Concluding its annual debate on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, the General Assembly adopted six resolutions today — including two declaring Israel’s actions in the Syrian Golan and East Jerusalem “null and void” — as several delegates voiced concern that those texts perpetuated a one-sided view that isolated and targeted a single Member State.
After the debate concluded, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution “Jerusalem” (document A/72/L.11) by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Honduras, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Togo).
By that text, the Assembly reiterated that any actions by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem were illegal and therefore null and void. It further stressed the need for the parties to refrain from provocative actions, especially in areas of religious and cultural sensitivity, and called for respect for the historic status quo at the holy places of Jerusalem.
By that text — “The Syrian Golan” (document A/71/L.17), adopted by a recorded vote of 105 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, United Kingdom, United States) with 58 abstentions — the Assembly declared that Israel had failed to comply with Security Council resolution 497 (1981) and demanded its withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan.
Adopting the draft resolution “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/72/L.16) by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands, United States) with 8 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Fiji, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Tonga), the Assembly called for the intensification of efforts by the parties towards the conclusion of a final peace settlement, stressed the need for resumed negotiations and called upon Israel to cease all unilateral actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Assembly also adopted by recorded vote a series of resolutions dealing with the United Nations system’s own provision of support to the Palestinian people: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/72/L.15), the Secretariat’s Division for Palestinian Rights (document A/72/L.13) and the Department of Public Information’s special information programme on the question of Palestine (document A/72/L.14).
Egypt’s representative, introducing “L.11” and “L.17”, noted that the former called for the realization of the Palestinian people’s right to freedom of belief and called for an end to all of Israel’s excavation or destruction of holy sites. The latter text reiterated the Assembly’s concern that Israel had still failed to adhere to relevant United Nations resolutions, and called on it to fully withdraw from the Syrian Golan. (For details on the remaining draft resolutions, introduced on 29 November, see Press Release GA/11981.)
Syria’s representative, stressing that Israel’s actions in the occupied Syrian Golan were both supported and emboldened by certain permanent members of the Security Council, noted that Israel’s systematic and discriminatory policies amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Israel’s delegate said that after seven decades, some countries still refused to accept her country’s existence. Moreover, the United Nations continued to annually adopt biased resolutions and devote precious resources — almost $6.5 million of its budget — to politicized bodies whose sole purpose was to attack and denounce Israel. Supporting the six resolutions would neither advance nor inspire peace, she said.
The representative of the United States echoed that opposition, saying the biased and one-sided resolutions undermined efforts to achieve peace between the parties. It was inappropriate for the United Nations — founded on the ideal that all nations should be treated equally — to treat one Member State so unequally, he stressed, voicing concern about the renewal of mandates of three United Nations bodies and programmes that wasted critical resources and only perpetuated the perception of the Organization’s inherent bias against Israel.
Estonia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, explained its members’ position on several key terms used in the resolutions. Whenever “Palestinian Government” was mentioned, it referred to the Palestinian Authority, and the use of the term “Palestine” in those resolutions could not be construed as the recognition of a State of Palestine, she said.
Also speaking were representatives of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia, China, Uruguay, Oman, Cuba, Algeria, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Russian Federation, Argentina, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 1 December to take action on a draft resolution on the culture of peace, review the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations and take up a report of the Fifth Committee.
Question of Palestine
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), highlighting that the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was an unwavering recognition by the United Nations of their plight, said the 2017 commemoration on 29 November had coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of Israeli aggression. Such activities continued unabated, including illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, efforts to foil the international community’s work towards establishing a Palestinian State and the demolition of homes, infrastructure, holy places, schools and other civilian locations. Palestinians had lost hope in the establishment of any just and lasting peace, he said, underlining Iraq’s position that any such resolution would only be achieved by establishing a sovereign and independent Palestinian State based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Urging Israel to respect all its commitments under international humanitarian law, he encouraged Member States that had not yet done so to recognize the State of Palestine and support its people in the pursuit of their legitimate and inalienable rights.
MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia), calling for redoubled efforts to enable the Palestinian people to fully realize their right to self-determination, condemned all Israeli attacks on Occupied Palestinian Territory, including killing innocent people, property theft, destroying homes and infrastructure and the longstanding Gaza blockade. Such actions could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, she stressed, noting that Israel had disregarded the international community’s calls to end its aggressions. Demanding an end to repeated violations, she said the sanctity and integrity of all holy sites must be respected. “Chasing away Palestinians” from their own sites and homes represented a case of ethnic cleansing. She called on Israel to end its illegal settlement expansion and respect relevant international laws, adding that Israeli settlers committing crimes against Palestinian civilians should be placed on global lists of terrorist groups.
MAHMOUD DIBAEI (Iran), expressing regret over the international community’s failure on the question of Palestine due to the Israeli regime’s intransigence and continued unlawful and criminal acts, emphasized that “the injustice has continued for more than seven decades”. The Israeli regime arrogantly and flagrantly continued to violate United Nations decisions, including at least 86 Security Council resolutions. It was unfortunate that a host of criminal policies were being perpetrated by the regime with impunity; the rapid growth of illegal settlements in the Palestinian territory constituted not only a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention but also a war crime. “It is yet another clear indication that the Israeli regime had never had any interest in peace with the Palestinians,” he said. Israel’s participation in talks had been just another tactic to buy time and continue its policy of expansion. The continued brutal Israeli occupation not only caused misery to the Palestinian people, it also lay at the origin of various tensions in the Middle East. Yet, the Security Council continued to be paralysed, failing to uphold its obligations, he said, adding that “this must change.”
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said his country shared the Secretary-General’s concern about the absence of political progress on the Palestinian question and the high risk of further violence and radicalization. Indonesia reaffirmed its support for the two‑State vision and reaffirmed that nobody who had objected to that vision had come up with a viable alternative which met the legitimate aspirations of Israelis and the Palestinians. He called on Israel to stop resettlement and construction and to put to an end to extra judicial killings and other forms of human rights abuses. He added that the illegal blockades and “barrier zones” imposed by Israel undermined the potential of the Palestinian economy and exacerbated its dependence on imports and foreign aid. Indonesia fully supported the draft resolutions being adopted.
WU HAITAO (China) said addressing the question of Palestine was fundamental to peace in the Middle East. However, Israel’s persistent settlement expansion had greatly undermined the peace process. China had made a four‑point proposal, including through establishing a political process based on a two‑State solution. Palestine and Israel must embark on a shared path to security. All settlement activities must end and Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) must immediately be implemented. The international community must intensify diplomatic efforts to bring both parties to the negotiating table. An integrated approach that promoted peace though development was also essential, he added, noting that China had always maintained an impartial and objective view of the Middle East situation. China supported the just cause of the Palestinian people as well as the establishment of a State based on pre‑1967 borders. “Both sides must meet each other halfway,” he said. Expressing concern that some countries in the region were trapped in “protracted turmoil” and that terrorism was spreading, he said the international community must focus on advancing a political settlement in hotspot areas. He also underscored the need to cut off terrorist financing.
MATÍAS PAOLINO LABORDE (Uruguay), reaffirming his country’s support for the right of Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace, reiterated support for the two‑State solution. Uruguay maintained close links of friendship with both Israel and Palestine, he said, urging the international community to step up efforts and urge parties to return to the negotiating table. They must reach a just solution that considered the interests of both parties and must refrain from adopting unilateral measures that stunted or jeopardized the peace process. Expressing concern over Israel’s illegal settlements, he said they ran counter to the Middle East Quartet and various Security Council resolutions and, if they continued, would jeopardized the two-State solution.
MOHAMED AHMED SALIM AL-SHANFARI (Oman) said the current debate had remained unchanged in the seven decades as had Israel’s continuing inhumane policies. Calling on the international community, through the Security Council, to carry out its responsibility to ensure that Israel guaranteed protection to the Palestinian people, he said Member States must also push that country to end its discriminatory policies. “We must move towards negotiations to end the occupation” and establish a free, sovereign and independent Palestinian State. Welcoming the recent reconciliation agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas, he commended Egypt’s efforts in that regard. Israel and Palestine must return to the negotiating table and all other stakeholders, including the Middle East Quartet and the Security Council, must take up their proper roles.
HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, voiced deep concern over the situation in the Middle East, which was characterized by violence, interference in internal affairs and aggression on the part of Israel. Urging Israel to immediately cease its destruction, seizure and occupation of Palestinian lands and its human rights violations, he said the Security Council must also adopt tangible measures to compel the country to do so. Any solution to the question of Palestine would be impossible as long as Israel continued to violate international law and relevant United Nations decisions, including Council resolution 2334 (2016). It was critical to address all barriers to peace, including the situation in East Jerusalem, where Israel’s policies jeopardized the peace process. Reiterating Cuba’s policy of solidarity with the Palestinian people and its support for a sovereign, independent Palestinian State, he said the international community must not stand by as Israeli violations continued.
MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria) said it was truly deplorable that some continued to celebrate the Balfour Declaration even though the Palestinian people continued to suffer. Indeed, Israel was still expanding its settlement activities and apartheid wall and continued its inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip while its army committed barbaric acts daily, flouting international law. Such crimes continued unpunished because of the international community’s indifference. Given the continued plight of the Palestine people, the international community remained responsible for finding a way out and responding to their aspirations to live in dignity. He urged the international community to redouble efforts to provide the Palestinian people with protection and help them to establish an independent State, one in which they could control their own resources. He reaffirmed Algeria’s unconditional support to the Palestinian cause and their just and legitimate struggle.
KENNEDY MAYONG ONON (Malaysia) expressed regret about Israel’s continued construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, including in East Jerusalem, which further weakened the possibility of a two-State solution. He urged the international community to demand that Israel immediately cease settlement activities in Occupied Palestinian Territory before completely eroding the viability of a two-State solution. He also expressed concern about vulnerable security at holy sites, urging the safeguarding of unrestricted access for Muslim worshippers to the Al‑Aqsa Mosque. On the situation in the Gaza Strip, he noted that food, clean water, sanitation and electricity remained scarce because vast networks had been destroyed by Israeli aggression. As such, all Member States must continue to demand an immediate lifting of the blockade. Normalizing the situation there would significantly reduce tensions and facilitate the resumption of the political process. However, “normalization also does not mean that the citizens of Gaza will continue to live in a de facto open-air prison,” he said. Instead, normalization meant the realization and fulfilment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
DAULET YEMBERDIYEV (Kazakhstan) said the two-State solution was the only viable and durable option, expressing support for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and Israel’s right to security. He emphasized the need to ensure the rule of law and good governance, which would yield dividends over time. Noting that all major religions — Judaism, Islam and Christianity — were born in the sacred land of the Middle East, he asked whether it was possible for its rich history to inspire the region to live in peace. For its part, Kazakhstan would do its utmost to ensure peace and security in the region.
Situation in Middle East
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), introducing the draft resolutions titled “Jerusalem” (document A/72/L.11) and “The Syrian Golan” (document A/72/L.17), said the former reaffirmed decisions by both the Assembly and the Security Council regarding occupied East Jerusalem, reflecting the fact that all of Israel’s attempts to change the character of the city were “null and void”. It also called for the realization of the Palestinian people’s right to freedom of belief and called for an end to all of Israel’s excavation or destruction of holy sites. The text had not been altered since the seventy-first session, he said, except to include a reference to Security Council resolution 2334 (2016).
Turning to “L.17”, he said the draft reiterated the Assembly’s concern that Israel still failed to adhere to relevant United Nations resolutions. Emphasizing that the Geneva Conventions applied to the lands occupied by Israel, he said “L.17” called on that country to fully withdraw from the Syrian Golan, and urged the international community to take that situation into account as it dealt with broader challenges in the Middle East. He called on all Member States to support both draft resolutions and help to achieve the goals enshrined in international law and on which the United Nations had been founded.
MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria), recalling that every year the Assembly called on Israel to end its illegal and groundless occupation of Arab territories, said today’s meeting coincided with the centennial anniversary of the “sinister” and “colonial” Balfour Declaration, whose repercussions were still being felt not only by Syrians but by all people in the Middle East. Israel’s actions were supported and indeed emboldened by certain permanent members of the Security Council, he stressed, noting that Israel’s systematic and discriminatory policies amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In the Syrian Golan, he said, Israel refused to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 497 (1981). Instead, Israel supported terroristic policies and denied people the legitimate right to resist occupation, he said, calling for the release of all unlawfully detained persons and an immediate end to all its repressive socioeconomic policies. Israel had also recently helped Nusrah Front to attack Syrian towns north of the separation zone, leading to civilian casualties. Reaffirming Syria’s “non-negotiable” sovereign right over the occupied Syrian Golan, he said it was no longer acceptable for the Assembly to adopt routine resolutions on the matter. Instead, he urged Member States to undertake immediate and concrete measures to compel Israel to end its occupation and called on them to vote in favour of both draft resolutions.
LAILA SHAREEF (Maldives), calling for the establishment of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, said that Israel must fully implement all relevant resolutions and respect the legal obligations it undertook in the Oslo Accords. In recent months, violence by the occupying Power had increased dramatically, she noted, adding that the provocative law to retroactively legalize settlements by the Government of Israel had resulted in the approval of more than 2,000 housing units in Area C of the occupied West Bank at the expense of Palestinian-owned structures. Also expressing concern about the ongoing conflicts in Syria, she added that the barbaric acts of violence perpetrated by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) represented a serious assault on the religion of Islam.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), highlighting current conflicts in the Middle East and noting that critical agreements such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme remained under threat, said his delegation was an active proponent of unity among the region’s States. “We cannot forget that extremists use ethnic and religious aspects to spread discord,” he added. Unfortunately, the global counter-terrorism coalition, as proposed by the Russian Federation, had yet to be established. On the issue of solving the crises in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, he called for political solutions and warned against imposing remedies from abroad. He welcomed recent developments aimed at renewing Syrian negotiations in Geneva. On Yemen, it was essential to increase humanitarian support. New challenges in the Middle East and North Africa must not affect the priority of settling the question of Palestine, he said, expressing great concern over the current stalemate and underlining the Russian Federation’s commitment to achieving a just solution on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. As a member of the Security Council and the Middle East Quartet, the Russian Federation supported the Palestinian people’s legal rights and commended the regional efforts led by Egypt and Jordan. He noted other positive steps, including the power-sharing agreement between Fatah and Hamas, adding that “we have no hidden agenda in the Middle East”.
Action on Draft Resolutions
HADAS MEITZAD (Israel), explaining her delegation’s position, said that 70 years after the Assembly had adopted resolution 181 (1947), calling for the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States, some countries still refused to accept the existence of her country. While 29 November should have been a celebration of that adoption, instead, year after year, that historic date becomes an annual Israel-bashing session. Despite the many crises facing the world, the United Nations continued to adopt biased resolutions and devote precious resources to politicized bodies whose sole purpose was to attack and denounce Israel.
Citing examples from draft resolutions being considered today, she said the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People spread a one-sided political narrative, supported by the United Nations Department of Political Affairs’ Division for Palestinian Rights, which had 15 paid positions. Large portions of the division’s budget paid for business class airline tickets for participants attending anti-Israel events, using “your money” to do so, she said. The Department of Public Information’s special information programme on the question of Palestine also focused on anti-Israel activities and did little to promote dialogue and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. It was truly baffling that the United Nations spent almost $6.5 million of its budget on organizations and bodies that did nothing but try to isolate Israel, she said, adding that at a time of budgetary deficits, it was also unwise and wrong.
