United States Permanent Representative Announces New Proposal Recognizing Potential of Technology, Changing Realities on Ground
The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process expressed deep concern today over the weakening of the international consensus around a two-State resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, as he briefed the Security Council on continuing violence, provocation and settlement activity on the ground.
“Without a political horizon, all our collective and individual efforts merely contribute to managing the conflict rather than resolving it,” said Nickolay Mladenov in his regular monthly briefing. This month it focused on implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) during the reporting period and in the past year, and preceded statements by all Council members, among whom the representative of the United States signalled the release of a new plan for peace.
Mr. Mladenov said a dangerous escalation of terrorist attacks, clashes, protests and violence in the West Bank have led to the deaths of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, and called upon security services on both sides to work together to restore calm and avoid escalation. Regarding the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), he said no steps have been taken either during the reporting period or in the past year to end all settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as the resolution requires. Noting that the text also calls for preventing all violence against civilians, he said violence and the threat of war continues nevertheless, with 75 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces and seven Israelis, including three soldiers and four civilians, killed by Palestinians. Major escalation in Gaza almost brought Israel and Hamas to war, he added.
He reported that provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, all proscribed under resolution 2334 (2016), continue alongside the celebration of deadly attacks by Hamas and Fatah, as well as a series of inflammatory speeches by Palestinian religious leaders and provocative statements by Israeli officials. In other areas covered by resolution 2334 (2016), positive developments include the mobilization of international support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and for improving life in Gaza. Beyond the enclave, civil society groups continue to mobilize in support of peace, he noted. However, negative trends continue to overshadow the positive, he cautioned, pointing out that collective efforts to launch credible negotiations yielded no progress. Neither was there progress on intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts, with Hamas deciding in December to sentence six people to death, including a woman, he recalled, noting also international efforts to distinguish, in all dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and Israeli activities in occupied territories.
Following that briefing, Council members took the floor, with most seconding the Special Coordinator’s concern over the lack of momentum towards a two-State solution and the non-implementation of resolution 2334 (2016). Many cited Israel’s continuation of settlement activity as impeding the resumption of the peace process. Several speakers also expressed regret over the absence of a written report on the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016). Some delegations called for international action to advance its implementation, with France’s representative advancing the European Union’s decision on differentiating between Israeli activity on its own territory and its activity in occupied areas. He described that decision as a model for best practices which others should emulate. Most speakers also condemned attacks against civilians and called for mitigation of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, for an end to incitement and for progress on intra-Palestinian reconciliation.
The representative of the United States maintained that biased resolutions on the conflict sent a loud message that Palestinians might be able to achieve their goals by relying on the United Nations rather than through direct negotiations, leading Israelis to distrust the Organization. In the effort to find a new way forward, the United States is proposing a new strategy that recognizes the potential of modern technology and the changing realities on the ground, she said. While Israelis and Palestinians will ultimately decide on the compromises they are willing to make, all Member States will also face a choice, she emphasized. They can focus on the elements of the plan with which they disagree – and remain stuck in the challenges of the past – or support forward motion.
Some delegations welcomed the United States announcement, signalling willingness to consider the proposed plan in the effort to foster negotiations towards a just and lasting peace, while reaffirming the importance of the two-State formula. Equatorial Guinea’s representative expressed hope that the proposed plan represents a fair strategy that can gain international support.
On the other hand, the Russian Federation’s representative expressed regret over attempts to re-write previous Council resolutions, noting that progress on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations remains remote amid widespread mistrust and increasing expressions of hawkish sentiments and inflammatory rhetoric. Implementing the Middle East Quartet’s 2016 recommendations can help to address factors including settlement activities, he said, emphasizing that all efforts taken must dovetail with steps to rebuild Palestinian unity. Strongly rejecting all violence and continued illegal settlement activities, he reiterated his delegation’s offer to host a summit for negotiations among the parties.
Also speaking today were representatives of Kuwait, Sweden, United Kingdom, China, Kazakhstan, Poland, Netherlands, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Peru and Côte d’Ivoire.
The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 12:23 p.m.
NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, emphasized that his report on monthly developments cannot be divorced from the broader context of Israel’s continued military occupation of Palestinian territory; uncertainties about the future of the two-State formula; the military activity and continuing hold of Hamas over the Gaza Strip; the persistent threat of war; unilateral actions that undermine peace efforts; reduced donor support for Palestine; and turmoil in the wider region. During the present month, a dangerous escalation of terrorist attacks, clashes, protests and violence in the West Bank led to the deaths of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, he noted, calling upon both the Israeli and Palestinian security services to work together to restore calm and avoid further escalation.
Turning to the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), he said no steps have been taken during the reporting period to cease all settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, as the resolution requires. In that regard, plans for some 2,200 housing units were advanced, the vast majority in East Jerusalem, further consolidating the ring of settlements in the north of the city. Government funds for advancing the first new construction in Hebron in 16 years were approved in October, he noted. Detailing legislation that will further enable construction as well as two court rulings that rejected Palestinian appeals against eviction, he said demolitions and seizure of structures continue across the West Bank.
While noting that the resolution calls for preventing all acts of violence against civilians, he pointed to the continuing violence and threat of war, recalling that overall, 75 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces and seven Israelis, including three soldiers and four civilians, were killed by Palestinians during the reporting period. A major escalation in Gaza almost brought Israel and Hamas to war in an exchange of fire following the November discovery of an undercover Israeli unit in the enclave. In October, exchanges of fire were preceded by the announcement that Israel had destroyed a tunnel inside its territory, he recalled. Protests at the perimeter fence and near the beach continued, although their size and violence significantly decreased, he said. In December, the West Bank saw drive-by shootings targeting Israelis, response operations by Israeli forces and a series of new restrictions imposed on Palestinians and violence as well as settler protests, he added.
Pointing out that resolution 2334 (2016) calls for refraining from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, he described the celebration of deadly attacks by Hamas and Fatah, as well as a series of inflammatory speeches by Palestinian religious leaders. President Mahmoud Abbas has spoken out against the recent surge in violence, he said, while noting that Israeli officials also made provocative statements encouraging violence and undermining a two-state solution, he said. In other areas covered by resolution 2334 (2016), positive developments include the mobilization of international support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and for improving life in Gaza, including by increasing access to electricity and sewage treatment; concluding a review that will allow the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism to better respond to needs; completing the reconstruction of hundreds of homes; and enhancing capacity to implement United Nations projects.
Beyond Gaza, civil society groups continue to mobilize in support of peace, he continued, noting, however, that negative trends continued to overshadow the positive. There was no progress on collective efforts to launch credible negotiations, nor on intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts, with Hamas deciding in December to sentence six people to death, including a woman. He also noted international efforts to distinguish, in all dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and occupied territories. In addition, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council reaffirmed its decision to suspend recognition of the State of Israel until the latter recognizes the State of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders. President Abbas is reported to have signed 11 instruments of accession to international agreements on 15 November, he said.
Looking at the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) over the past year, he said settlement planning and tendering continue but at lower rates than cited in his previous reports, reiterating that settlement expansion is illegal under international law. In terms of violence, he said that although Gaza has been the most volatile area, the risk of an explosion in the West Bank has also grown. Recapping the Gaza toll over the year, he said the killing of children is absolutely unacceptable, emphasizing that Israeli forces must restrict use of firearms, while Hamas must ensure that children are not placed in harm’s way. With instances of incitement also rife, he stressed the responsibility of leaders to reduce tensions rather than escalating them, particularly if escalation denies the legitimacy of one side or glorifies terror.
Calling for reversing the effects of Israel’s closures in Gaza as well as restrictive Palestinian Authority measures, he encouraged Member States to support the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Gaza and urged donors to further increase contributions to UNRWA. He also noted that the fate of two Israeli civilians and two Israeli soldiers missing in Gaza remains of concern. In addition, he reaffirmed firm support of the United Nations for Egypt’s efforts to facilitate Palestinian reconciliation. He also expressed concern over the weakening of the international consensus on a two-State resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, emphasizing that “without a political horizon, all our collective and individual efforts merely contribute to managing the conflict rather than resolving it”. Only through the two-State vision and the negotiated resolution of all final-status issues can the legitimate aspirations of both peoples be achieved, he stressed.
