The Security Council today adopted a presidential statement expressing its deep concern and dismay over Israel’s recent announcement of further construction and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as the “legalization” of settlement outposts, as United Nations senior officials briefed members on the latest developments on the ground.
By the text (to be issued as document S/PRST/2023/1), which was read at the meeting’s outset by the representative of Malta in her capacity as Council President for February, the 15-nation organ reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to the vision of a two-State solution where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders. Stressing that both peoples are entitled to equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and dignity, it reiterated that continued Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of a two-State solution.
Expressing their strong opposition to all unilateral measures that impede peace – including Israeli construction and expansion of settlements, confiscation of Palestinians’ land and the “legalization” of settlement outposts, demolition of Palestinians’ homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians – members went on to condemn all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terrorism, and called upon all parties to clearly condemn such acts and refrain from incitement to violence. They further recalled the obligation of the Palestinian Authority to renounce and confront terror, and called on all parties to observe calm and restraint, and refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.
Also by the terms of text, the Council noted with deep concern instances of discrimination, intolerance and hate speech motivated by racism or directed against persons belonging to religious communities – in particular cases motivated by Islamophobia, antisemitism or Christianophobia – and called for the upholding of an unchanged status quo at the holy sites of Jerusalem “in word and in practice”.
Following the adoption of the presidential statement, senior United Nations officials briefed the Council, and members took the floor to share their national perspectives on recent developments.
Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said the recent surge in violence has included some of the deadliest incidents in nearly 20 years. “I am concerned that developments on the ground are continuing their negative trajectory, gaining in both pace and intensity,” he said, adding that unilateral actions are moving the parties further apart, exacerbating tensions and driving the conflict. He called for responsible leadership and for all parties to match their security efforts with political steps that can halt the negative slide, bring hope and restore prospects for a viable two-State solution. Amid the mounting violence, he noted the deteriorating relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the former’s significant decisions on settlement advancements and outposts, and recent exchanges of fire in the Gaza Strip.
While noting the important regional and international diplomatic efforts made during the reporting period, he called for an urgent halt to settlement-expansion and demolitions and evictions, which only fuel tensions. “With the holy month of Ramadan once again coinciding with the Passover and Easter holidays this year, joint efforts are needed to ensure that this period passes safely and peacefully for all,” he said, reiterating calls for all parties to refrain from steps that could escalate tensions in and around holy sites, and for all to uphold the status quo therein.
Leni Stenseth, Deputy Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told Council members that, while competing global priorities and shifting regional dynamics have “almost annihilated” any remaining attention to the plight of Palestine refugees, the political, socioeconomic and security conditions surrounding them continue to deteriorate. Violence in the West Bank hampers UNRWA operations and puts a heavy burden on the Palestine refugees the Agency serves. The recent devastating earthquake in Syria has added to the hardship and despair of a population already grappling with a shattering 12-year-long conflict and its aftermath. Some 62,000 Palestine refugees are living in four camps affected by the earthquake, with 90 per cent of them in need of emergency assistance even before the earthquake.
The Agency has continued to deliver on its mandate, she said. “As we look at the Middle East, UNRWA remains one of the few standing pillars of stability,” she emphasized, adding that the Agency is one of the most successful multilateral and collective efforts of the last 75 years. Yet, the lack of adequate, sustainable and predictable funding has put UNRWA in an impossible situation, she said, calling on Member States to provide the political and financial support needed to allow the Agency to continue playing its stabilizing role in the region.
Many delegates voiced their support for the presidential statement and stressed the critical role the Council plays in the region’s stability. The representative of Ghana said the organ has a historical responsibility for the situation in Palestine. The troubling circumstances described in today’s briefing should reinforce members’ commitment to upholding a two-State solution and addressing the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Noting the importance of the Council’s adoption of the presidential statement, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said Council members must stand united in agreeing that Israeli settlement activities endanger a two-State solution. The Council’s responsibility cannot be a last resort to prevent a complete breakdown, she stressed, urging its members to revitalize their role as custodian of a two-State solution.
