UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL MEETING
IN SUPPORT OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE
Reviving the collective international engagement towards
a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Beijing, 18 and 19 June 2013
The United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, hosted by the People’s Republic of China and organized under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, examined the ways in which the collective international engagement towards a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be revived. Representatives of Governments, intergovernmental organizations, including various United Nations bodies, and civil society, together with expert speakers from China, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, the State of Palestine, the United States of America and the United Nations, shared their expertise at the Meeting.
The Meeting, while expressing grave concern at the deteriorating situation on the ground and labelling Israeli illegal practices as obstacles to peace, called for a new approach, with a renewed and more effective engagement by the international community as a whole, including efforts by China, the Russian Federation, the European Union, and the United Nations, in particular the Security Council, to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.
Welcoming the recent efforts by the United States aimed at reaching a final status agreement, and the commitment of Arab leaders to revive the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, the Meeting stressed the need for creating conducive conditions in which negotiations, if resumed, could succeed. The ending of settlement activities and of violence against Palestinian civilians and the lifting of the Gaza blockade by Israel, along with Palestinian reconciliation, were among the requirements highlighted by the Meeting to achieve substantive progress. The importance of seeking a comprehensive solution encompassing the dual tracks of peace and development was also stressed.
The Meeting reiterated the solidarity of the international community with the Palestinian people, support for the State of Palestine based on pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the need to put pressure on Israel to abide by international law. While the one-State solution was discussed by panellists, the Meeting agreed that the two-State solution remained the only viable and realistic option, including for Israel. Only with the existence of a contiguous, independent State of Palestine on an equal footing with Israel could new historic relations develop between the two neighbours.
Stressing that the status quo was unsustainable, the Meeting called for the United Nations to be at the forefront of the peace efforts, based on the Organization’s principles and through the long overdue implementation of its numerous resolutions. The renewed engagement of China and President Xi Jinping’s four-point proposal for the settlement of the Palestinian question were welcomed by the Meeting as a constructive contribution to the way forward.
1. The United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace was held on 18 and 19 June 2013 in Beijing, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and in accordance with the provisions of General Assembly resolutions 67/20 and 67/21 of 30 November 2012. The theme of the Meeting was “Reviving the collective international engagement towards a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
2. The Committee was represented at the Meeting by a delegation composed of Abdou Salam Diallo (Senegal), Chair; Rodolfo Reyes (Cuba), Vice-Chair; Christopher Grima (Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee; and Riyad Mansour (State of Palestine). The Meeting consisted of an opening session, three plenary sessions and a closing session. The themes of the plenary sessions were: “Creating favourable conditions for the resumption of negotiations while countering the obstacles to the realization of the two-State solution “; “The United Nations and Palestine”; and “Towards a resumption of meaningful negotiations: the role of the international community”.
3. At the Meeting presentations were made by 16 speakers, including Palestinian and Israeli experts. Representatives of 55 Governments, the State of Palestine, 2 intergovernmental organizations, 3 United Nations system entities, 3 civil society organizations and 22 media outlets attended the Meeting.
4. The summary of the Chair of the Committee on the outcomes of the meeting (see annex I to the present report) was published shortly after the meeting concluded and is accessible on the website of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat at www.un.org/depts/dpa/qpal/calendar.htm.
II. Opening session
5. The Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Ma Zhaoxu, addressing the Meeting as representative of China, stated that over the past 20 years, much historic progress had been made owing to the concerted efforts of relevant parties. It had been widely recognized, he added, that the question of Palestine would be settled peacefully through negotiations. The Palestinian people had gained self-governance in some parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and in 2012, Palestine had obtained the status of non-member observer State at the United Nations, constituting another important step towards establishing an independent State. At the same time, Palestine and Israel continued to face major differences on a series of key issues, and the efforts to promote peace talks and make further headway towards the goal of realizing the "two-State solution” were confronted with many difficulties and challenges.
6. For many years, he recalled, the United Nations had worked unrelentingly to advance the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. It had adopted a series of resolutions on the question of Palestine, which had served as an important basis for the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. As a member of the Quartet mechanism of the Middle East issue, the United Nations played a constructive role in advancing the peace talks, he said. Moreover, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People of the United Nations, by holding various meetings around the world, contributed to attracting greater attention and garnering more support from the international community for settling the Palestinian question. He affirmed that China supported the United Nations in playing a bigger role in the ultimate realization of peace between Palestine and Israel.
7. He opined that the Palestinian question was the core of the Middle East issue. People across the region and the international community supported peace between Palestine and Israel on the basis of the two-State solution. He expressed the firm support of the Government and people of China for the just cause of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. He outlined the position of his Government by reaffirming its support for the establishment of a sovereign and independent State of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, the realization of peaceful coexistence of Palestine and Israel through peace talks and enhanced peace and stability in the Middle East.
8. In May, he said, China had hosted the President of the State of Palestine and the Prime Minister of Israel on their separate visits to China. On those occasions, President Xi Jinping had put forward the four-point proposal for the settlement of the Palestinian question which entailed the following principles: the right direction to follow should be the establishment of an independent State of Palestine and peaceful coexistence between Palestine and Israel; negotiations should be the only way to achieve peace between Palestine and Israel; principles such as “land for peace” should be firmly upheld; and the international community should provide important guarantees for progress in the peace process.
9. He called for redoubled efforts to promote the resumption of the peace talks. The long-standing stalemate of the Palestinian question had inflicted continuous suffering on the Palestinian people. Regional turbulences had exacerbated the situation and could further escalate if the security and humanitarian situation of the occupied Palestinian territory did not improve. Principles laid down by consensus also needed to be upheld, such as achieving a two-State solution through peaceful negotiations. The establishment of an independent State was an inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the key to the settlement of the Palestinian question. At the same time, the right of Israel to exist and its legitimate security concerns should be respected. Other basic parameters for a solution included the principle of "land for peace", the relevant United Nations resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative which should be upheld.
10. He suggested that simpler tasks could be discussed first before moving to more difficult ones in order to build achievements along the way. Quoting an ancient Chinese saying, he said that a one-thousand-mile distance could be completed by only taking small but steady steps. Therefore, China supported an incremental approach in settling the Palestinian question. The immediate priority, he added, was to take credible steps to stop settlement activities, end violence against innocent civilians, lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip and properly handle the issue of Palestinian prisoners in order to foster a good atmosphere for peace talks. China called on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides to take a long-term view and work for the early resumption of, and concrete progress in, the peace talks.
