Decrying Long-standing Occupation of Palestinian Lands, Delegations Tell General Assembly Peace Efforts Must Move beyond Words, Promises

GA/11860
29 November 2016
Seventy-first Session 49th Meeting (PM)

Decrying Long-standing Occupation of Palestinian Lands, Delegations Tell General Assembly Peace Efforts Must Move beyond Words, Promises

Palestinian Leaders Always Seek Reasons ‘Not to Sit Down and Talk’, Says Israel

With the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands nearing its fiftieth year, efforts to resolve the long-standing conflict must move beyond words and promises and compel the occupying Power to end its “warlike” policies, stressed speakers today as the General Assembly opened its annual debate on the Question of Palestine.

Following the introduction of four draft resolutions addressing the various United Nations bodies and departments charged with defending the rights of the Palestinian people, the Assembly heard urgent appeals from a number of delegates calling for concrete action to herald in a new era of peace in 2017.  Many speakers also expressed support for the continued work of the Middle East Quartet — made up of the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russian Federation — as well as for a recent initiative by France to convene a conference aimed at restarting negotiations.

General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) pointed out that the Assembly had gathered against the backdrop of brutal conflicts in Syria and Yemen, a refugee crisis, the virulent spread of extremism and terrorism and the ongoing construction of settlements on Palestinian territory.  “For many, the prospects of peace feel desperately out of reach,” he said, noting that the fifty-year occupation continued to violate key United Nations principles.  Expressing hope that renewed international efforts could help to pave the way for the two‑State solution, he emphasized that the United Nations had a “permanent responsibility” until the question was resolved in accordance with international law.  

Fodé Seck (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, who introduced the four draft resolutions, said that while the international community was currently confronting many crises, it was crucial to remember that Palestinians still faced desperate situations and that every civilian killed only served to fuel the narrative of extremist groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaida.  “No individual is free unless all individuals are free,” he stressed, adding that “Palestinian lives matter.” 

Presenting the Committee’s annual report (document A/71/35), its rapporteur, Carmelo Inguanez (Malta) stated that, in view of stalled negotiations, the Committee would welcome efforts by any country to advance the peace process with support from a reinvigorated Quartet.  The Security Council and the General Assembly were also urged to give positive consideration to proposals that aim to present a way out of the current impasse, he said, also calling upon the international community to demand the lifting of the Gaza blockade.

Still, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that while he was grateful for the international community’s support, he could not conceal his deep disappointment and frustration about the lack of progress.  Lamenting in particular the Security Council’s failure to uphold its Charter duties and implement its resolutions, he stressed that “what is lacking has not been support or solidarity for Palestine, but rather political courage and will to respect and ensure respect of the law in the face of Israel’s intransigence and disrespect.”

Indeed, Israel — which itself had been created by General Assembly resolution 181 (II) — had violated resolution after resolution, as well as principles of international law and an International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion, he pointed out.  The past year had witnessed non-stop Israeli colonization activities aimed at changing the demography, character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with Israeli settlements particularly eroding the two-State solution.  “Lip-service to the cause of peace is not enough,” he stressed, urging both the Assembly and the Security Council to act and ensure a viable path forward.

Israel’s representative, however, decried the General Assembly’s annual “cynical Israel-bashing festival”, which did nothing to help the Palestinian people.  Some 69 years ago, the United Nations had voted to partition the land into a Jewish State and an Arab State, but the Arabs had rejected the plan.  Instead, every time there was an opportunity to choose a better path for their people, they had chosen the path of violence, rejection and bloodshed.  Israel, for its part, had tried everything, he emphasized, including dismantling entire communities and uprooting thousands of people from their homes in the Gaza Strip. 

“Time and time again we hear that settlements are the obstacle to progress,” he said, recalling that, despite a 10-month freeze in 2010, the Palestinians had still refused to come to the negotiating table.  Israel had tried everything, but the Palestinians always had an excuse.  The Palestinian Authority in 2012 had paid more than $75 million to terrorists in Israeli prisons and $78 million to the families of deceased terrorists, he said, adding that the responsibilities of Statehood would mean investing in institutions, ending terror and finally recognizing the Jewish people’s the connection to the land of Israel.

The European Union’s representative was among those speakers reaffirming their support for a negotiated two-State solution that met Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for Statehood.  Condemning all acts of terror and incitement, he said security forces must respond in a proportionate and consistent manner regardless of the perpetrator, and Israel must thoroughly investigate cases in which lethal force had been used.  Furthermore, all alleged violations of international human rights law must be investigated.  Expressing concern about recurring tensions at the holy sites, he emphasized that Jerusalem was a city sacred to three religions.

