The General Assembly today adopted five resolutions on the question of Palestine and the Middle East, including one calling on Member States not to recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regards to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.
Through the terms of the text titled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/74/L.15) — adopted by a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 13 abstentions — the Assembly called on Member States to ensure that agreements with Israel do not imply recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the territories it occupied in 1967. The Assembly reiterates its call for the achievement of a just, lasting peace in the Middle East and an end to the Israeli occupation, while calling on Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with international law, cease actions aimed at altering the demographic composition of the Territory, and immediately halt all settlement activities.
By the terms of a resolution titled “The Syrian Golan” (document A/74/L.9), adopted by a recorded vote of 91 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United Kingdom, United States), with 65 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/74/L.14) — 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.
In the second of those texts titled “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/74/L.16), the Assembly requests the Division to continue to monitor developments relevant to the question of Palestine. Through the third such resolution, “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Global Communications of the Secretariat” (document A/74/L.17) the Assembly requests the Department disseminate information on activities of the United Nations system relating to the question of Palestine and peace efforts.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that international support for the Palestinian people has not wavered despite Israel’s attempts to destroy a two-State formula and recent aberrations in decisions by the current United States Administration that contradict international law. Failure to hold Israel accountable for its crimes has led it to believe it is a State above the law. As a result, the United Nations Charter and United Nations resolutions are being trampled with utter contempt. Palestinian civilians, including women and children, continue to be killed and injured. Israel’s 12-year blockade of Gaza has caused 2 million Palestinians to live in an “open-air prison,” where the unemployment rate is a staggering 53 per cent, he added.
The representative of Israel, voicing opposition to the five resolutions, said the international community has fully embraced the Palestinian perspective and thereby stands in the way of ending the conflict by encouraging Palestinians to refuse any proposed solution. Though the Jewish people have a biblical and historic right to the entirety of the land, Israel accepted the partition plan in the spirit of compromise. Arab leadership, by contrast, chose war. During the twentieth century an estimated 850,000 Jews were forced out of Arab countries and became refugees but were ignored by the international community because it didn’t serve the Palestinian narrative. Accepting the Palestinian Authority’s stated policy of glorifying terrorism against Jews and condemning Jews for living in Jerusalem is counterproductive to peace, he said, calling the international community morally bankrupt.
The representative of the United States echoed Israel’s sentiment that the resolutions are biased against Israel, adding that such a one-sided approach undermines trust.
During the day-long debate, speakers expressed their support for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and condemned Israel for continuing its settlement activities. Kuwait’s delegate, echoing the sentiments of several Member States, expressed alarm about Israel’s attempts to change the historic status of holy sites in Jerusalem, the freezing of Palestinian tax revenues and the decision not to extend the temporary international presence in Hebron. Along those lines, Indonesia’s delegate also stressed: “This is not a conflict between two equal parties over a disputed territory.” Rather, an occupying State is imposing colonization policies in the territory of another State, under inhumane conditions, he added.
Speakers also rejected the unilateral decision by the United States Government to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The representative of Malaysia further denounced the recent decision by the United States that stated Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are no longer inconsistent with international law. Iran’s delegate said the United States must be held accountable for such unjustifiable, irresponsible acts and condemned the United States decision in support of Israel’s annexation of the Occupied Syrian Golan.
Syria’s representative said that bolstered by blind support from some Member States’ law, Israel has carried out attacks on Syria’s territory, attempting to change the history of the Golan, pillage its wealth and confiscate the territories of its people. With the aim of extending illegal settlements, Israel is requiring people living in the Syrian Golan to register their land with Israeli authorities and holding false elections, while continuing repressive racial discrimination policies and arbitrary detention. He called on the United Nations to implement all the resolutions under consideration, reiterating Syria’s sovereign rights over the Golan and emphasizing that such rights are not time-barred.
In other matters, the Assembly postponed until 12 December consideration of its agenda item on the “Investigation into the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjold and of the members of the party accompanying” ‑ which was originally scheduled for 9 December.
