Urging Concerted Action to Revive Peace Talks, General Assembly Adopts Six Resolutions on Question of Palestine, Situation in Middle East

GA/11861
30 November 2016
Seventy-first Session, 50th Meeting (AM)

Urging Concerted Action to Revive Peace Talks, General Assembly Adopts Six Resolutions on Question of Palestine, Situation in Middle East

The General Assembly today adopted six resolutions on Palestinian and Middle East issues, ranging from Jerusalem to the United Nations special information programme on the question of Palestine.

The Assembly adopted a resolution on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/71/L.21) by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Tonga, Vanuatu).  By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly called for the intensification of efforts by the parties, including through negotiations, with the support of the international community, towards the conclusion of a final peace settlement.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution on Jerusalem (document A/71/L.22) by a recorded vote of 149 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Vanuatu).  By its terms, the Assembly reiterated its determination that any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem were illegal and therefore null and void and had no validity whatsoever, and called upon Israel to immediately cease all such illegal and unilateral measures.  The Assembly also stressed that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of the City of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

By the terms of a resolution on the Syrian Golan (document A/71/L.8), the Assembly demanded that Israel withdraw from all the occupied territory to the line of 4 June 1967 and called on all parties concerned to exert the necessary efforts to ensure the resumption of the peace process.  That resolution received 103 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States), with 56 abstentions.

In adopting a resolution on the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat (document A/71/L.20), the Assembly renewed the Department’s mandate.  It also requested the Department to disseminate information on all activities relating to the question of Palestine and peace efforts and to organize and promote fact-finding news missions for journalists to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, and Israel.  That text garnered 153 votes in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Honduras, Nauru, Paraguay, Togo, Tonga, Vanuatu).

The Assembly also adopted a resolution on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (A/71/L.18), as orally revised, by a recorded vote of 100 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Guatemala, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 55 abstentions, and a resolution on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (document A/71/L.19), with 98 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Guatemala, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 57 abstentions.

The Permanent Observer of Palestine said the adoption of the six resolutions by an overwhelming majority of United Nations Member States was a reflection of the longstanding international consensus in favour of achieving a just, lasting and peaceful solution to the question of Palestine.  It was also a clear reaffirmation of the international community’s consensus on the two-State solution, which was now in grave peril due to Israel’s actions.  The despair and hopelessness of the Palestinian people was increasing as the fiftieth year of the illegal Israeli occupation approached, he said.

The representative of Israel said the resolutions had not only failed to promote dialogue or build trust, they had also created an organizational infrastructure that had abused funding to allow anti-Israel activities to take place under the auspices of the United Nations.  Supporting the resolutions and the inherent bias against Israel would not advance the cause of peace, but instead make peace harder to achieve.  The Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine offered a misleading narrative of the region and circulated prejudiced materials under the banner of the United Nations, undermining the Organization’s integrity and impartiality.  It was baffling how the United Nations, which continued to face a severe budgetary deficit, had spent approximately $6.5 million a year on bodies that were dedicated solely to promoting the Palestinian narrative, she said.

Before taking action on the drafts, the Assembly concluded its debate on the question of Palestine and on the situation in the Middle East.  During both discussions, several delegations stressed the importance of breaking the impasse, with the representative of Norway pointing to recent progress and urging more cooperation.  Both sides, she said, had made developments on key infrastructure projects in Gaza.  While progress on the economic side was no substitute for a political solution, promoting and protecting economic advancements on the Palestinian side remained vital to the peace process.

Egypt’s delegate said that Israeli settlements were not just an obstacle to peace, but the crux of the problem.  Even Israeli voices, aware that the occupation was impossible to continue, were against the imposition of status quo policies and were aware that one people could not live at the expense of another.  While Egypt and Arabs as a whole would continue to cooperate to move forward the peace process in the region, the international community’s will and Israel’s cooperation remained critical.

The Assembly also had before it two reports of the Secretary-General titled “The situation in the Middle East” (document A/71/328) and “Peaceful Settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/71/359).