Jordan’s representative also underscored the need for concrete measures aimed at ending the occupation and other Israeli activities that undermined the two-State solution.  Noting that settlement activities were one of the most significant risks in that respect and that they represented a “red line” for Arab nations, she stressed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the heart of tensions in the region and that the occupation was one of the drivers of extremism in the region as well. 

Israel’s increased violations of international humanitarian law had led to widespread human suffering and destabilization, Cuba’s delegate said.  Expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, he voiced support for all efforts promoting a just and lasting solution to the conflict, which would require the exercise of the true inalienable right of the Palestinian people to build their own State within the pre‑1967 borders.  Commending the work of the Palestinian Rights Committee, he emphasized that “the historic debt to the Palestinian people must be paid.”

Also before the General Assembly was a report of the Secretary-General titled, “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/71/359–S/2016/732) and a note by the Secretary-General on “Economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people” (document A/71/174). 

At the meeting’s outset, the Assembly observed a minute of silence to pay tribute to the late former President of Cuba, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, who had passed away on 25 November.  Conveying his condolences to the Government and people of Cuba, Mr. Thomson said President Castro had been “one of the iconic leaders of the twentieth century” as well as a tireless advocate for equity and an inspirational figure for developing countries.

Also speaking were representatives of Lebanon, Kuwait, India, Maldives, Nicaragua, Argentina, Uruguay and Iran.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 30 November, to conclude its debate on the Question of Palestine and deliberate the Situation in the Middle East.

Question of Palestine

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, pointed out that the meeting was taking place at a time when the Middle East was being rocked by instability, including brutal conflicts in Syria and Yemen, a refugee crisis, the virulent spread of extremism and terrorism and the ongoing construction of settlements on Palestinian territory.  “For many, the prospects of peace feel desperately out of reach”, he said, calling on the parties involved to make genuine efforts to find peaceful solutions and to cooperate closely with the United Nations and humanitarian agencies so that urgently needed humanitarian, food and medical assistance could be delivered. 

The occupation of the Palestinian territory since 1967 continued to violate key United Nations principles, including the self-determination of peoples, among others, he continued.  The General Assembly had repeatedly affirmed the Organization’s “permanent responsibility” until the question was resolved in all its aspects and in accordance with international law.  He called on all leaders to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric – including by freezing the illegal building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory and by respecting the historic status quo at the holy places of Jerusalem. 

He also expressed hope that renewed international efforts could help to pave the way to realize the two‑State solution of Israel and Palestine living side‑by‑side in peace, security and prosperity within recognized borders based on pre‑1967 lines.  Acknowledging the vital role played by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in supporting some 5 million Palestinian refugees, he also urged all Member States to respond generously and expeditiously to the Agency’s efforts to fill its $74 million funding gap. 

FODÉ SECK (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the four draft resolutions before the Assembly on the Question of Palestine, recalling that 2016 marked the sixty-ninth anniversary of Assembly resolution 181 on the separation of historic Palestine into the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. 

Noting that the latter had been denied its independence, and that 2017 would mark fifty years of Israeli occupation – including policies of annexation, oppression and collective punishment – he stressed that without liberty the other rights of Palestinians were also being eroded or were becoming meaningless.  “Liberty is not a reward given out,” but rather a right of all peoples, he said.  The Committee would continue to defend that right and many Member States, including France, the Russian Federation and Egypt were also working to bring an end to the long tragedy.

While the international community was currently confronting many crises, he said, it was crucial to remember that Palestinians were still facing desperate situations in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, among others.  Indeed, the absence of hope and the lack of a political horizon were having a profound, destabilizing impact, with every civilian killed only fuelling the narrative of extremist groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaida.  “No individual is free unless all individuals are free”, he stressed, adding that “Palestinian lives matter”.  In that regard, he called on the Assembly and the Security Council to implement the various resolutions adopted over the decades towards a lasting, global and peaceful solution to the longstanding question of Palestine. 

Introducing the draft resolution, “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/71/L.18), he said it would have the Assembly take note of the Committee’s work, and commit to doing everything possible to end the Israeli occupation as that fiftieth anniversary approached.  Taking note of the Committee’s latest annual report, the Assembly would also request it to continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination, to support the achievement without delay of an end to the Israeli occupation, and authorize the Committee to make appropriate and necessary adjustments in its approved programme of work in light of recent developments.

