Hopes for Two-State Solution Dampened by Current Challenges Facing Peace Process, General Assembly Hears in Opening Debate on Question of Palestine

25 November 2013
GA/11459

Hopes for Two-State Solution Dampened by Current Challenges Facing Peace Process, General Assembly Hears in Opening Debate on Question of Palestine

25 November 2013
General Assembly
GA/11459
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

57th Meeting (PM)


Hopes for Two-State Solution Dampened by Current Challenges Facing Peace Process,


General Assembly Hears in Opening Debate on Question of Palestine


Speakers Call on All Parties to Refrain from Actions Undermining Negotiations


Opening a two-day debate on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, General Assembly delegates heard today the introduction of four draft resolutions that ranged from the declaration of 2014 as the Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People to efforts on moving forward towards a two‑State solution in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


Abdou Salam Diallo ( Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the draft texts on the question of Palestine, saying he hoped that next year would see President Mahmoud Abbas as the head of a sovereign State.  A vote in favour of the draft resolutions was a vote for peace, he said.


Many speakers said their hope for the State of Palestine to soon become the 194th Member State of the United Nations had been dampened by current challenges facing the peace process.  Among those concerns were Israel’s violation of international law and Security Council resolutions by expanding settlements, continued construction of the separation wall in occupied Palestinian territories and the seven-year-long Gaza blockade.


Cuba’s speaker, echoing a common thread, said that Israel’s activities had, among other things, led to the deterioration of the standard of living among Palestinians.  He called for its prompt compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions and international law in order to move ahead in peace talks.


The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that unfortunately, despite genuine efforts by the international community, hopes were being diminished as challenges on the ground persisted, with provocative Israeli actions, distractions and declarations that undermined the spirit and aim of negotiations.


He appealed to the global community to support the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People as an important contribution to fostering momentum and political will to make Palestinian-Israeli peace a reality.


However, Israel’s representative said peace was not achieved by changing one’s nameplate at the United Nations, nor would it be achieved in midtown Manhattan, but rather in the Middle East.  Palestinian leaders had called for an independent Palestinian State, but then insisted that the Palestinian people return to the Jewish State.


That, he said, was a euphemism for the destruction of the State of Israel and the single greatest hurdle to peace.  Calling on delegates to refrain from being distracted by unilateral efforts and biased resolutions, he underscored that working together, history could be made by making peace.


The representative of the European Union delegation emphasized that the two parties needed to refrain from actions that could undermine the peace process.  It was time to recognize the Palestinians’ aspiration for Statehood and sovereignty, as well as fulfil Israel’s desire for security.  A way should be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of the two States, he added.


Tunisia’s representative, speaking on the Arab Group’s behalf, similarly called for an end to destructive practices, such as Israel’s confiscation of land and its blockage on Gaza, depriving Palestinians of the most rudimentary requirements of a decent livelihood.  A just and durable solution to the Arab‑Israeli conflict must be based on international law and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations, he said.


Iran’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said there was concern at the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process, noting that “pessimism was overtaking hope”.  He stressed the need for intensified and coordinated efforts by the international community to compel Israel to cease its illegal policies and generally commit to peace process on the basis of United Nations resolutions. 


Christopher Grima ( Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced its report, which among other things called upon all Member States to extend full diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine and called upon the Security Council to revisit the issue of Palestine’s full membership.


John Ashe ( Antigua and Barbuda), President of the General Assembly, said that as the international community had begun focusing on the improvement of the quality of life beyond 2015, it was extremely regrettable that the people of Palestine were locked in a battle over their space to live in security, freedom, honour and dignity.


“Human dignity cannot be compartmentalized,” he said, adding that the desecration of life in Gaza, the West Bank or Syria was a desecration of human life everywhere. 


Also delivering statements were representatives of Kuwait, Maldives, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Pakistan, Qatar, Libya, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Nicaragua and South Africa.


Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Israel, Syria and Libya.


