On the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, achieving a negotiated two-State outcome was the only way to lay the foundations for an enduring peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Security Council heard today, as it held its regular briefing on the situation in the Middle East.
“Now is not the time to give up on this goal,” Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the 15-member Council via video teleconference from Jerusalem, adding that it was pertinent to create the conditions for a return to negotiations to resolve all final status issues on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, mutual agreements and international law.
The international community had made continuing efforts to advance peace, Mr. Mladenov noted, highlighting an announcement by the League of Arab States in which its members committed to relaunching serious peace talks, as well as the recent visit to the region by the President of the United States, in which he made clear that resolving the conflict was critical to combating the threat of violent extremism and terrorism.
In resolution 2334 (2016), the Council had reiterated its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Yet, there had been a sizeable increase in settlement-related announcements as compared with the previous reporting period, with plans for nearly 4,000 housing units moving forward and 2,000 tenders issued, he said.
The situation in Gaza had heightened intra‑Palestinian tensions, resulting in an increasingly dangerous humanitarian situation, and raising serious concerns about the prospect of another conflict. “Gaza is a tinderbox,” he warned, adding that “if and when it explodes, it will have devastating consequences for the population and derail all efforts at advancing peace”.
Some 50 years on, little of consequence had been done to bring about a viable Palestinian State, lamented Lakhdar Brahimi, Member of The Elders, underscoring that, since 1967, the Palestinian people had endured grave acts of oppression, violence and collective punishment. Recalling The Elders’ last visit to Gaza in 2010, he said the situation there was particularly dire.
Emphasizing “a crying, urgent need” for the Council to play an active role, he suggested that its members organize a visit to Israel and Palestine and talk to all parties, especially civil society representatives, and see for themselves what the occupation had done to the psychological and moral fibre of both Israelis and Palestinians. They would also the urgency of enforcing the many binding Council resolutions passed since June 1967, he said, adding that a recent Israeli Government decision to legalize so-called outposts in the West Bank demonstrated once more a disregard for international law and Council decisions.
A deep disappointment was overcoming the Palestinians because of the international system’s failure to support them, said Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. Peace treaties between Israel and Egypt, and between Israel and Jordan, demonstrated that peace was possible, but interim settlements and arrangements only prolonged the conflict. The occupation of territory in 1967 was the heart of the matter and there could be no solution without decisively addressing that issue on the principle of land for peace.
Losing the opportunity to realize the two-State solution would be a tragedy of historic proportions and the Council had a responsibility to ensure that did not happen, said the representative of Ethiopia. The Council and the international community could not claim to have done enough, he said, stressing: “We have all failed.” Bolivia’s representative, whose delegation holds the Council presidency for the month, echoed that sentiment, describing the meeting as a representation of the collective failure by the Council and the international community, during which both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples — who wished to live in peace and security — had been let down.
Negotiations would be the best means of bringing about a lasting, fair peace in the region, emphasized Egypt’s representative, who added that, until an agreement was reached, the United Nations must act as the legitimate guarantor of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The Organization’s activities and the Security Council’s actions since the outbreak of the crisis never had the goal of besieging a State or detracting any State’s equal, sovereign standing, he underlined. Further, the United Nations had never been requested to impose a solution, as doing so would be unrealistic and impossible.
Echoing the need for a negotiated settlement, the representative of Uruguay reflected on the conflict in Colombia and its 50 years of violence, military activity, terrorist attacks, abductions, murders and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. The recent peace agreement in that country proved that peace could be established through a genuine and unwavering commitment to negotiate and a demonstration of bravery by all parties to abide by the agreement that had been reached.
More than ever, practical steps were needed to break a dangerous deadlock, said the representative of the Russian Federation, stressing that his Government’s offer to convene a meeting in Moscow between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained on the table. He called attention to the impact of destabilization in the Middle East and North Africa on the region’s Christians and other minority groups, adding that the Russian Federation would pursue its efforts to prevent attacks on them.
Every ounce of what the Council did should be to fight Hamas, stressed the representative of the United States, warning that the organization was determined to destroy everything in its path. “Please address the real threat that is causing so many people harm, and that is the threat of Hamas,” she emphasized, calling for a Security Council resolution that condemned Hamas and carried consequences for anyone that continued to support it.
