24 June 2020

Annexing Parts of West Bank Will ‘Grievously Harm’ Two-State Solution, Secretary-General Says, Addressing Security Council on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Calling on Israel to abandon plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, the Secretary-General told the Security Council during a 24 June videoconference meeting** that such a move would threaten the vision of a two-State solution.

“If implemented, annexation would constitute a most serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-State solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations,” the Secretary-General said during a meeting on the Middle East focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  “We are at a watershed moment.”

Promising to continue to speak out against any unilateral steps that would undermine chances to resolve the conflict through negotiations, he reiterated his commitment to support both parties, with the goal of achieving the vision of two States — Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable Palestinian State — living side by side in peace and security within secure and recognized borders, based on the pre-1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both nations.

Concerned about the current situation, he said the Palestinian leadership has reacted to the annexation plans by considering itself absolved of all bilateral agreements with Israel and the United States.  Elements that also risk increasing the hardship of the Palestinian people include economic fragility linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, reduced donor support and the recent Palestinian decision to stop accepting clearance revenues that Israel collects on its behalf.

Urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to commit to meaningful dialogue, he encouraged regional and international supporters of the two-State solution to help bring the parties back to a path towards a negotiated, peaceful settlement.  He also called on Quartet members to take up their mandated mediation role and find a mutually agreeable framework for the parties to re-engage, without preconditions, adding that:  “Leaders must act wisely and swiftly and demonstrate the will to advance the goal of a just and lasting peace.”

Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the 15-member organ on the fourteenth report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), covering the period from 21 March to 4 June.  Joining the Secretary-General’s call on Israel to abandon its annexation plans, which officials have said could begin in a matter of days or weeks, he said deliberations on the issue have brought this long-standing conflict to a critical juncture.  Annexation could irrevocably alter the nature of Israeli-Palestinian relations and up-end more than a quarter of a century of international efforts in support of a future viable Palestinian State.

“Decisions may be reached that will do irreparable damage to Palestinian and Israeli societies, to the security and economic well-being of both peoples,” he said.  “This bleak vision, however, is not yet a fait accompli.  The window is closing, but there is still time to avert chaos.  It will require a concerted effort by all stakeholders and the will to take political risks to achieve peace.”

Citing widespread international and regional opposition to annexation plans that is supported by Israeli and Palestinian civil society, think‑tanks, academics and many others, he recalled that, 27 years ago, both party leaders agreed to embark on a road to resolve the conflict through negotiations, without taking unilateral action.  Yet, today, “we are further than ever from this goal”, he said, adding that the threat of unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank sends one message:  that bilateral negotiations cannot achieve peace.  “We cannot allow this to happen,” he said.  “Diplomacy must be given a chance.  All of us who believe in the legitimate right of both Palestinians and Israelis to self‑determination, security and a brighter future must reject this move and consolidate efforts to preserve a sustainable two-State solution.”  He asked all Council members to join the Secretary-General in his call for an immediate re-engagement with the Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russian Federation, European Union and the United Nations — and the countries of the region to find a way out of the current crisis.

Raising concerns about the Palestinian leadership’s response to the threat of annexation, he said it has halted all bilateral contacts, which will have a dramatic impact on Palestinian life, particularly those in Gaza.  Ending civilian coordination will deny them life-saving treatment, and already, an eight-month-old boy has died due to the current situation.  While the United Nations and other international organizations are increasingly being asked and are willing to perform coordination responsibilities, the Organization cannot replace the Palestinian Authority.  It is critical that humanitarian and other assistance is not delayed or stopped.

Highlighting developments since the report’s circulation, he said Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down a 2017 law that enabled wide-scale expropriation of private Palestinian land and the retroactive legalization of thousands of housing units in Israeli settlements.  Meanwhile, demonstrations, clashes and other incidents across the Occupied Palestinian Territory left 3 Israelis injured, 1 Palestinian dead and 44 others sustaining injuries.  A total of 45 structures were demolished on grounds of lack of permits in Area C and East Jerusalem, displacing 28 people and affecting another 250.

In Gaza, despite relative calm, the launching of incendiary balloons and devices continued, and in retaliation, Israel Defense Forces targeted several Hamas targets in the Strip.  The Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee in Gaza stopped receiving and processing permit applications for Gaza residents, ending all communications with Israeli authorities, which resulted in hundreds of patients, including many children needing life-saving medical treatment, being unable to exit the Strip.  At the same time, the financial situation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) remains a serious concern.