Speaking today were the representatives of Bahrain, Pakistan, Oman, Ecuador, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China, Morocco, Bangladesh, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Libya, Algeria, Syria, Kuwait, Russian Federation, Maldives, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Slovakia (on behalf of the European Union), Paraguay, Brazil (also for Argentina) and United States.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 6 December to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on sport for development and peace, and investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him.

Question of Palestine

HAYFA ALI AHMED MATAR (Bahrain), recalling that the King of Bahrain had recently sent a letter of solidarity to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said her country had always worked with the international community in support of the establishment of a sovereign State of Palestine.  Expressing support for all peace efforts, including the Arab Peace Initiative - which called for the full withdrawal of Israel from all Arab territories occupied since 1967 – she said the Committee’s annual report reflected the “outrageous” deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories resulting from Israel’s annexation policies and its building of a wall in East Jerusalem.  Commending the Committee’s recent awareness-raising initiatives and expressing appreciation for the work of the United Nations Department of Public Information and the Division for Palestinian Rights, she reiterated Bahrain’s support for efforts promoting a just, lasting peace in a manner that would meet the Palestinian people’s aspirations and ensure their return to their homeland.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was essential to achieving peace and stability in the Middle East as well as to addressing some of the drivers of extremism and terrorism.  “It is this conflict that has contributed most significantly to the anger and frustration in the Arab and Islamic world,” she said.  The continuing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, the blockade of Gaza and other provocations represented real and present obstacles to a two-State solution.  Despite countless United Nations resolutions, nothing had been able to transform that grim reality, she said, emphasizing that “renewed demands for recognition of the State of Palestine are a clarion call that must be heeded”.  Inaction on the Security Council’s part undermined its own credibility and weakened the ideals espoused by the United Nations, and in that regard, resuming negotiations was the only way forward.  The Council must live up to its obligations and responsibilities, and summon the political courage and vision to adopt a resolution containing parameters and timelines for ending the occupation, he/she stressed.

KHALIFA BIN ALI ISSA AL-HARTHY (Oman) said illegal practices by Israeli forces in terms of settlements and other violations of international law continued to flagrantly infringe on the human rights of the Palestinian people.  He urged the international community, particularly the Security Council, to compel Israel to stop its practices and resume negotiations to end the occupation of Palestinian territories and withdraw from the Syrian Golan.  Peace and stability could only be achieved through dialogue, he added, calling for serious negotiations that would maintain the right of all sides to live peacefully in two countries side by side.

HORACIO SEVILLA BORJA (Ecuador), noting that after the 1948 war more than half of all Palestinians had been forced to flee or had been expelled from their land, said the increased number of displaced Palestinians today was tragic.  Their situation had deteriorated as they had continued to be deprived of their most basic rights.  The lack of effective action by the Security Council and the indifference of the powers directly involved had allowed Israel to create and practice unilateral policies, he said, emphasizing the suffering that had been caused by the Gaza blockade.  The Security Council could no longer ignore that, must fulfil its responsibility and stop remaining silent.   He urged Israel to respect international law and the opinion of the international community, which had year after year called for an end to its policies.  The question of Palestine was primarily a political one requiring a political settlement, he said, expressing support for recent proposals by France, Egypt and the Russian Federation to move forward the peace process.

MAYTHONG THAMMAVONGSA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that unfortunately the Palestinian people still had no glimmer of hope to realize their right to self-determination and the international community must take bold steps to create favourable conditions to restart negotiations.  At the current rate, efforts to address the humanitarian needs and rebuild homes were insufficient due to the Gaza blockade, he said, urging the international community to provide support to expedite the reconstruction process.  The continued illegal settlement activities and destruction of property, homes and economic institutions had led to a further deterioration of the situation.  Settlements constituted a breach of international law and remained an impediment to the peace process.  It was critical to find a lasting solution to the question of Palestine on the basis of United Nations resolutions and the Quartet road map that envisaged a sovereign, independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The more widespread the recognition of the State of Palestine, the more positive the contribution would be to expedite a peaceful solution.

