The General Assembly today concluded its annual debate on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East by adopting six resolutions — including one calling for a final peace settlement to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict — with some speakers warning against biased, one‑sided texts.
Through the terms of the text titled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/73/L.32) — adopted by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 12 abstentions — the Assembly calls for intensified efforts by the parties, including through negotiations, to conclude a final peace settlement. It also calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law and stresses the need for an immediate and complete cessation of all acts of violence.
Adopting the resolution titled “Jerusalem” (document A/73/L.29) by a recorded vote of 148 in favour to 11 against with 14 abstentions, the Assembly reiterates that any actions by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void. It also stresses the need for the parties to observe calm and restraint and to refrain from provocative actions and calls for respect for the historic status quo at Jerusalem’s holy places.
By the terms of a resolution titled “The Syrian Golan” (document A/73/L.30), adopted by a recorded vote of 99 in favour to 10 against with 66 abstentions, the Assembly declares that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void and demands that Israel withdraw from the territory.
The Assembly also adopted by recorded vote three resolutions dealing with the United Nations system’s own provision of support to the Palestinian people. The first — titled “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/73/L.31) — requests the Committee to exert all efforts to promote the right to self‑determination of Palestinians and to support the achievement of an end to Israeli occupation.
The second of those texts titled “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat” (document A/73/L.33) would have the Assembly request the Department disseminate information on all the activities of the United Nations system relating to the question of Palestine and peace efforts. Through the third such resolution, titled “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/73/L.34), the Assembly requests the Division to continue to monitor developments relevant to the question of Palestine.
Taking the floor after adoption of the texts, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine expressed gratitude to all countries that voted in favour of the resolutions, adding that such support is a sign of global consensus on how to solve the Palestinian question. “This will give us strength to seek a peaceful and lasting solution,” he stressed.
The representative of Israel voiced her opposition to the six resolutions prior to their adoption. “We live in a time of many crises and it is a shame that the United Nations passes biased resolutions and devotes resources to bodies that denounce and attack Israel,” she said. Warning that discussion on the matter have devolved into “Israel bashing”, she said several United Nations entities provide platforms for people promoting agendas that directly target one Member State.
The representative of the United States agreed that an unfair number of resolutions were targeted at Israel. “They are biased and drive parties apart,” he said of the drafts prior to their adoption, adding that “the cause of peace will be served when the bias against Israel ends.” As a result, the United States will introduce a stand-alone text to condemn Hamas.
However, Egypt’s representative, who introduced “L.29” and “L.30”, called on Member States to vote in favour of the drafts in a display of support for the rights of those living under occupation. “Some States attempt to exploit conflict in the region to whitewash Israeli violations of human rights,” he said, stressing that all people in the Middle East should be able to enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms. (For details on the remaining draft resolutions, introduced on 29 November, see Press Release GA/12095.)
During the debate, Syria’s representative said that the Assembly’s resolutions are fully in line with the position expressed repeatedly by the Security Council, which rejects the unilateral decision by Israel to annex Palestinian Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan. “Israel continues to occupy a precious part of our land, and our people there continue to suffer because of this occupation,” he said. Syria’s rights to the Golan are non‑negotiable. “We are the legitimate owners,” he said, stressing that Syria would not forfeit its right to its land.
As was the case during the debate’s first day, speakers stressed that the situation in Palestine continued to deteriorate as it entered its fifth decade under Israeli occupation. “Palestinians have experienced nothing but oppression, displacement, misery and occupation,” said the representative of Iran, adding that recent Israeli repression in Gaza resulted in 170 deaths and thousands of injuries.
Qatar’s representative was among speakers calling for increased humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians. She called for a redoubling of efforts to deliver aid and underscored the essential humanitarian work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). “Qatar has increased its financial support to the relief organization,” she added.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Malaysia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Ecuador, Maldives, Japan, Russian Federation, Austria (on behalf of the European Union), Singapore and Brazil.