Never before has the risk of escalation been accompanied by a political horizon so distant, an economic situation so fragile and a region so volatile, he said.  All stakeholders must take action that will enable the parties to “step back from the brink” and urgently re-engage in dialogue that will halt unilateral steps, chart a positive way forward and avoid a descent into chaos, he said, adding that:  “Everyone must do their part in the coming weeks to preserve and promote the prospect of ending the occupation and achieving a negotiated two-State solution, based on international law, United Nations resolutions and bilateral agreements.”

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said it is the Council’s duty and responsibility to address any situation jeopardizing international peace and security, and that Israel’s possible move to annex parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory would constitute, if implemented, a serious threat to regional stability, with broader ramifications on international security.  Recalling that, since 1993, the Palestinians have wisely chosen the path of peace and coexistence, but the creation of an independent Palestinian State remains elusive, with Israeli settlement‑expansion, stumbling negotiations and the logic of perpetual occupation and domination becoming entrenched.  Despite these setbacks, the two-State solution remains the only paradigm accepted by both parties and endorsed by the international community.  The ambitious Arab Peace Initiative, launched in 2002, adopted the same parameters as a means to achieve regional peace and normalization with Israel.

However, he said, if the annexation plans are implemented, it will destroy any prospects for peace in the future.  Palestinians will totally lose faith in a negotiated settlement, and Arabs will lose interest in regional peace, he said, cautioning that:  “A new dark reality will set in, vis-à-vis this conflict, and in the region at large.”  Israelis wrongly believe that the status quo is sustainable; it is not, he said.  If the two-State solution is removed from the table, a one-State reality will take its place, and this is going to create a whole different reality and dynamics, he said, adding that:  “What is also at stake here is the effectiveness of your august Council.  I hope you recognize the urgency of the matter and the gravity of Israeli policies.”  It is incumbent upon the Council to exert its influence on Israel so it refrains from any unilateral measures that will further inflame tensions and endanger stability and peace in the Middle East, he said, emphasizing that:  “We should be united in our condemnation and rejection of this uncalled-for provocation, and Israel must be made to recognize that its nefarious, self-centred plans will remain inadmissible and will never gain any international acceptance.”

Many Council members echoed the Secretary-General and Special Coordinator’s concerns, with some saying that there will be consequences should Israel proceed with its annexation plans.  Many called on the parties to urgently return to dialogue and negotiations.

Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, said the Palestinian people are once again facing an imminent catastrophe as Israel plans to annex parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.  Joining others in describing that pronouncement as a stark violation of international law, Council resolutions and agreed‑upon parameters for peace, he also agreed that it undermines any prospect for peace.  “At a time when the world is facing a global pandemic with the spread of COVID-19, the Palestinians have to contend with a severely overburdened and fragile health-care system,” he said, noting with regret the reduction in contributions to UNRWA.  He recalled that South Africa witnessed similar injustices in its own history, where one people was assigned a higher value than another.  “This unfortunately runs at the core of the occupation of Palestine, and it threatens peace, stability and security,” he said.  Questioning the Council’s raison d’être if its members continue to look the other way, adopting hollow resolutions and failing to act, he stressed:  “We should be ashamed that, by our silence, we have protected the oppressor instead of the oppressed.”

The representative of the United States said the status quo hurts both the Israelis and the Palestinians, which is why her country dedicated three years to finding a way forward from past failed attempts.  United States President Donald J. Trump’s “Vision for Peace” remains a genuine effort at peacemaking, designed to lead the sides to a realistic two-State solution.  It takes courageous Israeli leadership to make tough decisions and compromises to reach a settlement, she said, adding that:  “This is the path to peace we must support with respect and understanding in an effort to make this happen.”  Only bold thinking at this juncture, laid out in the Vision for Peace, will ultimately benefit the Israeli and Palestinian people, she said, asking the international community and Palestinian leadership to not dismiss “our Vision” out of hand and revert to past statements and arguments that have not led to real peace.  In terms of Council members’ concerns about the potential “extension of Israeli sovereignty” in the West Bank, she asked the 15-member organ to hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for acts they are responsible for.

