UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting this week on recent tensions between Israel and the Palestinians in East Jerusalem due to Israel’s plans to build more settlements, council diplomats said on Tuesday.
The meeting, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, is being convened in response to a request made by Jordan to Argentina’s U.N. Ambassador Maria Cristina Perceval, president of the 15-nation Security Council this month.
Jordan, the sole Arab nation on the council, cited Palestinian complaints about “the dangerously escalating tensions in Occupied East Jerusalem” in seeking a meeting. The emailed request was seen by Reuters.
Diplomats said it was unclear if the council would issue a joint statement, though they said it was doubtful anything significant could be agreed as the United States is wary of supporting declarations it deems critical of its ally Israel.
An Israeli government official said on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will expedite planning for some 1,000 settler homes in East Jerusalem in a bid to placate a restive coalition ally without further aggravating a dispute with Washington.
Palestinian officials have voiced alarm - echoed in the international community - over settlement building, viewing it a key obstacle to the creation of the independent state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Another source of tension is Jerusalem’s holiest site, the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa mosque. Netanyahu has promised repeatedly that the “status quo” governing Jerusalem’s holiest site is not about to change, though his reassurances have done little to quell Palestinian fears.
So charged has the atmosphere become over the Old City esplanade, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, that the Palestinians are expected to bring it up during Wednesday’s Security Council meeting.
Since the end of the Gaza war in August, tension has been rising steadily in the eastern, Arab side of Jerusalem, with almost nightly clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters throwing rocks and petrol bombs.
A major focus of anger is the increasing number of visits by Orthodox Jews, including some politicians, to the raised marble-and-stone compound that houses the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
The Security Council is rarely able to reach a consensus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the United States, a close ally of Israel, is a permanent veto-wielding member and usually blocks any measures it views as unfairly critical of the Jewish state.
The Palestinians have drafted a council resolution calling for an end to Israeli occupation by November 2016, which they have shared with Arab states and some council members. But the council has not acted on the draft.
Efforts by Jordan and European council members to get a council resolution on the recent Gaza war have also hit an impasse.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Bernadette Baum