Also delivering a statement was the Permanent Observer for the Sovereign Order of Malta.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 3 December, to take up its agenda item on sport for development and peace. It will also consider the investigation into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld and the outcomes of United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.
The General Assembly began by concluding its discussion of the Question of Palestine, and the draft resolutions titled “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/73/L.31); “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/73/L.32); “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat” (document A/73/L.33); and “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/73/L.34). (For background, see Press Release GA/12095 of 29 November 2018).
Question of Palestine
M. SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia) said that his delegation co‑sponsored draft resolutions “L.31”, “L.32”, “L.33” and “L.34”, noting Israel continues to violate international law. The adoption of the Jewish nation‑State law in July 2018, the aggressive expansion of settlements and the relentless and disproportionate use of force against unarmed Palestinian civilians during the Great March of Return are recent examples of a long‑standing pattern of systematic abuse of the oppressed people of Palestine. Together with New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela, his country worked towards the adoption of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), which reaffirms that Israel’s establishment of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law. A two‑State solution is the only viable solution to this conflict.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, reaffirmed his country’s support for the people of Palestine to exercise their right to self-determination. He paid tribute to Yasser Arafat and commended Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s commitment to finding a peaceful solution to the crisis. “Peace and stability in the Middle East can be achieved through negotiation and full implementation of United Nations resolutions,” he said, noting that relevant resolutions lay down the legal framework for regional peace and stability. He called on the international community to redouble efforts to pursue negotiations with the aim of establishing a sovereign and unapologetic Palestinian State.
MANUEL DE JESÚS PIREZ PÉREZ (Cuba) said the two-State solution and a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement to the Palestinian question will not be possible as long as Israel continues to violate international law and the United Nations Charter. Condemning the illegal construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he also rejected the unilateral action of the United States establishing its diplomatic representation in Jerusalem. That action further exacerbates tensions in the region, he pointed out, also demanding Israel’s total and unconditional withdrawal from the Syrian Golan and all occupied Arab territories. Any measure or action aimed at changing the legal, physical and demographic status as well as institutional structure of the occupied Syrian Golan violates international law and the Charter, he emphasized. Urging respect for multilateralism, he also called for the cessation of interference in internal affairs and the fabrication of pretexts and concepts to try to legitimize the unilateral use of force against sovereign States.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said the Question of Palestine is the oldest issue on the Assembly’s agenda. The international community has repeatedly repudiated Israel’s settlement activities, she recalled, expressing support for international efforts to settle the dispute. Upholding all the rights of the Palestinian people is essential to any peace solution. There is international solidarity with the Palestinian people, she noted, expressing concern about the grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel’s unjust blockade has entered its eleventh year and continues unabated. She urged the international community to double its efforts to deliver aid to the Palestinian people, underscoring the essential humanitarian work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Qatar has increased its financial support to the relief organization, she added.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh) supported the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their long struggle for peace and justice. Bangladesh’s unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people and their legitimate aspiration for an independent State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, is derived from its constitutional obligation. He condemned the heinous attacks on the people of Palestine and denounced the illegal settlements and any other action by the occupying force that obstructs negotiations towards a viable two-State solution. Bangladesh also continues to insist on the lifting of the illegal Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has created a dire humanitarian situation.
ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) said that for 70 years Palestinians have lived under occupation that defies all moral norms. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has led to violations of international laws. The international community supports the creation of an independent State of Palestine based on pre-1967 borders. Israel, through its violations, demonstrates that it believes itself to be above the law. The blockade imposed on Gaza flouts all humanitarian values. Israeli legislation promotes discrimination, he said, also condemning efforts to exploit the legitimate rights of Palestinians. Israel is expanding settlements to sabotage a two-State solution. Saudi Arabia stresses the importance of a comprehensive, lasting peace in the Middle East and calls for an end to Israeli occupation of Arab lands. “We are stunned by Israeli attempts to undermine resolutions on the matter,” he said.
MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria) condemned the abuses that detainees and prisoners, including children, suffer in detention centres. He also condemned the excessive use of force by the occupying Power and the application of the death penalty, as well as the Israeli institutions in which Palestinians have no representation. Gaza, with a population of nearly 2 million, has essentially become an open-air prison. The Israeli-imposed blockade for 11 years has led to economic collapse, soaring unemployment rates, polluted drinking water and deep despair. Despite numerous calls by the international community for the cessation of illegal policies and measures, the world still witnesses the persistence of the Israeli occupants’ policy of settlements in the Palestinian lands and in the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan.
FARHAD MAMDOUHI (Iran) said that for 70 years the question of Palestine has remained one of the most complicated political issues in the world. “Palestinians have experienced nothing but oppression, displacement, misery and occupation,” he said, adding that recent Israeli repression in Gaza resulted in 170 deaths and thousands of injuries. Israel, as the occupying Power, ignores international law and defies United Nations resolutions. The occupation of Palestine is at the heart of protracted conflict in the Middle East. “Peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved through blind support of Israeli occupation,” he said. Israel flouts regimes that govern weapons of mass destruction, he said, and warned that its possession of nuclear weapons “poses the most serious threat to security in the Middle East”. He condemned the United States decision to relocate its embassy to Al-Quds and called for the establishment of an independent State of Palestine. Turning to the issue of the Golan, he said the territory is an integral part of Syria.
MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) said his country, as Chair of the Al-Quds Committee, is following with great concern Israel’s actions aimed at imploding the legal status of Al-Quds Al-Sharif. Israel continues to move ahead with its repeated attacks and settlement activities, which violate all relevant Security Council resolutions, particularly 2334 (2016). Al-Quds Al-Sharif is a place of sanctity and therefore will always be at the heart of Morocco’s interests. The question of Palestine is the nucleus of conflict in the Middle East, he said, stressing the importance of establishing a two-State solution, based on pre-1967 borders. Any unilateral measures pertaining to Jerusalem are illegal and in grave violation of international law and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. He stressed the urgent need to find a solution for the Palestinian cause, which will take the “wind out of the sails of terrorists” who use the crisis to justify their illegal actions. Any change to the status quo of religious sites would only inflame violence and threaten any solution. He expressed deep concern about the humanitarian situation faced by the Palestinian people, noting myriad humanitarian initiatives undertaken by Morocco.
LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said that 29 November — the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People — is a day of frustration and sadness as human beings in Palestine are deprived of their rights. He called for an end to all violence and for a genuine return to negotiations. Warning that the living conditions for Palestinians continue to deteriorate, he voiced concern about rights violations faced by children. Ecuador was among the first countries to recognize the State of Palestine and therefore reiterates its commitment to relevant United Nations resolutions on the matter. “Any attempt by the occupying Power to enforce administration over Palestine is null,” he said, urging the international community to promote efforts to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East. “Peace must be achieved swiftly,” he concluded.
OSCAR R. DE ROJAS, Permanent Observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta, said that Jerusalem should not belong to a single nation, but rather to humanity. It is a city sacred to the world’s three great monotheistic religions and has been a place of pilgrimage and inspiration for countless people. He expressed support for the draft resolutions, particularly the text titled “Jerusalem (document A/73/L.29), for reaffirming the international community’s legitimate interest in the question of Jerusalem and in the protection of its unique dimensions. He also welcomed efforts to find a comprehensive solution to the question of the city of Jerusalem as well as free and unhindered access to holy places by people of all religions and nationalities.