The core issue is the need for Palestinians and Israelis to work together, she said.  “At the end of the day, is reverting to old talking points the best we can do as an international community?”, she asked.  “I know we can do better, and I think we owe it to the future generation of Palestinians and Israelis to break this cycle and be the catalysts for change.”  Urging the Palestinian leadership to look closely at “our Vision and engage us”, she said “our plan is not a ‘take it or leave it’; it is not set in stone.  It is an opening offer.  It is the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one.”  Whether it is condemning settlement activity or any other criticism, the repetitive rhetoric in these meetings only inflames tensions, antagonizes the parties and undercuts any chance of real, lasting peace, she said, emphasizing that the “hard truth” is not that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict.  Arguments about who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring about peace.  This complex political problem can only be solved by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.  The United States is addressing this core issue by offering the beginning of a conversation, she said, adding that:  “We remain open to speaking with anyone about how to bring the parties to the table […] and urge and welcome any and all engagement.”

James Cleverly, the United Kingdom’s Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, recalled key events since 1947, saying that, despite moments of optimism, both parties have struggled to find the common ground needed for a lasting, peaceful settlement.  While being committed to Israel’s security, the United Kingdom has long urged the country to end counterproductive activities, he said, noting that unilateral action is unacceptable, with its annexation plans posing a significant threat to the peace process.  Annexation would also breach international law, and London will not recognize any unilateral attempt to change the border, as such a step would go against the rules-based international order and the Charter of the United Nations.

“Annexation could not go unanswered,” he said, imploring Israel to reconsider, as moving ahead with annexing occupied territory has the potential to trigger regional instability, threaten Israel’s own security and have a real impact on the country’s relations with the region and the international community.  It would also have a profound effect on the Palestinian people.  “We have to find another way,” he said, adding that peace is possible with bold leadership.  Recognizing that the United States retains a key role in the Middle East peace process, he urged Washington, D.C., Israel and the Palestinian leadership to find a means of restarting discussions, supported by the international community.  A negotiated, genuine two-State solution is the only viable means to bring peace and stability, preserve Israel’s Jewish, democratic identity, realize Palestinians’ rights and permanently bring an end to this conflict.

The representative of France, Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, saying “we are at a turning point in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.  Sharing concerns about Israel’s declared threat of annexation after 1 July, he said such an act would breach international law, violate the principle of non-acquisition of territory by force enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and irreversibly undermine the peace process and the two-State solution.  It would further undermine the stability of a region already affected by crises and Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbours.  “Our mobilization is therefore essential to prevent any annexation decision which would be in the interests of neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis,” he said, calling on Israel to refrain from any unilateral measure that could lead to annexation.  France will not recognize any modification of the June 1967 lines, except those agreed by the two parties.

“A decision on annexation cannot go unanswered,” he said, citing a message from France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian.  “In particular, annexation would not be without consequences for the European Union’s relations with Israel.  Unless we are able to relaunch a peace process immediately, our collective responsibility, and first and foremost the responsibility of this Council, is to preserve the conditions for future negotiations and the possibility of an agreement between the parties.”  France, together with its European partners, will continue to promote the path of negotiations.  An annexation, regardless of its perimeter, would undoubtedly be an irreversible step in the opposite direction:  that of a single State, which would put an end to the national aspirations of the Palestinians and to the Israeli democratic project.  “We must collectively warn against this prospect, and reaffirm our readiness to accompany the parties on the two-State path,” he said.

Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, said the persistent tension between Palestine and Israel jeopardizes the peace process and heightens the risk of regional conflicts, highlighting the significance of President Xi Jinping’s four-point proposal put forth in 2017.  Building on this proposal, he emphasized that the two-State solution is a bottom line of international justice.  Relevant United Nations resolutions, the “land for peace” principle and the two‑State solution set out the overall direction of the final settlement, embodying the wisdom and hard work of several generations of people.  Peace talks must not be abandoned, and the only viable way is by resuming dialogue, de‑escalating disputes and working out a way to live in peace as neighbours.  The issue of settlements is key in the final‑status talks, he said, calling on all relevant parties to remain committed to the strategic choice of dialogue, cherish the outcomes of previous discussions and refrain from actions that may intensify tensions.

Indeed, international support must not slacken, he said.  The global community, especially countries with influence on the parties, should commit to an impartial and just position, promote peace talks and push forward the peace process with sincere efforts.  Humanitarian issues must not be ignored, especially since COVID-19 has further deepened Palestine’s economic and humanitarian plight.  It is imperative to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip and fulfill obligations under the Paris Protocol and other international treaties.  UNRWA has been working to ease the humanitarian situation for Palestinian refugees and the pressure on host countries, he said, calling on the international community to support Palestine in growing its economy and facilitate the Agency’s work, adding that:  “We oppose using the threat to cut off assistance as a tool to exert pressure.”  For its part, China has provided assistance to help the Palestinian people fight COVID-19 and will donate $1 million to UNRWA.  The Middle East is again at a crossroads between peace and turbulence.  Shouldering the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Council should and must stand with peace and justice, with righteousness and conscience, and play its due role in bringing about a comprehensive, just and enduring solution to the Palestine question.

