Despite the overall negative trajectory that had characterized the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict for far too long, there were reasons for cautious optimism, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs told the Security Council today as the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question, was addressed in an all‑day debate that heard from more than forty speakers.
Miroslav Jenča said that the end to the more than 10‑year‑long Palestinian divide and Gaza’s return to the full control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority was an important development. On 12 October, with Egyptian mediation, Fatah and Hamas had signed an agreement by which the Palestinian Authority would take control of the Gaza crossings on 1 November and should assume its full responsibilities in Gaza by 1 December.
Drawing attention to the severity of the humanitarian crisis and continuing human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip, he reported that, for the sixth consecutive month, the enclave’s 2 million people had only received electricity for a mere four to six hours a day. The outages disrupted the health‑care, water supply and sanitation systems, he said, describing Gaza as an unfolding environmental disaster with no regard for borders.
The Israeli High Planning Committee was meeting on 17 and 18 October to advance plans for more than 2,000 housing units in Area C of the occupied West Bank, he continued. Reiterating the United Nations position that all settlement activities were illegal under international law and an impediment to peace, he said 2017 had seen a significant decrease in Area C demolitions. However, the number of demolitions in East Jerusalem was quickly approaching 2016 levels. Particularly disturbing were Israel’s reported plans to evict specific communities.
The current Palestinian efforts to return the Government to Gaza must be encouraged and supported, he said, also stressing that Palestinians must decide which path to take. As well, the international community must not only ensure that Palestinians were given every support and opportunity to reach a positive outcome, but it also must ensure that efforts could move forward to end the occupation, establish a viable, sovereign Palestinian State, living in peace and security beside Israel.
The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said the international community’s support for the recent developments were vital for ensuring success. However, there must also be efforts to lift the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade and to expedite Gaza’s reconstruction. Calling for an end to all Israeli settlement activities and appealing to all States to adopt practical measures that would lead to a two‑State solution, he said that Israel’s contempt of international law and Council resolutions was the reason behind the lack of progress, as well as the negative trends that were destroying the two-State solution and the non‑revival of negotiations on final status issues. Asking “when will enough be enough?” he said it was high time for the Council to demand full respect and implementation of its resolutions, with Israel either compelled to comply or subjected to the same pressure and accountability that would be triggered by non‑compliance in other situations.
Israel’s representative also demanded action from the Council, calling on that organ to address the threat to international peace and security posed by Iran. Citing instances of that country’s sponsorship of terror, he pointed out that Hamas’ leader in Gaza had confirmed publicly that Iran was the largest backer, militarily and financially, of his organization. “Iran is waging war against Israel; Hamas, Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad are simply doing the dirty work”, he said, adding that Iran sought to wipe Israel off the map by any means necessary, including by developing nuclear weapons. The international nuclear agreement had not eliminated that last threat, as that country had continued to launch ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, a clear violation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). It was the responsibility of the Security Council to vigorously enforce the resolution and all others. “Or it can stand idly by as Iran’s reign of terror penetrates entire continents”, he said.
Echoing that stance, the United States’ delegate said that peace and security in the Middle East could not be addressed without discussing Iran. Her Government was now in the process of examining the question comprehensively alongside its monitoring of the nuclear weapons agreement. “Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the threat”, she said. The launch of nuclear‑capable ballistic missiles had been ignored, along with an entire list of dangerous behaviour. The United States would not turn a blind eye; the Council now had an opportunity to reform its handling of the Iranian threat as well.
However, the United Kingdom’s representative said that, although United States President Donald Trump had decided not to recertify that Iran was compliant with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, preserving that Plan was in the interest of all and a major step towards preventing diversion of Iran’s nuclear programme to the pursuit of weapons. He urged for careful consideration before taking any steps that might undermine the agreement, including the imposition of sanctions.
The Russian Federation’s delegate expressed surprise and dismay that speakers were addressing the nuclear agreement with Iran and not the Palestinian Question, as was announced in the agenda. Resolving the Palestinian situation was fundamental to normalizing the situation in the Middle East, he stressed, adding that a one‑State solution was not in the interest of the parties. There was no alternative to direct negotiations that established a Palestinian State living in peace side by side with Israel and he reiterated his country’s proposal to host direct negotiations between Israel and the State of Palestine.
France’s representative, Council President for October, emphasized that there was no alternative to the two‑State solution, which was severely threatened by the accelerated expansion of settlements. Condemning such activity, he announced that his Government was putting in place a differentiation policy, through which it would distinguish between its relationship with Israel and with settlement areas.
With over forty delegations weighing in, many speakers hailed the inter‑Palestinian reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, commending Egypt for its role in facilitating negotiations and expressing the hope that it would lead to an alleviation of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Speakers also underscored that the continuing land and naval blockade of Gaza, now in its eleventh year, was in violation of United Nations resolutions, and urged Israel to immediately open the border crossings to the strip to allow delivery of humanitarian aid. A unified Palestinian leadership was essential to the full reunification of the West Bank and Gaza and critical for a return to meaningful negotiations, numerous delegates said, expressing hope that the agreement would lead to legitimate elections.
Representatives also condemned Israeli settlement activities as a violation of international law, adding that such expansion would not engender an atmosphere conducive to peace. Calling for the parties to avoid creating situations on the ground that would impede progress to that end, many stressed that there was no alternative to the two‑State solution based on the pre‑1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, living in peace with Israel. Direct negotiation between parties was needed for that goal to be realized.
Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden, Senegal, Bolivia, Japan, Ukraine, Italy, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, China, Uruguay, Venezuela (for the Non‑Aligned Movement), Lebanon, Brazil, Iran, Indonesia, Peru, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, South Africa, Namibia, Bangladesh, Morocco, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Jordan, Cuba, Maldives, Norway, Turkey, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See and the representative of the European Union delegation spoke as well, as did the representative of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The representative of Israel took the floor for a second time.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m.
MIROSLAV JENCA, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the end to the more than 10‑year‑long Palestinian divide and return of Gaza to the full control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority was an important development. On 12 October, with Egyptian mediation, Fatah and Hamas had signed an agreement by which the Palestinian Authority would take control of the Gaza crossings on 1 November. A joint committee would be formed to resolve the issue of public sector employees by 1 February 2018, he said, adding that the Government should assume its full responsibilities in Gaza by 1 December. The agreement did not contain any provisions relating to elections, forming a national unity government, or disarming Hamas, he said.
Drawing attention to the severity of the humanitarian crisis and continuing human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip, he reported that, for the sixth consecutive month, the enclave’s 2 million people had only received electricity for a mere four to six hours a day. The outages disrupted the health‑care, water supply and sanitation systems, he said, describing Gaza as an unfolding environmental disaster with no regard for borders. On 26 September, Hamas had sentenced three men to death on charges of murder, accessory to murder and burglary, he said, urging the group not to carry out executions, and President Mahmoud Abbas to place a moratorium on implementation of the death penalty.
He went on to report that levels of violence had remained low over the past month, with four Israelis killed by a Palestinian attacker, adding that it was deplorable that Hamas and others had chosen once again to glorify such attacks. The body of an Israeli man had been found on 4 October. Also during the reporting period, 80 Palestinians had been injured by Israeli security forces, and five Israelis injured by Palestinians. On 18 October, a rocket fired from Gaza towards Israel had landed inside the Strip.
The Israeli High Planning Committee was meeting on 17 and 18 October to advance plans for more than 2,000 housing units in Area C of the occupied West Bank, he continued. Work had begun this week to prepare for the construction of infrastructure in Givat Hamatos, a settlement that would further disconnect East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. Reiterating the United Nations position that all settlement activities were illegal under international law and an impediment to peace, he said 2017 had seen a significant decrease in Area C demolitions, but the number of demolitions in East Jerusalem was quickly approaching 2016 levels.
He went on to state that he was particularly disturbed by Israel’s reported plans to evict specific communities. Nearly all structures in Khan al‑Ahmar were now under demolition orders, he said, pointing out that many of them had been funded by donors, including a school serving 170 children. He urged Israel to cease the practice of demolitions, which had led to the displacement of thousands of people.
Turning to Lebanon, he said the situation in that country had remained generally quiet in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operations and along the Blue Line. As for the Syrian Golan, the ceasefire between Israel and Syria had been maintained, albeit in a volatile environment attributable to the ongoing conflict in the latter country.
He said that despite the overall negative trajectory that had characterized the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict for far too long, there were reasons for cautious optimism. In the past month, thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women had united in a two‑week march for peace, he recalled, describing such grass‑roots initiatives by civil society were critical to building the foundations of peace. Current Palestinian efforts to return the Government to Gaza must be encouraged and supported, and they must be successful, he said, stressing that Palestinians must decide which path to take. The international community must ensure that they were given every support and opportunity to reach a positive outcome and to ensure that efforts to end the occupation and establish a viable, sovereign Palestinian State, living in peace and security beside Israel, could move forward.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said the international community’s endorsement of the recent developments, and its offers of cooperation, were vital for ensuring success. Such cooperation must include efforts to lift the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade and to expedite Gaza’s reconstruction. Palestine was doing its part, upholding its obligations and implementing its responsibilities, in spite of the enormous constraints, obstacles, hardships and setbacks imposed by the Israeli occupation. Palestine was committed to the two‑State solution and to peaceful, political and legal means to end the occupation, he underscored, calling for an end to all Israeli settlement activities and appealing to all States to adopt practical measures that would lead to a two‑State solution. “Israel is the occupying Power — and not in any way the sovereign [power] — in the Palestinian territory since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and must be treated as such,” he said, affirming the State of Palestine’s commitment to non-violence, its recognition of Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders and its continued engagement in good faith with all regional and international peace initiatives.
However, Israel’s contempt of international law and Council resolutions was the reason behind the lack of progress on implementing resolution 2334 (2016), the negative trends that were destroying the two-State solution and the non-revival of negotiations on final status issues, he continued. It was astounding that a State could openly and proudly declare its intention to keep violating United Nations resolutions, thus making a mockery of the Council, the rule of law and the international system as a whole. “This is all being done blatantly by the same State, Israel, that has the audacity to present itself as a candidate to the Council,” he said. Given the situation, Palestinians could not but question the international community’s role in fostering and allowing such impunity. The lack of accountability for such defiance and violence was at the core of the ongoing injustice. “When will enough be enough?” he asked. It was high time for the Council to demand full respect and implementation of its resolutions, with Israel either compelled to comply or subjected to the same pressure and accountability that would be triggered by non‑compliance in other situations.