JAMAL JAMA AHMED ABDULLA AL MUSHARAKH (United Arab Emirates) expressed concern over the deteriorating situation, escalating violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the absence of a solution to the longstanding question of Palestine.  The tragic situation had persisted for 70 years and would continue as long as Israel continued its policies of demolition, forced displacement and excessive force.  The Gaza embargo and illegal settlement activities disregarded all international calls to the contrary.  Israeli settlers continued to practice violence against the Palestinian people, while the Government continued to exploit Palestinian natural resources and take illegal measures to change the character of Jerusalem.  Strongly condemning such oppressive policies and calling on Israel to end them, he warned against continuing the occupation, which threatened the region’s security and stability and “played into the hands of terrorists and extremist groups”.  The international community must compel Israel to cease its illegal activities, he said, stressing that the Security Council must pursue all measures to salvage the two-State solution.

MOHAMED ALI ALHAKIM (Iraq) said the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People had reflected and renewed the international community’s permanent responsibility on the question of Palestine.  It also emphasized the need to end the unjust occupation and to establish a sovereign Palestinian State.  Iraq had long supported that goal and remained extremely concerned about the continued suffering of the Palestinian people.  Noting that Israel’s continued attacks had killed civilians and destroyed homes, infrastructure and holy places, and that its expansionist settlement policies had perpetuated the suffering of a people that had lost every hope, he said a just and lasting peace would only be possible through the establishment of an independent, Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  In that regard, he called on all Member States that had not yet done so – including European nations – to recognize the State of Palestine without delay and to create a “united front” to help the Palestinian people combat the negative consequences of the Israeli occupation.

AHMED ELSHANDAWILY (Egypt) said the Israeli occupation of Palestine was entering its fiftieth year, fuelling the longest and most dangerous conflict in the Middle East.  The international community had always promoted the Palestinian cause on the basis of resolutions, with both Palestinian and Israeli aspirations in mind.  However, settlements had continued on Palestinian territories and maintaining the status quo was contrary to the principles of the United Nations.  Holding meetings and adopting resolutions in the Security Council was a testament that Arabs and Palestinians continued to choose a path to peace, yet, some Member States had continued to delay resolving the Palestinian question.  Israeli settlements were not just an obstacle to peace, but the crux of the problem.  Israeli voices, aware that the occupation was impossible to continue, were against the imposition of status quo policies and that one people could not live at the expense of another.  While Egypt and Arabs as a whole would continue to cooperate to move forward the peace process in the region, the international community’s will and Israel’s cooperation remained critical.

ABEER DAVISH (Saudi Arabia) said the Palestinian people were still deprived of their rights to self-determination and to live in dignity.  Israel continued its violations of international law, settlement activities and breaching the sanctity of holy places.  The international community had a responsibility to dissuade Israel from carrying out those actions, which had hampered negotiations and the peace process.  Peace depended entirely on the complete and final withdrawal from Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Saudi Arabia supported a peace process, she said, expressing support for the establishment of a Palestinian State based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and the preservation of the Arab nature of those areas.

SHEIKH AHMAD MOHAMED AL-THANI (Qatar), noting that the Middle East was currently facing a number of serious challenges, said the region attached great importance to achieving a just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine.  He commended the Committee’s initiative to proclaim 2017 as the international year of ending the Israeli occupation, based on realistic and legal justifications to defuse tensions between the two parties.  The international community should move to compel Israel to cease its illegal activities and withdraw to pre-1967 borders.  Emphasizing that the escalating violence on the ground was a result of the occupying Power’s excessive use of force and the crimes that had been committed by Israeli settlers, he underscored the need to provide international protection to the Palestinian people and to enforce all relevant United Nations resolutions.  As Israel’s policies were hampering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, there was also a need to establish a comprehensive, evidence-based mechanism to determine the economic losses that had resulted from the occupation.

WU HAITAO (China), stressing that resolving the question of Palestine was in the interest of all people in the Middle East and around the world, said the international community must not allow the Palestinian people to continue to suffer.  He called on Member States to support an independent Palestinian State, promote the early resumption of peace talks, develop more effective peace-promoting mechanisms, respond to the legitimate concerns of Palestinians and the Arab States and help alleviate the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  As a permanent member of the Security Council, China was ready to play its role in promoting those goals.  However, it was critical that the international community respected the rights of people in the Middle East to choose their own political systems and uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter, including the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all States.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) expressed support for ending any impasse that was obstructing the establishment of a Palestinian State based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The international community must address those obstacles and fulfil its responsibility to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.   Israeli practices to impede the status of Jerusalem as an integral part of the Palestinian Occupied Territories and an attempt to harm the Palestinian cause were systematic acts of aggression.  He expressed commitment to support peace in Palestine and ensure the rights of the Palestinian people to Jerusalem.  “We will do everything possible” to ensure that the Palestinian people live in peace, he said.  Emphasizing the need to preserve the Arab heritage of Jerusalem, he said it was critical now more than ever before to move toward peace to guarantee security and stability in the region.