Calling on Israel to return to the “right track” of a two-State solution, China’s delegate said today’s presidential statement is a major step forward in managing the current crisis. The international community – including countries with influence – should play an earnest, constructive role in ensuring that Israel implements its promises on the ground. Pointing to the critical services delivered by UNRWA, he said Palestine refugees represent one of the earliest, largest and most-protracted refugee situations in the world.
The representative of Switzerland emphasized the need for adequate and predictable financial support for UNRWA, which must continue to provide effective and efficient assistance in accordance with the humanitarian principle of neutrality. Voicing concern about the weakening of the Palestinian Authority, she called for elections throughout the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and urged all parties to adhere strictly to the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Voicing deep concern over the spiralling violence, the United States’ delegate strongly condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Israel and said the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians is unconscionable. While supporting Israel’s right to self-defence, she strongly opposed Israel’s move to advance thousands of settlement units – unilateral measures which only exacerbate tensions between both parties, undermine the prospect of a two-State solution and are detrimental to Israel’s long-term stability.
The representative of Israel said none of the concerns expressed in today’s statement is directed at the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to glorify the murder of Jews, or to teach that Israel has no right to exist. The Authority not only refuses to take real action to prevent terrorism, but also actively stokes the flames of violence, which breeds a culture of hatred and evil that makes reconciliation impossible. Concern is only expressed over Israel’s response to Palestinian terror, while the most significant violator of any agreements “sits right here across from me”, he said, underscoring that his country will never accept another terrorist entity on its borders seeking its obliteration.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said the statistics for 2022 – the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank – may well be surpassed by 2023. Warning of an approaching “point of no return”, he said every action and decision matters, even though many may view the current situation in Palestine as more of the same. “Do not become numb,” he warned the Council, noting that Palestinians will not accept coexistence with oppression and occupation. Condemning Israeli colonial and discriminatory policies, he called for amplified international mobilization.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Brazil, Ecuador, Russian Federation, Gabon, Japan, United Kingdom, Mozambique, France, Albania, Malta and Qatar.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 12:26 p.m.
TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said there has been a surge in violence, including some of the deadliest incidents in nearly 20 years. “I am concerned that developments on the ground are continuing their negative trajectory, gaining in both pace and intensity,” he said, adding that unilateral actions are moving the parties further apart, exacerbating tensions and driving the conflict. The United Nations, along with regional and international partners, are working with all parties to de-escalate the situation. Responsible leadership is urgently needed, he said, calling on the parties to match security efforts with political steps that can halt the negative slide, bring hope and restore prospects for a viable two-State solution. Since his last briefing, there have alarming numbers of fatalities, including 40 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank. In the same period, 10 Israelis – including one woman, three children and one security personnel – as well as one foreign national, were killed.
Amid the mounting violence, he said there has also been a concerning deterioration in relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Following a 26 January Israeli search-and-arrest operation in the Jenin refugee camp, the Palestinian Authority announced that security coordination with Israel “no longer exists”. Then, on the heels of a 27 January terrorist attack in Jerusalem, the Israeli Security Cabinet announced a series of measures, including steps to reinforce security, strengthen Israeli settlements, and put punitive measures on the perpetrators of attacks and their families. In addition, the financial implications of other decisions by the Israeli Government – such as an increase in monthly deductions from clearance revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority – clearly contribute to undermining the Authority’s stability, he said.
Over the reporting period, he said, the Government of Israel also announced significant decisions related to settlement advancements and settlement outposts. The latter increase the settlement footprint and create friction points in the occupied West Bank, he said, noting that the announcement was met with widespread opposition by the Palestinian Authority and the international community. Many emphasized that those unilateral moves exacerbate tensions and undermine prospects for a negotiated two-State solution. Israeli settlements, including outposts, are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace, he said. Turning to the situation in the Gaza Strip, he said the relative calm of the past few months was interrupted by recent exchanges of fire, once again demonstrating the fragility of the ceasefire. The United Nations continues to deliver vital humanitarian and development assistance to Palestinians in Gaza and remains engaged with all parties to reduce access restrictions, in order to support the Gaza economy and basic service delivery.
