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SC/14769
19 January 2022
8950th Meeting (AM & PM)

Without Prospect of End to Occupation, Middle East Region Faces Irreversible, Dangerous Collapse, Special Coordinator Tells Security Council

Delegates Welcome Recent Meeting between Palestinian President, Israeli Minister

Eight months after a fragile ceasefire ended full-scale fighting in the Gaza Strip, the senior United Nations official for the Middle East peace process told the Security Council that the situation is once again characterized by daily clashes and rising tensions, as he warned delegates against piecemeal approaches and diplomatic “half measures” that will only let the conflict fester further.

“Without a realistic prospect of an end to the occupation and the realization of a two-State solution … it is only a matter of time before we face an irreversible, dangerous collapse and widespread instability,” said Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, during the 15-member Council’s open debate.  Noting the deterioration of the Occupied Palestinian Territory’s economic, security and political situations, he outlined recent, near-daily instances of violence, as well as continued Israeli settlement expansion, evictions of Palestinians and home demolitions — all of which feed hopelessness and diminish the prospects of peace.

In a positive development, he recalled that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz for the second time in four months, on 28 December 2021.  Significant steps followed, with Israel announcing its decision to update the registration of some 9,500 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and to issue an advance against clearance revenues Israel collects on the Palestinian Authority’s behalf.  Welcoming those steps and the ongoing high-level engagement, he urged both sides to expand their cooperation to include underlying political issues.  Meanwhile, he voiced concern over the Palestinian Authority’s dire fiscal situation, calling for political and economic reforms that would ensure its effective functioning and boost donor confidence.

Joining Mr. Wennesland in briefing the Council were the co-directors of EcoPeace Middle East, a regional peacebuilding organization working on environmental cooperation.  Nada Majdalani, the group’s Palestinian Director, described the experience of children growing up in Gaza amid water shortages, cold nights with no electricity and 15 years of economic blockade.  Noting that those challenges are only being compounded by climate change, she said EcoPeace advocates for a “Green Blue Deal” in the Middle East, which would provide for positive diplomatic cooperation in one of the world’s most water-scarce regions.  Outlining successes already registered by the programme, she cautioned that the international community’s continued failure to act will only deepen water and food insecurity, as well as Palestinians’ poverty and frustration.

Gidon Bromberg, EcoPeace’s co-founder and Israel Director, said Israel’s leadership in the water sector, the dire impact of the climate crisis on Palestinian freshwater availability and the new coalition Government in Israel all combine to create a unique context with opportunities for conflict resolution and trust building.  Indeed, Governments must act cooperatively on water issues, rather than holding water issues hostage to the politics of final status.  Noting that the current status quo threatens water security and public health, he said Israel has reached out to the Palestinian Authority with the aim of expanding cooperation in the environment and water sectors.  Against that backdrop, the Council should embrace a climate resilience perspective and call on the parties to agree on new arrangements for natural water allocation and pollution control.

Riad Malaki, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine, focused his intervention on the broader history of his people suffering under the Israeli occupation, while describing 2021 as one of the deadliest years for Palestinians in over a decade.  The early days of 2022 have been similarly bleak amid numerous deaths at the hands of Israeli forces.  Urging the international community to save the prospects of a two-State solution, he warned that “leaving the parties alone means leaving the steering wheel in the hands of extremist Israeli settlers”.  The Council must uphold its own resolutions, and every State can help advance peace by supporting action and not apartheid, he stressed.

Israel’s representative, meanwhile, expressed regret that “the same old falsehoods and the same old hypocrisy” are being voiced, with the Palestinian leadership failing to condemn terrorism constantly carried out in its name.  Israel, a country with a robust legal system and zero tolerance for violence or terror, continues to be blamed by the international community, while Palestinian terror is whitewashed.  Citing a successful water-for-energy deal struck between Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, he said such progress shows that regional cooperation — especially around environmental matters — is indeed possible.  Sadly, Palestinian leaders have shown that they have other priorities, he said, adding that the Council’s own discussions should become more balanced and better reflect the real threats to peace and stability in the region.

Throughout the ensuing debate, Council members and non-members took the floor to voice their views on both the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more recent developments.  Several praised the 28 December diplomatic meeting between President Abbas and Defence Minister Gantz, calling on the parties to build upon it, while in contrast others issued dire warnings that the situation on the ground was rapidly worsening.  Many speakers also condemned a 17 January missile attack on the United Arab Emirates — which was claimed by the Yemeni group Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis — that killed three people and caused a fire near the Abu Dhabi airport.

Anniken Huitfeldt, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway and Council President for January, said in her national capacity that civilian protection, respect for human rights and a vibrant civil society in Palestine are crucial.  Welcoming Israel’s willingness to adjust its policies in Gaza, she called for an immediate end to the eviction of Palestinian families and urged Israel to also revise policies and actions that weaken the Palestinian Authority and the economy.  She further praised the normalization of relations between Israel and several Arab States, adding that the Palestinians must also benefit from that process.

The representative of India, reiterating his country’s support for a two-State solution leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine, voiced deep concern over recent events in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, where attacks on civilians have increased and new settlements have been announced.  India has consistently called for direct peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine based on the internationally agreed framework, he said, urging the United Nations and the Middle East Quartet to prioritize the revival of such negotiations.

Kenya’s delegate, echoing the urgent need for dialogue to facilitate a negotiated peaceful settlement, said his country looks forward to the implementation of practical outcomes from the 28 December meeting between Defence Minister Gantz and President Abbas, “the second one in the same year after a decade of no top-level meetings between both parties”.  Against that backdrop, he also called for the cessation of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including those posing a risk to the territorial contiguity of a viable Palestinian State.

Also on the question of settlements, the representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, recalled that December 2021 marked five years since the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) which reaffirmed the illegality of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Nonetheless, Israeli settlements continue to expand, with Palestinian homes and structures — including those funded by donors — demolished and unarmed Palestinians killed.  He joined other speakers in condemning the targeting of civilians and their infrastructure by terrorist Houthi militias in the United Arab Emirates and pressed the international community to stand united in confronting this threat.