The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 26 November to continue its consideration of the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.


Background


The General Assembly met today to consider the question of Palestine, along with the Report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/68/35) and the Report of the Secretary-General (document A/68/363).


The Assembly would then take action on draft resolutions, including the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/68/L.12); Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (document A/68/L.13); Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat (document A/68/L.14); and the Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine (document A/68/L.15).


The Assembly also met to take up its agenda item on the situation in the Middle East.  It would consider the Report of the Secretary-General (document A/68/371) and take action on draft resolutions on Jerusalem (document A/68/L.16) and on the Syrian Golan (document A/68/L.17).


Opening Remarks


JOHN ASHE ( Antigua and Barbuda), President of the General Assembly, said the universally acceptable resolve supporting the State of Palestine had been reaffirmed by the General Assembly resolution recognizing Palestine as a non‑ Member observer State in the United Nations.


However, he noted, steps had been taken which undermined finding a solution to the question of Palestine.  The attention of the international community was currently being turned to the improvement of the quality of life beyond 2015.  It was extremely regrettable that the people of Palestine were locked in a battle over their space to live in security, freedom, honour and dignity.


“Human dignity cannot be compartmentalized,” he said, adding that the desecration of life in Gaza, the West Bank or Syria was a desecration of human life everywhere.


The Middle East region seemed to be an area where achieving peace and stability faced both internal and external challenges, he continued.  He welcomed the “G5+1” agreement, hoping that it would be a step in the direction of alleviating tensions.  Through dialogue could a spirit of trust and confidence be fostered towards a stable and peaceful Middle East, he said.


Introduction of Reports and Draft Resolutions on the Question of Palestine


ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the following draft resolutions: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/68/L.12); Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (document A/68/L.13); Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat (document A/68/L.14); and on the Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine (document A/68/L.15).


The Committee strongly supported the recognition of Palestine as a non‑Member observer State, he said, hoping that next year would see President Mahmoud Abbas as the president of a sovereign State.


However, a number of concerns remained, he stressed, including the expansion of Israeli settlements.  The four draft texts incorporated those views.  As in the past, the Committee would ensure that its resources were used efficiently.


Among new elements in the draft texts, “L.12” would have the Assembly decide to proclaim 2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  Together, the draft texts outlined positions, mandates and programmes that were important at the current crucial juncture.  A vote in favour of those four drafts would be a vote for peace, he concluded.


CHRISTOPHER GRIMA ( Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the Committee’s report (document A/68/35).  The report reviewed the situation relating to the question of Palestine, as monitored by the Committee, and contained a detailed account of the review period ending 6 October 2013.  It also included the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations.


The report, he continued, reiterated the Committee’s view that the admission of Palestine as a non-Member observer State by the General Assembly had constituted an important step towards the two-State solution and gave a new urgency to the resumption of the peace process.  In it, the Committee called upon all Member States to extend full diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine.  It also called upon the Security Council to revisit the issue of Palestine’s full membership.


The report also condemned all attacks against civilians and called on all parties to adhere to the terms of the Gaza ceasefire agreement, he said.  As well, the Committee also called upon the Security Council and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to uphold international humanitarian law and guarantee the protection of civilians.  Stressing the importance of Palestinian unity under the legitimate leadership of President Abbas to secure a comprehensive peace, he said there was concern that that the accomplishments made towards Palestinian State-building and reform were now endangered owing to the chronic financial crisis.  Donors were urged to meet commitments and provide additional aid to prevent further deterioration of the situation.


For its part, he said, the Committee was, among other things, mobilizing increased international scrutiny of developments on the ground and continuing to encourage civil society partners to work with their national Governments, parliamentarians and other institutions to gain their full support for the work of the United Nations on the question of Palestine.