Calling on the Council to advance Israeli-Palestinian relations in a way that avoided giving advantage to Iran and its proxies, Michael Doran, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, said the United Nations had paid little attention to Iran’s arming, training and equipping of Hizbullah. Iran, the Assad regime in Syria and Hizbullah had exploited the international community’s fixation on Israel to deflect attention from their wider regional aspirations, he warned, noting that more people had died in Syria at their hands in the last six months than had died on both sides in the Arab-Zionist conflict since its inception in the 1920s.
Also speaking today were the representatives of United Kingdom, China, Kazakhstan, Japan, Sweden, Egypt, Italy, Senegal, France and Ukraine.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m.
NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefing via video teleconference from Jerusalem, noted that his briefing coincided with the 50-year anniversary of the Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan. Achieving a negotiated two-State outcome was the only way to lay the foundations for an enduring peace based on Israeli security needs and the Palestinian right to statehood and sovereignty. “Now is not the time to give up on this goal,” he said, adding that it was pertinent to create the conditions for a return to negotiations to resolve all final status issues on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, mutual agreements and international law.
He recalled that resolution 2334 (2016) called on Israel to “cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”. Yet, there had been a sizeable increase in settlement-related announcements as compared with the previous reporting period, with plans for nearly 4,000 housing units moving forward and 2,000 tenders issued. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there had been a sharp drop in the number of demolished Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, although the monthly average of demolitions in East Jerusalem since the beginning of 2017 remained at the same level as 2016, when demolitions reached a 15-year record.
Violence remained a hallmark of the conflict, although during the reporting period the security situation on the ground remained relatively calm, he said. No rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces had not conducted any airstrikes inside Gaza. However, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in various incidents, including reported terror attacks, clashes and military operations, while one Israeli soldier was killed in a car‑ramming attack on 6 April. Further, on 24 March, a Hamas military commander was killed by unknown assailants in Gaza City, and Hamas executed six Palestinian men for allegedly collaborating with Israel, an act that was condemned by the international community. Settler-related violence also continued.
Palestinian officials and media outlets affiliated with Fatah continued to commemorate perpetrators of past terror attacks against Israeli civilians, while Hamas leaders also continued their deplorable practice of celebrating recent attacks against Israeli civilians as “heroic”, he said. Some Israeli officials had also employed provocative rhetoric. Council resolution 2334 (2016) reiterated the call by the Middle East Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, European Union) on both parties to take affirmative steps “to reverse negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution”, he recalled, adding that, in May, Israel approved a number of positive measures to improve the Palestinian economy. Further, Palestinian and Israeli Finance Ministries held a number of meetings to discuss fiscal leakages, a critical issue given the Palestinian Authority’s $800 million financing gap.
He went on to say that the situation in Gaza had heightened intra‑Palestinian tensions, resulting in an increasingly dangerous humanitarian situation, and raising serious concerns about the prospect of another conflict. By establishing an Administrative Committee to run civilian affairs, Hamas tightened its control of Gaza and further antagonized Palestinian authorities, reducing the prospects for reconciliation. Meanwhile, a standoff over the payment of taxes on fuel led to the shutdown of the only power plant in Gaza, leaving residents with four hours of electricity per day. Basic services, including health facilities, water supply and wastewater management, had almost ground to a halt, increasing the risk of health and environmental disasters. “Gaza is a tinderbox,” he warned, adding that “if and when it explodes, it will have devastating consequences for the population and derail all efforts at advancing peace.” Two million Palestinians in Gaza could no longer be held hostage by divisions. The international community had a collective responsibility to prevent that from happening and a duty to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.
There had been no developments related to Member States’ distinguishing between the territory of the States of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967, he said. There had, however, been continuing efforts by the international community to advance peace. At the Summit of the League of Arab States on 29 March, leaders committed to re-launching serious peace negotiations on the basis of a two-State solution, while, in May, the President of the United States visited Israeli and Palestinian leaders and made clear that resolving the conflict was critical to combating the threat of violent extremism and terrorism.
In such a symbolic month, it was time to turn the challenges of the past into opportunities for the future, he said, underlining that every day that passed without peace was another day that the international community neglected its collective responsibility to advance a meaningful strategy toward a negotiated two-State solution that met the national and historic aspirations of both peoples.