He welcomed several important regional and international diplomatic efforts during the reporting period, including a January visit by United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The visit coincided with a visit by senior officials from Egypt and Jordan, who met together with President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine on 31 January. Turning briefly to the situation in the Golan, he said the ceasefire between Israel and Syria has been generally maintained despite continued violations by both parties of the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement of Forces. He urged a halt to settlement-expansion, as well as demolitions and evictions, which fuel tensions. “With the holy month of Ramadan once again coinciding with the Passover and Easter holidays this year, joint efforts are needed to ensure that this period passes safely and peacefully for all,” he said, reiterating calls for all parties to refrain from steps that could escalate tensions in and around holy sites, and for all to uphold the status quo therein.
LENI STENSETH, Deputy Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told Council members that, while competing global priorities and shifting regional dynamics have “almost annihilated” any remaining attention to the plight of Palestine refugees, the political, socioeconomic and security conditions surrounding them continue to deteriorate. Violence in the West Bank hampers UNRWA’s operations and puts a heavy burden on the Palestine refugees the Agency serves, she stressed, emphasizing that urban spaces within and around densely populated refugee camps “should not be venues for clashes with automatic weapons and tear gas”. Turning to the situation in the Gaza Strip, she said years of blockade and conflicts have isolated the population from the rest of the world, “creating a human tragedy hard to describe”. Over 80 per cent of Palestine refugees in Gaza are poor, and nearly all of them rely on UNRWA food assistance. Noting that the Agency’s schools are usually the only safe havens for people who flee their homes, she called on the parties in Gaza and the West Bank to respect UNRWA’s neutrality and the inviolability of its premises.
She went on to say that, in Syria, the recent devastating earthquake is adding to the hardship and despair of a population already grappling with a shattering 12-year-long conflict and its aftermath. Some 62,000 Palestine refugees living in four camps were affected, with 90 per cent of them in need of emergency assistance even before the earthquake. In Lebanon, economic collapse has hit the most vulnerable the hardest – including Palestine refugees, 93 per cent of whom are living in poverty. She said that the situation is so desperate that such refugees are increasingly willing to risk their lives at sea in an attempt to find a dignified life. Turning to the situation in Jordan, she reported that – despite overall stability – Palestine refugees struggle with socioeconomic conditions that are worsening with a declining national economy. Further, gender-based violence and negative coping strategies, such as early marriage and child labour, are on the rise. “Across all fields, Palestine refugees feel abandoned by the international community,” she stressed.
Against that challenging backdrop, she underscored that UNRWA has continued to deliver on its mandate. By providing public-like services – including education, health and social services – the Agency has contributed to the human development of Palestine refugees and helps maintain a relatively stable environment around them. “As we look at the Middle East, UNRWA remains one of the few standing pillars of stability,” she emphasized, adding that the Agency is one of the most successful multilateral and collective efforts of the last 75 years. However, the lack of adequate, sustainable and predictable funding has put the Agency in an impossible situation. “We have reached the limit of what we can do with the resources we have,” she stressed, pointing out that UNRWA’s total income in 2022 was approximately the same as in 2013, while needs and costs are exponentially greater. In the absence of a political solution, the Agency remains indispensable, including in terms of its stabilizing role. She called on all Member States to continue supporting UNRWA politically and financially, stressing that there can be neither peace nor security in the region without the fulfilment of all people’s basic rights, including those of Palestinian refugees. “We call on you today not to abandon them,” she added.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), voicing deep concern over spiralling violence across Israel, the West Bank and Jerusalem, strongly condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Israel, including an attack outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem on 27 January and an attack on civilians in Jerusalem on 10 February. The deliberate targeting of innocent civilians is unconscionable, she asserted, supporting Israel’s right to self-defence. Rockets launched against civilian areas and other forms of violence create a cycle of increasingly dangerous escalations, she warned, calling on all parties to restore calm, break the cycle of violence and refrain from any unilateral or divisive actions. She strongly opposed Israel’s announcement that it will advance thousands of settlement units, noting that these unilateral measures exacerbate tensions between both parties, undermine the prospect of a two-State solution and are detrimental to Israel’s long-term stability. She also called for predictable funding to UNRWA.