DANNY DANON (Israel) demanded action from the Council to address the threat to international peace and security he said was posed by Iran. He cited that country’s sponsorship of terror, violations of human rights against its own people and others, and antisemitism and vilification of Jews, as well as an aim to destroy Israel. Stressing that he stood with Iran’s peace‑loving and freedom‑seeking people, he emphasized that their Government had enabled President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria to butcher his own people and to use chemical weapons. In addition, 100,000 rockets stockpiled near schools and hospitals in Southern Lebanon by Hizbullah, along with Hamas’ building of tunnels beneath an elementary school of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), were examples of Iran‑backed projects. Hamas’ leader in Gaza had confirmed publicly that Iran was the largest backer, militarily and financially, of his organization. “Iran is waging war against Israel; Hamas, Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad are simply doing the dirty work”, he said, warning that Hamas was planning war against Israel right now.
Because it was the world’s sole Jewish State, Iran sought to wipe Israel off the map by any means necessary, including by developing nuclear weapons, he continued. The international nuclear agreement with Iran had not eliminate that last threat; at best it just delayed it while trusting Iran to designate which sites should be monitored and which should not by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In addition, that country continued to launch ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, a clear violation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015). It was the responsibility of the Security Council to vigorously enforce the resolution and all others. “Or it can stand idly by as Iran’s reign of terror penetrates entire continents”, he said, adding that the Council did not have to act for Israel’s sake; that State could defend itself. The Council must act to defend the lives of good people everywhere, defeat racism and stop the Iranian regime from threatening peace and security.
NIKKI HALEY (United States) said that peace and security in the Middle East could not be addressed without discussing Iran. Her Government was now in the process of examining the question comprehensively alongside its monitoring of the nuclear weapons agreement, which it was required to do every six months. “Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the threat”, she said. Iran had been identified as the source of weapons across the region, with much of it sent to Yemen in violation of specific Council resolutions. Hizbullah was building an arsenal of weapons derived from Iran in Southern Lebanon. Major General [Qasem] Soleimani travelled freely to Syria, the Russian Federation and elsewhere, despite bans on his movement. All those activities violated specific Council resolutions. In addition, there was also a long list of violations endangering international security and human rights, including unjust long-term incarceration that affected citizens of her country. The launch of nuclear‑capable ballistic missiles had been ignored, along with the entire list of dangerous behaviour. The United States would not turn a blind eye; the Council now had an opportunity to reform its handling of the Iranian threat as well.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that despite the proliferation of new and re‑emerging crises, the Security Council must continue to seek an end to the Israel‑Palestinian conflict by reviving the peace process. A unified Palestinian leadership was critical for a return to meaningful negotiations. The people of Gaza had lived for too long in intolerable conditions, with electricity only available for a few hours each day and a continued lack of access to basic services, including water and sanitation. Settlements were resulting in the gradual fragmentation of the West Bank and had a negative impact on Palestinians’ enjoyment of human rights, including freedom of movement, which impeded the right to education, health, work and family life. The international community must do everything in its power to realize a two-State solution.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said he was deeply concerned by the persistence of the Israel Palestinian conflict, which was old as the Organization. The two‑State solution was the only viable option. He welcomed the signing of the reconciliation agreement, thanks to Egyptian efforts, between Fatah and Hamas. Beyond the political aspect, he voiced his hope for a lasting solution to the humanitarian situation in Gaza. UNWRA needed predictable and sustainable resources and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) announcement of their contribution of $60 million was welcomed. He also appealed to the international community, particularly countries in the region, to ensure that the Palestinian people could have a sovereign viable State on the basis of the pre‑1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital. Turning to the fight against terrorism, especially against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and the Nusrah Front, he called for all parties to commit themselves to the Geneva talks to find an exit to the conflict.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) expressed his surprise that speakers addressed the nuclear agreement with Iran and not the Palestinian question, as was announced in the agenda. It was sad, he added, that those speakers did not discuss how they themselves were implementing that agreement nor did they mention the Palestinian Question. Resolving the Palestinian situation was fundamental to normalizing the situation in the Middle East, he stressed, adding that a one‑State solution was not in the interest of the parties. There was no alternative to direct negotiations that established a Palestinian State living in peace side by side with Israel. He reiterated his country’s proposal to host direct negotiations between Israel and the State of Palestine, adding that he hoped the agreement between Hamas and Fatah could lead to a unity Government. In addition, the victory on ISIL did not mean the end to terrorism. A broad counter-terrorism front by the international community was needed. Sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States in the region must be upheld, he stressed, adding that the nuclear agreement with Iran was a foundation for promoting confidence building measures, and all parties should comply with the provisions of resolution 2231 (2015).