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said she has been taken aback during her two-year tenure at the United Nations by the frequency and one-sidedness of meetings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The [United Nations] has shown itself to be hopelessly biased,” she said, recalling that several weeks ago the General Assembly failed to adopt a draft resolution condemning the violent activities of Hamas. “Most of the region’s problems have absolutely nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” she added, emphasizing that the Organization’s long-standing obsession with the issue has been counter-productive, sending a loud and false message that Palestinians might be able to achieve their goals by relying on the United Nations, rather than through direct negotiations. Its actions have also sent the accurate message that Israel cannot trust the United Nations. Noting that her track record at the Organization might lead some to conclude that she is unsympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people, she stressed “nothing could be further from the truth”.
She went on to state that Israel has long demonstrated its willingness to compromise for peace but emphasized that no United Nations resolution or anti-Semitic boycotts will ever force it to make a deal that weakens its security. “Israel wants a peace agreement, but it doesn’t need one.” In contrast, the Palestinian people have much more to gain, she said, affirming that it is through that lens that President Donald Trump’s Administration has crafted a new peace proposal, she said, outlining its broad contours. Among other things, it incorporates new elements, such as the potential of modern technology and the changing realities on the ground. While Israelis and Palestinians will ultimately decide on the compromises they are willing to make, all Member States will also face a choice, she emphasized. They can focus on the elements of the plan with which they disagree – and remain stuck in the challenges of the past – or support forward motion. “The eyes of the world are watching,” she said.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), noting that his delegation looks forward to another written report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), requested that he submit additional reports in 2019, explaining that the increase is necessitated by escalating Israeli aggression, including recent attacks against Palestinian civilians and civilian infrastructure. Describing those incidents as war crimes and crimes against humanity, he recalled that more than 230 Palestinian civilians were killed and more than 24,000 injured as a result of live fire used by Israeli security forces during the “March of Return” earlier in 2018. “We must put an end to these crimes,” he said, emphasizing the need to provide protection to Palestinian civilians in accordance with the Secretary-General’s latest report. Resolution 2334 (2016) calls upon Israel to immediately cease all its settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory while reaffirming previous resolutions on the question of Palestine, he said, adding that Israel clearly has a plan to change the Territory’s demographic and legal character. In that regard, Kuwait welcomes plans by Jordan to convene an international conference on threats facing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy sites in Jerusalem, he said.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said the Council must stand united to support the stabilization of the Middle East. Among other things, it must seek peace in Syria, stop the bloodshed in Yemen, address the global refugee crisis and “iron out” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For the Russian Federation, the bedrock of all engagement is international law, including the many Council resolutions adopted in relation to the various situations in the region, he said. Emphasizing that dialogue must be the main instrument going forward, he called for the abandonment of all unilateral actions. He went on to express regret over attempts to re-write previous Council resolutions, noting that progress on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations remains remote, with mistrust still widespread. Meanwhile, hawkish sentiments and inflammatory rhetoric are increasing, he said. Implementing the Middle East Quartet’s 2016 recommendations can help to address such factors as Israel’s settlement activities, he said, adding that all steps taken must dovetail with efforts to rebuild Palestinian unity. Calling for a redoubling of efforts to help the parties seeking solutions to all sensitive, delicate final-status issues - leading ultimately to the implementation of a two-State solution – he strongly rejected all violence as well as continued illegal settlement activities and reiterated his delegation’s offer to host a summit for negotiations among the parties.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said that a two-State solution is moving rapidly beyond reach with the expansion of Israeli settlements. The spread of violence is “instilling fear among Israelis and Palestinians and destroying hopes for peace for young people, the so-called post-Oslo generation”, he observed. Condemning the violence against civilians that has led to the loss of life in recent days, he called upon security forces on both sides to exercise restraint and avoid further escalation. He also condemned Israel’s decision to advance additional settlement units, including in Hebron and East Jerusalem. Expressing disappointment that no written report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) was circulated before the meeting, he emphasized that it is a matter of the Council’s credibility. “Resolution 2334 (2016) was adopted by this Council and cannot be disregarded,” he stressed, calling upon Member States to step up its implementation. Underlining that goods from the settlements cannot be promoted as Israeli products, he said all agreements between Israel and the European Union must explicitly indicate inapplicability to the occupied territories. Noting that this does not constitute a boycott, he encouraged other Member States to adopt similar policies.