11. Finally, he stressed the need for a comprehensive solution. In order to settle the Palestinian question, the dual tracks of political negotiations and improvement of people's livelihood needed to be advanced at the same time. Peace and development were closely connected and mutually reinforcing. To grow the Palestinian economy, create jobs and raise the degree of self-sufficiency of the Government would help fundamentally to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinian people and boost their confidence in the peace process. The international community should increase input in this aspect and actively carry out practical cooperation with Palestine.
12. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, sent a message to the Meeting, which was read out at the opening session by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco. The Secretary-General noted that as regional tensions rose owing to the escalating conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, the world should not lose sight of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He stressed that the fragile hope created by the renewed efforts of the United States had to be sustained and translated into action by the parties. He was encouraged by the recent commitment of Arab leaders to revive the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, with its promise for regional stability, which could become an important part of current peace efforts. He hoped the Israeli Government would respond positively to this offer.
13. Underlining that the forthcoming weeks would be critical, he called on the parties to avoid actions that undermined prospects for the resumption of meaningful negotiations. In this regard, he remained deeply troubled by Israel’s continuing settlement activity in the West Bank, which was illegal under international law. The situation in East Jerusalem was of particular concern as settlement activity continued, accompanied by home demolitions, forced evictions, land expropriation and the displacement of the Palestinian population. The conditions of Gaza’s civilian population remained a source of deep concern. The seven-year-old closure continued to cause serious humanitarian and economic consequences, including but far from limited to, a lack of sufficient safe drinking water. Calling for a complete opening of crossings into Gaza to allow legitimate trade and movements of people, in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), he stressed how the ceasefire understanding reached in November 2012 remained the best opportunity to change the negative dynamics in Gaza.
14. He emphasized that progress towards peace required tangible confidence-building measures and a clear political horizon. It also required ensuring the viability of Palestinian state-building efforts and improved living conditions for all Palestinians. In this regard, he appealed to the international community to ensure continued and predictable financial support for the Government of the State of Palestine, as well as to sustain the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). He also continued to support efforts to promote Palestinian reconciliation within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) commitments. Concluding, he stated that achieving a negotiated two-State solution ending the occupation that started in 1967, in line with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), was long overdue, and he warned of the risks of missing the current window of opportunity.
15. Abdou Salam Diallo, Chair of the Committee, stated that China was a tried and true friend of the Palestinian people, and to the Committee, and a staunch supporter of the just Palestinian cause. As one of the first countries that established ties with the PLO and recognized the State of Palestine, China actively supported historic General Assembly resolution 67/19, which granted Palestine non-member observer State status at the United Nations, and the Palestinian application for full United Nations membership. Given the economic, diplomatic and political weight of China in world affairs, its permanent membership in the Security Council and friendly relations with both parties, he maintained that China was uniquely placed to level the playing field in the peace process, and support the socioeconomic and institutional development in Palestine.
16. He noted that 46 years since the beginning of the Israeli occupation, nearly 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords and 10 years into the road map, consensus was growing among the leading authorities on the issue that the two-State solution was on life support. It had become a victim of ever expanding illegal settlements, public disillusionment, the impotence of the international community, intractable domestic politics and a changing regional environment. He opined that the shuttle diplomacy of United States Secretary of State John Kerry might be a last-ditch effort to resuscitate the peace process and the two-State vision. He called on the international community, including the United Nations, a revitalized Quartet, regional organizations, all Member States and civil society to launch a collective push to remove the obstacles to a negotiated settlement, support peace talks, coordinate initiatives, rebuild confidence and increase assistance to the Palestinians.
17. He welcomed the retooled Peace Initiative of the League of Arab States, which reaffirmed a supportive regional framework for renewed Israeli-Palestinian engagement. He expressed appreciation for the four-point proposal for the settlement of the Palestinian question advanced by the President of China during the visits of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu in May 2013, which offered an important blueprint for peace, as well as for the tireless shuttle diplomacy of Chinese Special Envoy Wu Sike. The world was waiting for Israel to present its vision for peace.
18. At the same time, huge obstacles remained. Meaningful progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track required Palestinian unity on the basis of PLO commitments, under the leadership of President Abbas. Moreover, Palestinians would not be encouraged to pursue new agreements as long as Israel was allowed to ignore its existing commitments in the spheres of settlements, prisoners and 1967 borders. Countries that professed their support for international law should go beyond rhetoric criticizing settlements, and consider practical steps to discourage that expansion. If history was any guide, he concluded, the price of failure would be high for the region and beyond, for many years to come.
19. Bassam Al-Salhi, Secretary-General of the Palestinian People’s Party and Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, delivered the opening statement as representative of the State of Palestine. Expressing appreciation to the Government of China for hosting the meeting, he reaffirmed the gratitude of the Palestinian people for the longstanding support of China for their cause, politically, developmentally and morally. He also expressed appreciation for the role of China recently in facilitating the revival of a substantive and credible peace process, and welcomed the Chinese vision for peace.
20. He recognized the important role played by China as a permanent member of the Security Council as an advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people and for a peaceful, just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole. Moreover, he expressed profound appreciation for the principled position taken by China in declaring its support for the application of the State of Palestine in 2011 for admission to full membership in the United Nations, an application that regrettably remained pending before the Council and which Palestinians hoped one day soon would receive a positive recommendation for endorsement by the General Assembly to allow the State of Palestine to take its rightful place among the community of nations.
21. Mr. Al-Salhi stated that the Meeting was being convened at a very critical juncture, when serious efforts were being exerted to salvage the two-State solution, after decades of denigration of that solution by Israel, the occupying Power, owing to its relentless pursuit of illegal policies aimed at colonization and de facto annexation of Palestinian land and oppression of the Palestinian people, leading to repeated failure of the peace process. The international community could not allow the current regional and international efforts to fail. However, good intentions alone would not suffice under the current circumstances, and the international community must be firm in demanding compliance by Israel with all of its legal obligations, as respect of international law was the key to peace and security. Further, it should make clear that continued violations would be met with measures of accountability.
22. Continuing on the current path was unsustainable, he concluded. The course should change, allowing for the primacy of international law and national rights, or the remaining window of opportunity would close. The Palestinian people, who would never give up their inalienable rights, would search for alternative solutions to achieve peace and the freedom, rights, justice and dignity they had been denied for far too long.