AHMED ABOUL-GHEIT, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said that, over 50 years of occupation, many lives and opportunities had been lost during a conflict that had depleted the energies of Arab societies and multiplied their problems while generating volcanoes of anger in Arab youth. Israel’s persistence to maintain control of Palestinian territory under any excuse was at the heart of the conflict and some Israelis believed it could go on for decades to come. Security Council resolution 242 (1967) and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative constituted a real basis for an acceptable solution, he said, emphasizing that a complete Israeli withdrawal in return for normal peaceful relations was still the only means to address the Palestinian issue. Such an equation — easy, acceptable and fair for everyone — was supported by the entire international community except Israel.
Under continued occupation, the Palestinian Government was more like a municipal authority that managed citizens’ affairs under Israeli sovereignty, he said. Such a painful reality was happening before the eyes and ears of the world, year after year, and despite how painful it was for Palestinians, it represented a complete condemnation of the international order that the Council expressed. A deep disappointment was overcoming the Palestinians because of the international system’s failure to support them. Peace treaties between Israel and Egypt, and between Israel and Jordan, demonstrated that peace was possible. Interim settlements and arrangements, however, only prolonged the conflict. The occupation of territory in 1967 was the heart of the matter and there could be no solution without decisively addressing that issue on the principle of land for peace. Final settlement issues must be immediately addressed, including Jerusalem, security and refugees.
Without strong and consistent international support, the two parties would most likely be unable to reach any settlement or agreement, especially given the imbalance of power between them, he said, adding that he hoped the United States would continue its positive engagement in a balanced manner. Any serious negotiations must have an agreed framework of reference, based on Council and General Assembly resolutions, the land-for-peace principle and the Arab peace initiative. Council resolution 2334 (2016) was a step in the right direction on the path to delegitimizing settlements and increase pressure on Israel to change course; other resolutions must follow. The Arab Peace Initiative was an opportunity for Israel to normalize relations with its Arab neighbours and other Muslim countries. Israel could not reap the fruits of peace before peace was achieved.
He said it was bewildering that Israel found the courage to submit its candidacy for Security Council membership in 2019‑2020 when it was in consistent violation of the United Nations Charter and international law and had never missed an opportunity to strike at the Organization’s credibility. He went on to state that it was absurd for the Israeli Government, whose members did not accept the Palestinians’ right to an independent State, to require them to accept Israel as a Jewish State as a condition for negotiations. Concluding, he said it was “time to end the nightmare of occupation”. Violence and terrorism resulted directly from a failure to end the Palestinian issue. The Council must uphold its duties in that regard in order to return hope and confidence to Palestinians and demonstrating that the world would not forget them.
MICHAEL DORAN, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, called on the Council to advance Israel-Palestinian relations in a way that avoided giving advantage to Iran and its proxies. The Council must also avoid allowing Palestinians to duck direct negotiations. While routinely according Palestinian-Israeli relations special status that hardly seemed justifiable, the United Nations had paid little attention to Iran’s arming, training and equipping of Hizbullah. Iran, the Assad regime and Hizbullah had exploited the fixation of the international community on Israel to deflect attention from their wider regional aspirations. More people had died in Syria at their hands in the last six months than had died on both sides in the Arab-Zionist conflict since its inception in the 1920s.
The extensive resources that the United Nations and its members contributed to the upkeep of the Palestinian Authority should give them a right to insist that those funds be used to foster a culture of tolerance based on a vision of two States living side by side in peace, he continued. Israeli withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005 should have dispelled the idea that Israeli intransigence was the key stumbling block in Arab-Israeli relations. In that regard, any withdrawal from territory in the West Bank must come with ironclad guarantees of Israeli security. A path forward must urge Palestinians back to direct negotiations.
While the likelihood that those negotiations would result in a quick resolution of final status issues was small, there was reason to be optimistic about interim accommodations that were in the interests of both sides, he said. The new willingness of Sunni Arab States — who shared Israel’s concerns about Iran — to support constructive solutions was especially heartening, he stressed. He also underscored that the key lesson of the 1967 war was that peace was best achieved not by United Nations intercession but by facilitating direct negotiations between the parties.
LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, Member of The Elders, said it was a sad reality that, 50 years on, little of consequence had been done to bring about a viable Palestinian State. Referring to an article by Nathan Thrall in The New York Times on 2 June, he said near-total Council paralysis was — alongside United States backing, Palestinian weakness and Israeli indifference — a pillar of the ongoing Israeli occupation. Since 1967, the Palestinian people had endured grave acts of oppression, violence and collective punishment; they desperately needed protection from the international community, notably through the fourth Geneva Convention. Recalling The Elders’ last visit to Gaza in 2010, he said the situation there was dire, with Gazans able to survive only through the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), World Food Programme (WFP) and other United Nations agencies, as well as the interventions of the Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process. The failure of Palestinian leaders, especially those of Fatah and Hamas, to reconcile and unite was meanwhile a huge hindrance to the Palestinians’ daily lives, as well as to civil society efforts to mobilize support against the occupation.