Noureddine Erray, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, described Israel’s planned annexation as a flagrant violation of the law and United Nations resolutions “in a blatant challenge to the international community”.  The decades of occupation, land confiscations, demolition of homes, settlement‑expansion, human rights violations and movement restrictions — as well as the economic strangulation of Gaza — are all forms of collective punishment.  Now, the intention to annex more land represents an additional aggression against the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, as well as a serious threat to any efforts to advance peace.  Warning of extremely dangerous repercussions, he called on the international community to shoulder its responsibility by opposing the move and preventing its implementation, thereby sending a “strong and clear message to Israel”.  Furthermore, Palestinian rights are not time-bound and Israel’s measures are null and void.  He reiterated his call on the Council to intensify efforts to revive the peace process and compel Israel to end its occupation, and to provide international protection to the Palestinian people in the meantime.

Louis Straker, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said the collective project of international security requires lasting relationships based on the foundational values of trust and respect.  Condemning the ongoing settlement activities across the West Bank, he said an internationally agreed two-State solution based on pre-1967 borders remains the most credible path.  Israel’s security must be assured and Palestinian claims to dignity, equality and human rights must be honoured.  “As unilateral annexation of the West Bank looms, the narrow window for a sustainable peace is rapidly closing,” he warned, noting that such a move would permanently alter the security landscape and destabilize the region.  Calling on Israel to cease its plans and return to the bargaining table, he cautioned that core international principles are gradually eroding.  “On issues as complex and consequential as the fragile peace process in the Middle East, we can ill afford the ongoing repudiation of the bedrock principles of our multilateral system,” he stressed.

Retno Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said the looming threat of annexation puts the future of Palestine at stake, declaring:  “Now, it is up to us whether we want to stand on the side of international law or turn a blind eye.”  Creeping “de‑facto annexation”, which, itself, constitutes a breach of international law, must not be allowed to turn into a formal annexation.  Such a move would be an open challenge to the Security Council, testing its credibility and legitimacy.  “Why should the Council wait for the annexation to happen in order to assume its function?”, she asked, emphasizing that there should be no double standards in which parties are held accountable for posing threats to international peace and security.  Advocating for a two-State solution, she echoed other speakers in warning that formal annexation will destroy all prospects for peace, creating instability in the region and beyond.  She also noted that COVID‑19 has worsened the Palestinian people’s hardships, calling for enhanced support for international humanitarian agencies, including UNRWA.

Estonia’s delegate welcomed efforts by the United States to revive the peace process, as well as the counterproposal submitted by the Palestinian Authority.  Stressing the need for both parties to engage in constructive dialogue with the aim of achieving a negotiated two-State solution, he said keeping momentum alive requires refraining from any unilateral steps.  Voicing concern about settlement‑expansion, he spotlighted important elements of resolution 2334 (2016) which prohibit violence against civilians, acts of terror, incitement and acts of provocation.  Firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, along with all other forms of violence targeting civilians, is unacceptable.  He expressed concern about the Palestinian leadership’s announcement regarding the termination of agreements with Israel and the United States — including security cooperation — and called on the Palestinian Authority to remain committed to the Oslo agreements.  “For […] direct negotiations, both parties need Governments with legitimate and democratic mandates,” he said, also noting that Estonia has committed an additional €200,000 to UNRWA above Tallinn’s regular annual funding.

The representative of Belgium said the concerns voiced by the Secretary‑General are largely shared by the Council and the wider international community.  A unilateral decision formalizing an annexation, even limited in scope, would constitute a clear breach of international law.  Belgium will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those agreed by the parties through direct negotiations, he said, adding that annexation will inevitably impact relations between Belgium and Israel, and between Israel and the European Union.  Warning of risks to the security of the wider region, he also drew attention to human rights and humanitarian impacts — including through the potential imposition of a two-tiered system of unequal political, social and economic rights based on ethnicity.  Further, annexation would deliver a devastating blow to the viability of a Palestinian State and a two-State solution.  He strongly urged Israel to refrain from unilateral decisions annexing any parts of occupied Palestinian territory.  Meanwhile, Palestinian factions should invest in the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank under a single, democratic national Government and hold elections once conditions allow.