23. The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, delivered the keynote presentation. At the outset, he stated that the Meeting was taking place at a historic moment in the Middle East, and potentially at a turning point in the longstanding efforts to reach a negotiated two-State solution. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was long overdue. It was the firm view of the United Nations Secretariat that achieving the two-State solution was more urgent than ever in the increasingly unstable regional context, and that negotiations remained the only way towards achieving that end. The status quo was not acceptable and could not continue, particularly at a time when the region was reawakening to the people’s legitimate aspirations for freedom, justice and dignity and was undergoing profound transformations, while at the same time grappling with deepening social and geopolitical divides and the dangerous consequences of the Syrian conflict. He reaffirmed that the occupation that started in 1967 was morally and politically unsustainable and had to end. The Palestinians had a legitimate right to the establishment of an independent, democratic and viable State of their own. Israel had the right to live in peace and security within internationally recognized and secure borders.
24. In order to reach these common goals, the United Nations welcomed the determined
re-engagement of the United States. In March 2013, President Obama had visited the region, underlining that peace was necessary, just and possible. The many visits by Secretary of State John Kerry that followed were also encouraging. Since the collapse of the attempted renewed negotiations in October 2010, he noted, it was the first time a real opportunity for a serious effort to reach a final status agreement was on the table. In order to achieve this goal, he added, enormous political will and courage from each side, as well as a meaningful framework and a timeframe, were required. Creating a conducive environment on the ground was also necessary. Moreover, he continued, in addition to the assistance of the United States to engage the parties, providing a credible diplomatic horizon presupposed the concerted action and support of the international community and key regional stakeholders. The United Nations supported all credible initiatives for a renewed peace effort.
25. However, while the United States engagement was central, a broader engagement of regional and international partners towards engendering real and lasting peace was needed. In that regard, the efforts of China in support of the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were noteworthy. Similarly, the positive signals sent by the League of Arab States reaffirming the Arab Peace Initiative with a promise for regional stability could become an important part of current peace efforts. The United Nations had invited the Government of Israel to respond positively.
26. Substantive progress was urgently needed, as were patience and caution. Rushing the parties back to the table without having the necessary framework in place and buy-in from both sides would be counter-productive. The fate and viability of the two-State solution and the Middle East peace process as it had been envisaged since the 1991 Madrid Conference and the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements of 13 September 1993 were at stake and the odds were not favourable, he noted. The gap between the parties had widened, and mistrust and skepticism were at an all time high. Peacemaking in such conditions was daunting, he observed. Some claimed that the time was not right and the situation not ripe, or that it was already too late. It could be true that it was a last chance, but the United Nations continued to believe that there was no other choice than to keep trying. It would be a mistake to think that the current situation could be sustained or simply managed. It was not static, but rather steadily eroding, and risked deteriorating at any time. Palestinians were faced with the continued reality of military occupation, illegal settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and closure in Gaza. Israelis continued to live in the fear of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza and had understandable and legitimate security concerns in a complex and difficult regional context.
27. Over the past months, Mr. Fernandez-Taranco recalled, tensions had mounted in the West Bank, in particular on the two critical issues: Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the continued expansion of settlements. Official Israeli data showed a 176 per cent increase in Israeli settlements during the first quarter of 2013, as compared to the same period of 2012, all of which was illegal under international law. He stressed that such expansion put in jeopardy the viability and territorial contiguity of a Palestinian State, and undermined the prospects for renewed negotiations. There were also troubling tensions around the sensitive issue of Jerusalem, including restrictions of access to holy sites. The Secretary-General had reiterated the importance of respect for the religious freedom of all, and for worshippers of all faiths to have access to their shrines. The Secretary-General had also reacted strongly to the announcement of settlements in the E-1 area, and had called on Israel to rescind the plan, which, if constructed, would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-State solution. He reiterated the view of the United Nations that Jerusalem – a final status issue – should emerge through negotiations as the capital of two States, living side by side in peace and security, with arrangements for the holy sites that are acceptable to all.
28. In the absence of a final status agreement, he continued, the financial and political viability of Palestinian institutions and of the State of Palestine remained at stake. It was a source of social tensions in the West Bank, which has witnessed a series of strikes of civil servants, in particular in the education sector. The United Nations welcomed the generosity of the international community, which has provided vital financial support, including the initiative of Japan to host a ministerial level conference in Tokyo earlier in 2013 for East Asian cooperation on Palestinian development. He called on donors, especially those that have not yet made significant contributions, to accelerate the provision of timely and predictable assistance to stabilize the finances of the Palestinian Authority. He also encouraged donors to continue support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for their indispensable assistance to the vulnerable Palestine refugees at this critical moment in the region.
29. Turning to the situation in Gaza, the Assistant Secretary-General said that improving the living conditions of the Palestinian population and ensuring calm remained a core priority of the United Nations, and key to sustaining any prospect of lasting peace. The ceasefire reached in November 2012, in the last three months had shown worrying signs of fragility, with repeated rockets fired into Israel from Gaza. Kerem Shalom, the only functioning crossing for goods from Israel into Gaza, had periodically been closed in response to rockets, and from 21 March to 21 May, the fishing limit was brought back to three nautical miles. These setbacks, he noted, were a reminder of the importance of the parties’ commitment to the full implementation of the ceasefire. He reaffirmed the United Nations support for Egyptian efforts in this regard, and the call for progress in addressing all underlying issues of the conflict, in line with resolution 1860 (2009). He also expressed the United Nations support for the efforts of the Government of Egypt to promote Palestinian reconciliation. Progress on Palestinian reconciliation within the framework of the PLO commitments and under the leadership of President Abbas, was an essential step for achieving the two-State solution and finding a durable peace.
30. In conclusion, while stressing how critical and difficult the forthcoming weeks would be, he expressed hope that, with the decisive momentum of the United States and the support of the international community, the parties would demonstrate the necessary vision and political courage to overcome decades of mistrust and conflict, and engage in meaningful negotiations to achieve the two-State solution.
31. The representative of Brazil stated that his Government remained deeply concerned by the lack of progress in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It was urgent, he stressed, to restore a real peace process and it was imperative not to allow the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic to push this matter down in the priority list. The peace process between Israel and Palestine, whose only viable way ahead remained the peaceful coexistence of two States, was a fundamental condition for peace in the region and beyond. In this context, Brazil noted with satisfaction the commitment of United States Secretary of State John Kerry to the resumption of negotiations.
32. The Ambassador of Comoros to China called the attention of the Meeting to the continuous, systematic and indiscriminate use of force in the Gaza Strip and particularly during the 2010 flotilla raid by Israeli military forces against six international vessels of the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla”, including the “Mavi Marmara”, a Comorian-flagged passenger ship. The unjustified military raid of an independent sovereign State, he said, should serve as a serious reminder to the international community that the question of Palestine was not only an issue for the Middle East region, but also a threat to world peace and security.