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), pointing out that the Council has a historical responsibility for the situation in Palestine, said the concerning situation described in the briefing should reinforce Council members’ commitment to upholding the two-State solution and to address the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The retroactive approval of settlement outposts, further expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the demolition of Palestinian-owned homes and structures in the West Bank violate Palestinian rights, portend a de facto annexation of the West Bank and contravenes Israel’s obligation under article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention. The Government of Israel must act within the limits of its international legal obligations and Council resolutions. He also condemned attacks against Israel, including the launch of rockets from Gaza into Jerusalem and other Israeli civilian settlements, and encouraged active security cooperation of the Palestinian Authority with Israel. Deploring the recent increase in violent clashes involving children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in the West Bank, he called for a reconsideration of the international community’s muted reaction to the need for investigations into systematic violations of human rights and crimes of atrocity by the parties. He went on to encourage further support for UNRWA’s activities, noting that its continued existence is “a reflection of how much more needs to be done to achieve the goals of a just and durable solution to the Palestinian question”.
JOÃO GENESIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) expressed concern over the recent decision by the Government of Israel to legalize nine outposts and build 10,000 houses in existing settlements in the West Bank – unilateral measures that constitute serious violations of international law, including resolution 2334 (2016). Settlements systematically eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous, independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian State and should cease immediately. Urging all parties to exercise maximum restraint, he emphasized that civilians must be protected in times of conflict. He further pointed to recent attacks on religious sites, such as the 2 February vandalism of the Flagellation Chapel in Jerusalem. He called on all political leaders and authorities to promote a culture of peaceful coexistence and religious freedom and condemned all actions linked to changing the historic status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, citing the crucial custodian role of Jordan in preserving peace over the years. Voicing added concern over the blockade of Gaza, which continues to hinder development efforts, he noted the chronic financial challenges faced by UNRWA, which has provided much-needed humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees and maintained stability on the ground throughout the years.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), noting that the Council has today issued its first outcome on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in years, said the deteriorating situation on the ground will only create more suffering, death and violence for all the parties. All efforts should be made to avoid violence, he stressed, voicing his delegation’s support for the work of the Special Coordinator and UNRWA. Stressing that the latter is helping to ease suffering and improve humanitarian conditions for Palestinian refugees, he went on to condemn all types of violence against civilians and all acts of terrorism, which constitute violations of international humanitarian law. He also condemned the unilateral decisions that are dimming the prospects of a two-State solution, noting that the legalization of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory runs counter to international law and Council resolutions. He appealed to leaders to show genuine courage and take actions to ease tensions and resume negotiations.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) voiced support for today’s presidential statement, while also condemning Israeli strikes on Syria as another serious destabilizing factor in the Middle East. The lack of political prospects and ongoing unilateral steps by Israel undermine not only the prospects for a solution, but trust in the peace process itself, which leads to radicalization on both sides. He went on to note that, despite Israel’s declared intentions to help Palestinians, the overall socioeconomic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continues to deteriorate. There is therefore a need to ensure ongoing, effective efforts by UNRWA to provide comprehensive humanitarian assistance in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and neighbouring Arab countries. Urging international donors to respond to UNRWA’s emergency appeal for $2.7 million to assist refugee victims of the recent earthquake, he also underscored the need to revive the Middle East peace process with a central focus on a two-State solution. However, actions by the United States to block efforts to assist that process are particularly destructive, as is that country’s desire to substitute a political peace for an economic one. He added that it is also dangerous to push for Arab-Israeli normalization while circumventing a fair solution to the Palestinian question, which is what the United States is doing in the Council.