SUHRAB UDDIN (Bangladesh) said the Quartet’s efforts to assess the situation on the ground and to understand the evolving political dynamics had helped to produce some useful reports.  However, those efforts and other initiatives by individual Member States had not yet been able to secure the necessary political will to move towards meaningful and results-oriented negotiations.  It would be a missed opportunity to lose momentum due to political transition, focus on other conflict situations or humanitarian emergencies, he emphasized.  The international community’s immediate priority must be to condemn illegal Israeli settlements, including recent expansion plans, which had been identified as the main obstacle to negotiations and, ultimately, to a viable two-State solution.  The international community must also impress upon Israel, the occupying Power, that it must end its systematic violations of international humanitarian law and its unjustified acts of collective punishment unleashed on the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) said to break the current impasse, all parties must increase the will to make peace a reality.  All unilateral actions that had turned hope into confrontation must end, including settlement activities, violence and inciting violence.  The Palestinian Authority and Israel had made important progress on key infrastructure projects in Gaza.  The way forward warranted key participation from donors.  For its part, Norway was actively working with parties and the donors.  Going forward, the Palestinian Authority must reform and strengthen its political structures.  The situation in Gaza was of grave concern, she said, urging for accelerated reconstruction efforts.  While progress on the economic side was no substitute for a political solution, parties must continue to advance the Palestine economy.

FERIDUN SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a core obstacle blocking the achievement of a peaceful, stable and democratic Middle East.  The root cause of the conflict was Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories.  More countries needed to recognize the State of Palestine, whose full integration into international institutions was vital for Palestinians to negotiate on equal footing with Israel.  For their part, the Palestinians needed to establish unity, he said, encouraging Palestinian groups to reconcile.  The international community should uphold its responsibility to reach a negotiated political settlement based on a two-State solution.  His country would not cease its efforts towards a just and lasting settlement that established a sovereign and independent Palestinian State within pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

RUSLAN BULTRIKOV (Kazakhstan) expressed his serious concern about the absence of real progress in the resolution of the conflict and the situation of the Palestinian people.  Calling for urgent action by the international community towards its resolution to mitigate their suffering, he said the blockades and checkpoints in Gaza with little scope for economic survival were worsening their socioeconomic and humanitarian situations, deteriorating relations and diminishing the prospects of peace.  Underscoring that the two-State solution with a return to 1967 borders, reached by dialogue, was the only option for a durable peace, he urged the Quartet to continue to pursue its mediation efforts and called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to show political responsibility to work towards the goal of achieving peace.

ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said the international community had a responsibility to compel Israel to respect the rights of the Palestinian people.  The occupying Power had long flouted its obligations under international law, he said, recalling that war crimes had been committed against civilians in Gaza, Jerusalem and elsewhere.  Israel’s illegal settlement activities, assassinations, excessive use of force, violations of holy places and destruction of homes violated human rights and its efforts to remove the Arab identity of Jerusalem flouted a number of Security Council resolutions.  Such activities must end and the Palestinian State must be recognized as a full-fledged member of the international community.  He condemned the situation in the Syrian Golan and the Gaza Strip, where the continued siege still threatened the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

IDRISS BOUASSILA (Algeria), noting that the Assembly was meeting against the backdrop of fading peace prospects in the Middle East, stressed that “the inaction of the international community, and its inability to find a just solution, is a failure of the contemporary world order”.  While many calls to end the occupation had been issued over the years, Israel had continued its brutal aggression in contravention of international law and had refused to end its daily violations of the Palestinian people’s human rights.  Emphasizing their right to protection under international law and that Israel’s policies remained the main obstacle to the two-State solution, he said the International Day of Solidarity served as a reminder of the international community’s responsibility vis-à-vis the Palestinian people.  Member States must pressure Israel to end the occupation, he said, welcoming efforts to proclaim 2017 as the international year supporting that goal.