Dang Minh Khoi, Deputy Foreign Minister of Viet Nam, sharing the international community’s concerns over Israel’s possible annexation, said that such a move may exert serious and irreversible impacts on the viability of the two-State solution and to regional peace and stability.  As such, he called on the parties to refrain from unilateral actions that may complicate the situation or escalate ongoing tensions and urged them to continue to exercise self-restraint.  At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, he called on relevant parties to facilitate humanitarian activities to support the Palestinian Authority’s response.  Expressing support for efforts aimed at reaching a settlement of the conflict, he said Viet Nam will actively contribute to fostering direct discussions within and beyond the United Nations framework.  Viet Nam has continued to make financial contributions to UNRWA, he said, calling upon the international community to strengthen support for the Agency.

The representative of the Dominican Republic said unilateral actions that violate international law undermine the foundations for achieving peace, prolong the conflict and will further deteriorate the humanitarian situation of many Palestinians.  Likewise, continuous violence, incitement and provocations, coupled with financial pressures and lack of internal reconciliation amid a deep humanitarian crisis, are elements that can close the door to any prospect for renewed negotiations and will likely trigger more instability and suffering.  A political solution is needed, as no amount of humanitarian or economic support on its own will address the challenges Palestinians are experiencing.  Reaffirming support for a two-State solution, he encouraged the parties to foster real dialogue and relaunch negotiations.  Meanwhile, he encouraged all to support the commendable efforts of the United Nations and other organizations in providing humanitarian and development assistance to Palestinians, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has created a negative shock to both Israeli and Palestinian economies.  Calling for the immediate release of Palestinian children from Israeli detention facilities, he urged Israel to ensure that those in their jurisdiction enjoy the highest attainable health standards and that they are protected from violence, abuse and exploitation.  As an international community, collective action must be aimed at contributing, in an impartial and effective way, to the search for real solutions.  The current path will only push Palestinians and Israelis farther apart, deepen the occupation and jeopardize the future viability of the two-State solution.

Germany’s delegate, sharing the Secretary-General’s concerns, said any annexation would derail the entire peace process, a viable two-State solution, regional stability and the rules-based international order.  While Germany wishes to intensify and further deepen cooperation with Israel, he remained concerned that annexation would instead harm the nation’s standing within the international community and its close bilateral relationship with the European Union and its member States.  As a close partner and friend, Germany has strongly advised Israel’s Government against implementing unilateral measures.  Indeed, the planned annexation may not yield security gains, but could rather achieve the opposite.  Germany’s position is clear:  “We will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines,” he said, adding that the proposed annexation also has implications of a potential one-State alternative.  A negotiated two-State solution is the only viable solution, and ways must be found to revive the political process.  Reiterating Germany’s support to revive the Middle East Quartet, he called upon all its members to demonstrate flexibility to overcome any differences and move forward.  In the absence of negotiations, the parties to the conflict must refrain from taking any measures that could further deteriorate the situation.  He called on Israel to end the expansion of settlements, legalization of settlement outposts, confiscation of Palestinian land and the demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned structures.  Resolution 2334 (2016) must be fully implemented, not only regarding settlement activities, but also with regard to acts of terrorism, violence against civilians, incitement, provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric.  Condemning all attacks on Israel, he said incidents in which unarmed civilians are targeted or subjected to violence must be independently investigated and perpetrators held accountable.

Niger’s representative, recalling past struggles to advance peace in the region, said the occupation by force and the seizure of Palestinian land, which are contrary to international law, should end, in accordance with the provisions of resolution 2334 (2016).  The Gaza Strip, the only territory spared, is under a blockade that has made it an unhabitable place, according to the United Nations itself.  Israel’s assertion of sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem is also a violation of international law, and it is a war crime for an occupying Power to settle its own civilian population in an occupied zone.  Moreover, the settlement policy violates both the principle and the spirit of the peace accords.  Both Israelis and Palestinians are peoples capable of overcoming shared concerns and have done so by pooling efforts to face a common enemy:  COVID-19.  Israel, whose genius is known to all, must build peace by renouncing the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank.  “It is […] high time to prevent the Council’s paralysis on the Israeli-Palestinian question from causing the death by asphyxiation of the two-State solution, which we must save at all costs,” he said, expressing hope that, through both their statements, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine and the representative of Israel, will “guide us on the road to reconciliation and peace between their peoples”.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, speaking on behalf of Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, said the Palestinian question, which is almost the same age as the United Nations, requires special and urgent attention.  “We are at a doorstep, in fact, just a few days away from a decision that could undermine efforts to achieve a just and sustainable Middle East settlement,” he said, adding that the annexation plans represent perhaps one of the most serious challenges for the Palestinian cause and for the whole region.  As a permanent member of the Security Council and a member of the Middle East Quartet, the Russian Federation has always stood and stands against unilateral actions or plans, a notion shared by the majority of the international community.