33. The representative of Ecuador stated his country’s support for an independent, sovereign State of Palestine within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Ecuador condemned Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territory and discrimination against the Palestinian people and their rights. Ecuador believed that the United Nations could play a bigger role in the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian issue. He expressed Ecuador’s support for the proposal of the Committee to ask the General Assembly that 2015 be declared an international year of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
34. The representative of Guinea stressed the deep concern of his Government at the deterioration in the situation on the ground and the continued harassment, violence, deprivation and humiliation characterizing the daily lives of the Palestinian people. He stated that Guinea strongly condemned Israeli illegal actions, such as causing civilian casualties, the destruction of Palestinian property and the exploitation of natural resources. Settlement activities, the separation wall, house demolitions, illegal detention and the imposition of the blockade on Gaza were more examples of such illegal policies, which undermined the vision of a two-State solution. Calling on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law, Guinea also urged the international community and the Quartet in particular to create the conditions necessary for the resumption of negotiations in the near future.
35. The Ambassador of Malaysia to China expressed his country’s deep concern at the deteriorating situation on the ground, as well as the condition of thousands of Palestinian prisoners under unlawful Israeli detention. Malaysia continued to strongly condemn the ongoing illegal settlement activities, which had to cease. His Government was also extremely concerned about the intention of Israel to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as such act would further undermine international law. Malaysia also called for the lifting of the illegal blockade on Gaza.
36. The representative of Pakistan endorsed calls for renewed international focus on the resolution of this long outstanding issue to correct the historic injustice. If the concerned parties did not act immediately, he said, the two-State solution may not remain viable for much longer and a one-State solution would mean demographic imbalance for Israel and peace would remain elusive. He called for all Security Council resolutions, including 1860 (2009), to be fully implemented. At the same time, he said, national cohesion within Palestine and the building and consolidation of national institutions were necessary. A continuous flow of financial assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people was needed. Reaffirming the support of Pakistan for the two-State solution, he urged all Member States and the United Nations system to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination.
37. The representative of Qatar stated that, despite two decades of an inconclusive peace process, the possibility of a solution still existed in the form of the Arab Peace Initiative. Arab countries were still committed to that plan. In this regard, he informed that the most recent summit of the League of Arab Nations held in Doha in May 2013, had formed a ministerial committee, headed by the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, tasked with liaising with the Security Council and several capitals to promote the Arab Peace Initiative. Qatar hoped that this effort would receive a positive response. The representative called for the halting of settlement activities and urged the international community not to turn a blind eye to the attempts to judaize Jerusalem. Finally, Qatar called for the resumption of negotiations and for the admission of the State of Palestine as full United Nations member.
38. The Ambassador of Senegal to China, stated that before the goal of two States living side by side within secure borders could become a reality, certain conditions had to be met. Above all, the parties should demonstrate the political will to resolve the conflict and refrain from any actions that would undermine the mediation efforts. In this regard, quoting the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of
12 August 1949 (Fourth Geneva Convention), the policy of settlements and expropriation of Israel was unlawful and constituted a threat to peace. He emphasized that the international community had the moral obligation to ensure respect for human rights and protect civilians against excessive and disproportionate use of force. Likewise, greater support and action was needed to aid the most vulnerable Palestinians, such as refugees. Recently, the diplomatic steps taken by the Palestinian Authority had led to the adoption of General Assembly resolution 67/19 on 29 November 2012, as well as to the accession of Palestine as full member to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In conclusion, he called on the international community, and the Quartet in particular, to use its leverage to relaunch the peace process.
39. The representative of the League of Arab States, stated that the Arab Peace Initiative was still valid and was considered the basis for the achievement of peace and stability in the region. He informed that at a meeting with the Arab Peace Initiative Committee on 29 April 2013, United States Secretary of State Kerry had affirmed the continuation of joint efforts to push the peace process forward. While the League of Arab States had welcomed Secretary of State Kerry’s economic plan of allocating $4 billion for the economic development of the State of Palestine, it believed that economic development should be accompanied by political developments. In fact, as experience had taught, economic plans without a political horizon would not solve the problems of the Palestinian people and projects funded through donors’ contributions would be destroyed by the Israeli military forces. Finally, he expressed his concern at recent declarations of Israeli senior officials refusing the two-State solution, indicating Israel’s unwillingness to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.
40. The Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to China, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, distributed a statement which reiterated the longstanding support and solidarity of the Non-Aligned Movement with the Palestinian people in their just claim for the realization of their inalienable rights. At the summit of the Movement held in Tehran in August 2012, the heads of State reviewed the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and reiterated their grave concern about the suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation. The Ambassador voiced the deep concern of the Movement at the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process and stressed the need for intensified international and regional efforts to promote the resumption, in a timely manner, of substantial negotiations between the parties. The Movement denounced Israeli illegal practices and called for a complete end of all settlement activities, the construction of the wall, house demolitions and evictions. It also called for the end of the illegal detention by Israel of thousands of Palestinians and the use by Israel of torture and other physical and psychological mistreatment, as well as for the release of hunger-striking and other political prisoners. The Movement also reiterated its condemnation of the inhumane and unlawful blockade of Gaza by Israel as a form of collective punishment and called for the prompt and unconditional lifting of the blockade. The Movement called on the international community, and in particular the Security Council, to take all necessary measures to ensure that Israel terminates all these illegal practices and abides by its obligations under international law.
III. Plenary sessions
A. Plenary session I
Creating favourable conditions for the resumption of negotiations
while countering the obstacles to the realization
of the two-State solution
41. The speakers in plenary session I addressed the following sub-themes: (a) “Current situation on the ground: continued Israeli settlement expansion and other illegal Israeli practices”; (b) “The need to maintain services and support to Palestine refugees”; and (c) “The importance of achieving Palestinian reconciliation”. The Plenary was chaired by Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez, Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations and Vice-Chair of the Committee.