On that matter, the representative of the United Arab Emirates condemned attempts by the Houthis to spread chaos in the Middle East.  Spotlighting the need to actively counter terrorism and end the region’s crises and conflicts, she reiterated her country’s support for the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian State and called for an end to all illegal practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Escalation must be prevented, the latest ceasefire must be maintained, and a credible peace process must be urgently relaunched, she stressed.

Also speaking were Government ministers and representatives from Ghana, United States, Russian Federation, China, Ireland, Brazil, Mexico, Albania, France, United Kingdom, Gabon, Hungary, Morocco, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Cuba, Syria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Argentina, Chile, Bahrain, Japan, Kuwait and South Africa.

Observers for the League of Arab States and the European Union also participated, as did the Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The meeting began at 10:09 a.m., suspended at 1:27 p.m., resumed at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:21 p.m.

Briefings

TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, expressed regret that the deterioration of the economic, security and political situation across the Occupied Palestinian Territory had continued since his last briefing.  “Urgent steps are required to prevent the situation from worsening,” he said, noting that the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal situation remains dire, threatening its institutional stability and its ability to provide services to its people.  Violence, including settler violence, also continues unabated, leading to numerous Palestinian and Israeli casualties and increasing the risk of a broader escalation.  Meanwhile, settlement activity, demolitions and evictions continue, feeding hopelessness and further diminishing prospects for a negotiated solution.

Warning against piecemeal approaches and half measures, which will only allow the conflict to fester, he said unilateral steps and conflict drivers must stop.  Political and economic reforms must be implemented to ensure the Palestinian Authority’s continued ability to function effectively, while boosting donor confidence and support.  Above all, efforts by the parties and the international community to stabilize and improve conditions on the ground should be linked to a political framework.  “Without a realistic prospect of an end to the occupation and the realization of a two-State solution … it is only a matter of time before we face an irreversible, dangerous collapse and widespread instability,” he said.

Outlining daily violence that continued throughout the reporting period, he said that, on 29 December, a Palestinian opened fired towards the Gaza perimeter fence, injuring an Israeli civilian.  In retaliation, Israeli forces fired several tank shells at what they said were Hamas observation posts in the northern Gaza Strip.  Four Palestinian civilians were reportedly injured, including a 16-year-old boy.  In the occupied West Bank, six Palestinian men were killed by Israeli security forces and another died in unclear circumstances, amid demonstrations, clashes, search-and-arrest operations and other incidents, and 249 Palestinians were injured.  In all, Palestinians perpetrated 89 attacks against Israeli settlers and other civilians, resulting in 15 Israeli civilians injured and damage to property.

Settler-related violence also remained a serious concern, he said, noting that 156 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces from 23 to 25 December in confrontations that erupted in and around the town of Burqa.  The incident occurred after settlers repeatedly raided the village, vandalized property and clashed with residents.  Israeli authorities postponed discussions on plans for some 3,500 housing units in the controversial E1 area in the West Bank, while also publishing tenders for some 300 settlement housing units in occupied East Jerusalem.  Noting that all settlements are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace, he called on the Government of Israel to cease the advancement of all settlement activity immediately, adding that continued evictions of Palestinians and home demolitions — including from the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem — pose the risk of escalating violence.

On political developments, he recalled that, on 28 December, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz for the second time in four months.  Following the meeting, Israel announced several measures, including updating the registration of some 9,500 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, an advance of 100 million Israeli Shekels against clearance revenues Israel collects on the Palestinian Authority’s behalf, as well as additional entry permits for Palestinian officials and businesspeople.  Welcoming those steps and the ongoing high-level engagement, he urged both sides to continue and expand their cooperation to encompass underlying political issues.

He noted that, on 27 December, Qatar announced that it had signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation to advance construction of a natural gas pipeline from Israel to Gaza.  The pipeline aims to reduce costs and increase efficiency and electricity generation at the Gaza Power Plant.  Urging all parties to facilitate implementation of that important project, he went on to note that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was able to sustain its critical services during the reporting period thanks to exceptional financial contributions and an advance on 2022 contributions, among other donor support.  However, the Agency still faces a serious financial existential threat and requires additional support in 2022.

NADA MAJDALANI, Palestinian Director of EcoPeace Middle East, described the helplessness of parents as children continue to be impacted by this week's flash floods in the Gaza Strip.  “Children my daughter’s age in Gaza are growing up in a reality that no child in the world should experience,” she said, also citing water shortages, cold nights without electricity or fuel, wars and close to 15 years of economic blockade.  Those challenges are only compounded by the reality of climate change, she said, noting that her organization’s call for a “Green Blue Deal in the Middle East” could turn the region from a source of disturbing news into a recognized positive model for climate diplomacy and cooperation.  The proposed plan would create regional linkages and healthy interdependencies through the exchange of renewable energy and water.

Outlining successes made thanks to the Governments supporting that work — including Sweden, the United States, Germany and others — she described the training of young leaders, outreach to some 40,000 students and the development of a renowned virtual reality platform on water diplomacy.  That simulation programme benefits decision makers, activists and journalists, facilitating “second track discussions” on water and energy security.  Meanwhile, EcoPeace’s impact investment programme is supporting several green businesses, all led by local entrepreneurs, and has helped raised some $500 million in investments for Jordanian and Palestinian water and sanitation projects.

“The water crisis in Palestine is due to the political conflict, poor infrastructure, internal management issues, and now climate change,” she continued.  Noting that many communities subsist on as little as 30 litres of water per person per day, she said families are often forced to purchase water from trucks at prices 10 to 20 times higher than that of municipal water, leaving very little money for food and other basic needs.  Water issues — together with refugees, borders, settlements and the status of Jerusalem — remain to be resolved as a single package, she said, adding that failure to act will only deepen water and food insecurity, as well as Palestinians’ poverty and frustration.  Calling on the Council to consider the Green Blue Deal proposal, she added that climate issues must be seen as an integral part of the Middle East peace process.

GIDON BROMBERG, co-founder and Israel Director, EcoPeace Middle East, said Israel’s leadership in the water sector, the dire impact of the climate crisis on Palestinian freshwater availability and the new coalition Government in Israel, all combine to create a unique context in which decisions could be taken towards conflict resolution, cooperation and trust building in the water and climate sectors.  With that in mind, he highlighted the EcoPeace Green Blue Deal report, which calls on the Governments to act cooperatively on water issues under a climate crisis paradigm, rather than continuing to hold water issues hostage to the politics of final status.