Emphasizing “a crying, urgent need” for the Council to play an active role, he suggested that its members organize a visit to Israel and Palestine and talk to all parties, especially civil society representatives, and to see for themselves what the occupation had done to the psychological and moral fibre of both Israelis and Palestinians. They would also see how urgent it was to enforce the many binding Council resolutions passed since June 1967, he said, adding that a recent Israeli Government decision to legalize so-called outposts in the West Bank demonstrated once more a disregard for international law and Council decisions.
Not-so-discreet contacts between the Israeli Government with some Arab countries could not be a substitute for peace with the Palestinians, he said. Only a genuine, just solution to the Palestinian problem would open the way to lasting peace and cooperation between Israel and all its neighbours. The Arab Peace Initiative, ignored by the Israeli Government since its adoption 15 years ago, was still on the table. Noting that some Israelis had warned that their country might become an apartheid State, he said Palestinians had individual rights, like all human beings, as well as collective rights, like any other people in the world. They also had the right to fight for those rights with all legitimate means available to them. The Charter, international law and international humanitarian law, as well as all norms of international solidarity, called for effective support to be given to Palestinians, he said, adding that such support would, in fact, liberate both Palestine and Israel.
NIKKI HALEY (United States) said that Hamas was a force of terror that had shown its true colours to the world. Hamas would not hesitate to put the lives of innocent children at risk, she warned, highlighting that tunnels in heavily populated civilians were being used by Hamas to smuggle in materials to build rockets and also to gain access to Israel. There was a terrible humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which she had witnessed on her recent visit there. Gaza had enormous potential, but it was being squandered by the terrorists who were in control. Israel did not create the problems in Gaza, although it was typically blamed for the troubles there. Other outside countries were also not the cause of the problems in Gaza, as many nations wanted to see Gaza receive the aid that it so desperately needed. Hamas had been the root of the crisis in Gaza since it had taken control more than 10 years ago. Rather than pursuing peace, Hamas had chosen to provoke destructive wars and rather than allowing help to reach the Palestinian people, it was diverting aid to feed its military enterprise. Hamas was a terrorist organization bent on Israel’s destruction and would use any resources it accessed to continue that fight.
The Security Council must stand up and condemn the actions of Hamas, she stressed. While the Council continued to dissect the actions of Israel, some Member States still maintained ties with Hamas and other terrorist organizations that flourished in the region. Hamas should be condemned in a Council resolution, with consequences for anyone that continued to support it. The international community must show Hamas that it would never tolerate terror, and that those who gave Hamas arms, money and political support must cease at once. She recalled her recent trip to the Middle East, in which she saw the threats that completely surrounded Israel from every side. If the Council continued in its past practices and continued to “pick a side”, it would get nowhere. Every ounce of what the Council did should be against Hamas, she stressed, warning that the organization was determined to destroy everything in its path. “Please address the real threat that is causing so many people harm, and that is the threat of Hamas,” she said.
PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) emphasized that the Middle East continued to face an unrelenting human tragedy that had gone on for more than half a century. The anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War held great significance for all sides, he recalled, describing the Israeli occupation a tragedy for all involved, and a situation that had been exploited by terrorist organizations. So many decades of violence only proved that conflicts could not be managed or contained in perpetuity. Support for a two-State solution would be the only way to secure a just and lasting resolution to the conflict, and to make that a reality it was necessary that all sides refrain from actions that would impair the prospects for a two-State solution. The ongoing settlement activity was at its highest rate in a quarter of century, which created real physical barriers to the prospects for two States for two peoples. He welcomed the recent announcement of the Arab League regarding its willingness to resume negotiations and the efforts of the United States to prioritize peace in the Middle East.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) recalled 50 years of violence, military activity, terrorist attacks, abductions, murders and the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Colombia, actions which were characterized by a conflict that stretched far back into the pages of history; whereby the yearnings of the people remained unmet due to inequality, lack of opportunities and the trading of mutual accusations. The conflict in Colombia, however, was also the best contemporary example that peace could be established through a genuine and unwavering commitment to negotiate and a demonstration of bravery by all parties to abide by the agreement that had been reached. The peace accord in Colombia had sent a powerful message at a time when there were many conflicts raging around the world. The passage of Council resolution 2334 (2016) was an attempt to stabilize the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and reverse the negative trends playing out on the ground. Yet, very little action had been taken as a result of that resolution. Uruguay fully supported the idea of two independent States that would allow for the peaceful coexistence of Israel and Palestine. It was vital that all parties step back from the current trends on the ground; otherwise it would be extremely difficult to consolidate a Palestinian State. All parties must fulfil their obligations under international law and the relevant resolutions.