WOMAN (Gabon) recalled that the Israeli raid that occurred on 26 January in the Jenin refugee camp and the attack which followed, targeting a synagogue in Jerusalem, caused dozens of casualties. Both events demonstrate the deadly escalation seen since the beginning of January, she said, condemning violence, recognizing Israel’s right to security and stressing the importance of upholding international law. In the same vein, the myriad demolitions – together with the recent decision taken to legalize nine settlements in the West Bank and build new housing units in existing settlements – are factors which exacerbate tensions on the ground. She also drew attention of the Council to the concerning economic situation of the Palestinian Authority, which has been worsened by the freezing of tax revenues collected by Israel on the Palestinian Authority’ behalf. “There can be no prosperity in the region until this prosperity is shared,” she stressed, calling on the parties to prioritize dialogue and end the vicious cycle of violence must end.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), welcoming the adoption of the presidential statement, recalled that in a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on 13 February, his Prime Minister expressed concern about the rising tensions between Israel and Palestine. The dangerous trajectory of violence from last year continues its alarming trend, including in the recent attack by Israeli forces against the Jenin Refugee Camp, which led to the highest number of Palestinians killed in a single operation in the West Bank since 2005. Calling for the reversal of the Israeli Government’s declaration of nine settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank as legal and also condemning escalatory actions committed by Palestinians in Jerusalem, such as the terrorist attack outside a synagogue, he underscored that unilateral actions exacerbate tensions. This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Japan-UNRWA partnership, he noted. Voicing commitment to assisting UNRWA to ensure that Palestinian refugees continue to receive life-saving assistance, he expressed his country’s strong determination to revive the prospect of a two-State solution.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), sounding alarm over violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory that has led to further loss of life, said 10 Israelis have been killed in two abhorrent terror attacks in 2023. Since the start of the year, 44 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces, including 11 children. She condemned the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza on 11 and 12 February towards civilian populations as well as Israel’s announcement to legalize 10 outposts and advance up to 10,000 units in settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Settlements and outposts are not only contrary to international law, but they also undermine the prospects for peace, she asserted, calling on Israel to reverse these decisions. Condemning increasing settler violence – including the killing of Mithqal Rayyan on 11 February – she stressed that perpetrators of violence must face justice. Against this backdrop, she called on Israel to avoid measures that could amount to collective punishment against Palestinians – particularly punitive demolitions – as they cause unnecessary suffering and contribute to the cycle of violence. Four Palestinians have been killed during punitive demolition operations so far this year, she added. Restoring stability and securing peace is still possible, but will require effort from all sides. The United Kingdom stands ready to facilitate discussions and dialogue to that end, she said, reaffirming her country’s commitment to a negotiated two-State solution.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) noted that there has been no progress since the last time the Palestinian question was considered by the Council, although the cycle of violence has grown at an alarming pace. Against this backdrop, he emphasized his support for the presidential statement just adopted. Expressing deep concern over the unilateral actions and excessive use of force by the Israeli Government against refugees in Jenin, including women and children, he urged all contending parties to exercise restraint, to halt all acts of provocation and hostility, in order to allow for favourable conditions that can lead to the resumption of the long-stalled direct dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. He welcomed efforts by international partners aimed at creating the necessary conditions for the holding of Presidential and Legislative Elections in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and reiterated his urgent call for increased, predictable and sustainable support to UNRWA and the World Food Programme (WFP). Recalling Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 2334 (2016), as well as resolutions by the General Assembly forming a political and legal basis for a two-State solution, he said efforts to foster peace in the region must go in line with these deliberations.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) welcomed the Council’s adoption of the presidential statement, noting the importance of demonstrating the organ’s commitment to a two-State solution. The recent Israeli announcements and the creation of outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are policies that move the region further away from such a solution, he said, adding that those unilateral measures run counter to international law and Council resolutions – including resolution 2324 (2016). France will never recognize the illegal annexation of territories, he said, urging the Council to help avoid an escalation of violence on the ground. He strongly condemned the terrorist attacks over the past several weeks, noting that Israelis and Palestinians should have the right to live in peace and security. Against that backdrop, he called on all parties to demonstrate restraint and called for support for UNRWA, which has played a crucial role since 1949 and helps support Palestine refugees.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) welcomed the Council’s consensus on a presidential statement, echoing concern about Israel’s announcement that it will build nearly 10,000 new housing units in settlements and retroactively legalize 10 outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – unilateral measures which risk further exacerbating tensions and endanger a negotiated two-State solution. This also includes the demolition of the village of Khan al Ahmar, located in a strategic area necessary for the contiguity of the Palestinian territory. Calling on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law, including issuing building permits to the Palestinian population, she condemned attacks on civilians and emphasized the need for adequate and predictable financial support for UNRWA, which must continue to provide effective and efficient assistance in accordance with the humanitarian principle of neutrality. Voicing concern about the weakening of the Palestinian Authority, she also called for elections throughout the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and urged all parties to adhere strictly to the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