Situation in the Middle East

AHMED ELSHANDAWILY (Egypt) introduced two draft resolutions on the situation in the Middle East.  The first titled “Jerusalem” (document A/71/L.22) would have the Assembly reiterate its determination that any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem were illegal and therefore null and void and had no validity whatsoever.  The Assembly would also call upon Israel to immediately cease all such illegal and unilateral measures.  It would stress that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of the City of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and Israeli sides and should include internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by people of all religions and nationalities.

By the draft resolution, the Assembly would also stress the need for the parties to observe calm and restraint and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, especially in areas of religious and cultural sensitivity.  It would also call for respect for the historic status quo at the holy places of Jerusalem, including the Haram al-Sharif, in word and practice, and would urge all sides to work immediately and cooperatively to defuse tensions and halt all provocations, incitement and violence at the holy sites in the city.

Introducing the second draft resolution, titled “The Syrian Golan” (document A/71/L.8), he said that by its terms, the Assembly would declare that Israel had failed so far to comply with Security Council resolution 497 (1981).  The Assembly also would declare that the Israeli decision of 14 December 1981 to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and had no validity whatsoever, as confirmed in Council resolution 497 (1981).  The Assembly would also reaffirm its determination that all relevant provisions of the regulations annexed to The Hague Convention, of 1907, and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 1949, continued to apply to the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.  By the draft, the Assembly would also call upon Israel to resume talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and to respect the commitments that had been reached during previous talks.  The Assembly would demand once more that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 in implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.  It would also call upon all the parties concerned to exert all the necessary efforts to ensure the resumption of the peace process and its success by implementing Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) said that during the Assembly’s annual consideration of its Middle East agenda items, the body had always called upon Israel to end its occupation and declared all efforts to impose Israeli laws and authority on the occupied territories “unlawful, illegitimate, null and void”.  The Assembly’s work went hand in hand with the Security Council’s unanimous adoption of resolutions on Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan, he said, noting that, 50 years after the start of the occupation, Israel was still pursuing its “warlike and racist” policies.  Describing documented evidence of Israel’s complicity with terrorist groups, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in the Syrian Golan separation zone, he said it was no longer tolerable for the United Nations and its Member States to continue to cooperate with that occupying force.  Syria categorically refused to recognize all measures that aim at usurping its Arab identity.  Indeed, the Golan Heights could not be a bargaining tool and there must be no concessions in that regard.

HAYA AL-DURAIE (Kuwait) expressed support for international efforts that were laying the foundation for security and stability in the region.  However, the faltering peace process continued to present a danger to the Middle East.  Despite international calls on Israel to end its expansionist policies and violations of human rights, those actions continued.  Kuwait supported Palestinian aspirations to establish a State based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and also all measures that had been carried out by Lebanon to preserve its sovereignty.  The humanitarian situation in Syria continued to be extremely concerning, she said, emphasizing that Syrians now constituted the largest refugee population in the world.  The world could no longer ignore the situation in Aleppo, where indiscriminate bombardments must end and violators of international law must be brought to justice.  The Syrian people had a right to peace and freedom, she said, noting that Kuwait had hosted several international donor conferences and had pledged $1.3 billion, which had been largely dispersed to United Nations agencies.  On Yemen, she said efforts to reach a solution must be based on the outcome of a national dialogue, the Gulf Initiative and relevant Security Council resolutions.  She rejected any unilateral measures in Yemen to create a “Government of salvation”.  Turning to other situations in the region, she commended Iraq’s achievements to combat Da’esh and expressed hope that a political agreement in Libya would help to stabilize that country.

VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said that the situation in the Middle East, the cradle of civilization, unfortunately remained tense.  He condemned all acts of violence against Palestinians and Israelis.  Israeli authorities, despite strong condemnation, had continued to build settlements, he added, expressing concern over their legalization and continued land expropriation.  Those activities undermined decisions that had been taken to resolve the Palestinian question.  It was critical to renew substantial talks through international bodies, including Security Council resolutions and the Quartet, which contained concrete recommendations on the prospect of a two-State solution.  He reaffirmed that there still remained an invitation to both sides to meet the President of the Russian Federation in Moscow to discuss a way to move beyond the impasse.  The situation in Gaza continued to be very concerning, he said, expressing support for lifting the blockade.  The anniversary of the most important Security Council resolution must serve as a stimulus to achieve peace, he concluded.

MOOMINA IBRAHIM (Maldives), noting that the current debate was taking place at a time when the world was full of trepidation over the grave humanitarian situation in Syria – particularly the escalating violence in Aleppo – expressed her delegation’s grave concern over the situation in the Middle East as a whole.  There could be no peace without development and without development, no peace, as illustrated by the continued suffering of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Underscoring the need to realize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, she went on to say that the international community had watched for years as the violence in Syria – which had been called “our generation’s shame” — continued to escalate.  That conflict was causing an unending web of violence and destabilizing the entire region, while the resulting vacuum had led to the birth of ISIL.  In that regard, she condemned acts of terror, including those committed in the name of Islam, and called on all parties in Syria “to leave politics aside and take the side of humanity”.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) said instability in the Middle East had had repercussions beyond the region, including waves of refugees and migrants and the spread of violent extremism.  While the international community had dealt with those issues with mixed results at best, it was important to note that they were symptoms of deeper issues which must be addressed.  Stressing the need for actions that would have a tangible impact on the ground, he called on Israel to immediately freeze its settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem.  As violence continued from both sides with varying degrees of intensity, the leaders of both parties must renew their commitment to the two-State solution, which meant achieving the goal of co-existence.  Describing Japan’s efforts to facilitate such efforts, including through its Corridor for Peace and Prosperity initiative, he said that while there was no easy answer, his Government stood ready to continue its work alongside the international community.

The representative of Israel, in explanation of position,  said it was shameful how some countries had yet to accept the existence of Israel and abused the General Assembly to spread baseless allegations.  Today’s resolutions had served those who preferred to promote a biased narrative.  The six resolutions had not only failed to promote dialogue or build trust, they had also created an organizational infrastructure that abused United Nations funding to allow anti-Israel activities to take place under United Nations auspices.  The Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine, the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat, and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people were bodies dedicated solely to one specific conflict. Meanwhile, the Special Information Program on the Question of Palestine, led by the United Nations Department of Public Information, had offered a biased and misleading narrative of the region. It circulated prejudiced materials under the banner of the United Nations, undermining the institution’s integrity and impartiality.  It was crucial, she said, to make sure that no United Nations platform was being abused in order to disseminate materials promoting anti-Israel messages. It was baffling how the United Nations, which continued to face a severe budgetary deficit, spent approximately $6.5 million a year on bodies which were dedicated solely to promoting the Palestinian narrative.  Since 2015, terror attacks against Israelis had claimed the lives of 42 citizens and injured over 600 and yet today’s resolutions made no mention of those victims.  Furthermore, the resolutions under discussion did not mention the internationally recognized terror organization Hamas.  No one should delude themselves: supporting the resolutions and the inherent bias against Israel would not advance the cause of peace. Rather it would only make peace harder to achieve.

The Assembly then took up the resolution on “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (A/71/L.18), adopting it, as orally revised, by a recorded vote of 100 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Guatemala, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 55 abstentions.

Also by recorded vote, it adopted the resolution on “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/71/L.19), with 98 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Guatemala, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 57 abstentions.

Next, the Assembly adopted the resolution on “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat” (document A/71/L.20) by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Honduras, Nauru, Paraguay, Togo, Tonga, Vanuatu).

By a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Tonga, Vanuatu), the Assembly adopted the resolution on “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/71/L.21).

The representative of Mexico, in explanation of position on L.19, said the United Nations should continue to work to heighten awareness of the need to reach a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.  However, there was a need for more rational and efficient uses of resources, he said, noting that Mexico had therefore decided to abstain.

JOSEPH TEO CHOON HENG (Singapore) said his delegation had voted in favour of L.18 on the understanding that the reference in operative paragraph 2 to the achievement “of the two-State solution on the basis of the pre-1967 borders” should be interpreted in the same manner as set out in operative paragraph 1 of L.21, which stated that “the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, based on the pre-1967 borders”.