42. Bassam Al-Salhi, Secretary-General of the Palestinian People’s Party and Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, stated that the United Nations recognition of Palestinian statehood on 29 November 2012, by an overwhelming majority of United Nations Member States, had proven the adherence of the international community to the two-State solution, which was enabling the Palestinian people to establish an independent State. However, he continued, the international confirmation of the Palestinian right to self-determination and to establish an independent State was not sufficient, when in fact the reality on the ground was the Israeli systematic destruction of this solution, firstly, by creating a separation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which started before the internal Palestinian division, and secondly, through the expansion of settlements across the West Bank, including in Jerusalem. In addition, Israel was adopting a policy of ethnic cleansing, especially in East Jerusalem, in order to achieve an obvious demographic change and the daily urban transformation of archaeological and religious sites. All these measures, he explained, came in the light of Israel’s insistence on continuing the occupation and rejecting the withdrawal from the Palestinian State’s territories, an obligation recognized by the United Nations. In addition, Israel was imposing impossible conditions on all negotiation issues which had been previously discussed over the past 20 years, and was even introducing new requests such as the claim for recognition of Israel as a Jewish State. Because of all of the above, Mr. Al-Salhi expressed doubts that developing a new international approach would succeed. Regrettably, he said, the efforts of United States Secretary of State John Kerry to resume direct bilateral negotiations sponsored by the United States collided with the Israeli refusal to stop settlement activity and release Palestinian prisoners in accordance with previous agreements.
43. In his view, resumption of negotiations in the same manner as in the past would not lead to peace, but, on the contrary, it would reinforce the imposition of facts that would eventually prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian State. The Palestinian-Israeli negotiation experiences of the past 20 years could be used as a reference, he opined. The Oslo Conference of 1993 was de facto extended by bilateral negotiations until 1999, followed by the Camp David summit of 2000, hosted by President Clinton. None of those negotiations had produced an agreement on the final status issues: borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, water and prisoners. The next phase, following the outbreak of the second Intifada, had seen the establishment of the Quartet, which had been mandated to complete the task during a 3-year timeframe, which was extended to more than 10 years. The Quartet also failed in having Israel commit to fulfil its obligations under the road map. All subsequent attempts to resume negotiations (Annapolis Conference and exploratory talks, among others) had failed, he recalled, with the inability of the United States Administration to force Israel to freeze settlement activity, and a decline in its interest to pursue the peace process as a whole. Modest European attempts had not even seen the light of day, he lamented.
44. A review of these experiments clearly demonstrated, he observed, a structural defect of the negotiation process, its references and its setup. Israel had continued to make broad changes on the ground, rather than implementing United Nations resolutions. The evasion of United Nations resolutions and Israel’s ignoring of the United Nations and its institutions, as well as its insistence on direct bilateral negotiations without any terms of reference, represented one of the main reasons for the failure of the negotiations.
45. For these reasons, he stated, a new approach based on greater intervention and international support to bring peace to the region was needed, including another international conference for peace aimed at ending the occupation and implementing the resolutions of the United Nations. The new approach should include serious negotiations to achieve the State of Palestine on the basis of the borders of June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, to ensure the sovereignty of the State of Palestine and mutual security, and to include the Arab Peace Initiative as an important contribution to peace and security in the region.
46. The new approach would also require the expansion of international efforts that were not confined to the United States initiatives, but that included efforts of China, the Russian Federation and the European Union aimed at building on the achievement of the United Nations recognition of the State of Palestine. There was no doubt, he concluded, that the success of that approach would be reinforced by an end to Palestinian division and a healthy economic and social development of the Palestinian people.
47. Richard Wright, Director of the New York Representative Office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), recalled that UNRWA had been operating now for over 63 years. Its continuing work on the world’s longest and biggest refugee issue was a reflection of the fact that no permanent solution had been found to the protracted Palestine-Israeli conflict. As time had passed, things had not gotten any easier for Palestine refugees, he said; to illustrate that fact, he pointed to the suffering of the Palestine refugee community in the Syrian Arab Republic, over half of whom (235,000) were now displaced within Syria and 15 per cent had fled to neighbouring countries.
48. The task of UNRWA, he explained, was humanitarian; it carried out relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees who had lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict, and their descendants. UNRWA services were universally available to all registered refugees living in the UNRWA area of operations (Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Lebanon). Whereas in 1950 there were 750,000 Palestine refugees, he noted, that figure was now 5.3 million. The refugee population was increasing by over 3 per cent annually. The services of UNRWA were delivered by 30,000 staff members, most of whom were Palestine refugees themselves. More than 490,000 children attended UNRWA schools, and the UNRWA 139 health centres across the region received 10 million patient visits last year. The Agency also assisted the poorest and most vulnerable refugees through food aid.
49. Turning to the crises faced by UNRWA in its five areas of operation, he started by recalling that in Gaza 75 per cent of the population were Palestinian refugees. He recalled that the violent conflict of November 2012 had aggravated the already dire situation of a population feeling abandoned by the international community. In 2000, he noted, when the economy was functioning relatively normally in Gaza, only 10 per cent of refugees required UNRWA assistance to meet their basic needs. Today that figure stood at 70 per cent as a result of the blockade imposed by Israel in 2007. The draconian restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out Gaza paralysed economic activity, particularly exports, which were virtually non-existent, deepened poverty and forced ever increasing dependence on the international community; 827,000 persons, representing over two thirds of the Palestine refugee population of 1.2 million people in Gaza, required food assistance; this was going to cost UNRWA $93 million in 2013 and $122 million by 2020; and 60 per cent of Palestinian refugee youth were unemployed. In 2012 UNRWA spent $406 million in Gaza, amounting to no less than 16 per cent of the gross national product of Gaza, and provided jobs for 8.2 per cent of the working population, he noted.
50. Mr. Wright referred to the 2012 United Nations report entitled “Gaza 2020”, which set out in the starkest terms the future outlook for Gaza. In the absence of sustained and effective remedial action and an enabling political environment, the challenges confronting the people of Gaza would further intensify and living conditions would further deteriorate in the coming years. UNRWA alone would have to provide services for an estimated 400,000 additional refugees by 2020, bringing the total number of Palestine refugees to 1.6 million. The report illustrated that by 2020 there would be virtually no reliable access to sources of safe drinking water, and standards of health care and education would further decline. The already high number of poor, marginalized and food-insecure people depending on assistance would increase. Immediate steps were needed to reverse these deteriorating trends, such as opening up Gaza for legitimate exports, substantially reducing delays for importing goods and building materials and reducing the costs of importation imposed on UNRWA, now standing at a staggering $5 million per year.
