanyahu will be meeting with Obama's successor Donald Trump at some point in the near future. In a statement to Reuters, Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "We strongly condemn the Israeli decision to approve the construction." Netanyahu and his ministers also decided Jan. 22 to postpone discussion of annexing a West Bank settlement.
An Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian in the West Bank city of Hebron last March was found guilty of manslaughter Jan. 4. The three-judge military panel in Tel Aviv ruled against Sgt Elor Azaria. Chief judge Col Maya Heller gave a lengthy verdict reading in which the court ruled that accounts of the incident that he had given were "unreliable and problematic." The panel rejected the defense's arguments. "We found there was no room to accept his arguments," the Chief judge said. "His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die." Israeli politicians have called for Azaria to be pardoned and this case has caused division among the Israeli population.
Dozens of activists on Dec. 26 demonstrated outside the Israeli magistrate court in the central city of Rishon Lezion in support of a Palestinian member of the Knesset, Basal Ghattas, after the court extended his detention another day. Ghattas, a member of Joint List which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Knesset, was arrested on suspicions of smuggling cellphones to "Palestinian terrorists" serving time in Israeli prisons, and is being charged with "conspiring to commit...violations of Israel Prisons Service orders." Protesters raised photos of Ghattas and posters criticizing the Israeli government in both Hebrew and Arabic. Palestinian members of Knesset Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahaika attended the protest before they entered the court hall to attend the hearing.
The United Nations Security Council on Dec. 23 voted in favor of adopting Resolution 2334, that calls on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The vote, with 14 member states voting in favor and the United States abstaining, was the first such vote to be held on the Middle East Peace process in eight years. The resolution's text, drafted by Egypt alongside Palestine, demands that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem," and emphasizes that the establishment of settlements by Israel has "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law." The abstention by Obama came as a major reversal in US policy, as a similar resolution was vetoed by the US in 2011.
Three justices on the Israeli Supreme Court have been sued for voting in favor of authorizing the construction of Israel's wall around the West Bank, which the International Court of Justice found illegal (PDF) in 2004. The lawsuit alleges war crimes and crimes against humanity based on the Nuremberg trials precedent that allows judges to be convicted for their role in cooperating with such crimes. Six Palestinian landowners from Beit Jala, a town near Bethlehem, filed the suit in Santiago, Chile, because Chile ascribes to the concept of universal jurisdiction. Five of the plaintiffs live in Chile, and the sixth lives in Beit Jala.
The Israeli Supreme Court dismissed a petition by the Israeli government to postpone evacuating the illegal Amona outpost, built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, ruling that the evacuation be carried out by Dec. 25 as previously ordered by the court. Justices Miriam Naor, Esther Hayut, and Hanan Meltzer reprimanded the state for its eleventh hour attempt to extend the deadline of evacuation, after implementation of the court's decision has already been repeatedly delayed since Palestinian landowners successfully petitioned to remove the outpost in 2008.
UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova issued a statement Oct. 14 repudiating a resolution approved by the body's member states that had been harshly condemned by Israel. The resolution concerns threats to East Jerusalem's holy sites under Israeli occupation, and calls on UNESCO to appoint a permanent representative there to observe. What made it an easy target for Israeli criticism was its reference exclusively to "Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif"—not the Temple Mount or the Wailing Wall. Israel froze cooperation with UNESCO after the resolution passed. Wrote Bokova: "The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list."
The Israeli army shelled a site allegedly used by Palestinian militant groups in the central Gaza Strip on Oct. 6, after a rocket fired from the Strip hit an open area in southern Israel. Israeli military vehicles stationed along the border between Gaza and Israel reportedly shelled an area east of the Maghazi refugee camp, without causing any injuries. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an News Agency that they were looking into the reports. Earlier in the day, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an that a rocket fired from the Strip hit an open area in the Eshkol regional council, causing no injuries.