Statements


RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said he was grateful for the decades‑long international political, humanitarian, financial and moral support that had helped sustain the Palestinian people as they confronted innumerable hardships in exile and under occupation.  Political progress, however, remained elusive, due to Israel’s flagrant contempt of the United Nations resolutions, as well as the absence of political will, characterized by the Security Council’s paralysis.  In November 2012, the General Assembly had, in an historic decision, accorded to his country non-Member observer State status in the United Nations.  The adoption of resolution 67/19 was a milestone in the long march of the Palestinian people for freedom, and an important step, as the application submitted in 2011 for admission to full membership remained pending before the Security Council.  Support for that resolution came from all corners of the globe and comprised countries from every major political and regional group, he noted.


The resolution, he continued, was viewed by Member States as a crucial opportunity to salvage the two-State solution at a time when its viability and conviction in it had become seriously eroded.  Having been committed to the two‑State solution for at least a quarter of a century, he noted that the significant compromise to establish a State on only 22 per cent of historic homeland was for the sake of restoring rights, achieving freedom and ending conflict.  Upholding that commitment, the State of Palestine continued to respect international law and United Nations resolutions, he said.  Unfortunately, despite genuine efforts, hopes were diminishing as challenges on the ground persisted with provocative Israeli actions, distractions and declarations that undermined the spirit and aim of negotiations.


The reality on the ground in occupied Palestine was critical, he said.  The illegal and destructive Israeli actions had sowed deep doubt about that country’s true intentions, reinforcing the notion that it was further entrenching its illegal settlements and de facto annexation of Palestinian land.  Over the past year, Israel had intensified its aggression.  Among several examples, he noted, in particular, the situation in the Gaza Strip, saying that it was condemnable that the inhumane Israeli blockade had entered its seventh year.  He called for an end to it, reiterating that the two-State solution and Israel’s settlement campaign were completely irreconcilable.  Israel was speaking of peace, while engaging in its destruction, thus making a mockery of international support for the two-State solution and sabotaging all efforts in that regard.


In the absence of a change in Israel’s behaviour, he called for international action to compel that country to respect its legal obligations.  He also urged that necessary global support be ensured in order to realize Palestinian-Israeli peace, which was all the more urgent in the context of dramatic developments in the region.  For its part, he said the State of Palestine would continue to uphold its commitment to peace, and he appealed to the international community to support the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in 2014 as an important contribution to fostering momentum and political will to make Palestinian-Israeli peace a reality.


RON PROSOR ( Israel) said that while the debate only took place once a year, anti-Israel bias pervaded the United Nations system year-round, with the Assembly passing 22 resolutions that condemned his country in 2012, compared to only four that singled out other nations.  Rubber-stamping such resolutions gave the Palestinians a false sense of reality and fed their culture of victimhood.  Noting that it had been one year since the Assembly had voted to change the Palestinian delegation’s status, he pointed out that the resolution had not given the Palestinian Authority control over Gaza, nor had it motivated the Authority to finally hold elections.  Neither had it inspired the Authority to prepare their people for peace.  The Palestinian leadership continued to foster a culture of incitement.


Israel had recently made the decision to release 26 convicted murderers as part of its commitment to advancing peace talks, he continued.  As the Palestinian Authority sung praises to those persons, the international community tuned out and mysteriously lost its voice.  In Gaza, Hamas was poisoning the hearts and minds of the next generation in classrooms, mosques and day camps.  Such incitement was having deadly consequences, with the number of Palestinian terror attacks against Israel doubling between 2011 and 2012.  Peace was not achieved by changing one’s nameplate at the United Nations.  Nor would it be achieved in midtown Manhattan, but rather in the Middle East. 


On 29 November 1947, the Assembly had adopted resolution 181, which provided for the establishment of a Jewish State and an Arab State.  Accepting huge compromises and giving up on dreams they had carried for generations, the Jewish people had nonetheless welcomed the plan and declared a new State in their ancient homeland.  Rather than accepting the Partition Plan, however, five surrounding Arab nations had declared war on the newborn Jewish State.  Palestinian leaders called for an independent Palestinian State, he noted, but were insisting that the Palestinian people return to the Jewish State.  That was a euphemism for the destruction of the State of Israel and was the single greatest hurdle to peace.  For thousands of years, Jerusalem had served as the capital of the Jewish people, but those and other historical facts were brushed aside.  Instead, all that was heard in the Assembly were rants, rhetoric and biased resolutions. 