51. Turning to the West Bank, he said that restrictions and barriers imposed by the occupying Power were stifling the economic activity of the Palestinian population. Continued settlement expansion and growing settler violence were also having a serious impact on some of the more vulnerable UNRWA beneficiaries, such as Bedouin families who suffered from forcible relocation. He added that Palestine refugee Bedouin families risked further displacement from the E-1 area in the West Bank. He also emphasized that Palestine refugees who had been displaced from their land in the West Bank were impacted by the checkpoints preventing them from reaching their workplace, market areas, hospitals and schools, all of which made this community even more dependent on UNRWA services.
52. Mr. Wright then provided a brief overview of the challenges in the other fields of UNRWA operation, starting with the Syrian Arab Republic, where the needs of the 530,000 Palestine refugees were quickly escalating. These staggering numbers showed that UNRWA had to manage the impact of the mounting crises on Palestine refugees by providing emergency assistance while continuing to offer its core health, education and relief and social services to an ever expanding refugee population. Meeting these two goals was possible only if UNRWA received the necessary support from United Nations Member States, which were the source of 97 per cent of UNRWA voluntary funds, he explained. The Agency was currently facing a $65 million deficit, 10 per cent of the total budget of $663 million, on its core budget or General Fund. That Fund provided for the General Assembly-mandated activities, notably, education, health and relief and social services to the Palestine refugees. With the refugee population increasing by 3 per cent annually, UNRWA costs were also rising. Therefore, he added, the deficit would widen further in 2014 to around $100 million and more.
53. In order to address these financial challenges, it was necessary to find ways to strengthen UNRWA, most notably by increasing contributions from non-traditional, including Arab, donors. UNRWA welcomed contributions from the BRIC countries, Brazil, the Russian Federation and India in particular. In this context, Mr. Wright expressed his gratitude to China for having doubled its contribution to $150,000 in 2013. He hoped that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the League of Arab States would honour their generous pledges. Among Asian countries, whose contributions to the UNRWA budget were small except for Japan, which had contributed $210 million to UNRWA since 2000, he acknowledged the contributions of Malaysia and the Republic of Korea. In closing, he underlined that the international community needed a strong UNRWA and its stabilizing humanitarian function in the Middle East. He called on the internationally community to strengthen global, regional and national efforts to shore up the Agency finances and to put them on a sounder basis until a just and durable solution was found to the question of Palestine refugees, in accordance with United Nations resolutions.
54. Ahmad Tibi, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset (Arab Movement for Change), started his presentation by mentioning three events that had taken place the previous weeks in Israel. First, Israeli Minister of Defence Moshe Ya’alon had declared that search for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had failed. Second, Israeli Minister of Economy and Trade Naftali Bennet had said that the idea of a Palestinian State was a “dead end”. Third, the Abu-Ghosh village had been vandalized in a “price tag” attack by settlers. Those three events were connected, he stated. Over the past 17 years, he pointed out, the PLO and the Government of Israel had negotiated the implementation of the two-State solution on the basis of the 1967 borders. However, the lack of freedom of movement, the control by Israel of the 60 per cent of the land in “Area C”, and the lack of breakthrough in the process had made the situation on the ground worse. He believed that the only reason why Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had been willing to meet with Palestinian President Abbas had been to keep the process going, not to achieve a solution.
55. He opined that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not a partner in the peace process, for he had never uttered the words “independent Palestinian State”. In his view, agreeing on the 1967 borders, releasing Palestinian prisoners and freezing settlements were not pre-conditions, while recognizing Israel as a Jewish State was. This request, he asserted, was unacceptable for President Abbas because it would imply giving up on the right of return of Palestinian refugees and it would make the discriminatory conditions of Arabs in Israel lawful. Israel was, by its basic law, a Jewish State, he conceded, but exporting this principle to other countries was simply unacceptable. He informed that under the Government of Prime Minister Netanyahu, a number of discriminatory laws had been passed, notably one that had “downgraded” the Arabic language and another that had extended preferential treatment to those citizens who served in the army, which automatically excluded Arabs due to their refusal to conscript. For these reasons, he warned, the Jewish nature of the State of Israel was becoming more prominent that the democratic one. He called on the international community to pay close attention to the issue of Israel’s Arab minority and demand that Israel respect the rights of all its citizens.
56. In the current situation three systems of Government coexisted in Israel: real democracy only for the Jewish majority; racial discrimination against 20 per cent of the Israeli Arab population; and apartheid against the Palestinian population with two systems of law, military for the Palestinians and civil law for the Jewish settlers. That situation, he stressed, did not come at any cost for the Government of Israel, while, on the contrary, Israel was becoming richer by exploiting Palestinian natural resources. In closing, Mr. Tibi called on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to abide by international law and be a serious partner in the peace process.
57. Li Lianhe, Deputy Director of the Department of West Asian and North African Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, recalled that in 1947, the General Assembly had adopted the resolution that partitioned Palestine, and the State of Israel had come into existence. Regrettably, after more than 60 years, the Palestinian people had yet to establish, in any real sense of the word, their own country. Mr. Li lamented that many Palestinian lands were still under occupation and that the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people had not been restored. That situation, he added, had resulted in the protracted and bitter confrontation between Israel and Palestine and the prospects for peace had been elusive. He emphasized that redressing historical injustice and providing due rights were not only the key to the settlement of the Palestinian question, but was also the very expectation of the international community. The essence of the two-State solution, he reminded, was an independent State of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and harmony. He noted that in the past two years the situation in the Middle East had undergone tremendous changes, which had diverted the attention of the international community from the Palestinian question. Still, he maintained, that question was the core of the Middle East issue.
58. Most recently, he said, the international community had intensified its efforts to promote peace, and Palestine and Israel, for their part, had expressed their positive intention to resume peace talks. In order for the new round of talks to succeed, however, the parties, as well as the international community, had to take effective action to remove obstacles on the way forward. Outlining the position of China, he highlighted the following points: settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, should be stopped, as should house demolitions. The religious and cultural characteristics of Jerusalem should be well respected and protected; all violence against the civilian population should be halted and both Palestinians and Israelis should be able to enjoy their fundamental rights to subsistence and security; and internal reconciliation among Palestinians should continue to be facilitated. Only through unity could all Palestinian factions guarantee the statehood of Palestine, as well as truly implement any peace agreement reached between Palestine and Israel. Mr. Li stated that China regarded the successful settlement of the above issues as instrumental in resuming Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and realizing the two-State solution. Both parties, and especially Israel, since it had an advantage, should seize the current opportunity by removing obstacles and meeting each other half way in order to resume the peace talks as soon as possible and keep the process moving forward.