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) expressed deep concern over the lack of progress on implementing resolution 2334 (2016) and Israel’s continued approval of settlements. Urging that country’s Government to reverse its policies and end the demolitions of Palestinian properties, she said her country will continue to try to ease the plight of affected Palestinians. She also condemned all terrorist attacks, expressing condolences for victims. She said that her country has increased its support for UNRWA and called for progress on intra-Palestinian reconciliation. She also welcomed the announcement that a United States plan is ready and affirmed the United Kingdom’s support for international efforts to improve the prospects for peace. Priorities in that regard are determining borders, ensuring security and sovereignty of both Palestinians and Israelis and determining the status of Jerusalem, which should serve as the capital of both States.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), expressing regret at the absence of a written report on implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), said recent developments demonstrate that the status quo cannot persist, pointing out that the possibilities for peace continue to deteriorate. Describing Israel’s settlement activity as illegal, dangerous and counter-productive, he cited its particularly deleterious effects in Hebron. He also called upon Israeli authorities to end demolitions of Palestinian property and to reconsider laws regularizing settlements. He went on to state that in the face of the non-implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), the European Union has adopted mechanisms that should figure among best practices with regard to distinguishing between Israeli activity on Israeli territory and in the occupied territories, he said, warning that fractured Palestinian territory will spell the abandonment of Palestinian aspiration and Israeli democracy. A two-State solution, based on international parameters, remains the only way forward, he said, emphasizing that it is on that basis that France will examine the proposal by the representative of the United States.
MA ZHAOXU (China), noting the complex conflicts raging throughout the Middle East, said the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is their root cause. He urged all parties to exercise restraint, stressing that the Security Council should facilitate progress towards a negotiated solution, and Israel should end its settlement activity. At the same time, the international community should provide aid to Gaza, he added. Regarding negotiations, he said compromises must be made and provocations avoided, urging the international community to help the parties pursue talks that should aim for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace based on the two-State formula. He went on to stress the need to implement resolution 2334 (2016), calling also for the submission of written reports on its implementation. Reiterating his delegation’s support for Palestinian rights and for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, he said China will continue to support the search for innovative mechanisms to promote peace in the Middle East.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), welcoming the ceasefire decision taken by Israel and Hamas in Gaza, said political will on both sides resulted in a “viable truce”. Expressing hope that those developments will lead to a full-fledged peace treaty and prevent a relapse into conflict, he said a war or exchange of fire between the parties should be avoided at all costs. Voicing concern that Israel’s intentions will lead to legalizing thousands of settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, he called on both sides to honour their commitments in accordance with all relevant Council resolutions — in particular, resolution 2334 (2016) — and urged a complete freeze on settlement construction. Meanwhile, the United States, the Russian Federation and the European Union should urge Israel and Palestine to return to the negotiating table and agree on mutually acceptable principles leading to the coexistence of two States based upon international law and Council resolutions. He also expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and recent violent incidents in the occupied West Bank, as well as hope that the work of the Middle East Quartet will soon be revived.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) recalled that two years ago this month the Council adopted resolution 2334 (2016) reaffirming previous resolutions regarding the application of international law and the parameters of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The year 2018 also marks 25 years since the first Oslo Accord, she said, voicing regret that no significant progress has been made since that historic compromise. On the contrary, the situation on the ground has grown more tense. Urging all parties to fully comply with their obligations under international law and exercise restraint, she expressed full support for a negotiated two-State solution and resolution of all final status issues, including the question of Jerusalem. Expressing concern about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza as well as UNRWA’s critical financial shortfalls, she commended donors who have provided the Agency with additional funding. She reiterated the longstanding position of the European Union that all settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remains illegal under international law and called on Israel to cancel plans to demolish the Khan Al Ahmar-Abu Al Helu community.