The Situation in the Middle East
TAREK FATHI MOHAMED MOHAMED TAYEL (Egypt), introducing the draft resolutions titled “Jerusalem” (document A/73/L.29) and “The Syrian Golan” (document A/73/L.30), said the Middle East has been shaken by instability because of Israeli occupation. “Some States attempt to exploit conflict in the region to whitewash Israeli violations of human rights,” he said, calling for all people in the region to enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms. He said “L.29” stresses the importance of relevant United Nations resolutions on Jerusalem and declares all measures undertaken by Israel to impose administrative control over the city as “null and void”. The draft also calls for respect for the historic status quo of the city, he said, noting that the draft calls for respect for the three monotheistic religions.
Turning to “L.30”, he said the draft stresses that conflict in Syria must not overshadow Israeli occupation of the Golan. Israel is failing to comply with Security Council resolutions, he said, asserting that occupation of the Golan is illegal. People in the region are suffering from the consequences of war and aspire to attain peaceful coexistence. For this reason, parties must comply with United Nations resolutions. He called on Member States to vote in favour of the drafts in a display of support for the rights of those living under occupation.
MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) said that the General Assembly’s resolutions are fully in line with the position expressed repeatedly by the Security Council, which rejects the unilateral decision by Israel to annex Palestinian Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan. Israel has run rampant in the region, refusing to abide by countless resolutions over the years. Refugees must be able to return to their home country. “Israel continues to occupy a precious part of our land, and our people there continue to suffer because of this occupation,” he said. Israel tried to hold farce elections in the Golan in October which were “steadfastly foiled by our people” in the Syrian Golan, he said. Expressing deep concern about Israel’s treatment of Syrians in the Golan as well as the Palestinian people, he called on the United Nations to demand the release of prisoners. Syria’s rights to the Golan are non-negotiable. “We are the legitimate owners,” he said, stressing that Syria would not forfeit its right to its land. Israel has yet to abide by Security Council resolution 497 (1981), he said, asking what the world is waiting for to put an end to Israel’s occupation and aggression in Syria.
FATHIMATH NUZUHA (Maldives) said that bringing an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine remains crucial for ending cycles of violence and conflict in the region. She called on Israel to fully implement relevant Security Council resolutions, respect its legal obligations under the Oslo Accords, and implement the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap. Turning to Syria, she said the humanitarian situation there continues to worsen and expressed deep concern that an outbreak of another conflict in Syria’s north-west Idlib province could result in the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the century. The international community must take more assertive steps to bring to a halt the tide of suffering in Syria. On Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), she said its members inflict destruction indiscriminately, sparing no one. She also condemned any attempts to attribute terrorism to any one religion, culture or tradition.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said the situation in the Middle East presents interlocking challenges that require sustained attention from the international community. In Yemen, over 14 million people are at risk of famine, while little progress has been made to improve the political and humanitarian situation in Syria. “The Israeli‑Palestinian conflict feeds into wider regional dynamics,” he said, noting that lack of concrete progress hinders relations among regional players. That conflict can only be solved through direct negotiations, he asserted, also calling on the Assembly to help create an environment conducive to peace. He called on the international community to promote confidence‑building, to maintain strong support for a two‑State solution and to immediately alleviate the economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said that concerted international efforts are needed to address the complicated reality in the Middle East. The Russian Federation stands ready to do much to stabilize the situation by breaking new ground when it comes to counter‑terrorism and working to resolve the crises in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. The only way to fully tap into the Middle East’s potential is by ensuring an end to interference in the domestic affairs of countries in the region. The Security Council is the main guarantor of international peace and security, he stressed, rejecting any attempts to negate previously established methods to resolve conflict, which undermines the United Nations and erodes international law. Turning to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he expressed concern that destabilizing trends prevail and tensions persist. Any assistance to Gaza must be carried out in close coordination with relevant Palestinian authorities. A comprehensive, durable settlement to the Palestinian question could be achieved through negotiations aimed at a two‑State solution. Israel’s settlements are illegitimate as are its policies that uproot Palestinians. The Russian Federation will continue to play a proactive role in the Council and the Middle East Quartet. UNRWA is critical and must remain well‑funded and operating.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, put on record regarding all texts adopted by the Assembly that European Union member States see reference to a “Palestinian Government” to refer to the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, the European Union has not expressed a legal qualification for the term of “forced displacement” used in certain drafts. He said the bloc remains concerned about acts of violence at holy sites and calls for respect of the historic status quo of religious sites in Jerusalem.