Also speaking today were representatives of Maldives, Jordan, Argentina, Libya, Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar, Namibia, China, Cuba, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Ireland, Tunisia, Norway, Morocco, South Africa, Iraq, Bangladesh, Russian Federation, Brazil and Singapore.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 5 December, to consider the follow-up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries.
Question of Palestine
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the following draft resolutions: “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/74/L.14); “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/74/L.15); “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/74/L.16); and “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Global Communications of the Secretariat” (document A/74/L.17).
He said that the Committee will continue to advocate for human rights and work toward international consensus in cooperation with Member States, regional and international organizations and civil society. It will also continue to engage representatives of both sides ‑ Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Turning to the drafts, he said “L.15” calls upon States not to recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regards to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations. Draft text “L.14” requests the Committee redouble efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement. “L.16” renews the mandate of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat in providing substantive support to the Committee and “L.17” renews the mandate of the special programme to continue its efforts to support media awareness in contributing to peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
ADELA RAZ (Afghanistan), Committee Vice-Chair, introduced the “Report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/74/35), saying it includes an overview of the major political developments during the 5 September 2018 to 3 September 2019 reporting period. The report highlights the work of the Committee concerning four aspects of its mandate and the activities of the special information programme of the Department of Global Communications on the Question of Palestine.
Turning to the recommendations contained in the report, she said the Committee reiterates the need to re-frame the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a conflict emanating from one State occupying, colonizing and annexing the territory of another State. Furthermore, the Committee calls for a shift from a humanitarian to a human rights framework and demands an end to the blockade of Gaza, she said, underscoring the responsibility of States and private entities not to contribute to violations of Palestinian human rights, particularly with respect to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Committee further deems unilateral decisions by Member States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel null and void, she continued. Expressing regret about the non-renewal of the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, she said the report urges Member States to remind Israel of its obligations under international law to protect civilians and to establish an international protection mechanism to ensure their safety.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, stressed the need to act seriously to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land through all legitimate means available to the international community. There is no other way, he said, recalling the global efforts that defeated apartheid and colonialism. “The Palestine question cannot be the exception,” he declared, adding that there is no military solution and there is no way that the Palestinian people will accept less than their full human rights. Partial solutions or attempts to bully, oppress and exhaust the Palestinians into accepting limited autonomy, less than freedom, or submitting to perpetual colonization and occupation will never work and can only bring more conflict.
Recalling the words of former United States President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter, who courageously acknowledged the illegality and destructive nature of Israel’s settlement colonization in occupied Palestine, he said that a just solution continues to be rejected by Israel and those supporting its illegal occupation. Failing to hold Israel accountable for its crimes has led it to believe it is a State above the law. Such failure has also led to a situation where the United Nations Charter, international law, United Nations resolutions and the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice are being trampled with utter contempt.
Palestinian civilians, including women and children, continue to be killed and injured, he said. Turning to the 12-year blockade of Gaza by Israel, he said that 2 million Palestinians are isolated in an “open-air prison,” with the unemployment rate at an unprecedented 53 per cent overall, and a shocking 70 per cent among youth. The Assembly’s resolution on the “Peaceful settlement of the Question of Palestine” sets forth the pillars of a just peace, in accordance with international law, relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative. The annual reaffirmation of these terms of reference, parameters and principles by the overwhelming majority of Member States reflects the international consensus on this matter, he highlighted.