Among other things, the General Assembly would also request the Committee to continue to keep under review the situation relating to the question of Palestine and to report and make suggestions to it, as well as to the Security Council, as appropriate.  It would request the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, established under General Assembly resolution 194 (III), and other bodies associated with the question of Palestine to continue to cooperate fully with the Committee, and invite all Governments and organizations to extend their cooperation and support to the Committee.  In light of the onset of the fiftieth year of the Israeli occupation, it would also request the Committee to focus its activities throughout 2017 on efforts and initiatives to end the occupation and organize activities in that regard.

 

By the terms of the text, “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/71/L.21), he said the Assembly would renew the Division’s mandate and request the Secretary-General to continue to provide it with the necessary resources and to ensure that it continued to effectively carry out its programme of work.  As well, it would request the Division to continue to monitor developments relevant to the question of Palestine.  In addition, the Assembly would request the Division, as part of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, to continue to organize, under the guidance of the Committee, an annual exhibit on Palestinian rights or a cultural event in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, and encourages Member States to continue to give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the International Day.

Introducing draft resolution, “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat” (document A/71/L.20), the Assembly would renew the mandate of the Department’s special information programme and request it to continue its work in 2017‑2018.  In particular, it would request it to disseminate information on all activities of the United Nations relating to the question of Palestine and peace efforts; to continue to issue, update and modernize related publications and audiovisual and online materials; to expand its collection of audiovisual material on the question of Palestine; and to organize and promote fact-finding news missions for journalists to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, among other things.

He then introduced draft resolution titled, “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/71/L.21), spotlighting key elements of such a solution and highlighting the urgency of bringing to an end the “dangerous developments” on the ground.  By its terms, the General Assembly would call for the intensification of efforts by the parties, including through negotiations and with the support of the international community, towards the conclusion of a final peace settlement.  It would also call for the timely convening of an international conference in Moscow, as envisioned by Security Council resolution 1850 (2008), and would call upon both parties to act responsibly on the basis of international law and their previous agreements and obligations. 

Among other things, the General Assembly would further call on the parties themselves to exert all efforts to halt the deterioration of the situation, reverse all unilateral and unlawful measures, observe calm and restraint and refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.  Stressing the need for an immediate and complete cessation of all acts of violence, and reiterating its demand for the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), it would also call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international humanitarian law and to cease all unilateral actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem.  Reaffirming its commitment to the two-State solution, it would also call for the withdrawal of Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territories and for the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination and to their independent State.

CARMELO INGUANEZ (Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the report of the Committee (document A/71/35), outlining various chapters and summarizing its conclusions and recommendations.  The report provided a review of the situation relating to the question of Palestine with the aim of drawing international attention to issues requiring urgent action.  It also outlined the mandate entrusted to the Committee, including the Chairman’s participation in the Security Council debates and the continued dialogue between the Committee and members of intergovernmental organizations. 

In view of stalled negotiations, he stressed that the Committee would welcome the revitalization of the peace negotiations and supported efforts by any country to advance the peace process with support from a reinvigorated Quartet.  The Security Council and the General Assembly were also urged to give positive consideration to proposals that aim to present a way out of the current impasse.  The Committee also called upon the international community to demand the lifting of the blockade.

International donors were also urged to fulfil without delay all pledges in order to expedite the reconstruction efforts in Gaza and to secure long-term humanitarian assistance, including for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he continued.  Regarding Israel’s continued policy of illegal occupation and settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, he noted that the Committee would welcome further measures by the Human Rights Council to expedite implementation of its resolution calling for the creation of a database of all actors conducting business in the areas under Israeli military occupation. 

He went on to say that also welcomed would be further steps by Governments and private businesses to dissociate themselves from policies which directly or indirectly support settlements.  The Committee would continue to encourage civil society partners to work with their national Governments, parliamentarians and other institutions with a view to gaining their full support.  The Committee would also reach out to regional groups and step up engagement in the context of South-South and triangular cooperation.

RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that while he was grateful for the international community’s generous support to the Palestinian people, he could not conceal his deep disappointment and frustration about the lack of progress.  “As the situation further deteriorates and peace remains far from our grasp, we lament in specific the Security Council’s failure to uphold its Charter duties and implement its resolutions”, he said, stressing that the “silence” had irrationally and unacceptably continued despite Israeli contempt for the Council.  In that context, the despair of Palestinian youth, whether in occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, or in refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan had been a source of vast pain.

