18 December 2017
8138th Meeting (AM)

Special Coordinator Voices Strong Concern over Future of International Efforts for Peace between Israel, Palestinians, in Briefing to Security Council

United States Representative Calls Resolution on Settlement Activity ‘Impediment’ to Peace

The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process informed the Security Council today that he was particularly concerned as to the future of international collective efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians, pointing to a growing risk that parties could revert to more unilateral actions.

Nickolay Mladenov, briefing 15‑member organ on the implementation of Council resolution 2334 (2016), recalled that the text had reiterated its demand that Israel immediately cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.  He underlined the Secretary‑General’s position that ending the occupation and realizing a two‑State solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestine, was the only way peace could be achieved.  However, no such steps had been taken during the reporting period.

Citing numbers of approvals by the Government of Israel for housing units in the West Bank, he said that in East Jerusalem, preparations had begun for the construction of infrastructure in Givat Hamatos.  That would solidify the ring of settlements isolating East Jerusalem from the southern West Bank, he pointed out, adding that the United Nations considered all settlement activities to be illegal under international law and a major obstacle to peace.

Among significant legal developments, he noted that the Israeli Government had informed the Supreme Court that it intended to implement a clause in military law allowing for the confiscation of private land if it had been used by a third party unknowingly.  That might clear the way for the retroactive legalization of settlement homes and possibly illegal outposts.

During the reporting period, he said that the security situation had remained relatively calm.  Twenty‑two Palestinians had been killed by Israel security forces and four Israelis had been killed by Palestinians.  However, since 6 December, in the wake of the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the situation had become increasingly tense with an increase in incidents and a visible increase in rockets fired by Gaza militants.

Turning to inflammatory rhetoric and provocations, he said that Hamas leaders had continued to make deplorable calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and had called for escalation, violence and an intifada.  Fatah continued to celebrate perpetrators of past attacks.  Israeli politicians had called for “only one state between the river and the sea”, with others recognizing Judea and Samaria as Israel.

While the goal of sustainable peace based on the two‑State solution remained elusive, he said Palestinian factions had signed an agreement on 12 October to allow the Palestinian Authority to assume control of Gaza.  However, that process was faltering over substantial disagreements.  Despite repeated calls for the Palestinian Authority to alleviate the electricity crisis in Gaza, residents still lived with four hours of electricity per day.  Almost half of essential drugs and medical supplies were at zero stock.

On a positive note, he said talks between the Israeli and Palestinian Ministries of Finance had resumed, with Israel transferring $63.8 million in VAT collections and tax clearance.  Construction of the Northern Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment plant was expected to be completed by the end of December.  Israel had also informed the Palestinian Authority of its willingness to increase the energy supply to Gaza by 6 megawatts for the plant.  If implemented, that would help address critical sewage and broader environmental problems in Gaza and beyond.

Regrettably, though, there had not been significant positive moves towards advancing peace and the parties remained divided further than ever, he continued.  The President of the United States [Donald Trump] had announced in December the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, while stating that final status issues remained for the parties to determine.  Since then, Palestinian leadership had cancelled meetings with visiting Vice‑President [Michael] Pence, and, instead, were calling for the establishment of a new mechanism to achieve peace.

Mr. Mladenov stressed that the United Nations maintained the view that Jerusalem was a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties, on the basis of relevant Council and General Assembly resolutions.  Settlement activities undermined the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state as part of a two-State solution.  Continuing violence against civilians and incitement perpetuated mutual fear and suspicion although, since the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016), there had been a significant reduction in the number of violent attacks.

He called on the international community to condemn terror attacks and reckless action that impeded any efforts to bridge the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians and empowered extremists.  He also urged all Palestinian factions to commit to rejecting violence, inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions.  Furthermore, Israel must also uphold its responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law and calibrate its use of force.

The continued absence of a credible proposal, which could become the basis of meaningful negotiations, was damaging the prospects for peace, he said.  The lack of significant steps on the ground that protected the viability of a two‑State solution and supported Palestinian statehood was undermining moderates and empowering radicals.  The weakening of the international architecture in support of peace was increasing the risks to the region.  “Resolving the conflict will remove a key driver of extremisms and terrorism in the Middle East and provide hope to generations of Israelis and Palestinians, trapped in a vicious cycle of violence and conflict,” he underscored.

Nikki Haley (United States) said she would not address the issue of a sovereign nation deciding where its embassy would be located, but would focus on the matter of resolution 2334 (2016).  Given the chance to vote again on that text, the United States would exercise its veto power.  That resolution was an impediment to peace talks, putting them further out of reach by placing responsibility solely on one party due to one single issue and encouraged the evading of negotiations in the future.  In addition, the text refused to acknowledge the legacy of failed negotiations unrelated to settlements.  Talking in New York, she stressed, could not take the place of face‑to‑face negotiations between the parties.

The resolution also made an unreasonable demand of a ban on construction of Jewish housing even in the Jewish quarter of old Jerusalem, and legitimized a database of companies in support of movements to boycott Israel, she continued.  The United States refused to accept the notion that it was not impartial when it moved its embassy, while the United Nations was impartial unleashing wave after wave of bias against Israel.  She reaffirmed what she called her country’s undiminished commitment to work with both parties in good faith to bring about final status negotiations toward a lasting peace.

Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay), emphasizing the importance of Middle East peace to his country, said he hoped that the events of 2017 would not further imperil the two‑State solution.  All Council resolutions must be complied with, including resolution 2334 (2016).  His country would support all initiatives that would bring about negotiations toward a just and lasting peace through the two‑State schema.  Meanwhile, he urged an end to Israeli settlement activity and encouraged further progress in Palestinian reconciliation.  Noting that his intervention would be the last on the matter during his country’s Council membership, he expressed his hope that by the time Uruguay’s next non‑permanent membership in the Council, peace would have been achieved.

Pedro Luis Inchauste Jordán (Bolivia), stating his regret that there had been little progress in implementing resolution 2334 (2016) and that plans for expanding Israeli settlements continued, said that Israeli practices constituted a clear violation of human rights.  He added that United States’ decisions regarding Jerusalem were a flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions.  He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to reaching a just and lasting peace in the Middle East that achieved a Palestinian State in accordance with the Organization’s decisions.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:49 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.