That consensus, he continued, has not wavered despite Israel’s intransigence and attempts to destroy a two-State formula and recent aberrations in decisions by the current United States Administration that contradict international law, United Nations resolutions and decades of its own policies. All legitimate political and legal measures, including sanctions and prosecutions in courts, must be pursued to ensure accountability, he stressed, also calling for the release of the database on businesses engaged in activities related to Israel’s illegal settlements. He also appealed for humanitarian assistance to Palestinian people until their inalienable rights are realized, expressing the general international support provided through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives) said Israel’s routine disregard for Security Council resolutions shows their indifference to international law and undermines the role of the United Nations and the Council in maintaining a rule-based global order, including in the Middle East. The international community has consistently failed to realize its own promise of creating two separate and independent States that would live side-by-side in peace, harmony and security. The Government of the Maldives commends the State of Palestine for the effective manner in which it has steered the work of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China this year, a clear indication of Palestine’s commitment to the international community and its regard for multilateralism. It is time for the international community to move in the right direction and secure a just and better future for the people of Palestine and the State of Palestine’s full membership in the United Nations. The Maldives repeats its call for a two-State solution and supports the creation of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine, established on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, where people of both States live in peace and security.
SUDQI ATALLAH ABD ALKADETR AL OMOUSH (Jordan) emphasized the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to establish a sovereign State and noted that their continued suffering has led to a rise in hunger, poverty and a deprivation of rights and dignity. A comprehensive peace agreement, including a two-State solution as outlined in the Arab Peace Initiative, would lead to security and stability for the entire region, he said, stressing that the expansion of settlements and destruction of Palestinian homes threaten the viability for such an agreement. Those actions will lead to catastrophic repercussions and a threat to regional and international peace and security, he warned. Jordan is committed to protecting Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem and will counter any attempts to alter the status of those sites. Welcoming the extension of the UNRWA mandate, he called on Member States to continue to support the Agency.
NAWAF A. S. A. ALAHMAD (Kuwait) recalled that, despite Security Council resolution 181 (1963), Palestinian people continue to live under the oppression of Israel. The occupying Power seeks to change the demographic of Palestinian territories through tactics including forced displacement and illegal seizure of property Expressing alarm about Israel’s attempts to change the historic status of holy sites in Jerusalem, the freezing of Palestinian tax revenues and the decision not to extend the temporary international presence in Hebron, he called on the international community to urge the occupying Power to comply with international law, including its responsibility to protect civilians in armed conflict. The United Nations must also shoulder its responsibilities on the Palestine question, including addressing the plight of Palestine refugees, he said.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said that his country supports a peaceful and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian question based on a two-State solution and pre‑1967 borders. Argentina supports the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. “We also recognize the right of Israel to live in peace with its neighbours,” he added, also expressing concern about the illegal and persistent growth of Israeli settlements. For their part, Palestinian leaders must seriously address the security concerns of Israel, he said, underscoring Israel’s right to self-defence within the context of proportionality. Turning to the situation in East Jerusalem, he rejected all unilateral attempts to modify the status of the city, adding that it should be a place of coming together with guaranteed access for Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. He also emphasized the need to put an end to the occupation of the Syrian Golan.
Mr. ALMABROK (Libya) said that the United Nations has a responsibility to pressure Israel to comply with international law and relevant resolutions. The Palestinian leadership, on many occasions, has expressed its commitment to and faith in a peaceful solution. It has made concessions and is ready to participate in a resolution under United Nations auspices. Unfortunately, Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian land. The Palestinian question is an ongoing international peace and security concern. Israel must be held accountable for its belligerence. Some States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and deciding to move their embassies there has only caused more political stalemate and created “disaffection and desperation among the Palestinian people”, he said. Libya reiterates its demand for an end to the occupation and rejects any claim of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. He expressed deep concern about the horrifying increase of poverty in the Palestinian territories and called on the United Nations to take tangible measures to protect civilians.