“What is lacking has not been support or solidarity for Palestine, but rather political courage and will to respect and ensure respect of the law in the face of Israel’s intransigence and disrespect”, he said.  Israel had violated resolution after resolution.  Israel, which had been created by General Assembly resolution 181 (II), had disregarded that same organ and the Security Council, international law and the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion.  Instead, the Israeli Government committed crimes as if the conflict was the exception to every norm and rule intended to safeguard human rights and peace and security. 

Indeed, Israel had persisted with its systematic and gross violations of international law in occupied Palestine with full impunity, he continued.  Report after report had conveyed the vast regime of violations.  The past year had witnessed non-stop Israeli colonization activities aimed at changing the demography, character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Those activities included the expansion of settlements and the wall; destruction of homes; confiscation of land; forced displacement; imposition of checkpoints; exploitation of natural resources; and annexation threats by Israeli officials.  The Palestinian people had also witnessed daily military raids; massive forms of collective punishment; discriminatory and dehumanizing policies; and daily detentions of civilians.

There was an international consensus that Israeli settlements and expansion were eroding the two-State solution, and instead entrenching a one-State reality, he said, adding that could only be deemed apartheid.  “Lip-service to the cause of peace is not enough; empty promises and claimed commitments, contradicted by every action by Israel, must not be accepted in place of actual respect for the law and genuine efforts for peace”, he emphasized, urging the Security Council to act.  Reaffirming France’s efforts to mobilize the international community for Palestinian-Israeli peace and to convene a peace conference, he also voiced support for efforts to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, including cooperation with the Quartet members.  However, none of those efforts could absolve the United Nations of its responsibility.  The General Assembly and the Security Council must therefore act to ensure a viable path forward.

DANNY DANON (Israel) said the deadly fires that had spread through Israel from Haifa to Jerusalem had been deliberately set.  “This is terrorism and the people who set these fires are terrorists,” he added, calling for international condemnation.  Noting that every year the General Assembly held the “same cynical Israel-bashing festival”, which did nothing to help the Palestinian people, he said that since 1947, the Palestinian leadership had proven time and time again that they did not want a solution for their people.  Some 69 years ago, the United Nations had voted to partition the land into a Jewish State and an Arab State, but the Arabs had said no to that, he recalled.  Every time there was an opportunity to choose a better path for their people, they had chosen the path of violence, rejection and bloodshed, whereas the Zionist movement had accepted the United Nations plan despite the painful reality of having to establish a State without Jerusalem, the historic capital of the Jewish people.

The history of Palestinian rejectionism was alive and well today, he continued.  Israel had tried everything, including dismantling entire communities and uprooting thousands of people from their homes in the Gaza Strip.  That had been an opportunity for the Palestinian leadership, and they had thrown it away.  Instead of building hospitals and schools, Gaza had become a launching pad for attacks on Israeli towns and cities with rockets from above, and for committing unspeakable acts of terror from tunnels below.  The Palestinians persisted in their refusal to assume control over the Gaza border crossings, as they had agreed to do in 2005, he said, adding that their leaders would not even take responsibility for the territory and people they claimed to represent.  “Time and time again we hear that settlements are the obstacle to progress,” he said, recalling that for 10 months in 2010, Israel had completely frozen settlement building as a goodwill gesture to advance talks.  For 10 months, not a single apartment or kindergarten or community centre had been built in Judea and Samaria, yet the Palestinians still refused to come to the table, he said, emphasizing that it was not about the settlements.

More recently, under the leadership of Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel had offered deep concessions and had gotten nothing in return from the Palestinians.  The Palestinian Authority faced an important decision — talk peace with Israel or join forces with a terrorist group that sought Israel’s destruction — and they had chosen terror, he noted.  Israel had tried everything, time after time, but the Palestinians always had an excuse, he said, adding that there was always something missing and always some reason not to sit down and talk.  If they really wanted peace, they would have answered to the far-reaching proposals offered by Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, and they would respond to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s call for negotiations.  Instead, they focused their time and efforts on political theatre — empty resolutions, flowery speeches and more funding.