Noting that the status quo threatens water security and public health, he said conflict-related sanitation crisis in the West Bank and Gaza threatens the gains that have been made.  In the West Bank, over 60 million cubic metres of Palestinian sourced raw and poorly treated sewage is released annually into the environment, while sewage from Gaza released into the Mediterranean leads to the intermittent closure of Israel’s southernmost desalination plants, directly impacting its water supply.  The combination of conflict, internal management issues and the climate crisis, is significantly contributing to Palestinian water insecurity, loss of livelihood and animosity towards Israel.

Coalition partners in Israel have reached out to the Palestinian Authority with a desire to increase cooperation in the environment and water sectors, he continued.  Israel also has expressed interest in working with the United States in the global fight against climate change, and most recently, created a National Climate Forum.  Against this backdrop, he urged the Council and relevant United Nations agencies to embrace a climate resilience perspective and call on the parties to agree on new arrangements for natural water allocation and pollution control.  He invited foreign ministers to create a “coalition of the willing” to advance a Green Blue Deal of climate resilience in the Middle East.  He also called on the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum to widen its mandate to include renewable energy and climate concerns, and the Security Council itself to recognize that climate change is a “threat to peace” within the meaning of Article 39 of the Charter of the United Nations.

RIAD AL-MALKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine, said that today before dawn, Israel’s forces raided the Salhiye family house in Sheikh Jarrah, violently uprooting them and arresting several family members and supporters.  “The Salhiye family, forcibly displaced in 1948, is displaced once again,” he said, stressing that Israel can rely on the fact while there will be condemnations, there will be no consequences.  “You want to help us end this conflict, end Israeli impunity.”  Indeed, bias favouring Israel has prevented the Council from acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.  It has allowed Israel to accuse even its closest partners of anti-Semitism for passing resolutions rooted in international law, and enabled Israel to become a Member of the United Nations while, 75 years later, Palestinians have yet to gain that status.

In contrast, he said 2021 was among the deadliest years for Palestinians in over a decade, particularly in Gaza.  The early days of 2022 offer a similarly bleak picture, marked by the killing of Sheikh Suleiman Al-Hazaleen, the 80-year-old icon of peaceful resistance.  “The Palestinian people are here to stay,” he assured, urging the Council provide them with the international protection they are entitled to and help them end the colonial occupation now.  He pressed the international community to save the two-State solution, warning that “leaving the parties alone means leaving the steering wheel in the hands of extremist Israeli settlers”.

Resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016), offer the only path to peace, he insisted, underscoring the Council’s duty to pursue implementation of its own instruments.  And while the new United States Administration has reversed several of the unlawful policies of its predecessor, it has yet to ensure that Israel renounces its colonial practices and abandons its rejection of the two-State solution.  The Middle East Quartet also has a responsibility in this regard, and he echoed a call by the Russian Federation for it to convene at the ministerial level as soon as possible.  In parallel, every State can help advance peace by upholding its own obligations in line with international law, including those of distinction between Israel and the territories it has occupied since 1967, non-recognition and non-assistance to illegal actions and policies.  “This is a time for action,” he said.  “Not apartheid.”

GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) recalled that, a year ago, he voiced his hope that the Council’s discussions on the Middle East would become more balanced and reflect the real threats to peace and stability in the region.  However, today he is unfortunately forced to express that wish as the threat posed by the Iranian regime continues.  “The same old falsehoods and the same old hypocrisy” are meanwhile expressed in the Council Chamber.  Indeed, even as the Palestinian Minister points his finger at Israel, he fails to acknowledge that more than 100 terror attacks were carried out by Palestinians against Israeli civilians in just the last month.

Holding up a large rock, he said almost nothing is mentioned in the Council about attacks committed daily by Palestinians with rocks, which are used directly against human bodies or thrown into car windshields.  Palestinian authorities never condemn such attacks, he said, asking:  “Where is the voice of the Palestinian Authority against violence?”  Instead, Palestine’s leaders honour and glorify terrorists, sending the clear message that terror pays.  In contrast, the Government of Israel condemns violence, launches credible investigations and holds the perpetrators of attacks accountable.  Nevertheless, Israel, a country with a robust legal system and zero tolerance for violence or terror, continues to be blamed by the international community, while Palestinian terror is whitewashed.

He stressed that it is not too late for the Council to make 2022 be the year it no longer allows Palestinian attacks, and when the United Nations ends its hypocrisy against Israel.  As long as the Organization allows itself to be misled by the falsehoods put forward by Palestinians, the Middle East will regrettably continue to “wander in the wilderness of an ongoing conflict”.  Citing a successful water-for-energy deal struck between Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, he said such progress shows that regional cooperation — especially around natural resources and environmental protection — is indeed possible.  Sadly, Palestinian leaders have shown that they have other priorities.  Concluding, he referred to the recent terrorist attack on the United Arab Emirates — which was sponsored by Iran — noting that if Tehran thinks the world is not serious about stopping its activities it will only press forward with the development of nuclear weapons and the imposition of its radical Shiite hegemony.  “This problem should be the focus of this Council in 2022,” he said.

Statements

ANNIKEN HUITFELDT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway and Council President for the month, speaking in her national capacity, stressed the importance of civilian protection, respect for human rights and a vibrant civil society in Palestine.  “Last night, another Palestinian family was evicted from their home in East Jerusalem.  This must stop,” she said, calling on Israel to revise policies and actions that weaken the Palestinian Authority and the economy.  The donor group chaired by her country has outlined a programme for continued Palestinian State-building, she noted, adding that the international community must cooperate with any Palestinian Government that rejects the use of violence.  Welcoming Israel’s willingness to adjust its policies in Gaza, she stressed the need for long-term solutions and ceasefire.  Also welcoming the normalization of relations between Israel and several Arab States, she said it is essential that the Palestinians benefit from this process.  Urging the parties to explore how they can resume talks, she voiced support for a return to negotiations based on the 1967 lines, relevant Security Council resolutions, international law and internationally agreed parameters.