ZHANG JUN (China), citing escalating unilateral actions by Israel that are “pushing the situation to the brink of spinning out of control”, spotlighted the February decision to legalize nine West Bank outposts and build 10,000 settlement units. These negative developments run counter to international law and Council resolutions, he stressed. Recalling Israel’s recent promise to suspend unilateral activities, he said the vitality of such a diplomatic promise depends on its implementation. The international community – including countries with influence – should play an earnest, constructive role in ensuring that Israel implements its promises on the ground. Calling on Israel to return to the “right track” of a two-State solution, he said today’s presidential statement is a major step forward in managing the current crisis. Turning to UNRWA, he said Palestine refugees represent one of the earliest, largest and most-protracted refugee situations in the world. Critical services delivered by UNRWA underpin their basic livelihoods, he pointed out, calling on Israel to cease demolishing refugee homes and schools, blockading the Gaza Strip and hindering the Agency’s ability to fulfil its mandate.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said the absence of a political horizon looms large and continues to directly threaten the safety of both Israelis and Palestinians on a daily basis, by dimming hopes for a peaceful solution to the conflict. He condemned the recent terrorist attacks on Israel, deploring the loss of innocent lives. He also voiced deep concern over the worsening situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, stressing that the expansion of settlements must stop. Equally, violence against the Palestinian people, their evictions and the demolition of their private property cannot become a standard practice, as they constitute breaches of international humanitarian law. In the context of alarming, heightened tensions, the key word is “de-escalation”, he said, calling on both parties to resume security cooperation. There should not be another deadly year for civilians, he asserted, adding that the death toll is already dreadful. One-sided measures have neither been helpful nor contributed to peace efforts, he added, calling for a two-State solution with Israelis and Palestinians living as neighbours in safety and security.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) noted the importance of the Council’s adoption of the presidential statement, stressing the need for members to stand united in agreeing that Israeli settlement activity endangers a two-State Solution. A year of escalating provocations and violence have eroded those efforts, and the sustained deterioration of conditions on the ground requires greater engagement by the Council. Calling for a suspension of settlement activities, she emphasized the urgent need for moral leadership and for vigilance at the start of the three holiday periods – a time that is often marred by avoidable violence. Calling for respect for all religious sites and for the legal and historical status quo of those in Jerusalem, she reiterated the need to respect their custodianship by Jordan. The demolition of Palestinian property must stop, and there is a need for all parties to abide by their responsibilities under international law. The Council’s responsibility cannot be as a last resort to prevent a complete breakdown, she stressed, urging its members to revitalize their role as custodian of a two-State solution.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), Council President for February, speaking in her national capacity, underscored the significance of all parties avoiding unilateral inflammatory actions. Reaffirming commitment to a just and comprehensive resolution of the Middle East conflict based on a two-State solution, she said settlement activities are a clear violation of international law and Council resolutions. Expressing concern about the Israeli Government’s recent decision to advance settlement units, as well as the growing incidence of demolitions, forced evictions and settler violence, she said the Palestinian Authority must organize the postponed national elections without further delay. She spotlighted the signing of the Algiers Declaration of October 2022, and urged the Palestinian factions to engage in good faith in the reconciliation process. She also called for the re-broadening of support and a safe enabling environment for Palestinian civil society to be actively engaged in the peace process. Acknowledging Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself, she condemned the terrorist attacks committed against that State. More so, all parties must establish measures which ensure the protection of all Palestinian and Israeli children. UNRWA remains the strongest pillar of support and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people, and a stabilizing force in the region, she said, calling for severely needed financial aid to ensure the realisation of its new Strategic Plan. “Restoring stability and securing peace, which safeguards the lives of the Palestinian and Israeli people, should continue to guide our efforts,” she added.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, stated: “While the killing, the pain, the displacement, the demolitions are the same, we are fast approaching a breaking point, that no one should care to explore.” Despair is mounting with every child killed, with every house demolished and with every family displaced, he said, warning that the statistics for 2022 – the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank – may well be surpassed by 2023. Warning of an approaching “point of no return”, he said every action and decision matters. Many may feel, when watching the news emerging from Palestine, that the current situation is simply more of the same. However, “the pain hits different each time” for each mother who has lost her children or fears for the ones still alive, and for the family that can find no safety in the sanctity of their own home. “Do not become numb,” he told the Council, noting that Palestinians will not accept coexistence with oppression and occupation.