He went on to state that according to the World Bank, the Palestinians had received $2.5 billion in international aid in 2014 and $21.7 billion in development assistance since the Oslo accords in 1993.  That money, intended to improve the lives of the Palestinian people, had gone instead to the families and inner circles of Palestinian leaders.  In 2012, the Palestinian Authority had paid more than $75 million to terrorists in Israeli prisons and $78 million to the families of deceased terrorists.  Taxpayers around the world should know that their hard-earned money was helping to fund stabbings, shootings and suicide bombings.  The Palestinians were on permanent welfare provided by the international community, he said, stressing that they wished the conflict to continue because they know that others would continue to pay their bills.  The responsibilities of statehood would mean investing in institutions, ending terror and finally recognizing the Jewish people’s the connection to the land of Israel, he said.

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, speaking on behalf of the European Union, reiterated support for a negotiated two-State solution that met Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood.  Condemning all acts of terror and incitement, he said security forces must respond in a proportionate and consistent manner regardless of the perpetrator and Israel must thoroughly investigate cases in which lethal force had been used.  Further, all alleged violations of international human rights law must be investigated.  Expressing concern about recurring tensions at the holy sites, he emphasized that Jerusalem was a city sacred to three religions.

Accelerated settlement expansions since early 2016 had contradicted the Quartet report’s recommendations, he said, expressing concern about measures such as punitive home demolitions and withdrawing work permits.  Settlement activity in East Jerusalem had seriously jeopardized the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both States, he said, expressing alarm at the advancement in the Knesset of the settlement regularization bill.  Calling on Israel to end the Gaza closure and fully open the crossings, he said both parties must promote confidence‑ and trust‑building measures.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), noting that Israel had established 131 settlements in the West Bank over the past 50 years, said a total of 800,000 settlers now resided on Palestinian lands.  The settlements, Israel’s attempts to “legalize” such outposts and the wall it was now building around the West Bank flagrantly violated international law.  After 50 years of occupation, numerous illegal policies and human rights violations had included the demolition of Palestinian homes and other civilian structures, confiscation of Palestinian land, forced eviction of Palestinian families and discriminatory practices with regard to water allocation and access to natural resources.  Israel controlled 100 per cent of the Jordan River Basin and 80 per cent of water reserves in the West Bank.  While Israeli settlers in the West Bank had access to 240 to 300 litres of water per day, Palestinians could access only 73 litres daily, less than the World Health Organization (WHO) minimum standard of 100 litres.  After 50 years of condemnations in the General Assembly, which had failed to end the occupation, the Security Council must now shoulder its responsibilities by enforcing resolutions on illegal settlement activities and call for concrete measures to end the occupation with a clear, binding time frame.

NAIF ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) stressed that reports such as the Secretary-General’s should prompt the international community to act quickly to help the Palestinian people deal with Israel’s “warlike” policies.  He expressed support for efforts to reach a just, lasting and comprehensive solution based on the Arab Peace Initiative, international law and the principle of equality, and welcomed France’s initiative to hold an international peace conference on the matter.  Denouncing the illegal, inhumane blockade of Gaza which continued in violation of Security Council resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention, he called for an international fact‑finding mission to examine the conditions of Israeli prisons.  Among other things, he also called on the Security Council to provide protection for the Palestinian people and for efforts to compel Israel to comply with its international obligations.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan) said that, notwithstanding the moral significance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the bitter reality of Israel’s continued violations required more than a commemoration.  Concrete measures were needed to end the occupation as well as other Israeli activities that undermined the two-State solution.  Noting that settlement activities were one of the most significant risks in that respect and that they represented a “red line” for Arab nations, she stressed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the heart of tensions in the region.  Since Israel continued to ignore growing international calls to put an end to the occupation, new prospects should be considered.  Among other things, 2017 should be considered the international year to end the occupation.  “Every single year, we grow more determined” to recover the rights of the Palestinian people, she said, stressing that the occupation was one of the drivers of extremism in the region.  The international community should shoulder its responsibility and ethical duty to put an end to the Israeli occupation, ensure the rights of the Palestinian people and grant reparations.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said his country supported the cause of Palestine and stood in solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people.  India would continue to support their development and national-building efforts by extending technical and financial assistance, he said, noting that his country had actively contributed to various kinds of projects and annual contributions to UNRWA.  India appreciated the Agency’s commendable work over the last seven decades and had contributed $4 million to the National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza.  The India-Palestine Centre for Excellence in Information and Communications Technology and Innovation at Al Quds University, Abu Dees, and its satellite Centre in Ramallah were now fully functional, he said, noting that the first batch of students had graduated from the Centre in July.  Additionally, more than 12,000 Palestinians had so far graduated from Indian universities and the Government had offered Palestinians 100 slots for annual training in a range of sectors.  India had also offered training to Palestinian security forces, customs officials and diplomats, he added.