SHIRLEY AYORKOR BOTCHWEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana, said the unending suffering of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples must compel the Council to urgently address the question of how to revitalize peace talks.  Stressing the importance of a two-State solution, she commended Norway’s facilitation of the in-person ministerial meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in November 2021.  It is vital to act on the measures identified to support Palestinian institution-building and address fiscal challenges, as well as de-escalate tensions, she said, also emphasizing the role of regional and international actors in sustaining momentum around the recent high-level engagements.  Both sides must work to overcome past mistrust and engage their publics on a vision of peace, she said, adding:  “None of this would be easy.  The cost of not doing it would be harder.”

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) called for a recommitment to a political solution to the conflict, and reiterated support for a two-State solution.  She expressed concern about continuing tensions in the West Bank, Gaza and in and around Jerusalem, and emphasized the need for parties to refrain from taking unilateral steps that impede progress, such as evictions carried out in Sheikh Jarrah, as well as compensation provided for individuals in prison for acts of terrorism.  Recalling her November 2021 visit to the West Bank, she noted that “both sides are locked in a spiral of mutual mistrust”, with Israelis not believing that Palestinians are a partner for peace, while Palestinians are in despair due to an absence of a political horizon.  “This is the single biggest obstacle to peace,” she said, calling for trust to be built between both parties.  The recent meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz resulted in several tangible steps; such progress must be built on.  She welcomed the constructive role played by Jordan and Egypt in preventing violence, including through a meeting held with Palestine on 26 December 2021, and also commended Norway’s efforts through the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for the Coordination of the International Assistance to Palestinians.  Israeli and Palestinian civil society members are instrumental in building bridges for peace, she said, underlining the importance of dialogue and initiatives such as the Green Blue Deal for the Middle East to address “shared issues that know no borders, like climate change”, adding:  “Such exchanges can be broadened to include the Abraham Accord signatories.”  Noting that 27 January will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, she said recent tragic events in Texas are a reminder to stand together against anti-Semitism and terrorism.

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) condemned recent attempts to spread chaos in the Middle East, notably by the Houthi militias, who attacked civilians and civilian facilities in her country, and thanked the 90 nations who condemned such terrorist acts.  She highlighted the need to actively counter terrorism and end the region’s crises and conflicts, which range from Palestine and Yemen, through Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon and Libya, and reiterated her country’s support for the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian State based on the borders of 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  She called for an end to all illegal practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory — including the construction and expansion of settlements, the confiscation and demolition of Palestinian property and the forced displacement of residents as witnessed today in Sheikh Jarrah — and for Israel to comply with its responsibilities under international law.  Further, escalation must be prevented; the latest ceasefire must be maintained; and there is an urgent need to break the current stalemate and relaunch a credible peace process, she said, adding:  “We hope that the recent high-level meeting between the parties will lead to new opportunities to engage in dialogue.”  Turning to the humanitarian situation, which has worsened during the pandemic, she underlined the importance of helping the Palestinian people.  The United Arab Emirates recently sent vaccines and medical aid to the Gaza Strip, helped it respond to the water crisis and supported the construction of a new UNRWA school.  The Council must work to create an environment that fosters peace to achieve a stable future for the Middle East, and all parties must fully comply with Council resolutions.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), noting that the situation described by the Special Coordinator is being further exacerbated by unilateral actions, expressed concern over the eviction of a Palestinian family from Sheikh Jerrah on 18 January.  Calling on the parties to exercise restraint and come back in line with previous agreements, he underlined the important role played by UNRWA and pledged to continue to provide annual voluntary contributions to the Agency.  Underlining the urgent need to step up multilateral efforts towards an expeditious relaunch of direct negotiations between the parties, he vowed to push forward to that end alongside his Middle East Quartet partners.  While voicing Moscow’s support of a two-State solution, he added that progress is impossible without Palestinian reunification, and voiced support for regional diplomatic efforts to that end.  He also expressed concern over plans newly unveiled by Israel for new settlements in the Golan Heights, which flies in the face of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.  The Russian Federation does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is an integral part of Syria, he said.

GENG SHUANG (China) said violence and hostilities must end, and tensions must be urgently eased, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Recalling the major clashes seen in May 2021, he urged all parties to remain calm and consolidate the ceasefire in Gaza.  While Israel must abide by international law, its legitimate security concerns should be respected.  Calling for an end to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, which runs counter to international law, he echoed concerns raised by other speakers over Israel’s recent announcement that it will invest more than $300 million in settlements in the Golan Heights.  In addition, he voiced concern over the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, welcomed regional efforts to accelerate Gaza’s reconstruction and called upon Israel to lift its long-standing blockade on the Gaza Strip.  Meanwhile, the international community should uphold an objective and fair approach to the situation and do more to support the two sides in returning to direct negotiations, he said.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said that it is incumbent upon the Council and the wider international community to create fresh momentum for the resumption of direct negotiations between the parties.  Her delegation has no illusions about the scale of the challenge, but that does not absolve the Council of its responsibility to reinvigorate its efforts, not least for the sake of young people and their future.  More than 40 per cent of Israel’s population is under the age of 25 and more than 70 per cent of the population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory is under the age of 30.  “We have a collective duty to help ensure that these young people are given the prospect of a renewed political horizon,” she said.  Reiterating her country’s long-standing position on the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, she said that this week’s decision regarding the construction of 1,465 units as part of the “Lower Aqueduct” plan, as well as planned construction in the sensitive areas of E1, Atarot, and Givat Hamatos, threaten the contiguity of a future Palestinian State and must not proceed.

RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) emphasized the need for cooperation, mutual respect and new initiatives aimed at a lasting solution to the conflict.  The Abraham Accords are also such an effort, and through them old rivalries give way to dialogue and diplomacy.  Expressing concern about the lack of progress on the Middle East peace process, he noted that the escalation of violence and tensions in Gaza at the start of the year demonstrated the fragility of the ceasefire reached in May 2021.  There can be no justification for any attacks against civilians, he said, urging both parties to de-escalate, exercise maximum restraint and protect civilian lives.  Welcoming recent direct talks between Palestinian and Israeli high-level authorities, he expressed the hope that they can be held more frequently to rekindle the political process.  Expressing concern about the economic and fiscal crisis in the Palestinian territories, which worsens prospects for political stability, he said poverty and political instability in Gaza provide fertile ground for extremist forces.  Brazil supports the reconstruction of Gaza and the provision of humanitarian aid on a predictable, responsible and regular basis.  Turning to UNRWA, he expressed concern about the lack of resources to sustain its valuable work, including providing essential services to 2 million Palestinian refugees across the region.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) recalled that at the 1991 Madrid Conference, the first steps were taken to develop a dialogue between Arab and Israeli leaders.  Since then, there were the Oslo Accords to the recent Abraham Accords, along with regional cooperation in water management.  Welcoming the recent meeting between the Palestinian President and Israel’s Defence Minister, he called on the parties to keep communications channels open, and to strengthen cooperation on both security and tax issues.  He said the Gaza blockade must be lifted for good, expressing regret that Palestinians’ central demand for self-determination remains outstanding.  He reiterated Mexico’s support for the two-State solution and raised concerns over conditions on the ground, which undermine it, citing in particular evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.  He similarly condemned Israel’s expansion of settlements in occupied territories, and in all cases, the use of force, urging the parties to exercise maximum constraint.

T.S. TIRUMURTI(India) reiterated support for a two-State solution leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders, alongside Israel, citing his country’s partnership with the Palestinian Authority and assistance to UNRWA as a reflection of the same.  He expressed deep concern over recent events in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, where attacks on civilians have increased and new settlements have been announced.  Welcoming the recent meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz, he said such initiatives are in the interest of both parties and help prevent terror and violence.  India has consistently called for direct peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine based on the internationally agreed framework.  He called on the United Nations and the Middle East Quartet, in particular, to prioritize the revival of these negotiations.  He also strongly condemned the recent terror attack in Abu Dhabi, in which two Indians tragically lost their lives.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) noted that though the Council played a pivotal role in creating the international framework to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, the situation on the ground remains volatile.  “We do not take the moral high ground to lecture the parties,” he said, offering instead his country’s lived experience, its path through “existential threats, wars we did not choose and other serious challenges” in its neighbourhood.  Albania’s historic friendship with the Jewish people has stood the test of the darkest hour of humanity, he said, voicing firm support for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself.  Also voicing concern for the Palestinian situation and the dimming hope of a better future, he stressed that the status quo is unsustainable.  The only viable and just solution is a negotiated two-State solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, he said, welcoming steps taken by the Israeli Government relating to employment authorizations and the transfer of tax payments, after the recent meeting between Israeli Defence Minister Gantz and Palestinian President Abbas.  The expansion of settlements threatens a two-State reality, he said, also voicing support for the preservation of the status quo regarding the holy sites in Jerusalem.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) noted that the parameters of the solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict are well known but need to be implemented through negotiations between the parties.  Voicing concern about the ongoing weakening of the two-State solution due to settlements, he said the creation of hundreds of new housing units in East Jerusalem imperils the geographic contiguity of a future Palestinian State and cements the ring of settlements separating East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  Calling on Israel to halt the creation of these units immediately, he also condemned the recent evictions and demolitions.  Stressing the importance of the protection of civilians under international law, he expressed concern about the shrinking of space for civil society and the designation of six Palestinian non-governmental organizations as terrorist organizations without any evidence to substantiate the allegation of misappropriation of funds.  Calling on the Palestinian Authority to renew its democratic legitimacy through the conducting of general elections, he underscored that the Council must relaunch the political process which has been at an impasse for years.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) welcomed calls by EcoPeace Middle East for greater regional cooperation on joint environmental threats.  The solar-water agreement between Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates in November shows us the value of such efforts.  Further, he welcomed Norway’s leadership on economic coordination between the parties, including chairing in November, the first in-person Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in two years.  Welcoming the recent direct meeting between the Israeli Defence Minister Gantz and Palestinian Authority President Abbas, he urged the acceleration of efforts by both parties to improve the financial situation and the economic and humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and Gaza.  Turning to the ongoing events in Sheikh Jarrah, including the attempted eviction on 17 January of the Salhia family who live and run a business there, witnessed by British diplomats, he noted that authorities returned overnight to demolish their home and arrested members of the family.  “We again urge the Government of Israel to cease such policies,” he stressed, pointing out that evictions are against international humanitarian law in all but the most exceptional circumstances.  Also on 17 January, approval was given to the “lower aqueduct” settlement plan representing nearly 1,500 housing units, some of which fall outside the Green Line, he said, urging Israel to permanently end its settlement expansion and settlement activity, which heightens tension and threatens the viability of a future Palestinian State.  He went on to condemn the attempted stabbing of an Israel Defense Forces soldier in the West Bank, also on 17 January, and condemned the firing of missiles from Gaza towards Israel at the start of January, urging all sides to work to sustain calm.

MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) emphasized the role of “human agency” as a driver and sustainer of the protracted conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, pointing out that this issue runs through the lack of progress of the conflicting parties in meeting the agreed commitments as outlined in the Council’s resolutions and international law, as well as actions by extremist entities which hinder peace and the establishment of a conducive environment for a meaningful peace process.  Underscoring the urgent need for dialogue to facilitate a negotiated peaceful settlement, he looked forward to the operationalization of practical outcomes from the meeting in December between Defence Minister Gantz and President Abbas, “the second one in the same year after a decade of no top-level meetings between both parties”.  He called for the cessation of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including those posing a risk to the territorial contiguity of a viable Palestinian State.  Turning to UNRWA, he commended efforts by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee chaired by Norway in institution-building and development of the Palestinian economy and stressed the importance of tackling questions related to financing, such as “Who receives the money?” and “What is being funded?”, which can enable policymakers to engage with the current and next generation of financers to deliver on a more sustainable future for conflict-affected communities.