ATSUSHI MORITA (Japan), expressing concern about continued violence in the region, said the indiscriminate launching of rockets at civilian population centres cannot be accepted. Urging the Government of Israel to cease all settlement activities, including the implementation of construction plans that undermine the viability of a two-State solution, he said such actions have no legal validity and violate international law. Regarding rising tension in Gaza, he welcomed mediation efforts by Egypt and the adoption of a resolution to renew UNRWA’s mandate, noting that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) reports found no fraud involving donor funds within the Agency. Elections are fundamental for democracy and for the establishment of a viable sovereign Palestinian State, he said, calling on all relevant parties to ensure free and fair elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
DAOVY VONGXAY (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that ongoing illegal settlement activities, destruction of property and economic institutions in occupied land have caused an already critical socio-economic situation to continue deteriorating. All parties must avoid further exacerbating the fragile situation and take all possible steps to create conditions conducive to the resumption of peace negotiations. He called for a just, lasting, comprehensive and peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which envisages a sovereign and independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem at its capital, living side-by-side in peace with Israel. He reaffirmed his country’s solidarity and support to the Palestinian people in their quest for dignity, justice and self-determination. He also commended UNRWA’s work.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) emphasized that there are no alternatives to a peaceful solution to the question of Palestine, in accordance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions and its Charter. Settlement activities, altering the character of Jerusalem, the blockade of Gaza, arbitrary detention, violence and other activities threaten the prospects for peace, she said, expressing concern about the deteriorating economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in Gaza. Qatar has contributed more than $1 billion over the past eight years to help the Palestinian people, she reported, adding that it has pledged a multi-year donation of $16 million to UNRWA, reaffirming the vital role of the Agency.
DANNY BEN YOSEF DANON (Israel) recalled that the 1949 partition plan was internationally accepted and established considering arguments from both sides with a view to finding a constructive solution. Since 1977, however, 29 November has been twisted from a day of solidarity with the Palestinians into a way to blame Israel for the situation of Palestinians. If Palestinian leadership had chosen a pragmatic approach and demonstrated a willingness to compromise at the outset, there would be no Palestinian refugees. Today, the international community has fully embraced the Palestinian perspective and thereby stands in the way of ending the conflict by encouraging Palestinians to refuse any proposed solution. Though the Jewish people have a biblical and historic right to the entirety of the land, Israel accepted the partition plan in the spirit of compromise. Arab leadership, by contrast, chose war, he said.
Palestinians now attack Israel using a diplomatic terror campaign characterized by demonization and lies, as evidenced at the United Nations, he said. By adopting the Palestinian narrative, the international community is actively preventing the Palestinians from finding a solution to the conflict. The international community should be able to criticize Palestine as it criticizes Israel, he emphasized, including the missteps of UNRWA. During the twentieth century an estimated 850,000 Jews were forced out of Arab countries and became refugees but were ignored by the international community because it didn’t serve the Palestinian narrative, he went on, proposing a resolution to the Assembly that acknowledges that forgotten group of Jewish refugees and makes right the injustice they suffered.
Accepting the Palestinian Authority’s stated policy of glorifying terrorism against Jews and condemning Jews for living in Jerusalem is counterproductive to peace, he said, calling the international community morally bankrupt. Such a one-sided narrative leaves the Palestinians no reason to come to the negotiating table, he reiterated, suggesting that 29 November should serve as a day to remember that a balanced approach can lead to a constructive solution.
MOHD HAFIZ BIN OTHMAN (Malaysia) said that the international community has a responsibility to resolve the conflict collectively. Israel’s repressive policies and practices have violated numerous United Nations resolutions and international law. Israel continues to deprive and take away the basic rights and fundamental freedoms of the Palestinians. Malaysia believes that a two-State solution can lead to a peaceful and just solution to the conflict. “The comprehensive solution of this decades-long conflict may also offer new openings of broader and peaceful conflict resolutions in other parts of the region,” he added. Malaysia denounces the recent decision by the United States that stated Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are no longer inconsistent with international law. “We also strongly reject any unilateral action regarding the final status of Jerusalem,” he added. Malaysia continues to call on the international community to strengthen its solidarity and to make every effort to uphold international law, United Nations resolutions and the human rights of the Palestinian people.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia) said that Israeli settlements, the destruction and confiscation of property, the exploitation of natural resources, the blockade imposed on Gaza, the detention of children, the use of administrative detention as well as the construction of the annexation wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continue unabated despite calls by the United Nations for an end to the occupation and halting of all repressive practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Namibia felt disbelief with the United States Government’s announcement on 18 November 2019 that it does not consider Israeli settlements in the East Bank as contravening international law. These settlements are illegal under various international laws and are an obstacle to peace and to a two-State solution. Namibia unwaveringly believes and supports the Secretary–General and the overwhelming majority of Member States in their conviction that there is no plan B to a two-State solution. Namibia supports and co-sponsors the four draft resolutions before the Assembly today, he said.