He went on to stress that Israel continues to pursue colonization and annexation – with predictable implications of gross human rights abuses, human suffering and violence. Condemning its colonial and discriminatory policies, he called for amplified international mobilization. The Council today expressed yet again its clear opposition to these policies in a unified manner, in the first presidential statement adopted on Palestine in many years. The Palestinian people deserve freedom, as well as an end to the historic injustice they endured 75 years ago and which is still ongoing today. “All peoples in our region and beyond deserve to live in peace,” he stressed, calling for freedom instead of occupation, coexistence in lieu of supremacy and peace in the place of apartheid.
GILAD ERDAN (Israel) said the Palestinian Authority teaches generations that violently murdering Jews yields infinite glory, that Israel has no right to exist and that martyrdom “is the only way”. While Council members can see this with their own eyes, none of the dismay or concern expressed in today’s joint statement is directed at this incitement. Describing the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist entity that, in 2022 alone, rewarded killers of Israelis and their families with $175 million, he said the UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General should take note of this if the Agency needs money. The world is familiar with the Palestinian “pay-for-slay” system, but is willing to let it continue without condemnation. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority incentivizes the murder of innocent Israelis while rejecting every peace agreement brought to the table.
Describing that incentivization of terror as a fundamental breach of international law and the main roadblock to peace, he stressed that, until Palestinian children are no longer brainwashed to hate and murder Israelis, “blood will still spill needlessly in our region”. The Palestinian Authority not only refuses to take real action to prevent terrorism, but also actively stokes the flames of violence, breeding a culture of hatred and evil that makes reconciliation impossible. The Palestinians’ main goal remains to prevent the existence of a Jewish State, he said, asking what Israel is expected to do when faced with a terrorist authority that “constantly strives for our delegitimization”. Concern is only expressed over Israel’s response to Palestinian terror, while the most significant violator of any agreements “sits right here across from me”, he said, underscoring that his country will never accept another terrorist entity on its borders seeking its obliteration.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed grave concern over the actions of the new Government of Israel, in grave violation of international law and Council resolutions. Stressing the organ’s crucial role in addressing such violations and holding perpetrators accountable, she said the Palestinian cause remains central to Arab nations. Security and stability in the Middle East will not be achieved until the Palestinian people attain their legitimate rights, she stressed, calling on the international community to act immediately to provide protection to the Palestinian people and put an end to Israel’s aggression, its colonial settlements and apartheid policies.
Describing Israeli practices aimed at changing the demographic make-up of the city of Jerusalem – and its policy of house demolition and forced displacement – as part of a systematic campaign of apartheid, she went on to underscore the importance of protecting Christian and Islamic holy sites and called on the international community to put an end to Israeli settlement activity and discriminatory and racist laws. In addition, she welcomed the General Assembly’s resolution requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the existence and impact of Israel’s colonial occupation, and called on the International Criminal Court to conduct investigations and hold accountable perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.