AHMED FAZEEL (Maldives) condemned the use of administrative detention, movement restrictions and other measures that affected the Palestinian people’s human rights, including the growing number of house demolitions by the Israeli military in the West Bank, and legislation that would permit the confiscation of privately‑owned Palestinian land.  Such legislation would violate international law and undermine the right to self-determination, he said.  Meanwhile, thousands of houses that had been destroyed in Gaza must urgently be rebuilt and the Israeli blockade that had prevented their reconstruction must be removed.  Expressing support for a two-State solution, he urged the international community to move beyond rhetoric towards achieving concrete, lasting peace in the region.

HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba) said that Israel’s increased violations of international humanitarian law had led to widespread human suffering and destabilization.  The establishment of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of land and natural resources and the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians were affecting the viability of the two-State solution.  In addition, the blockade of the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea had led to the total isolation of the two million Palestinians who lived there.  Expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, he also voiced support for all efforts promoting a just and lasting solution to the conflict.  That would require the exercise of the true inalienable right of the Palestinian people to build their own State within the pre‑1967 borders with a capital in East Jerusalem.  Commending the work of the Palestinian Rights Committee, he emphasized that “the historic debt to the Palestinian people must be paid.”

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said that after recognizing Palestine as a State for almost four decades, her Government was committed to ensuring peace for the Palestinian people.  Palestine would hopefully soon enjoy international recognition as a sovereign State, she said, expressing support for the Palestinian leaders’ declaration that 2017 would be the year the Israeli occupation ended.  Palestine had a right to become a sovereign State, based on pre‑1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Yet, Israel was not interested in a negotiated solution, she said, urging the immediate end of settlement construction and the Gaza blockade and the release of all Palestinian prisoners.  Any State supporting Israel would continue to perpetuate the suffering of the Palestinian people.  Nicaragua and the State of Palestine had just signed a memorandum of understanding that would be mutually beneficial in the area of advancing the rule of law, health and education.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said numerous peace initiatives over the years on the Israeli-Palestinian issue had not yet accomplished a just, comprehensive and lasting peace based on the two-State solution.  Given the recurring cycle of violence and intolerance, efforts must urgently be renewed and must aim at reversing the current negative trends on the ground.  Argentina supported the right of the Palestinian people to statehood and Israel’s right to live in peace with its neighbours.  The settlements were an obstacle to peace, as were attacks on Israeli civilians.  Argentina reaffirmed the special status of Jerusalem in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, rejected any unilateral attempt to introduce modifications and deplored inflammatory rhetoric of extremists on both sides.  He called on Palestinians and Israelis to resume peace talks.

MATÍAS PAOLINO (Uruguay), echoing the many calls for peace, expressed support for the right of the Palestinian people to live within safe and internationally recognized borders.  His country had strong links of friendship with both Israel and Palestine, he said, noting that “we have embassies in Israel and Palestine, and both have embassies in Uruguay.”  The international community must step up efforts to bring both parties to the negotiating table, and the parties themselves should create the necessary conditions to fully implement the recommendations of the Quartet and take steps to show their commitment to the two-State solution.  Encouraging Israel to abstain from illegal settlements and confiscation of Palestinian land, he also expressed concern about the glorification of terrorist acts.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while United Nations efforts to reduce the Palestinian people’s suffering were to be commended, the immediate priority of international efforts made so far had mostly failed.   For decades, the United Nations had condemned Israel’s various crimes against Palestine and its people, yet the occupying regime enjoyed support from a handful of allies.  It persisted in its disregard for international demands that it abide by international law, and its systematic violations against the Palestinian people continued unabated.  Israel’s imposition of the illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip continued to cause massive deprivation and hopelessness, and to fuel a grave humanitarian crisis, he said, adding that the Israeli regime also continued to violate each and every basic norm of international law.  Its continuing brutal and illegal occupation not only caused much misery, it also lay at the origin of various tensions in the Middle East and was dangerously inflaming the volatile situation in the region, with far-reaching and serious consequences.  He urged the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility under the United Nations Charter and international law and compel the Israeli regime to end its war crimes and human rights violations.

For information media. Not an official record.