The resolutions being voted on today had no relationship to the facts on the ground, he said.  There were countless resolutions that delegitimized and demonized Israel, but he never heard anyone speak about all the good work that Israel was doing for the Palestinians.  Today, more than 100,000 Palestinians earned their living in Israel, making up more than 10 per cent of Palestinian gross domestic product.  His country continued to give, even as its goodwill was knowingly exploited.  Israel was demonstrating its commitment to peace every single day and would not be deterred from that goal.  He called on colleagues in the hall not to be distracted by unilateral efforts and biased resolutions.  Working together, history could be made by making peace.


Gholamhossein Dehghani (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that following the historic adoption of Palestine as a non-Member observer State, Israel, the occupying Power, had “blatantly intensified” its illegal settlement activities, along with many other unlawful policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The situation was extremely severe in the Jordan Valley where thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of Bedouin families, had been displaced in an effort for the “quiet transfer” — or depopulation — of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants, thus ensuring a Jewish majority in the East Jerusalem.  Any alteration in Occupied Palestinian Territory’s democratic composition, character and status was null and void.


He said that the blockade of Gaza, entering its seventh year, constituted a collective punishment of the entire Palestinian civilian population and was a grave breach of international humanitarian law.  There was concern at the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process, he noted, regretting that, even as negotiations had resumed, “pessimism was overtaking hope” as every passing day reaffirmed that Israel was more interested in maintaining control over the Palestinian land rather than achieving a just peace.  He stressed the need for intensified and coordinated efforts by the international community to compel Israel to cease its illegal policies and generally commit to peace process on the basis of United Nations resolutions.  He pointed out that the adoption of Palestine as a non-Member observer State and its admission as a Member State of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was a vote of confidence that Palestine met the Charter criteria of Statehood and was ready to assume its Charter responsibilities. 


Mohamed Khaled Khiari ( Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the international community had reiterated its support for the Palestinian people.  The adoption of resolution 67/19 was a “landmark” expression of that support for the establishment of a Palestinian State.  Provocative statements by Israeli officials were not conducive to the desired peace and threatened negotiations between the two sides.  The settlement processes were a violation of international law and imperilled prospects for a Palestinian State, and he called for an end to those activities.  Practices such as the confiscation of land and erosion of rights were a breach of international legitimacy, and he condemned repeated acts of aggression by the Israeli settlers.  Furthermore, Israel should lift its blockade on Gaza since it deprived Palestinians of the most rudimentary requirements of a decent livelihood.  He said that the Group was committed to achieving a just and durable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on international law and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.


Ioannis Vrailas, representative for the Delegation of the European Union, said it was time to recognize the Palestinians’ aspiration for Statehood and sovereignty, as well as the fulfilment of Israel’s desire for security, through a two-State solution and the end of claims on lands and other resources.  The two parties needed to refrain from actions that could undermine the peace process.  Therefore, he deplored the recent Israeli decisions to advance settlement expansion in East Jerusalem.  The Union’s position was clear: settlements, the separation barrier built on occupied land and the demolition of homes were not only illegal under international law but also made a two-State solution impossible.  Furthermore, a way should be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of the two States, he said.


He said that the serious limitations in the Palestinian Authority to promote the economic development of Palestinian communities in Area C and the worsening of Palestinian living conditions were of grave concern.  There was particular concern by instances of collective demolitions in recent months, which likely took place as a result of the Palestinians’ inability to obtain an Israeli permit to build.  Additionally, the hostilities affecting the Gaza Strip indicated that the present situation there would remain unsustainable as long as it remained politically and economically separated from the West Bank.  Fully recognizing Israel’s “legitimate concerns” regarding vital security threats in the region and its positive measures on the opening of crossing for commercial goods, he called for the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to the Gaza Strip. 