RICHARD GALBAVÝ (Slovakia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that with regard to all resolutions that had been adopted during the current General Assembly session, the bloc’s member States considered that whenever the term “Palestinian Government” was mentioned that it referred to the Palestinian Authority.  Furthermore, the use of the term “Palestine” in any of those resolutions could not be construed as a recognition of Palestine as a State and was without prejudice to the individual positions of member States on that issue and hence on the question of the validity of an accession to the conventions and treaties mentioned therein.  The European Union had not expressed a legal qualification with regard to the term “forced displacement” used in a number of resolutions.  Some of the resolutions that had been adopted had also referred to the holy sites in Jerusalem.  The European Union remained concerned at worrying developments and recurrent violent clashes at the Temple Mount/Al Haram al-Sharif.  The European Union stressed the need for language on the holy sites of Jerusalem to reflect their importance and historical significance for the three monotheistic religions.

The representative of Paraguay, emphasizing that dialogue and direct negotiations were the only path to a just and sustainable peace, said his delegation had abstained from voting on L.18 and L.19 as it felt those resolutions would not contribute to achieving the goal of two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace within internationally recognized borders.

Turning to the situation in the Middle East, the Assembly adopted the resolution on “The Syrian Golan” (document A/71/L.8) by a recorded vote of 103 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States), with 56 abstentions.

The Assembly then adopted the resolution on “Jerusalem” (document A/71/L.22) by a recorded vote of 149 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Vanuatu).

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), speaking also for Argentina, said their delegations had voted in favour of L.8 because it was unlawful to acquire territory and international law prohibited the use or the threat of use of force to do so.  At the same, he wanted to clarify that the vote did not prejudice the content of operative paragraph 6, particularly regarding the line of 4 June 1967.  It was important to pay attention to progress that had been made regarding the conflict in order to bring an end to the occupation.  A final solution to the Syrian Golan must be based on relevant Security Council resolutions.

RICHARD ERDMAN (United States) said he remained profoundly troubled by the submission of a disproportionate number of one-sided resolutions that had been designed to condemn Israel.  That approach damaged the prospects for peace by undermining trust between parties and the kind of international support critical to achieving peace.  All parties to the conflict had a responsibility to end it. It was manifestly unjust that the United Nations, an institution founded on the idea that all nations should be treated equally, was so often used by Member States to treat Israel unequally.  His delegation had voted against one-sided resolutions in the General Assembly, especially those that renewed mandates on committees that used valuable United Nations resources.  Three United Nations bodies in particular reflected the bias and unnecessary costs of such resolutions and wasted limited resources.  Costing approximately $6.1 million in 2015, they did nothing to contribute to peace in the region.  The United States remained firmly committed to advancing a two-State solution and would continue to urge all sides to take steps to stop the violence.  The United States strongly condemned all acts of violence and terrorism and would continue to support Israel’s right to defend innocent civilians.  While the United States consistently opposed every effort to delegitimize Israel at the United Nations, his delegation would also continue to view Israeli settlement activity as illegitimate, corrosive and a threat to a two-State solution.

The representative of Syria thanked Member States that had voted in favour of the resolutions, noting the demonstrations of the international community’s clear rejection of foreign occupation.  In addition, the favourable vote sent a clear message to Israel that its killing, settlement expansion and forcible annexation of land ran counter to international principles.

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine also thanked those States that had voted in favour of the texts, stressing that their adoption by an overwhelming majority was a reflection of the longstanding international consensus in favour of achieving a just, lasting and peaceful solution to the question of Palestine.  It was also a clear reaffirmation of the international community’s consensus on the two-State solution, which was now in grave peril due to Israel’s recent actions.  In addition, it “answered clearly and thoroughly” the false assertions heard from the Israeli delegation today.  The despair and hopelessness of the Palestinian people was increasing, as the fiftieth year of the illegal Israeli occupation was approaching.  However, the support of countries and peoples around the world had helped them to remain hopeful that they would one day be able to realize their rights and achieve a peaceful co-existence with Israel.

For information media. Not an official record.