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), aligning himself with the statements to be made by the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the debate seemed to be an attempt to make the Palestinian issue invisible. However, the Palestinian issue was the most important subject that the Council was dealing with. He welcomed the agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which was a step forward towards Palestinian unity with legitimate elections. However, the blockade of Israel against Gaza, which continued, was in violation of United Nations resolutions. Israel should immediately open the border crossings for humanitarian aid. Continued planning for settlements, including in Jerusalem, were in violation of Council resolutions and undermined any possibility of achieving lasting peace in the region, he said, voicing support for the self‑determination of the Palestinian and its right to a sovereign State within the pre‑1967 borders.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), highlighting the important step that had been taken to mend the division between the West Bank and Gaza, said that he hoped the agreement between Fatah and Hamas would be implemented in a timely manner. Achieving effective governance by the Palestinian Authority in Gaza was essential for preventing conflict and moving forward with the peace process. Unfortunately, the two‑State solution continued to be undermined by settlement activity and violence, which often led to a chain of negative consequences. Settlements were in violation of international law, he said, adding that violence was fundamentally incompatible with the peaceful resolution of conflicts. He went on to note that his Government supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and emphasized the need for the comprehensive implementation of both the nuclear‑related and non‑nuclear aspects of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) on the Iranian nuclear issue.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) welcomed the inter‑Palestinian reconciliation and urged both sides to consolidate their agreement. Noting that the expansion of settlements would not create an atmosphere conducive to peace, he said neither party should create situations on the ground that would impede progress to that end. Turning to the situation in Syria, he welcomed that country’s advances in fighting ISIL, but expressed regret at the lack of progress on the political and humanitarian fronts. There were no “quick fixes” in that regard, he cautioned, calling for a longer‑term blueprint that would take the root causes of the violence into account. As for Yemen, he emphasized that a political agreement was the only way to end the suffering there, and called for the end to actions impeding such an accord, including Houthi provocations.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) called for further progress on inter‑Palestinian reconciliation, while emphasizing that recognition of Israel’s right to exist should be part of any permanent agreement between the two Palestinian sides. Regarding the overall peace process, he said any peace plan must conform with the two‑State solution, reiterating concerns that the expansion of settlements undermined that prospect. Moreover, Palestinian leaders must condemn all acts of violence, he stressed. Welcoming the defeat of ISIL, he called for reconciliation across all segments of society
IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt) underlined that the prospects for a two‑State solution were dwindling every day and the international community must therefore re-energize efforts to bring it to fruition. Despite the challenges, Egypt had succeeded in assisting the relaunch of inter‑Palestinian reconciliation, he said, noting that the Palestinian Authority had returned to Gaza for the first time since 2007. The united leadership recognized Israel and the need for a peaceful settlement, despite the latter’s incursions into areas that should be part of a future Palestinian State.
He went on to call upon influential States to seize the current opportunity and help to move the Israeli‑Palestinian peace process forward towards a just and lasting solution. Egypt called on both sides to realize that neither of the two peoples were going away, he said, warning that they had a choice of coexisting on the basis of equality or retreating into extreme positions that would force both peoples to suffer the results of incitement and hatred. A solution was not impossible, he emphasized, noting that the parameters had already been drafted, renewing his delegation’s commitment to work with the parties as well as other international stakeholders to finally reach a lasting agreement.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), noting that the Balfour Declaration was nearing its centenary, said his country was proud to have played a role in establishing a Jewish homeland. The United Kingdom also fully supported a viable and sovereign State of Palestine. However, the occupation was a barrier to a negotiated two-State solution with a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and with a solution to the question of refugees. Welcoming the Palestinian Authority’s return in Gaza, he emphasized that Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect previous agreements. The United Kingdom called upon those in the region with influence over Hamas to encourage the group to take those steps, he said.
Describing settlement construction as a barrier to a negotiated agreement, he said there had been an unacceptable acceleration of settlement activity in 2017. As for Iran, he noted that although United States President Donald Trump had decided not to recertify that country’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, preserving it was in the interest of all, and the Plan was a major step towards preventing diversion of Iran’s nuclear programme to the pursuit of weapons. The IAEA had repeatedly certified compliance, he pointed out, urging careful consideration before taking any steps that might undermine the agreement, including the imposition of sanctions. While the United Kingdom shared concerns about Iran’s missile programmes and other issues, it looked to that country to engage in constructive dialogue and to stop its actions in the region.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) welcomed the inter-Palestinian reconciliation agreement and expressed hope that its timely implementation would be instrumental in improving the lives of people in Gaza by alleviating the humanitarian situation there. Welcoming efforts to establish direct Israeli‑Palestinian negotiations, he emphasized that a two-State solution was the only option for ending the conflict and the only way to ensure security and justice for all. Turning to the struggle against terrorism in the region, he said it was making headway, but at an enormous price. It was important that the international community remain focused on consolidating its gains, he said, underlining the inter‑related nature of the various challenges of Middle East peacemaking and demanding a sensitive approach to its complexities.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said he supported negotiations that would result in a two-State solution and demanded that Israel stop settlement activities that violated international law. Welcoming intra‑Palestinian unity, he expressed hope that the agreement would lead to further advancement of the peace process. He expressed concern at the situation in Gaza, saying the checkpoints exacerbated the humanitarian situation there and were an obstacle to peace. Turning to Lebanon, he expressed hope that the country would hold free parliamentary elections, and urged financial and technical support for the Lebanese armed forces. Kazakhstan welcomed the resumption of negotiations in Libya under the auspices of the United Nations, he said, while expressing deep concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen.