Mansour Ayyad SH A AlOtaibi ( Kuwait) said his country supported all efforts to reach a final solution on status issues, including borders, water and settlements.  However, Israeli practices could undermine those efforts with the expansion of its settlements, continued land confiscation and the restriction of the movement of people and goods by dividing the Palestinian territories, alongside the seven-year Gaza blockade.  As those and other activities exacerbated tensions in the region, he called on Israel to end its blockade, to halt aggressions and to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions.  Israel should also withdraw from the Syrian Golan and end aggressions against Lebanon.  He expressed support for the Palestinian people’s aspirations and the establishment of a Palestinian State, which he hoped would soon become the 194th State of the United Nations.


Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez ( Cuba) said Israel had continued to defy the international community and its laws and treaties, with some activities included in the Committee’s report.  When the General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the resolution recognizing Palestine as a non-Member observer State, Israel had announced the construction of 3,000 new housing units on Palestinian territory.  Further, the illegal construction of the wall continued, severely depriving the population access to health, education and commerce.  Other activities had, among other things, led to the deterioration of the standard of living among Palestinians.  Cuba renewed its strong condemnation of those actions and called on the occupying Power to desist from its aggressions.  The international community must ensure that relevant Security Council resolutions were implemented, he said, noting that the passivity of the Security Council, due to the use of veto power by one of its permanent members, was an expression of hypocrisy. 


Jeffrey Salim Waheed( Maldives) said the window for opportunity for the two‑State solution was closing due to new settlements changing the demographics of Palestine; an economic embargo meant to leave a people destitute; and a refusal to grant Palestinians access to Palestinian land.  There had to be a way forward — a compromise.  However, it would not be achieved as long as the occupying Power continued with the illegal construction of the wall, which was estimated to be twice the length of the 1949 Armistice Line and would entrap 11,000 Palestinians, thereby forcing their dependency on Israeli permits to live in their own homes.  The control of underground and surface water resources by the occupying Power — another obstacle to peace — had left approximately 1 million Palestinians in 492 communities in the West Bank dependent on 60 litres or less of water per capita per day — significantly below the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 100 litres per day.  Settlement expansion continued to be detrimental to the peace process by undermining the basis for a future Palestinian State.  Yet, Israel’s Government had approved the construction of approximately 24,000 residential units and retroactively legalized others.  The ancestors of these two nations, he said, “built pyramids in less time” than the international community had taken in finding a just, lasting solution to this question.  He expressed hope this would be the generation to see the end to this journey toward peace.


LANA NUSSEIBEH ( United Arab Emirates) welcomed the participation of the Palestinian delegation — for the first time since the United Nations establishment — in the vote on an Assembly resolution.  Its participation marked a significant, historic step towards international recognition of Palestine as an independent State and a full United Nations M ember State.  She strongly supported all regional and international political efforts, including the recent efforts of the United States, which led to the resumption of direct negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides three months ago aimed at reaching a final peace agreement that settled all core issues.  She stressed the need for Israel, the occupying Power, to lift the unjust siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, release thousands of Palestinian detainees, withdraw from all occupied Palestinian territories and cease its settlement activities.  Such moves were prerequisites to an acceptable peace agreement within the nine-month deadline based on the two-State solution.  The economic and social conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories had deteriorated severely because of the continuing Israeli practices on one hand and the inadequate resources of the Palestinian Authority on the other.  She urged donors to provide more emergency aid to the Palestinian people and continue contributing development assistance in a timely manner.