ZHANG JUN (China) said that the lack of resolution to the question of Palestine remains the root of instability in the Middle East and the grim humanitarian situation in the occupied territories. Regional chaos has provided opportunity for terrorists and has had a spill-over effect on other parts of the world. China will continue to support Palestine in its pursuit of an independent State based on pre-1967 borders. China supports achievement of a political settlement and appreciates the active mediation of Egypt and the United Nations. He called on Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from action that will undermine efforts to relaunch peace talks. “We are ready to continue to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees,” he added, commending UNRWA’s humanitarian work. Emphasizing the need to defend the principles of fairness and justice, he noted his country’s various initiatives in the Middle East. Parties must stay committed to dialogue and negotiations to find a just, lasting solution.
HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba) condemned all illegal settlement policies and measures, punitive demolitions and the forced displacement of the Palestinian people. The decision of Israel not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron is deeply concerning, he said, urging the Security Council to call for the immediate end to Israel’s occupation and settlement activities. He rejected the unilateral decision by the United States Government to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move its embassy to that city. Cuba also rejects the “so-called ‘deal of the century’” which completely disregards the two-State solution. The decision of the United States to recognize the Syria Golan as a territory of Israel infringes on the rights of the Syrian people, he added, calling for Israel to withdraw from all occupied territory.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) said that regional stability cannot be achieved without a lasting solution to the Palestine question. Expressing concern about Israel’s continued illegal activities ‑ including settlement construction, demolition of Palestinian property, violation of holy sites and the blockade of Gaza ‑ she said that such activities undermine a two-State solution and play into the hands of terrorist groups in the region. Turning to the deteriorating economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she said that providing support to the Palestinian people is an integral part of achieving sustainable development there. UNRWA provides vital services to more than 5.5 million refugees, she pointed out, reporting that her country has contributed $630 million to support vital sectors in Palestine and donated over $100 million to the Agency over the last 10 years.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) reiterated the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to create an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital. To achieve lasting peace in the region, the international community must shoulder its responsibilities and urge Israel to cease policies that violate Security Council resolutions, including new settlement activities, depriving Palestinians of natural resources and their fundamental rights, he said. Commending UNRWA’s efforts in the region, he said the Agency remains effective even in challenging conditions. For its part, Bahrain hosted a peace for prosperity workshop which aimed to find ways to provide assistance to the people of Palestine.
MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) said that the situation in the occupied territories has deteriorated in recent years, expressing concern about the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza. “We cannot talk about security and stability in the Middle East without a just, comprehensive, and durable solution to the Palestinian question,” he added. Egypt looks forward to a moment when the Palestinian people achieve their full rights and expresses its support for the Committee’s role in promoting the rights of the Palestinian people. Having led and provided a peace model it had hoped others would draw lessons from, Egypt regrets the current situation in the Middle East. He called on all Member States to support the draft texts. Egypt looks forward to all sides coming together to agree on a comprehensive solution that will pave the way for stability, peace and security in the region.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) said that the Israeli regime, under the “one Jewish State” title, has totally negated the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. The humanitarian situation in Gaza amounts to collective punishment. The Security Council’s inaction on this matter is caused by the United States’ support for Israel, which in turn, has highly emboldened the Israeli regime to continue its illegal policies and cruel practices against Palestinians. Moreover, the irresponsible and unilateral United States policy to relocate its embassy to Al-Quds Al-Sharif as well as its recent decision regarding Israeli settlement activities are flagrant violations of international law. “The United States must be held accountable for such unjustifiable and irresponsible acts,” he said, also condemning the United States unlawful decision in support of the annexation of the Occupied Syrian Golan to Israel.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and accelerated settlement activities erode the prospects for peace in the region. The meeting of European and Arab Ministers held in Dublin in February demonstrated Ireland’s readiness to work with all parties towards a resumption of negotiations to resolve the question of Palestine, she said. Her country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs is currently visiting Israel and Palestine to discuss Ireland’s investment in solar energy to power a waste water plant in north Gaza and visiting an UNRWA school for girls. Aligning herself with the explanation of vote to be delivered by the European Union, she said the lack of implementation of international law is the real challenge to achieving peace and security in the Middle East.
