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UN Investigator Criticizes Israeli Settlements

A Palestinian woman stands next to an Israeli soldier during a protest against the expansion of a Jewish settlement near the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, Friday, Oct. 22, 2010.

A special United Nations investigator says Israel's settlement policies have made a Palestinian state based on Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories a political impossibility.

Richard Falk is the United Nations special investigator on human rights in the Palestinian territories. He says Israel's expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, together with related Israeli policies, have made the vision of a Middle East peace based on the two-state consensus almost a political impossibility at this stage.

Falk, a professor of international law at Princeton University in the United States and a past critic of Israeli policies, said "You have this disconnect between an inter-governmental peace process that appears to be premised on an illusion, the illusion that at the end of this process is an independent, sovereign Palestinian state."

The special United Nations rapporteur, or investigator, made his comments following the formal submission of his latest report, which criticizes Israel for what the report describes as Israel's encroachment on fundamental and inalienable international human rights standards.

His comments also coincide with a report by the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now that Jewish settlers have started building more than 600 homes in West Bank settlements since Israel's partial construction freeze ended last month.

"The idea of a separate, second Palestinian state, which is the foundation of Security Council Resolution 242 - the withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory - and the basis of international negotiations seems increasingly problematic as a solution because it would require the substantial reversal of the settlement process and the political realities in Israel and among the settler population make that a non-viable possibility," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to renew the settlement freeze if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians have rejected the offer, but Mr. Netanyahu has repeated his demand that the Palestinians recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state.