The representative of Israel said that on 29 November 1947, the United Nations adopted a text creating independent Jewish and Arab States, living side‑by‑side. “The Arab world rejected the text and a coalition of Arab States sought to destroy Israel,” she said. Year‑after‑year the date becomes an Israel‑bashing session. “We live in a time of many crises and it is a shame that the United Nations passes biased resolutions and devotes resources to bodies that denounce and attack Israel,” she said. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People spreads a one‑sided narrative against Israel.
Certain United Nations entities provide a platform for people promoting agendas that directly target one Member State, she said. The special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information hosts seminars that promote anti‑Israel sentiment and does little to promote dialogue. Referencing discussions undertaken through the programme, she said calling the creation of Israel a “catastrophe” is a denial of Israel’s right to exist. The draft resolutions before the Assembly omit references to the proven historical connection between Christianity and Judaism to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. She said she would vote against the drafts and called on States to do the same.
The representative of the United States said that his delegation continues to oppose the unfair number of resolutions presented against Israel. These resolutions are quick to condemn Israeli actions but say nothing about the other side. For the first time, the United States is introducing a stand‑alone text to condemn Hamas. The United States will vote against these one‑sided resolutions, which damage United Nations credibility and impartiality. The United States has significant concerns about the “L.31” and “L.34” draft texts, which have budgetary implications that aim to consume resources that could be better used elsewhere. These two texts propagate assumptions and do nothing to bring the world closer to the goal of peace. They are biased and drive parties apart. Palestinians are the only ones to have a dedicated centre in the United Nations Secretariat, which means they never have to come to the negotiating table. The cause of peace will be served when the bias against Israel ends, he stressed.
The Assembly then took up the draft resolution titled “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/73/L.31), adopting it by a recorded vote of 100 in favour to 12 against with 62 abstentions.
By a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 12 abstentions, the Assembly then adopted the draft resolution titled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/73/L.32).
Next, the Assembly considered the draft resolution titled “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat” (document A/73/L.33), adopting it by a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 14 abstentions.
The Assembly also adopted — by a recorded vote of 96 in favour to 13 against with 64 abstentions — the draft resolution titled “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/73/L.34).
The Assembly adopted the draft resolution titled “Jerusalem” (document A/73/L.29) by a recorded vote of 148 in favour to 11 against with 14 abstentions.
It next took up the draft resolution titled “The Syrian Golan” (document A/73/L.30), adopting it by a recorded vote of 99 in favour to 10 against with 66 abstentions.
The representative of Singapore said her country voted in favour of the text on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People because it supports the two‑State solution.
The representative of Brazil, speaking also on behalf of Argentina, said that it is important to vote in favour of the text on the Syrian Golan to denounce the use of force that undermines the territorial integrity of a State. Both countries believe that the Syrian Golan issue must be managed through a political process. He welcomed the resumption of negotiations based on relevant Security Council resolutions.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine expressed gratitude to all the countries that voted in favour of the resolutions, adding that such support is a sign of global consensus on how to solve the Palestinian question. “This will give us strength to seek a peaceful and lasting solution,” he said. The stand‑alone resolution on the matter, which is scheduled to be presented next Thursday, raises the question of intent. Those who are advocating this initiative are not acting genuinely to open the door for peace. They are the ones who have violated Security Council resolutions by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The last episode of their long‑standing punishment is the advancement of this stand‑alone resolution. He appealed to Member States to vote against the draft.
The representative of Syria thanked the Assembly for its renewed adoption of the text on the Syrian Golan. “The continued majority support of these resolutions is a rejection of occupation,” he said.