LIU JIEYI (China), emphasizing that only dialogue could turn swords into plowshares, said both sides must exercise restraint and take concrete action to resume negotiations without delay. An independent Palestinian State and peaceful coexistence with Israel was the correct direction for international efforts to take. Effective implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) would demonstrate sincerity to resume talks, he said, adding that violence against innocent civilians must stop and the building of settlements halted. The international community should meanwhile build synergies, with the leading role of the United Nations being brought into full play. Describing China as a staunch supporter of the just cause of the Palestinian people, he noted a recent visit to the Middle East by its special envoy for the region, adding that it stood ready to further assist.
VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said that, with terrorism rising atop the international agenda, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had unfairly been pushed to the background, with prospects waning for a two-State solution. If left unresolved, the conflict would continue to taint international affairs, fuel terrorism and complicate efforts to resolve other problems. More than ever, practical steps were needed to break a dangerous deadlock, he said, noting that the Russian Federation’s offer to convene a meeting in Moscow between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained on the table. He called attention to the impact of destabilization in the Middle East and North Africa on the region’s Christians and other minority groups, adding that the Russian Federation would pursue its efforts to prevent attacks on them. History had many nuances, but it was clear that the Security Council was created to bring Member States together, not to divide them, he said. Today’s review demonstrated a need to resolve problems through political, diplomatic and collective efforts that would involve a broad front of States.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said now was the time to seriously address the issue. His country’s position was crystal clear — it supported the early resumption without preconditions of negotiations that would result in a two-State solution. The Security Council and individual United Nations institutions, working together, should produce a new and more detailed road map that would facilitate talks. He emphasized the need to halt settlement construction, for the Palestinians to speak in a unified voice, and for urgent international action to mitigate humanitarian suffering.
YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) reiterated his delegation’s call to end settlement expansions. Expressing concern about current attacks, he condemned all acts of violence. Turning to the deteriorating situation in Gaza, he underlined the importance of working towards lifting the blockade. Encouraged by the high-level dialogue between the United States and relevant parties, he said it was essential in promoting a peace process. For its part, Japan had provided $34 million in economic assistance to Palestine in 2017 and was contributing to confidence-building efforts between Israelis and Palestinians which would form the basis for credible negotiations. Cooperation on the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park project had fostered mutual trust. After decades of conflict and occupation, peace would unlock new political, economic, security and cultural opportunities that would benefit the region and beyond.
CARL SKAU (Sweden) said his country supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations on sustainable funding to UNRWA. He reiterated the need for a two-State solution, as perpetual occupation should not be in the interest of any party, and for a renewed peace effort between Israelis and Palestinians. “The international community must therefore help break the current deadlock and revive the peace process,” he said, stressing that United States leadership was vital, as was the Arab Peace Initiative, on which any regional effort should be built. He called for a re-engagement with young people, in line with resolution 2250 (2015), and revival of a public debate on the prospects for a two-State solution. In Gaza, Israel’s decision, with the Palestinian Authority’s consent, to reduce electricity could lead to a dangerous situation. He urged all Palestinian factions to engage in a reconciliation process that would unify that area. Stressing that both parties were obliged to implement resolution 2334 (2016), he said settlements in occupied territory were a flagrant violation of international law.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that the meeting represented a fresh appeal for peace and highlighted the need to put an end to the longest-standing occupation in history. The length of that occupation and the lack of justice for the Palestinian people had led many to doubt the effectiveness of international organizations to preserve and uphold the rights enshrined in the Charter and uphold the goals and principles of the United Nations. The Organization’s activities and the Security Council’s actions since the outbreak of the crisis never had the goal of besieging a State or detracting any State’s equal, sovereign standing. Further, the United Nations had never been requested to impose a solution, as doing so would be unrealistic and impossible. Negotiations would be the best means of bringing about a lasting, fair peace in the region. Until an agreement was reached, the United Nations must act as the legitimate guarantor of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. He called on all stakeholders to work to put an end to the military restrictions imposed on UNRWA and to implement relevant resolutions, which was the very least that the international could and should do. He welcomed the initiative by the United States to find a lasting solution to the conflict and would support those efforts.