59. China was among the first countries to support the Palestinian cause for national liberation and recognize the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine,
Mr. Li recalled. Since the start of the Middle East peace process, China had been resolute in its support for Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and, in recent years, China had actively supported the membership of Palestine in the United Nations and other international organizations as a State. The previous month, he pointed out, China had hosted Palestinian and Israeli leaders on their separate visits to China and President Xi Jinping had raised with them the four-point proposal for the settlement of the Palestinian question, which emphasized in particular that Palestine and Israel should take effective steps to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of peace talks. In closing, he said that as long as Palestine and Israel and the international community stayed the course towards peace and made persistent efforts, any obstacles in the way forward would be overcome and the shared aspirations of the Palestinian and Israeli people, as well as the Chinese people and those all over the world, would eventually be realized.
60. Daniel Ben Simon, a former Member of the Knesset (Labour), focused his intervention on the current political atmosphere in Israel and its impact on the peace process. For the fist time in the history of Israel, he said, the peace process was not an issue raised during the campaign for the January 2013 elections. Two issues were at the centre of the political debate: social equality, following the demonstrations that saw 400,000 Israelis take to the streets calling for more equitable distribution of wealth; and how to deal with the 15 to 20 per cent strong ultra-orthodox community and whether they should be called to conscript. He pointed out that no party, including his own, which had lost its Prime Minister Yitzhaq Rabin because of the peace process, raised this issue during the campaign. The current mood in Israel, he elaborated, was focused on how to make the society fairer and how to reduce the economic gap among people. In his view, because of this disinterest in the occupation, Benjamin Netanyahu had been re-elected and Tzipi Livni’s party had gone from holding 26 to 6 seats in the Knesset.
61. Mr. Simon described Prime Minister Netanyahu as “Mister status quo”, which, he added, reflected perfectly the current mood of the Israelis. The visit by President Obama to Israel in March 2013 had not left anything behind, and the shuttle diplomacy of United States Secretary of State John Kerry no longer made the news, he noted. Those who believed that the two-State solution was dead did not want to openly discuss the one-State solution. He pointed out that the previous five years had been relatively peaceful, life in Israel was good, and therefore people were turning to internal issues, like identity, religion and how to deal with the ultra-orthodox groups. In fact, he added, the previous day, the Knesset had adopted important budget cuts in every line of spending, except for the settlers.
62. In Mr. Simon’s view, Israel and Palestine were not ready to divorce; hence, they would probably continue to stay together. The issue was what form this co-existence would take and whether Israel could be a true democracy. “What rights will Palestinians enjoy?”, he questioned. In the next 20 years, with the demographic shift, it would become a Palestinian State. We would then be faced with a one-State solution, without calling it such, he said. If this was the likely outcome, he concluded, the issue was not whether Israelis and Palestinians should live together, but how.
63. Qais Abdel-Karim Khader, Chairman of the Committee for Social Affairs and Health of the Palestinian Legislative Council, pointed to a growing awareness that the chronic impasse in the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli peace process could no longer be dealt with in the old conventional ways. The overwhelming vote in the United Nations General Assembly in favour of the resolution granting Palestine the status of a non-member observer State was a clear expression of such awareness of the international community. It was no longer sufficient to urge the parties to return to the negotiating table; tangible measures creating the appropriate environment for a meaningful and credible negotiation process were required.
64. In this context, he opined that a more realistic approach to the issue of Palestinian reconciliation needed to be formulated. He stressed that reconciliation was an internal Palestinian affair, and its finalization was a purely Palestinian decision. However, it was a decision influenced by external, regional and international factors that continued to place obstacles in the path of rapprochement among Palestinians. Therefore, he reasoned, the international community had a responsibility to protect Palestinian reconciliation from such negative external factors. He argued that Palestinian reconciliation was an essential element of the international legitimacy relevant to the question of Palestine. In paragraph 7 of its resolution 1860 (2009), the Security Council had encouraged “tangible steps towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation, including in support for mediation efforts of Egypt and the League of Arab States”. By that decision, the international community recognized the fact that Palestinian reconciliation was a necessary requirement for the progress and success of the peace process.
65. Reconciliation was necessary in order to enable the peace process to achieve its final goal, the implementation of the two-state solution and the actual independence of the State of Palestine and its sovereignty over its territory in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. This would be unachievable, he said, in the case of the perpetuation of Palestinian division, which was no longer merely a political split between factions and political forces, but had developed into a separatist situation between Gaza and the West Bank, where the segregation between the two prevailing political systems continued to deepen. Reconciliation was also necessary to launch a meaningful and sustainable process of negotiations. It would obliterate the Israeli pretext that it was useless to negotiate with a Palestinian party that, allegedly, could not guarantee the implementation of any agreement. It would also enhance the ability of the Palestinian leadership to engage in a sensitive negotiating process whose sustainability depended, to a large extent, on the degree of popular support and ultimately on national consensus.
66. Mr. Khader maintained that the Palestinian reconciliation accords addressed both issues. The national consensus document, signed by all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, in June 2006, the Cairo agreement of May 2011, and the agreement signed in Doha in February 2012, stipulated that the steering of negotiations with Israel was the prerogative of the PLO and the President of the Palestinian National Authority, and that any agreement reached should be submitted for approval to the Palestinian National Council and/or a general referendum. Unfortunately, he lamented, those accords were rejected by Israel, which had a vested interest in the perpetuation of the Palestinian division, with the backing of the United States. He added that the objections were accompanied by threats to resort to severe retaliatory measures if the Palestinians took practical steps towards reconciliation, such as a boycott of the Palestinian national consensus government, the imposition of economic and financial sanctions and security restraints, and perhaps the use of force by the occupying Power to obstruct any general elections that involve the participation of Hamas. If these measures were carried out, he concluded, the implementation of the Palestinian reconciliation accords would simply be unfeasible. He called upon the international community to protect the Palestinians from the devastating effects of such retaliatory measures.
67. Referring to the Israeli and United States American argumentation that reconciliation with Hamas was an obstacle to peace, he said it was based on ignorance of the accords, which provided for a transitional national consensus government to be made up of independent figures, not affiliated with Fatah or Hamas, which would be headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, and whose main function would be the holding of general elections within three months of its inauguration. In this context, he invited the United Nations to play an active role both in facilitating this process by urging those Member States that were host to communities of Palestinian refugees and/or expatriates to permit participation in the elections in their countries, as well as to develop a mechanism to enable the United Nations to be a partner in overseeing the elections. He assured that the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as in the various countries of the diaspora, looked forward to the day when reconciliation was achieved. He believed that the will of the people would, at the end of the day, force its way, and that it was up to the international community to encourage this process by putting the relevant United Nations resolutions into practice.