MONCEF BAATI (Tunisia) expressed his delegation’s commitment to the Palestinian cause, calling for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. As such, he called on all States to contribute to lasting peace in the region and put an end to the occupying Power’s racist and inhumane aggression against the Palestinian people. In the context of recurrent Israeli practices aiming to change Jerusalem’s make-up, he also called upon all international Powers to shoulder their responsibility in order to end such violations of international law. Expressing concern about the occupying Power’s indifference towards Palestinian suffering, he urged donors to continue their financial support of the Palestinian National Authority as well as UNRWA.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), stressing the relevance of the four draft resolutions under consideration, noted that in the past year alone, there have been several arbitrary and unilateral measures by the occupying Power. Among these are the closure of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, the withholding of Palestinian tax revenues, provocations at the Haram al-Sharif holy site, the continued expansion of illegal settlements, and the demolition of Palestinian homes. “This is not a conflict between two equal parties over a disputed territory”, he said. Rather, an occupying State is imposing colonization policies in the territory of another State, under inhumane conditions. Calling for a reinvigoration of multilateralism, he added that it is the shared responsibility of the international community to preserve the legal, demographic, historic and multi-religious character and status of Jerusalem.
MONA JUUL (Norway) expressed deep concern about the recurring flare-ups of violence, and the high number of lives lost. “All parties have an obligation to protect civilians, and refrain from actions that could reignite the conflict,” she emphasized. Commending the efforts of Egypt and the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, she encouraged all parties to abstain from unilateral actions that obstruct a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Israeli settlements and annexation of occupied territories contravene international law. It is incumbent upon Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions to commit to reconciliation, she added, expressing regret that the Palestinian Authority is not providing the needed medical supplies to Gaza. She noted that facilitating trade and opening Area C in the West Bank for Palestinian use are preconditions for a more sustainable Palestinian economy. She welcomed calls for holding general elections in Palestine and also commended UNRWA’s work.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said that his delegation is chairing the Al Quds Committee. He expressed concern about illegal Israeli practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as that country’s repeated attacks on the Aqsa Mosque. The peace process can only be relaunched once Israel’s settlement policy is ended, he observed, calling on the international community to act swiftly to implement Security Council resolutions in this regard. East Jerusalem is an integral part of Palestinian territories, he stressed, noting that it represents a final status issue and as such lies at the heart of conflict in the Middle East. As chair of the Al Quds Committee, Morocco has reiterated the city’s special status and the importance of its preservation as a symbol of peaceful co-existence for the three monotheistic religions. As such, unilateral measures against Al Quds constitute an attack on the city’s religious, legal and cultural status and also contradict Security Council resolutions, he warned.
XOLISA MABHONGO (South Africa) expressed concern about Israel’s actions seeking to foreclose final status issues, noting that they disregard Security Council resolutions on the Middle East peace process. A just end to the occupation must address border disputes for a viable two-State solution as well as the return of all Palestinian refugees. It must also address the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State and halt all illegal settlements. Ongoing settlement activity poses a fundamental obstacle to negotiations, he noted, adding that it further undermines security and fuels long-term animosity between people. Expressing deep concern about recent activities in Gaza and the killing of more than 30 Palestinians, he welcomed the ceasefire brokered by the United Nations and Egypt last week. As such, he called on both sides to cease violent attacks and resume negotiations. He also expressed concern about the budgetary shortfall facing UNRWA, appealing to the international community to continue increasing its support and humanitarian assistance. South Africa remains committed to its financial contribution to the Agency, he said.