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) said there was no room for fatalism or resignation, but rather the 50-year anniversary of the 1967 war should bring forth a sense of resolve in supporting a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Peace could only be obtained through direct negotiations between the parties, although the support of other actors was of particular importance, including the role of the Middle East Quartet. The path to peace required the direct involvement of the relevant Arab partners, and in that context, he welcomed the recent announcement of the Arab League on the relaunching of serious negotiations. Resolution 2334 (2016) clearly stated there was no justification for any acts of violence or terror, nor for incitement for violence. Settlements were an obstacle to the two-State solution and impaired the search for peace. Solid partners and their willingness to make bold decisions were vitally importance, while the humanitarian imperative must also be taken into account.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said that the meeting had provided clarification on the daunting challenges that remained to get the peace process back on track. As tensions were worsening because of no tangible progress in the political process and on the ground, the international community, including the Security Council, had no other alternative but ratcheting up its perseverance and creativity so as to achieve the two-State solution. Senegal believed that peace in the Middle East could be a strong remedy against violent extremism and terrorism, which were scourges that had spread far beyond the region. His delegation welcomed the actions of Israeli and Palestinian civil society to create greater mutual understanding between peoples. The tenuous situation in Gaza impacted some 2 million people, he noted, half of whom were children. In that regard, he called on Palestinian leaders to find a lasting solution to issues related to the availability of water, sanitation and electricity in Gaza, where the humanitarian and socioeconomic situation was already most difficult.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that the current picture that had been painted of the region was a very bleak one. Any escalation of the conflict was a harbinger of uncontrolled regional destabilization, which was why the international community could not sit idly by and accept the current status quo, which only served to conceal the daily horrors on the ground. The current painful situation had gone on for far too long for the Palestinians, who for decades had been denied their right to statehood. The recent announcement of new settlements was troubling and was pushing the conflict to the “point of no return”. The situation was forcing parties to review the likelihood of a two-State solution being achieved, although the reality was that there was no other viable solution to the conflict. The situation in Gaza was of great concern, and in that context, Israel must roll back the restrictions of goods and services that were in place. France was a friend of both the Israelis and the Palestinians and in that regard, his country felt it could speak to both frankly when calling for them to return to the negotiating table.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said the principle of a two-State solution, with Israel and Palestine coexisting in peace, retained its validity despite well-known difficulties in overcoming obstacles. Both parties had a long road before them in finding a solution to the conflict. However, there was some good news. For the past two months, a number of high profile visits to Israel and the Arab world had brought hope. Perhaps the groundwork had been laid out to provide the necessary impetus to restart the negotiating process. Now the parties involved must seize the opportunity. They must avoid setting conditions and waiting for the other side to make unilateral concessions. Moves to reignite the political track must be reciprocal, he stressed. He also commended the recent meeting between top Palestinian and Israeli officials during which the two sides agreed on a number of economic and development measures to improve living conditions in the Palestinian territories.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that, 50 years on, the Council and the international community could not claim to have done enough. “We have all failed,” he said. The two-State solution was the only viable option, but peace remained elusive, to the detriment of Israelis and Palestinians, as well as to regional stability. It was imperative for the two sides to resume direct and meaningful negotiations, he said, adding that the Council had a duty and responsibility to support and encourage such talks. Losing the opportunity to realize the two-State solution would be a tragedy of historic proportions and the Council had a responsibility to ensure that that did not happen.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, saying the only alternative for a fair and lasting peace was through direct negotiations using existing mechanisms enshrined in the Charter and in Council resolutions. Through its resolution 242 (1967), the Council had made it clear that an Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands was the key requirement for peace. Over the years, there had been many attempts to resolve the conflict, he said, citing the Camp David accords, the Madrid conference, the Oslo agreement, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet road map, in addition to bilateral efforts. Reading at length from the statement on the Middle East agreed at the seventeenth summit of the Non-Aligned Movement leaders, he said today’s meeting should be seen not only as an appeal for peace, but also as recognition of a collective failure by the Council and the international community, during which both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples — who wished to live in peace and security — had been let down.