MICHEL XAVIER BIANG(Gabon), noting that 2022 is beginning with violations of the ceasefire and rocket fire, said the humanitarian and economic situations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is alarming.  Also citing the unprecedented financial crisis facing the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA’s budgetary challenges, he called on all parties to refrain from any belligerent or unilateral rhetorical action that could further escalate violence.  He called further for a revitalization of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations towards real and lasting peace, based on the application of international law rules, voicing Gabon’s support for a Palestinian State coexisting with Israel on 1967 borders and in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.  “The creation of a Palestinian State is in fact an indispensable step in the process of peace,” he stressed, noting that it will have a reverberating effect across the entire region and allow for a more sustainable solution to the conflict.

PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary, said many attempts over the years have failed to bring peace and stability to the Middle East.  However, the Abraham Accords signed recently between Israel and various States in the region could bring fresh impetus to the peace process and have proven to be a “game changer” in Israel’s diplomatic relations.  Expressing support for the Accords and urging other States to sign onto them, he said Hungary stands committed to a fair and more balanced approach to the way the United Nations treats Israel.  Calling on Member States to end their “anti-Israel approach”, he said that country has long been threatened by terrorism and has the right to defend its sovereignty and its citizens.  Instability in the Middle East often results in massive ways of migration to Europe with security implications, he said, while also noting and condemning the re-emergence of anti-Semitism around the world.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians remain the only path to resolving the conflict.  Calling for a renewal of diplomatic efforts to that end, he said Morocco will continue to play a critical role alongside the international community to relaunch direct talks.  He also called on the parties to preserve the historic character of Jerusalem — a city of peace that is open to all three of the region’s major religions — and pledged that Morocco will spare no effort to that end.  He went on to outline his country’s support to vital cultural and educational projects in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Condemning the recent criminal attack by the Houthi group against the United Arab Emirates, he voiced support for the latter’s steps to defend itself and pledged Morocco’s support for the defence of Emirati citizens.  The Council should condemn that attack and take steps to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, he added.

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) denounced the killing of innocent people, the requisitioning of Palestinian properties, and the seizure and demolition of their homes by Israel, noting that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs documented 341 Palestinians killed and 17,893 injured in 2021.  Citing the 11-day war in May 2021, in which Israel killed 256 Palestinians, he said “these measures constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity for which the perpetrators must be brought to justice”.  He condemned the recent meeting by Israel’s Cabinet in the Occupied Syrian Golan and its statement on the building of new settlements there, as an unlawful action which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, which Iran considers null and void.  The Council’s inaction has only emboldened Israel to continue its crimes.  It must instead compel Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories, he said, objecting to Israel’s misuse of the forum to make unfounded allegations against Iran, which he rejected.

OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, recalled that December 2021 marked five years since the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016), which reaffirmed all past principles on the Palestinian question and the illegality of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  However, Israel’s settlements are expanding.  Palestinian homes and structures — including those funded by donors — are being demolished, notably in Sheikh Jarrah, while unarmed Palestinians are being killed by Israeli security forces and settlers alike.  He denounced Israel’s decision to designate six civil society organizations as terrorist groups, despite that they cooperate with international donors — notably the United Nations — and urged the international community to help end all such illegal measures.  Israel must reverse its decision to designate the civil society organizations as terrorist groups and he pressed donors not to engage with the designation.

He went on to call for respecting the historic and legal status quo in East Jerusalem and Jordan’s custodianship over its holy sites, including Haram al Sharif, noting that the Arab Group values continued efforts by the King of Morocco as Chair of the Al Quds Committee within the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and his 2019 joint appeal with Pope Francis for peace, fraternity and coexistence among the three Abrahamic religions.  The Arab Group also values efforts by Egypt to consolidate the ceasefire and its announcement of $500 million to rebuild Gaza through projects led by Egyptian companies.  Egypt also hosted a six-party meeting involving Jordan and Palestine, among others.  Stressing that the current status quo cannot continue and cautioning against efforts to build confidence without addressing a political process, he said a clear vision is needed for ending all illegal measures and resuming talks as soon as possible.  He called for the convening of an international peace conference based on the Arab Peace Initiative and the two-State solution, among other initiatives, to ensure the creation of an independent Palestinian State along 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  He underscored the Group’s commitment to achieving regional security by resolving all crises, based on the Charter of the United Nations and international law.  Furthermore, the bloc condemned the targeting of civilians and their infrastructure by terrorist Houthi militias in the United Arab Emirates and pressed the international community to stand united in confronting this threat.  With that, he said a just and comprehensive peace can only be achieved by liberating Arab territories, ending settlement activities and fully adhering to United Nations resolutions, the Charter and such principles as self-determination and non-interference in internal State affairs.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, associating himself with the Arab Group, condemned the terrorist attack by the Houthis against critical infrastructure in the United Arab Emirates, which led to civilian casualties.  Despite what has been adopted in Madrid, Oslo, Annapolis and in the Security Council itself, Israel’s new Government is attempting to manipulate the principle of land for peace into one of “peace for peace”.  It is doing so by gradually consolidating relations with Arab States, while violating Palestinians’ inalienable rights.  It is breaching resolution 2334 (2016), expanding settlements and providing military protection for settlers in their attacks against Palestinians, notably in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.  It is also illegally designating as terrorist groups civil society organizations that defend Palestinian rights.  These actions violate all international norms governing human rights.  The new Government’s claim that it cannot change the settlement policy of the previous Administration or provide compromises in peace negotiations cannot be justified.