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) condemned recent terrorist attacks by Palestinians against Israelis in the West Bank and statements by Hamas and other terrorist groups welcoming these cowardly acts, expressing regret that the proposed General Assembly resolution on condemning Hamas did not pass. He strongly opposes Israel’s settlement policy, which is illegal under international law and includes forced transfers, evictions and demolitions. Construction started on almost 1,700 units last year and on more than 1,000 units in the first six months of 2018. Turning to Gaza, he condemned the indiscriminate rocket fire and expressed grave concern about Israel’s use of force that has led to the deaths of more than 200 Palestinian civilians, calling for a thorough investigation into all cases where lives have been lost. Two years after the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016), the situation on the ground is developing towards a one-State reality. This must be reversed, he said, and steps must be taken to restart a genuine peace process, leading to a two-State solution.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) expressed deep concern that no political progress has been seen either between Israelis and Palestinians or between the Palestinian parties. He called for the international community to reconsider its methods of dealing with the situation, given that the tragic state of affairs has been going on for 70 years. Noting that many resolutions have been passed, he stressed that they must be implemented. He appealed to Hamas to abstain from provocations against Israel, while to Israel he called for restraint and proportional use of force. On Gaza, he supported Egypt’s endeavours to advance Palestinian reconciliation. Reiterating that a political solution, through the two-State schema, is the only way out of the cycle of violence, he stressed that the Council must not stand idly by and allow political stagnation to continue. It must insist on the implementation of its resolutions, and for that purpose, written reports on the implementation on resolution 2334 (2016) would be helpful. Equatorial Guinea will consider the peace plan put forward by the United States with the hope that it is fair in a way that could garner international support.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) expressed concern over recent incidents following renewed violence in the occupied Palestinian territory since last month, particularly in the Gaza Strip. She welcomed efforts by the United Nations, in consultation with Egypt and other parties, to help restore calm. The deteriorating political, humanitarian and security situation in Gaza remains worrying, she said, calling for essential services including water, fuel, electricity and health care services to be fixed. She also underscored the importance of promoting intra-Palestinian reconciliation, supporting Egypt’s efforts and bringing the Gaza Strip under the control of the Palestinian Authority, as per the Cairo Agreement. It is urgent that all sides exercise maximum restraint and that all efforts are made to de-escalate tensions.
VERÓNICA CORDOVA SORIA (Bolivia), calling for the submission of written reports on the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), reiterated her delegation’s opposition to Israel’s illegal and expansionist policies, describing them as an outrageous breach of that resolution. She also reiterated Bolivia’s categorical rejection of Israeli policies that take a toll on Palestinian lives. Expressing continuing grave concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, she called upon Israel to fully uphold its international responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention. She went on to pay tribute to Qatar for providing fuel so that Gazans can have power, and reiterated support for any initiatives that can help realize a two-State solution, including a free and independent Palestinian State, in accordance with previous agreements.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), joining others in voicing concern over the worsening conditions in Gaza and across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said the situation creates an atmosphere conducive to violence. Rejecting the hostile rhetoric and escalating violence, he said Israel’s settlement practices constitute open defiance of international law as well as a violation of resolution 2334 (2016). The demolitions of Palestinian homes, including those planned for Khan al-Ahmar, will have grave impacts, he warned, saying the peace plan proposed by the new United States is among the many possibilities that should be explored to ensure a peaceful, negotiated resolution of the conflict. Meanwhile, he said, inter-Palestinian reunification efforts should also forge ahead. He noted that, like other delegates, he expected to receive a written report from the Secretary-General on compliance with resolution 2334 (2016), as previously requested by 10 Council members, expressing hope that such documents will be made available more frequently during future meetings.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, underlining the need for the Council to mobilize further in addressing peace and security issues across the Middle East. Expressing particular concern over high tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he reiterated his delegation’s support for a peaceful, negotiated solution, reached through dialogue between the parties. The status of Jerusalem must, therefore, be decided through direct talks, he emphasized. Rejecting Israel’s continued settlement expansions that have thrown Palestinian communities into disarray, he said all parties must abide strictly by resolution 2334 (2016) and refrain from unilateral initiatives that could threaten the ultimate peaceful resolution of the situation. He went on to call upon the United States and other partners to continue to provide funding to UNRWA – which supports more than 5 million refugees whose needs are only increasing – he said that ending the conflict hinges on addressing the spiralling violence and repression on the ground. Both sides should engage in peace talks without preconditions under the auspices of the United Nations, he said, stressing that Egypt’s efforts in helping to reunite Palestinian factions are also critical.