She said two draft resolutions discussed the Temple Mount, a sacred place for all three Abrahamic religions, but had deliberately omitted any reference to the Jewish or Christian connections to the holy site. The international community must stop participating in such blatant denial of history. The draft resolution “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/72/L.15) stated that the establishment of the State of Israel was a catastrophe, which amounted to a denial of her country’s right to exist. On the draft resolution “The Syrian Golan” (document A/72/L.17), she said the situation in Syria was dire and Israel was helping thousands of injured Syrians in their hospitals, free of charge. Despite the reality on the ground, “absurdity prevailed” in the General Assembly, she said, emphasizing that the draft resolutions offered only one-sided accounts and asking delegates to vote against the drafts if they truly sought to help the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
RICHARD ERDMAN (United States) said his delegation opposed biased, one-sided resolutions against Israel, which undermined efforts to achieve peace between the parties. While Member States continued to single out Israel, the United States had voted against 18 such resolutions in 2017 so far. It was inappropriate for the United Nations — founded on the ideal that all nations should be treated equally — to treat one Member State so unequally. The United States would vote against all the draft resolutions presented in the Assembly today, he said, voicing concern about the renewal of mandates of three United Nations bodies and programmes that wasted critical resources and only perpetuated the perception of the Organization’s inherent bias against Israel. “Biased resolutions do not help advance peace”, but only distracted attention from that process, he said.
Turning first to the draft resolution “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/72/L.13), the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 100 in favour to 10 against, with 59 abstentions.
It then adopted the draft resolution “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat” (document A/72/L.14) by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Honduras, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Togo, Tonga).
The Assembly adopted the draft resolution “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/72/L.15) by a recorded vote of 103 in favour to 10 against, with 57 abstentions.
Turning to the draft resolution “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/72/L.16), the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands, United States), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Fiji, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Tonga).
Following those adoptions, the representatives of several delegations explained their positions.
The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, explained its members’ position on several terms used in resolutions tabled during the Assembly’s seventy-second session. Whenever “Palestinian Government” was mentioned, it referred to the Palestinian Authority. The use of the term “Palestine” in those resolutions could not be construed as the recognition of a State of Palestine and was without prejudice to the individual positions of Member States on that issue. The European Union had not expressed a legal qualification with regard to the term “forced displacement” used in a number of resolutions submitted under the Assembly’s agenda items 38 and 54. Some resolutions adopted today also referred to holy sites in Jerusalem. Concerned at worrying developments and recurring violent clashes at the Temple Mount/Haram al‑Sharif, she recalled the special significance of the holy sites and called for the upholding of the status quo established in 1967 in line with previous understandings and with Jordan’s special role. The European Union’s position on those resolutions did not imply a change of its position on the terminology regarding that holy site.
The representative of Argentina said his delegation had abstained on “L.13” because it would be appropriate to carry out an investigation into the best use of United Nations resources aimed at supporting the Palestinian people and furthering the peace process. Argentina was among countries that had recognized the State of Palestine and also recognized Israel’s legitimate right to live in peace and security with all its neighbours.
The representative of Singapore said his delegation had voted in favour of “L.15” on the basis that achieving a two‑State solution meant achieving the goal of both parties living side by side in peace.
Turning to the draft resolution “Jerusalem” (document A/72/L.11), the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Honduras, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Togo).
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution “The Syrian Golan” (document A/72/L.17) by a recorded vote of 105 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, United Kingdom, United States), with 58 abstentions.
The representative of Argentina, speaking also on behalf of Brazil, explained his position, saying he had voted in favour of “L.17” because the territory had been acquired by the use of force. He also underscored the importance of making progress regarding the dispute over the Syrian Golan.
The representative of Syria, expressing gratitude to the General Assembly for adopting “L.17”, said the majority of Member States supported the draft, demonstrating their rejection of foreign occupation and support for recovering all territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The overwhelming support for “L.17” also sent Israel a message rejecting its settlements, discrimination and annexation of foreign territory. Such practices had also been condemned by those who believed in international law. Israel had stated that they provided medical support to Syrian citizens, however that was true only of militants involved in Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh).
The representative of the United Kingdom, emphasizing that a just and lasting solution was long overdue, said his delegation was committed to continuing to work to achieve a two‑State solution. The United Kingdom had voted for balanced resolutions that called out illegal settlement activities and called on both sides to cease actions that were undermining peace efforts. However, resolutions that undermined the United Nations authority did little to advance the peace process. While his delegation had rejected the Syrian Golan resolution that Syria had tabled, it had voted in favour of a related resolution proposed by the Palestinians. The resolution proposed by Syria was unnecessary and a way to deflect attention from Syria’s slaughter of its own people.