WU HAITAO (China) said that the international community must push with greater urgency for progress in bringing about a two‑State solution between Israelis and Palestinians based on previous frameworks. He called for the parties to cease all actions that weakened the prospects for such a solution, such as settlement expansion and violence, and voiced support for all efforts to promote the resumption of peace talks. Welcoming inter‑Palestinian reconciliation, he also said that he hoped the international community would build on the progress made and take advantage of the opportunity. His country would support any efforts in that regard. Affirming the importance of safeguarding the Iranian nuclear agreement, he called on all parties involved to stand by it and to otherwise build peace in the Middle East region.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said that past history did not reinforce the hope for resolution of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict; meanwhile, crisis had arisen around the area. It was true that the Council had not been very effective in ending violence in the region, he said, but urged that it was important not to descend into hopelessness. He condemned incitement and glorification of violence by Palestinian leaders and reiterated objections to the expansion of settlements by Israel. Voicing support to the two‑State solution, he also called for the reopening of direct negotiations. For that to happen, however, trends on the ground must be reversed. The reconciliation agreement signed between Palestinians had be accompanied by the disarmament of Hamas and the acceptance of Israel’s existence. Turning to the situation in Syria, he stressed that only a political agreement could improve the humanitarian situation. Similarly, only a return to negotiations could end the suffering in Yemen. He added that those responsible for atrocities there must be brought to justice sooner rather than later. Supporting the territorial integrity of Iraq, he said that the unity against terrorism must not be fractured by ethnic division.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), Council President for October, aligned himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, and stressed that the passage of time did not make the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict less dangerous, nor did the multiplication of regional crises marginalize it. Tensions caused by settlement activity could ignite into crisis at any moment, exacerbated by the loss of hope for peace after so many decades on the part of both Palestinians and Israelis. Mutual respect between the parties and negotiation was the only way forward. There was no alternative to the two‑State solution, which he argued was severely threatened by the expansion of settlements, which had accelerated recently. Condemning such activity, he also stated that France was putting in place a differentiation policy, through which it would distinguish between its relationship with Israel and with settlement areas. It was not a boycott of Israel, but was consistent with the harm caused by settlements to the peace process. Welcoming progress in inter‑Palestinian reconciliation, he called for resolution of security and energy problems in Gaza. Emphasizing his country’s friendship with both Palestinians and Israelis, he stated that he could not abide by the continuing impasse. He called for a redoubling of efforts to find a lasting solution.
SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement and reaffirming his solidarity with the Palestinian people, said that the ongoing Israeli occupation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict posed serious threats to international peace and security. There must be intensified international and regional efforts in support of a just solution. Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) provided the most viable path, setting forth the essential requirements and parameters, preserving the two‑State solution on the 1967 lines and creating the necessary conditions to end the occupation. He also reiterated the importance of submitting a substantive written report which would support the Council’s duties and ensure proper documentation of the resolution’s provisions, especially in light of Israel’s continued disregard for the organ and its legally binding resolutions.
Expressing grave concern about developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, he drew particular attention to the recent escalation of illegal policies and measures by Israel, aimed at expanding its illegal settlement campaign and further entrenching its half‑century occupation. Rather than ending those violations, as demanded by the Council and the international community as a whole, Israel had instead continued to act with contempt for the Council and in breach of its legal obligations. Deeply deploring those actions, he cautioned against any actions which would risk further deteriorating and destabilizing the situation, as witnessed recently in Occupied East Jerusalem due to Israel’s provocative and illegal actions in the Old City and Al‑Haram Al‑Sharif. The situation in Gaza also remained of great concern, he said, reiterating the call for the complete lifting of the blockade and calling for that matter to be addressed comprehensively.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), surveying the lack of progress in resolving the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, said that the reconciliation agreement between Palestinian parties had provided a glimpse of hope. However, that hope was hard to maintain because of Israel’s policies, including its expansion of settlements in defiance of Council demands. He called on Palestinians not to give up. In regards to his country, he reiterated his trust in UNIFIL despite the violations by Israel. It was high time to the Council to shoulder its responsibilities and put an end to that country’s actions. Furthermore, Israel had not been held accountable for damage dating to the 2006 conflict. He also called for the international community to build on progress in Syria to restart negotiations, leading to an agreement that would allow refugees to return. In all such areas, he voiced his hope that the Council would shoulder its responsibilities.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), encouraging the Palestinian parties to continue their reconciliation progress, called for an end for actions that endangered the two‑State solution. Supporting direct negotiations between the parties was the critical task of the Council. Affirming the importance of supporting the continued work of UNIFIL, he also called on the Council to take into account the views of the troop-contributing countries. International cooperation must also be increased in assisting Syrian refugees. His country had played its part, creating a humanitarian visa and taking in many of those fleeing the violence. He encouraged other countries to take similar action. He also affirmed the importance of respecting international humanitarian law in the context of fighting terrorism and called for relevant communications on that issue to be taken into account. A zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East would also help encourage peace in the region, he argued.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands was the core and centre of all conflicts in the Middle East. The Israeli regime arrogantly and flagrantly continued to violate at least 86 Council resolutions, he pointed out, emphasizing that “these violations happen under the total impunity this regime is enjoying.” Foreign intervention, occupation and ensuing instabilities, as well attempts to engineer societies in the Middle East had all prepared the breeding grounds for terrorist and extremist groups. Those groups, which initially enjoyed support from the United States and its allies, eventually turned into monsters threatening their supporters and creators. “Even the current President of the United States during his campaign publicly noted that regional terrorist groups such as Da’esh have been created by the United States,” he underscored. Armed conflict continued to be perpetuated by those willing to spend their dollars on American “beautiful military equipment” and public relations firms. The hostile policies of the United States and its regional allies, especially the Zionist regime of Israel, had turned the Middle East into a tinderbox. Iran would not be complacent about its country’s defence needs, he said. The nuclear deal would have never been reached from a place of hegemonic ambition, he added, stressing that the United States’ recent strategy was causing that country to be more isolated than ever before.