Jamal Fares Alrowaiei(Bahrain), welcoming the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, reiterated his country’s support for those people to recover their inalienable right to an independent State, whose capital would be Jerusalem.  In that context, the King of Bahrain had sent a letter to the Committee for the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in which he urged the international community to “remain vigilant”.  Among other things, the letter called for an end to illegal settlement activity, repeated attacks on religious sites and the blockade of Gaza.  His King had also noted that it was a propitious time for a lasting and just peace, and as such, international efforts must be stepped up to put a rapid end to this conflict.


He went on to say that the creation of an independent Palestinian State side by side with Israel was an urgent matter, especially following the adoption by overwhelming majority of a resolution that had granted Palestine the status of non-Member observer State.  He noted the Committee’s work in raising awareness of Palestinian suffering and needs, highlighting in particular a training programme for Palestinian journalists that had taken place last year.  Concluding, he said that a just and lasting peace was a “strategic option” and would require implementation of the relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as respect for the road map and the Arab Peace Initiative.


MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan) said the four obstacles impeding the success of the Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations must be removed in order to move forward.  The two independent States — with their border drawn prior to the 1967 war — should plan to live side by side in peace and security, with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian State’s capital.  Israel must wind back its plans for expansion of illegal settlements, which the Government knew as the “single biggest impediment to peace talks”.  The increased demolitions and displacements in the occupied territories, especially East Jerusalem, must be stopped.  Further, the collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza meted out each day must end.  Less than 200 people per day had been allowed out of Gaza in the first half of 2013, compared to around 26,000 before the blockade.  In addition, 19 out of 20 United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) projects had ground to a halt.  Despite all of that, the Palestinians’ historic compromise of recognizing Israel as a State and agreeing to settle for only 22 per cent of its territory should be applauded and considered an important construct for negotiations. 


ABDULAZIZ AL-NEAMA (Qatar), associating his delegation with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the historic granting of observer status to Palestine had been in keeping with the ultimate objective of the creation of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital and the restoration of the Palestinian people’s rights.  The only viable solution was a two-State solution.  However, Israel had rejected the concept of a fair and lasting peace and continued to violate international law.  Palestinians continued to be detained in Israeli prisons, women and children suffered and violence continued.  He was especially concerned by the strategy of the Israeli Government to sabotage the economy and deprive the Palestinian people access to water.


Turning to Gaza, he said that the blockade that continued there was “unfair”.  Among other things, electricity was in short supply there and daily life suffered as a result.  That “deterioration” could be found both in the West Bank and Gaza.  Military aggressions against the Palestinians by the administering Power likewise reminded the international community of the need to lend support and help mitigate the Palestinians’ suffering.  Qatar would continue to lend the necessary aid and assistance.


Imad I. A. Taguri( Libya) said the Assembly’s acknowledgment of the existence of the State of Palestine a year ago had been a step through which the international community affirmed its resolve to move towards responding to the aspirations of the Palestinian people and their dream of establishing an independent sovereign State.  However, the resolution had been met with Israel’s new aggressive settlements aimed at undermining the formation of a Palestinian State even on less than 20 per cent of the historic land of Palestine.  Despite wide international condemnation of Israeli settlement policies, the Israeli authorities persisted in their arrogance and refusal to acknowledge inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Those people had been oppressed for decades and their suffering increased every day. 


Further, he said, the Israeli authorities sought to “depopulate” those territories, especially in East Jerusalem.  The authorities had also imposed an embargo on 1.5 million Palestinians in “the largest prison on earth”, the Gaza Strip, in blatant disregard of international law, including the Geneva Convention.  The question of Palestine was the only question that was as old as the United Nations, and yet it remained without even the prospect of a solution.  Israel had never been desirous of achieving a peace agreement with the Palestinians; it had rather used the so-called peace process to buy time to assimilate further territories, so as to render the establishment of a Palestinian State impossible.  It was incumbent upon the international community and the Security Council to alter the way they dealt with Israel.