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) noted that the draft resolution under consideration calls for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. In this context, a fair solution can only be achieved through the establishment of an independent Palestinian State on the basis of international law with East Jerusalem as its capital. As such, he rejected any measure contradicting international law with regard to Jerusalem. Expressing support for the Palestinian Authority, he also called on Palestinians to pursue democratic dialogue and compromise in order to achieve constructive reconciliation and further Palestinian unity.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh) said that the Palestinian crisis is not only one of the most regrettable in human history, but also a root cause of many other crises in the Middle East and various parts of the world. Condemning the military escalations and the killing of innocent Palestinians, including children, he added that the expansion of Israeli settlements is changing the demography of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Further, the Israeli occupation has been directly contributing to prolonged poverty, unemployment, and de-industrialization in the Territory, he said, cautioning that this will hinder the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Also voicing concern about UNRWA’s budget shortfall, he said that Bangladesh’s experience of genocide during its 1971 War of Liberation inspires it to stand by oppressed people throughout the world.
The Situation in the Middle East
MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt), introducing the draft resolution titled “The Syrian Golan” (document A/74/L.9), said the Middle East has seen several crises over the past few years which have increased the suffering of the people living there. “We all hope to see a certain amount of security and stability from the settlement of these crises,” he added. However, the Middle East will not enjoy peace and security without resolving the occupation of Arab land. This must be dealt with through international law and United Nations resolutions, particularly Security Council resolution 487 (1981). The draft reaffirms that the continuing occupation by Israel of the Golan continues to cause tension in the region. He called on Member States to vote in favour of the text to reaffirm their support for resolving conflict and ensuring peace in the Middle East.
LOUAY FALOUH (Syria) pointed to unilateral actions to perpetuate Israeli occupation, citing the actions of the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and legitimize settlement activity. Such actions represent a blatant violation of United Nations resolutions, and blind support by Member States has encouraged Israel to continue its violations of international law. As such, it has carried out attacks on Syria’s territory, attempting to change the history of the Golan, pillage its wealth and confiscate the territories of its people. With the aim of extending illegal settlements, Israel is requiring people living in the Syrian Golan to register their land with Israeli authorities and holding false elections. Moreover, it continues its repressive racial discrimination policies in the Syrian Golan, pursuing arbitrary detention and holding fictitious trials against them. He called on the United Nations to implement all the resolutions under consideration, reiterating Syria’s sovereign rights over the Golan and emphasizing that such rights are not time-barred.
AISHATH FAREENA (Maldives) said the plight of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination will always remain a priority for the Maldives, which is greatly concerned about the latest developments in Palestine. She reaffirmed Council resolution 2334 (2016), which states that all settlement activities violate international law, and reaffirmed Council resolutions 476 (1980) and 478 (1980) declaring Israel’s actions to change the status of the holy city of Jerusalem in contravention of international law. She called upon fellow Member States to respect the Council’s decisions and reaffirmed her unwavering support for a two-State solution. The Maldives is also greatly concerned about the ongoing conflicts in Yemen and Syria. Eighty per cent, or 24 million people, in Yemen are now dependent on aid to survive while 12 million people are on the brink of famine. The ongoing civil war in Syria continues to result in violence against civilians, human rights violations and the displacement of millions of people, both inside and outside Syria’s borders. The international community must do better and pursue long-lasting and stable political solutions to these conflicts.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that thoughtless external influence in the Middle East focused on replacing regimes, leading to volatility detonated by violent conflict. His delegation advocates solutions negotiated by the parties themselves without the imposition of unrealistic conditions, citing the October dialogue on Syria held in Sochi. Also advocating for a ceasefire in Libya, he urged all players in that conflict to drop their weapons and resume negotiations. He welcomed the recent signing of the Riyadh agreement on Yemen and expressed support for national dialogue in Iraq and Lebanon. A detente in those countries would allow the reduction of artificially stoked tension in the context of Iran, he pointed out, emphasizing that countries in the Middle East and North Africa must draw up parameters for collective regional security. As such, he highlighted the need for solidarity among Arab players. The resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a key challenge in the region, he said, adding that changing the very concept of a two-State solution will lead to the revision of many years of work by the international community. As such, he expressed disagreement with the recent United States announcement on settlement activity. Calling for a focus on the generally accepted foundations of peace in the Middle East, he warned that cutting UNRWA’s funding and discrediting it is short-sighted and expressed hope that the change in the Agency’s leadership will not affect its activities.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The representative of Israel said the draft texts completely ignore Israel’s perspectives. Two of the resolutions renew the mandate of two United Nations bodies, namely the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat, whose sole purpose are to promote propaganda against a Member State. This is unprecedented. The budget allocated to these two programmes is more than $2 million and could be put toward more constructive means. These texts reinforce the idea that the Assembly cannot play a fair role in resolving the conflict. He called on all delegations to vote against the resolutions.