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, OIC and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, called the agreement reached last week between Hamas and Fatah essential to the full reunification of the West Bank and Gaza. He called on the international community to fulfil their obligations to push for peace in the Middle East by playing their due parts, “just as the Palestinian leadership did last week by coming together”. However, he expressed dismay that, until today’s open meeting, Member States had not received a substantive report from the Secretary‑General as demanded by the resolution detailing its implementation. “In effect, three of those quarterly reports have now not been forwarded,” he said. Months after the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016), Israel announced the construction of new settlements in the West Bank. That derailed the Council’s authority. Failure by the United Nations to take measures in the resolution’s implementation could only “yield to Israel the misplaced confidence in the error of its ways”. On Yemen, he said that the only way to arrive at a solution was through Yemini‑led negotiations. Turing to Syria, he voiced his endorsement for the Astana process and other regional initiatives while underlining the need to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of Syria.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said intra‑Palestinian reconciliation would hopefully promote the peace process, with the National Consensus Government in a better position to address pressing humanitarian needs while establishing a basis for the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. He attached the highest importance to compliance with Council resolutions, such as resolution 2334 (2016), and appealed to all parties directly involved to end acts of violence, human rights abuses and heightened rhetoric. During its turn as a Council member in 2018‑2019, Peru would support the facilitation of a minimum framework of understanding for the resumption of negotiations, he said.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that lack of progress on the Palestinian issue had not only betrayed the hopes and aspirations of generations of Palestinians, it had also sown the seeds of endless hostility and discord in the region. However, some aspects of the Middle East’s political landscape now offered reason for optimism. The political reconciliation forged between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo last week was a landmark achievement. Nonetheless, that development by itself was not enough to tip the scales of justice in favour of the long‑suffering Palestinians. The international community must renew its resolve to sustain positive momentum and, as a first step, the illegal and oppressive siege of Gaza by Israel must be lifted.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said the United Nations had never sought to rectify the mistakes of Palestine’s colonial past, but instead had exacerbated them. The deliberate obstruction of dozens of resolutions to resolve the crisis had led to Israel’s arrogance in the Security Council and the further appropriation of Arab land, as well as violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The United Nations had denied Palestinians the right to establish their State, which multiplied the injustices that had been carried out against them. His country would not abandon its right to reclaim its occupied land from Israel and liberate its citizens living under occupation in the Syrian Golan. Israel continued its crimes by providing direct and indirect support for ISIL/Da’esh, both inside and outside Syria. The Security Council shouldered a historic responsibility to restore justice in the region. There must be an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab land, including the Syrian Golan, Palestine and Southern Lebanon, and there must be a return to the 1967 borders.
BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, called on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to show a determined political will to reach a solution and give their peoples the precious gift of living in peace and security. Encouraging all efforts that favoured open dialogue, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, he noted with satisfaction the recent agreement among the Palestinians that seemed to indicate a firm will towards reaching a durable solution. He also reaffirmed the historic status quo of Jerusalem, adding he believed the Holy City should be a place of convergence and peace and that the followers of the three monotheistic religions should be guaranteed free and unhindered access to the holy places. He went on to express concern about the conflict in Yemen which continued to provoke a humanitarian disaster of apocalyptic proportions, and also called for an immediate end to the violence and a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH A ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and OIC, said the occupying Power’s disdain for Council resolutions was disconcerting. Voicing his rejection of all unilateral steps by Israel that compromised the situation on the ground, he also welcomed the historic agreement reached between Fatah and Hamas, which would help Palestinians to address their challenges. As an elected member of the Council for 2018‑2019, Kuwait would support putting pressure on the occupying Power to respect Council resolutions, especially resolution 2334 (2016), and would call for the establishment of a time frame for negotiations leading to a two‑State solution.
MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the situation on the ground could not be allowed to continue. Ongoing settlement activities seriously undermined the two-State solution and threaten the viability and territorial contiguity of the future Palestinian State. He emphasized the urgent need for Israel to lift the illegal land and naval blockade of Gaza, now in its eleventh year, and voiced hope that the Palestinian Reconciliation Deal would promote greater national unity within Palestine. Expressing deep concern regarding the situation of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, specifically women and children, he called on Israel to respect their human rights and immediately implement the United Nations Minimum Rules for the treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela rules) and the United Nations Rules for the treatment of women prisoners (the Bangkok rules). The funding gap in UNRWA’s operational budget was also of great concern. In the absence of a lasting political solution, the international community could not abdicate its responsibility and duty towards the Palestinian refugees, but must ensure the continuation of the Agency’s work on a sound financial basis.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed that violence continued to be one of the main factors preventing the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While noting, with sadness and concern, the deaths of both Palestinians and Israelis due to continued attacks, he said that he was encouraged by the visit of the Palestinian Prime Minister to Gaza at the beginning of October, his first such trip in two years. On Syria, he said recent efforts to deescalate the crisis there was encouraging. Turning to Yemen, he expressed concern about the ongoing conflict there; an estimated 17 million people were food‑insecure and cholera continued to spread throughout the country.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and OIC, said that that although his country was currently overwhelmed by the massive, unprecedented influx of forcibly displaced people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Bangladesh remained profoundly concerned by the protracted illegal occupation and humanitarian situation faced by the Palestinian people. The continued breaches of international humanitarian law and systematic human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had given rise to an egregious culture of impunity. The Council had a moral obligation to prevail upon Israel to immediately halt its illegal settlements, lift the blockade in the Gaza Strip and put an end to all forms of occupation. Immediate priority must be given to ensuring international protection for the Palestinian people suffering from decades of collective punishment.
MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) noted that the recent reconciliation among the Palestinian factions should be viewed as a positive development which served the interests of the Palestinian people. Nevertheless, the Palestinian question still faced a dead end without any possible opening that would allow the parties to sit at a negotiation table because the international community was preoccupied with other events in the region. It was regrettable that the Israelis continued with their settlement activities. Jerusalem was a symbol for coexistence that held special importance for all three faiths, and any effort to compromise the status quo would only foment anger that could result in terrorism. He voiced his support for all initiatives that would guarantee the establishment of a Palestinian State along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, said successful implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action had continued to ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme remained exclusively peaceful. While she had concerns related to ballistic missiles and increasing regional tensions, she said that those must be addressed outside the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, adding that the Union was determined to preserve that instrument as a key pillar of the international non-proliferation architecture. The Israeli authorities’ decision this week regarding settlements was deplorable, she said, urging Israel to reverse it. The intra‑Palestinian agreement, if fully implemented, could be an important step towards Palestinian unity. Improving the situation of the people in Gaza was a key priority and crossing points should be reopened while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns. Going forward, the European Union would keep working tirelessly, not least within the Middle East Quartet, to promote a return to a meaningful process towards a negotiated two‑State solution, she said.
On Lebanon, she said UNIFIL must be provided with the necessary means and equipment to guarantee full operational capability. Assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces must also continue. On Syria, she said the fighting was not over. Only a credible political solution, as defined in Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the 2012 Geneva Communique, would ensure Syria’s stability and the defeat of Da’esh and other United Nations-designated terrorist groups. With regards to humanitarian access, the upcoming renewal of Council resolution 2165 (2014) would be of utmost importance. The Union would be ready to assist in Syria’s reconstitution only when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition, negotiated by the Syrian parties in the conflict, was firmly underway. Turning to Iraq, she welcomed the defeat of Da’esh in Hawijah, but emphasized that Iraq must remain united in the fight against extremism. With regard to the unilateral referendum in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, she voiced her support for Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, the risk of escalation, not least in Kirkuk, was concerning. All parties must show restraint, refrain from further escalation and engage in constructive dialogue, based on the provisions of the Iraqi Constitution.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) welcomed the recent signing of the reconciliation agreement. The recent positive developments could provide additional incentive to achieve progress in the peace process and break through the current stagnation. Achieving peace would require compliance by all parties and a commitment to abide by international law, while also working diligently to create an environment conducive to peace and security, she said, adding her support for the two‑State solution. The risk of the continued Syrian crisis required greater international efforts aimed at a peaceful solution and the grave challenges in the Middle East required joint efforts and intensified cooperation to end extremism and terrorism, especially in light that new conflicts contributed to the complexity of crises and hindered international efforts. Since the beginning of June, Qatar had faced a blockade which contributed to the instability of the region. It was unjustified under any argument and a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter, she said.
ANAYANSI RODRIGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), Vice‑Chair, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that Security Council members had repeatedly stressed that the status quo regarding Palestine was unsustainable. As a prolonged occupation of fifty years slid into creeping, if not outright annexation, it became ever more obvious that there was nothing static about the status quo. Last month, Israel announced plans to “evacuate” Sussia and Khan al‑Ahmar in Area C of the West Bank, communities that were reportedly earmarked for settlement expansion. In August, the Israeli authorities issued a military order establishing a “civil services administration,” which further upgraded the status of settlers in Hebron. The Israeli advocacy group Peace Now warned that such order “formalizes the system of apartheid in the city”.
The Council could not ignore those dangerous developments, she continued. There was a consensus that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, not only violated international law but also imperilled the viability of the two‑State solution. Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) provided Member States with the tools needed to reverse negative trends on the ground and salvage the two-State solution. She also welcomed the necessary political will demonstrated by all parties to facilitate Palestinian reconciliation and to create conditions favourable to the effective functioning of a Palestinian National Consensus Government. The Committee offered its support to all efforts to enhance intra‑Palestinian unity, she said.
AHMAD AL‑MAHMOUD (United Arab Emirates) said that, despite serious international efforts to achieve peace in the region, Israel continued to violate international laws and resolutions and expand its illegal settlement activities, hindering a two‑State solution. It was of utmost importance to provide support to meet the needs of the Palestinian people, as well as to empower them to build their State and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals like all other countries. It was also important to reach a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue. His country was actively working to restore stability in the region, which suffered from multiple dangerous conflicts and crises. There was no doubt that the continued provocative behaviour and regional intervention of rouge States, as well as their support of extremism and terrorism, had led to the destabilization of the region and had threatened international security.
MOHAMMED I. HAIDARA (Nigeria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, welcomed the intra‑Palestinian agreement, saying it could unlock international support for Gaza’s growth, stability and prosperity. It was essential to keep engaging with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the region, while addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Israel’s continued illegal settlement activity was undermining the two‑State solution, which was at the heart of the Middle East peace process. He urged the Israeli political leadership to demonstrate their commitment to the two-State solution by immediately ceasing settlement construction. He also called on those States with influence over the parties to encourage them to re-engage in dialogue.