There is no alternative to the two-State solution, he said, emphasizing that the annex plan, if implemented, will cause irreparable damage, including to the prospects of normalizing relations between States in the region.  Today, as never before, international cooperation and joint steps are required to advance the Middle East peace process.  As an active Quartet member, the Russian Federation stands ready to make every effort to launch direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.  At the same time, the task of restoring Palestinian unity is extremely urgent, and his delegation will continue contacting Palestinian representatives and supporting Egypt’s efforts.  Creating an atmosphere of trust starts with the cessation of aggressive rhetoric, settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, destruction of Palestinian property, armed clashes and the prevention of terrorist actions.  Highlighting a videoconference held on 23 June in support of UNRWA, he expressed appreciation for co-hosts Jordan and Sweden, adding that broad participation confirmed the Agency’s relevance and stabilizing role.  Reiterating the need to abandon the annexation steps, he called for launching the Palestinian-Israeli negotiation process as soon as possible to achieve a just and sustainable Middle East settlement and peace in the region.

Israel’s representative said that, from the beginning of the conflict, the Palestinians have chosen rejectionism over realism, rejecting the idea of a Jewish State, the United Nations partition plan in 1947 and every Israeli offer for peace since.  Instead of working towards peace, they have promoted rejectionism and the glorification of terrorism, he said, emphasizing that:  “The decision we face today is between realism and rejectionism.”  Israel wants peace and security, while the Palestinians, unfortunately, time and again, choose rejectionism over any realistic solution.  There are currently significant regional opportunities, most notably Mr. Trump’s peace initiative.  As Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated, during his White House visit in January, his country has agreed to negotiate peace with the Palestinians based on this peace plan.  Israel will pursue this plan responsibly, and in full cooperation with the United States, while maintaining Israel’s peace agreements and strategic interests, he said, adding that:  “We expect the international community to make it clear to the Palestinians that their refusal to engage will not advance Palestinian interests.”

Addressing a number of objections heard recently, he recalled that, as decades pass, the international community has tried to appease the Palestinians by buying every “rotten bill of goods” they were selling instead of confronting the Palestinian leadership.  There is a strong and undeniable connection between the Jewish people and their historic homeland of Judea and Samaria, and no Palestinian propaganda can change that, he said, noting that the Palestinian Authority has tried to erase his people’s ancient claim to the land of Israel, wrongfully trying to paint them as European colonists that must be expelled.  Elaborating, he cited references from the Bible, artefacts scattered across the land and around the world attesting to the Jewish connection to the land and the Balfour Declaration, in which the British stated their objective of achieving “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”.  That national home included the entire land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria, he said.  The League of Nation’s recognition of the right of the Jewish people to a State in their homeland was embraced once again in one of the main sources of international law, the Charter of the United Nations.

Those opposing Israel’s legal claims to this territory also wrongly mischaracterize any potential Israeli decision to extend its sovereignty to it as “so‑called annexation”, he said.  These objections result from embracing a Palestinian false narrative, rather than an assessment of the historical and legal facts, he stated, adding that:  “Let’s be honest and clear:  the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] is not, and never was, a State, and has never been the sovereign in this territory.  Never.”  Raising another objection often heard, he said a frequent argument is that applying sovereignty will harm regional stability.  But, that argument has appeared since 1948, before Israel declared its independence.  Even as recently as 2018, in this Chamber, when the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem, he said, “we were warned of the danger it would pose to the stability of the region”.  Israel will continue to promote her important interests, and “not allow some in the international community to try and intimidate us with threats of violence”, he said.  The final objection is one heard today:  that applying sovereignty will end any chance of negotiations.  Highlighting that the Palestinians have rejected multiple offers to negotiate, he said that blaming Israel for the lack of negotiations is not only wrong, it is destructive to peace.  A solution can come only through direct negotiations between the parties.  The discussion over the extension of Israeli sovereignty to certain areas in Judea and Samaria does not stand in the way of peace.  What stands in the way of peace is Palestinian rejectionism and the encouragement they get from some in the international community.  It is time that the Palestinians realize that rejectionism is a losing strategy and the international community chooses realism over rejectionism, he said.

Also participating was the observer for the State of Palestine.


* Based on information received from the Security Council Affairs Division.

For information media. Not an official record.