He said the League is committed to the two-State solution, which requires action by the Council to achieve maximum benefit from the Middle East Quartet.  He envisioned the holding of Quartet ministerial meetings to prepare for direct negotiations leading to an international peace conference, which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has required.  He also called for maximum protection from aggression by the occupying Power and its settlers, through meetings focused on the Secretary-General’s report to the tenth emergency Special Session of the General Assembly in 2018, which included alternatives to providing protection for Palestinians.  Maximum support must be provided to Palestinian refugees everywhere, by filling UNRWA’s financing gap.  Other required actions include a guarantee of non-applicability of a double standard and holding Israel accountable for its violations against Palestinians, as well as guarantee of the status quo of East Jerusalem and support for Jordan’s custodianship of its holy sites.  Efforts to promote Palestinian national reconciliation and the holding of elections as soon as possible are also important.  He urged the Council to visit the occupied territories, stressing that the League is prepared to support action by the Council and the Quartet, among others, aimed at resuming direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel to create a Palestinian State along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, welcomed high-level contacts between the parties to the conflict, including in the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on 17 November.  Calling for the immediate implementation of the commitments made to improve Palestinian livelihoods,  he reiterated the importance of consolidating the ceasefire in Gaza,  and recalled the Union’s unequivocal position that rocket fire, launching of incendiary devices and other attacks by Hamas are unacceptable.  Welcoming the easing of some restrictions on Gaza, he noted that measures taken so far have shown to be insufficient to allow rapid stabilization.  Calling for a halt on all settlement activities and voicing support for upholding the status quo regarding the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, he welcomed the start of the cycle of local Palestinian elections and stressed the need for strong and accountable Palestinian institutions.  Also voicing support for UNRWA in all its fields of operations, including in East Jerusalem, he reaffirmed commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian State, and recalled that a sustainable solution to the conflict requires a genuine, inclusive political transition.

ARRMANATHA C. NASIR, Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, called on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and cease the demolition and seizure of Palestinian property throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  On Gaza, he said the Strip remains an integral part of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 and must be part of an independent, sovereign Palestinian State.  Turning to Israel’s decision of 22 October designating six human rights and humanitarian Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist entities”, he said some of these organizations are long-standing, reliable partners of the Committee in advocating for the protection and promotion of the human rights of the Palestinian people.  On 7 December, the Committee organized an event, in which representatives from Palestinian and Israeli civil society called on Member States to hold Israel accountable for its actions.  To date, the Israeli authorities have not made public substantial evidence against these six Palestinian organizations.  The Committee hopes that a ministerial meeting of the Middle East Quartet will soon relaunch the peace process.  The current course must be diverted and redressed without delay to end the Israeli occupation and implement a two-State solution, he said.

ÖNCÜ KEÇELI (Turkey) said 75 years after the United Nations first took up the Palestine question, there is no solution, adding:  “Nothing has changed, except for one thing:  our attitude towards the Palestinian question.  We no longer debate a political solution to the conflict; we now speak only of peace in theory.”  The Council has lost its ambition, he stated, pointing out that following bouts of conflict such as those taking place last spring, messages of restraint replace calls for lasting peace.  “Normalization of the occupation is simply unacceptable,” he said.  While taking note of “steps in the right direction”, including halted plans for illegal settlements in Atarot, he stated that taken together with acts such as Israel’s decision to list six Palestinian civil society organizations, they represent a pattern of “one step forward, three steps back”.  He called for support to be lent to an intra-Palestinian reconciliation process.  While commending the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee meeting convened by Norway in November 2021, he said more must be done, as millions relied on live-saving assistance from UNRWA.  Turkey will lend its financial and political support to UNRWA and calls on others to do so.

MOHAMMED ABDULAZIZ ALATEEK (Saudi Arabia) said “lasting peace in the Middle East is a strategic choice to end the protracted conflict”, based on the Arab Peace Initiative reached in 2002, which included Palestinian statehood along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees and of Syrian Golan and Lebanese territories.  Israel violates international laws and norms through its heinous acts of injustice and aggression, he said, citing as an example the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister to the Al-Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron.  He called on the Council to assume responsibility for the Palestinian question by ensuring justice and the aspirations of Palestinians to form an independent State and to deal firmly with Israel for its violations of international law and United Nations resolutions.  Turning to Yemen, he called on the international community to confront Houthi militias, who, emboldened by the lack of a countervailing response, continue to disregard the aspirations of the Yemeni people, obstruct attempts to reach a political solution and threaten regional security, including through the use of Yemeni ports.

MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan), condemning the Houthi attack on the United Arab Emirates, voiced solidarity with that “sisterly country” as it takes steps to defend itself.  Stressing the importance of establishing an independent and sovereign Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said the region will not know peace unless the unsustainable status quo caused by the occupation comes to an end. Noting the forced displacement and eviction of a Palestinian family from its home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood earlier today, he said Israel must implement international law regarding occupation in occupied Jerusalem.  Stressing the importance of removing all obstacles hindering the Palestinian economy, he said that an economic solution will not replace a political solution but can create an environment that enables it.  His country will continue to protect the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Al Quds Al Sharif and preserve its Arab Islamic and Christian identity, as well as its legal and historical status, under the direct guidance of King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, the custodian of these holy sites.

PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the Council still has not adopted measures to end Israel’s occupation.  After 74 years, Israel’s annexation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory is being consolidated through the expansion of settlements, punitive demolitions, forced displacements, the blockade of Gaza and plans to annex parts of the Jordan Valley.  Further, the repeated blocking of Council action by the United States has prevented it from fulfilling its duty to maintain international peace and security.  He expressed support for a fair and lasting solution that leaves Palestinians free to exercise their right to self-determination and establish an independent State along 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and able to exercise the right of return for refugees.  He expressed further support for Palestinians’ accession to the United Nations and their call for an international peace conference.  Denouncing the so-called “agreement of the century” as one that ignores the two-State solution, he likewise rejected United States recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan, in violation of international law.  The current United States Administration has not reversed these decisions, distancing the possibility of a negotiated solution.  He demanded that Israel withdraw from the Syrian Golan, and all occupied territories, and called for an end, without conditions, to unilateral measures imposed against sovereign nations.

BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria), voicing disappointment that the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process did not include in his briefing any information on Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Syrian Golan, said that on 26 December 2021, the Israeli authorities announced that they will provide $317 million to construct thousands of housing units in two new settlements in that territory.  This is a flagrant violation of international law, the fourth Geneva Convention and the relevant United Nations resolutions, he said, calling it yet another failed attempt to perpetuate the occupation and to obliterate the Syrian identity of the Golan.  Condemning Israel’s violations, including confiscation of property, imposition of demographic changes and looting of natural resources, he added that such reckless behaviour would not have escalated to this level had it not been for the protection provided by successive United States Administrations.  Calling on the Security Council to end its silence, he recalled the eviction earlier today in Sheikh Jarrah and voiced support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Israel’s representative today condemned a defenceless people that defies occupation with stones, he said, calling it an example of the highest order of hypocrisy.

MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the OIC, condemned Israel’s continued violations, including demolitions, evictions and violence.  Settlement activities constitute a flagrant violation of international law and undermine the prospect of just peace, he said, recalling Council resolution 2334 (2016).  Emphasizing the Council’s responsibility to ensure protection to Palestinian civilian populations, he stressed the need for concrete steps to safeguard the status quo of the holy sites.  Also calling for the complete lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, as well as sustainable and predictable funding for UNRWA, he said the Council must actively revive the stalled peace process.

AZRIL BIN ABD AZIZ (Malaysia) said Israel’s systematic and continued oppression of Palestinians and discriminatory policies are tantamount to the crimes of apartheid.  Its continued attacks on civil society organizations reporting on human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is an affront to international law, international human rights law and peace.  The international community must protect and continue to support human rights defenders in carrying out their important work to protect the rights of the Palestinian people living under military occupation.  Israel must be made to fully comply with all its obligations as prescribed by the relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016).  Only a negotiated political solution can lead to durable peace, he said, urging the Council, and particularly the Middle East Quartet, to restart and create the necessary condition for peace talks between the relevant parties.  Malaysia’s resolute support and full solidarity with the Palestinian people will never waiver.

MARIA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) called for negotiations between the two parties, with the broader aim of agreement on status issues identified in the Oslo Accords.  Argentina supports a peaceful comprehensive and definitive solution, based on a two-State formula and 1967 borders, whereby both parties determine the process.  Reaffirming support for Palestinians’ right to self-determination and a viable independent State, as well as Israel’s right to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders, she called for a halt to illegal settlement building in Palestinian territories and reaffirmed the terms of resolution 2234 (2016).  Condemning indiscriminate rocket launches from Gaza into Israel and related actions by Hamas and armed groups, she recognized Israel’s right to legitimate defence in respect of its international humanitarian law obligations, especially the principles of distinction and proportionality.  Reaffirming the special status of Jerusalem, she rejected any attempt to modify it, citing resolution 748 (1992), in particular, as the city should guarantee free access to its holy sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians.  Jerusalem’s final status must be defined by the parties in bilateral negotiations.  She went on to reiterate support for UNRWA and the need to ensure it has adequate funding, stressing that the principle of peaceful dispute settlement requires a negotiated solution to the conflict between Syria and Israel, she said, citing resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the principle of land for peace.

MILENKO ESTEBAN SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile) expressed his country’s ongoing support for a fair and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict.  Recalling the beginning of the twentieth century when what was at that time the largest Palestinian community outside of the Middle East began to arrive in his country and integrate across its society, he also noted Chile’s historical ties of brotherhood and sisterhood with Israel, as well as the dynamic and active Jewish community that is an important part of his country.  In 2011, Chile recognized the State of Palestine, he noted, adding that capacity-building for Palestine can create “the conditions for greater institutionality”.  The municipal election held in the West Bank last December is a step in the right direction, he said, expressing the hope that the second part of the elections will take place in March on schedule.  The violence and instability cycles in the region affect the entire international community, he said, calling for an end to the illegal settlements as well as unilateral acts such as the indiscriminate launching of rockets and disproportionate military responses to such acts.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) reaffirmed the importance of peacefully resolving conflicts by ending the underlying reasons for them.  In that context, he said the international community must develop coordinated and effective policies to tackle problems in the Middle East, arriving at a common vision that rises to the region’s political, economic and humanitarian challenges.  He called for creating conditions conducive to solutions, using all resources and cooperating on all areas of common interest.  International efforts must be intensified, ensuring that negotiations are resumed so the Palestinian question is settled on the basis of a two-State solution.  Condemning Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia, which resulted in multiple deaths and injuries, he likewise condemned in the strongest terms Houthi attacks against civilian structures in the United Arab Emirates and the kidnapping of a ship from that country.  All such assaults are tantamount to war crimes and all possible measures must be taken to assist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  He insisted that firm decisions be taken against these militias, which are terrorist organizations.

ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) reaffirmed support for a two-State Solution, for which building trust among parties is a necessary first step.  To this end, he welcomed the meeting in the final week of 2021 between President Abbas and Defence Minister Gantz.  However, he expressed concern about violent exchanges in recent months between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, as well as settlement activities in the West Bank and those reported in the Golan Heights.  Japan calls upon all parties to halt any activities that would hinder progress towards the realization of a two-State solution, and encourages all Palestinian stakeholders to start, as soon as possible, constructive discussions to realize intra-Palestinian reconciliation.  In response to the challenging humanitarian and socioeconomic situation in Palestine, he said Japan decided in December 2021 to extend fresh grant aid of $2.85 million to UNRWA for its activities in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, in addition to its 2021 contribution of $40.8 million.  It is also finalizing its supplementary budget procedures to extend $15.2 million to the Agency, he added.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), stressing that the attack on the United Arab Emirates is a flagrant violation of international law and international humanitarian law, added that it is also an attack on security in the region.  Israel continues its aggressive policies against unarmed Palestinian people, while annexing more territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he said, pointing out that United Nations reports show high levels of violence against women and children.  Condemning Israel’s plans to make Jerusalem a Jewish city and undermine a two-State solution, he stressed the importance of preserving the demographic nature of the city.  His country’s foreign policy is based on respect for the principles of international law, he said, reaffirming the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination

TIYANI RAYMOND SITHOLE (South Africa) said overwhelming evidence demonstrates that Israel enforces laws which treat Israelis and Palestinians differently in all aspects of life.  Describing Israel’s systemic subjugation of Palestinians as inhumane, in “stark” violation of human rights and internationally adopted norms and principles, he stated:  “We cannot silently bear witness to this reality.”  International efforts must work to realize the two-State solution, the only path to ensuring that Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peaceful and secure States, based on the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as the capital of both nations.  This can only be achieved if both parties engage in bona fide negotiations, placing the interests of all those who live on the land above all other objectives.  Failing to act on Israel’s violations perpetuates the claim that some in the Council are not even-handed on the issues, undermining the Council’s credibility.  Therefore, it is imperative that the Council hold all those who violate its resolutions accountable, without fear or favour, he said.

For information media. Not an official record.