AMJAD MOHAMMAD SALEH AL-MOUMANI (Jordan) said Israel’s future and its acceptance in the Arab Muslim world was related to the future of the Palestinians. Peace would not emerge without an independent Palestinian State with 1947 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital. Noting that Jerusalem remained on the agenda of the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), he said legislative and administrative measures taken by Israel to change the legal status of Al Quds were null and void. The intra‑Palestinian agreement was a first major step to ending divisions and promoting Palestinian national unity. Turning to Syria, his country would use its relations with all stakeholders to bring about peace and facilitate humanitarian access, he said, adding he hoped that the Astana negotiations and Geneva talks under United Nations auspices would make it possible to promote the political process. He went on to emphasize the importance of ending the Yemeni crisis, implementing a good transitional mechanism for Libya and combatting terrorism at all levels.
ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said it was regrettable that since the last time the Council considered the Palestinian issue, no improvement had been registered on the ground. The occupation continued, as did the confiscation of Palestinian land and property, the expansion of settlements, forced displacement and illegal policies and practices. The Security Council, without further delay, must adopt concrete measures to put an end to the historic injustice, including by putting an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which had brought a deep socioeconomic and humanitarian crisis to more than 2 million Palestinian citizens. She voiced her support not only for a broad and just solution to the crisis based on the two‑State solution, but also for Palestinian entry as a full Member State of the United Nations. Urging an end to the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan, she called for a constructive and respective dialogue among the people in the region.
ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives), strongly condemning the restrictions imposed by the occupying Power to alter the historic and legal status quo in East Jerusalem, called on Israel to immediately stop its illegal activities and respect its international legal obligations. The Council must intensify its efforts in implementing resolution 2334 (2016) to ensure that Israel brought an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and the Syrian Golan. Turning to the conflict in Syria, he stressed that the international community must act with immediacy to end the bloodshed that had made that conflict one of the deadliest in the twenty‑first century. Both in Palestine and Syria, the absence of respect for basic human rights fuelled the tenacity of the conflicts.
TORE HATTREM (Norway), expressing concern about the military escalation in northern Iraq, said that while the latest developments in Raqqa were promising, humanitarian access continued to be difficult, despite the establishment of de‑escalation zones. Also welcoming the ongoing United States efforts to restart talks between Israelis and Palestinians, he added that the international donor group for Palestine, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, had met to discuss ways of improving the Palestinian economy. The strategic priorities of the Committee were fiscal sustainability of the Palestinian Authority’s budget, sustained economic development with a focus on energy and water, and the recovery of Gaza, he noted.
GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) said the international community must respond to the intra-Palestinian agreement with a strong confirmation of the two-State vision and genuine efforts to end Gaza’s humanitarian crisis. In Syria, he said he expected to see some concrete results emerge from the next round of Geneva talks. However, pressure should be put on regime representatives to start talking seriously about the real political issues pertaining to transition. The regime also should not be rewarded for the destruction it had created. He also said that Turkey did not and would not recognize the Kurdistan Regional Government’s illegitimate referendum. Unilateral moves which challenged Iraq’s territorial integrity and political unity, and the presence of PKK [Kurdish Workers Party] and other terrorist organizations, instigated further instability. Lasting peace and stability could be achieved through an inclusive national reconciliation within the constitutional framework, he said.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said that achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace was directly related to returning the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people through the establishment of a Palestinian State along the lines of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel continued to carry out settlement activities in blatant violation of Security Council resolutions, he said, welcoming the important steps taken by the Palestinian factions to end the division and work together peacefully, while renouncing violence. He also reiterated his support for the legitimate Government in Yemen through its participation the Arab coalition, aimed at ending the control of the militias. Combatting terrorism and extremism in all its form, regardless of its motivation, was one of the most important elements for achieving peace and security in the region and the world.
MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia), welcoming the reconciliation agreement reached between the Palestinian factions, said she looked forward to the impact of that agreement on the ending divisiveness and achieving national unity. However, there was concern about Israel’s attempts to obstruct that agreement and she called upon Israel to work in good faith to achieve positive results. While regional efforts were intensifying to save the two‑State solution, the main obstacle to peace was the Israeli occupation and settlement activities, with the Israeli authorities continuing their expansionist policies. The Government’s recent plans to build thousands of housing units included more than 1,200 housing units in the West Bank and the enactment of a law that legitimized more than 4,000 other residential units in the West Bank. Israel continued a de facto policy that compromised any opportunity for a real two‑State solution. Those illegitimate measures must be combatted by the Security Council and other international legal bodies. Turning to Iran, she said that country had exploited the economic returns that came from the lifting of sanctions and continued to destabilize the region through its missile programme and support for terrorism. In that context, she applauded the vision of the United States administration to counter Iran’s aggressive policies.
NUR ASHIKIN MOHD TAIB (Malaysia), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that when the Council finally decided to take action to preserve the two-State solution through its resolution 2334 (2016), she had not expect to see a continued disregard for the responsibility to steward its implementation. Encouraged by the intra‑Palestinian agreement, she urged the negotiating parties to allow unity to prevail. However, the international community must not be a bystander to the worsening situation on the ground, she said, calling for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Occupying Powers had substantial obligations to protect the welfare of those living in occupied territory. Silence, in that regard, was as good as complicity
HADAS ESTER MEITZAD (Israel), taking the floor a second time, said that the Iranian representative’s statement was merely an attempt to divert attention from his country’s fuelling of terror, chemical attacks and conflict. To the Lebanese representative, she asked on what basis that country had that it would give advice about justice, given the situation there and its domination by Hizbullah. To those countries, she advised a long look in the mirror before they attempted to advise others.