The representative of Brazil reiterated his Government’s support to resolving the conflict and further expressed support for balanced and less biased texts. Human resources should not be used to promote biased views. Brazil wishes to reiterate the importance of the city of Jerusalem to all three monotheistic religions.
The Assembly then took up the draft resolution titled “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/74/L.14), adopting it by a recorded vote of 92 in favour to 13 against, with 61 abstentions.
By a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 13 abstentions, the Assembly then adopted the draft resolution titled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/74/L.15).
Next, the Assembly considered the draft resolution titled “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/74/L.16), adopting it by a recorded vote of 87 in favour to 23 against, with 54 abstentions.
Turning to the text titled “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the United Nations Department of Global Communications” (document A/74/L.17), the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 144 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 14 abstentions.
Speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of Singapore noted that her delegation voted in favour of resolution “L.14”, with the understanding that operative paragraph 2 about achieving a two-State solution should be interpreted in the same manner as operative paragraph 1 of “L.15”.
Right of Reply
The representative of Iran, responding to the representative of Israel, said that country uses fallacies as tools to divert attention from its expansionist policies and brutalities. As such, these fallacies constitute weapons of mass deception. The Israeli regime is famous for its atrocities, apartheid policies and well-documented war crimes, he said, adding that it has a long history of following opportunistic policies to divert attention from its own savage actions against innocent Palestinians. Israel is the only regime openly practicing racism, having recently legalized it, he said, stressing that Israel’s occupation and racism lie at the heart of all conflicts in the Middle East.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Assembly then took up the draft resolution titled “The Syrian Golan” (document A/74/L.9), adopting it by a recorded vote of 91 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United Kingdom, United States), with 65 abstentions.
Speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of Argentina said his delegation’s vote in favour of the text is without prejudice to the line in operative paragraph 6 about 4 June 1967. In this context, he highlighted the importance of making strides to bring an end to the occupation of the Golan Heights, reaffirming the importance of resuming negotiations to find a lasting solution in this context.
The representative of the United States said her delegation opposed all the resolutions under consideration which are biased against Israel. This one-sided approach undermines trust, she said, expressing disappointment that Israel is disproportionately singled out through such resolutions. Several resolutions support United Nations bodies whose purpose is to target Israel, such as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Such bodies cost the United Nations $6 million annually and promote a culture of bias against Israel. The resolutions also say nothing about terrorist attacks against civilians, she said, pointing out that they do not mention Hamas or other armed groups in the Gaza Strip. The United States remains committed to a comprehensive and lasting peace agreement in the region, which is not served by such resolutions.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine expressed gratitude to all the Member States who voted in favour of the texts. Those who voted in favour uphold international law. “This is the essence of the General Assembly,” he added, emphasizing the need to respect the wishes of the Assembly. If one is to ask Member States to respect an Assembly decision from 1947, they must also respect the Assembly decisions thereafter. “We have to stop using double standards,” he added.