ASOKE KUMAR MUKERJI ( India) said he welcomed the recent efforts of Palestine and Israel to resume direct peace talks and he remained hopeful that the negotiations would lead to a comprehensive peace process.  That message also noted India’s technical and economic assistance for Palestine’s nation-building efforts, as well as its annual $1 million contribution to UNRWA.  Resolving the Palestinian question was a prerequisite for a sustainable and lasting peace in the Middle East.  Given the unpredictable situation in the region, with the ongoing conflict in Syria, there must be no more delay in addressing the issue.  Israel must lift the blockade on Gaza, he said, and stop settlement activities.


Saleumxay Kommasith(Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the continued illegal settlement activity and destruction of properties, homes and economic institutions in the occupied land had not only deteriorated the already critical socioeconomic situation faced by the Palestinian population but had also constituted a breach to international law and had impeded the peace process and opportunities for negotiation.  He called for a just, lasting, comprehensive and peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict under the relevant United Nations resolutions and Quartet Road Map, which envisaged a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish State of Israel.  In that regard, he strongly supported the renewed engagement of the United States, supported by the Arab League follow-up committee and many world leaders.  He also urged that the parties live up to their commitments, negotiate in good faith and refrain from steps that could jeopardize negotiations. 


María Rubiales de Chamorro(Nicaragua), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, saluted, on this International Day of Solidarity, the “heroic” Palestinian people and its authorities and reaffirmed support for their just struggle to establish a sovereign State.  The issue of Palestine was at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the greatest desire of the Palestinian people was to live in harmony with its neighbours.  But this could not be achieved as long as Israeli occupation and aggression continued nor until the Palestinian people could recover their occupied lands or secure the return of refuges, the freedom of prisoners, the lifting of the blockade and the return of their right to live within their own borders.  Israel continued to build more settlements in occupied territories.  Putting an end to these activities was an indispensable prerequisite.  Nicaragua also called for an end to Israel’s “ethnic cleansing”.  The international community, including the Security Council, especially the ally of Israel, must redouble its efforts in that regard.


Jeremiah Nyamane Kingsley Mamabolo( South Africa) said that on 29 November, the international community would join the Palestinian people in celebrating the first anniversary of their statehood.  At the same time, he was disappointed that the Palestinian people had not achieved full United Nations membership as they deserved.  Negotiations between the two parties were ongoing, but the environment in which they were being held was far from conducive.  Issues in this context included the obliteration of Palestinian homes and the confiscation of land, among other things.  The settlement of lands was of particular concern since such activity limited the possibility of creating two contiguous States.  Everyone knew that these egregious activities were violations of the Geneva Convention as well as Council resolutions.  If Israel was negotiating in good faith, it would have stopped these illegal practices.  It was the responsibility of those who had influence over Israel to use their leverage to work towards a lasting solution.  As it was, Israel was emboldened by having influential partners.  South Africa hoped that 2014 would see the international community exert all efforts to guarantee the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.


Right of Reply


Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Israel said several Arab delegations had made assertions against his country.  The energy spent making those claims would be better spent on focusing on human rights issues in their own countries.  It was absurd to hear some of the most oppressive States in the region criticize his country.  In Libya’s case, for instance, the delegate chose to use the same rhetoric of Qaddafi, using words such as “cancerous” and similar cheap propaganda.  Name-calling did not lead to real peace.  Iran, who spoke on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, was supporting a murderous regime in Damascus.  The rhetoric of the Movement must stop, he said.


A representative of Syria, responding to his counterpart from Israel, said his delegation objected to the lies and allegations in that representative’s statement.  Israel was the last State that could approach discussions on human rights given its own violations against surrounding countries since 1948.  Israel also had assisted armed groups.  Assistance to terrorist groups, including Al‑Qaida, was in violation of international law and endangered United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the occupied Golan, he said.


Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Libya said allegations of human rights violations that had been discussed had been documented by international human rights organizations.  The current debate was on the Palestinian issue and the various bodies dealing with those issues and speakers today mentioned issues in the reports that were before the Assembly.  What was discussed was simply reality, he said.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.