68. In the brief discussion between participants that followed, Mr. Simon said that in the minds of Israelis today, there was a sense that the occupation was “institutionalized”. Yifat Bitton, of Sha’arei Mishpatim Law College, in Israel, said that Jewish-Israelis were frightened by the idea of a binational State, and wondered how there would be “enough for both peoples”. She argued that perhaps opening the discussion of a one-State solution might get Israelis to return to a discussion of the two-State solution. Mr. Wright pointed to an assessment that things were going well in the West Bank, and said that might be the case for settlers, but according to recent reports of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the West Bank economy would remain severely constrained by the occupying Power unless the obstacles and restrictions were removed. Mr. Tibi opined that Israelis would not accept a one-State solution. It would create an apartheid situation, which was not acceptable to the Palestinians. Mr. Al-Salhi said the common feeling in the Israeli society was that there could be no real negotiation until Palestinian violence stopped. But when there were quiet periods between Israelis and Palestinians, the argument was that Israel did not need to deal with a solution. Because of this general viewpoint among Israeli society, in his view, a “real intervention” by the international community was needed to prevent a new cycle of violence.
B. Plenary session II
United Nations and Palestine
69. The speakers in plenary session II addressed the following sub-themes: (a) “United Nations General Assembly and Security Council action in response to violations of international law”; (b) “Investigating the implications of Israeli settlements for Palestinian rights: international fact-finding mission dispatched by the Human Rights Council”; (c) “The status of Palestine’s application in the Security Council”; (d) “General Assembly support for non-member observer State status: a vote for the two-State solution”; and (e) “The role of the main United Nations organs in breaking the status quo: seizing the opportunities, avoiding the pitfalls”. The Plenary was chaired by Christopher Grima, Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations and Rapporteur of the Committee.
70. Abdullah Abdullah, Head of the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council, noted that the Meeting was convened at an important time of stepped up engagement by China in the peace process, including through the four-point proposal presented by President Xi Jinping to the President of Palestine and the Israeli Prime Minister on their separate visits to China earlier in May. However, the peace effort launched by United States Secretary of State John Kerry faced a “near stalemate”, owing to the preconditions of Israel.
71. The United Nations, he recalled, had been dealing with the issue since 1947, and he reviewed in detail that history of its engagement. With the start of the occupation in 1967, the Security Council, by its resolution 242 (1967), had declared inadmissible the seizing of territory by force. Thereafter, acts committed by Israel in violation of that principle had been considered by the General Assembly or Security Council through the adoption of numerous resolutions. Unfortunately, he said, none had been implemented, which had led to the conclusion that the “United Nations has become irrelevant to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, and that it could not prevent Israel from violating its Charter and resolutions or international law.
72. Later on, he continued, “sidestepping the United Nations” became evident after the Madrid Conference, when the United States became dominant in ushering in a peace process in the Middle East. Nonetheless, the United Nations had continued to consider violations of or aggression by the Government of Israel against the Palestinians with several investigative commissions. Also, the International Court of Justice had done so in 2004 by its advisory opinion, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he noted. More recently, he added, a fact-finding mission had been established by the United Nations Human Rights Council to assess the impact of settlements on all aspects of Palestinian life. Those bodies reported to the United Nations, but, unfortunately, no action had been taken, he regretted.
73. He recalled that, when President Mahmoud Abbas had decided to bring the question of Palestine back to the United Nations and apply for membership, the Palestinians had faced resentment and rejection from the United States and Israel. The United States had done its utmost to “spoil” the application and had even taken punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority. Israel, for its part, approved more settlements, issued more restrictions and turned a blind eye to the escalation of settler violence. It also stopped remittances to the Palestinians from tax revenues. However, he stated, those measures had not deterred the Palestinians. In his opinion, the United Nations must be at the forefront of peacemaking. The United Nations had to play a bigger role because through its numerous resolutions, including its endorsement of the road map in 2003, it had already determined how the peace process could proceed, starting with the cessation of settlement activity.
74. He pointed out that regardless of all of the United Nations resolutions, the position of Israel on the negotiations was not helping the process move forward. Israel had claimed that it wanted to negotiate without preconditions; however, it had stated that the issues of the status of Jerusalem, the right of return for refugees and settlements were not negotiable. Even, he noted, the Jordan Valley, which was considered by Israel as a military base against a possible attack, was not on the table. On the other hand, he stressed, Israelis demanded that Palestinians recognize the Jewish character of their State. Mr. Abdullah emphasized that if the peace process were frozen, it would be a risky predicament not only for the Palestinians, but for the Israelis as well. The Palestinians were prepared to extend a hand to Israel, he declared. However, peace could be achieved only where justice was upheld, and there could be security only where people had full enjoyment of their rights.
75. Christine Chanet, Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements and Member of the Committee against Torture, evoked the establishment of the Mission in March 2012 by the United Nations Human Rights Council, on the basis of the principles of “do no harm”, independence, impartiality, objectivity, transparency, confidentiality, integrity and professionalism. The Mission, she noted, had addressed many requests for cooperation to the Government of Israel, but it had not received any response. Thus, in order to obtain direct and first-hand observations, it had held a series of meetings in Geneva and Jordan. It had collected information from more than 50 people affected by the settlements and had also issued a public call for written submissions, which had yielded 62 responses. Regrettably, she stated, the Mission had learned that Israeli journalists, academics, politicians, lawyers and other civil society members who had criticized the settlements had been discredited in the Israeli public discourse.
76. Turning to the facts identified by the mission, she said that nothing new had been uncovered and it had come to the same conclusions previously reached by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Secretary-General of the United Nations in their reports to the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly and the Ambassadors of the European Union accredited in Ramallah in their report expressing concern about the settlements and new plans for their expansion, in particular the E-1 area. The Mission, therefore, had suggested two new approaches: examine the situation on the ground in its globality and new elements regarding international law.
77. A simple look at the map, she explained, showed that the mesh of constructions and infrastructures was leading to creeping annexation, preventing the establishment of a contiguous, viable Palestinian State, and was undermining the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. She recalled article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, prohibiting an occupying Power from transferring part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupied. The Rome Statute (art. 8) considered that a war crime, and ratification of the Statute by Palestine could lead to accountability for gross violation of human rights laws and serious violations of international humanitarian law. However, the right to self-determination was not the only human right violated by the settlements, she underscored, adding that the Palestinian people had to face settler violence. Some Palestinians saw their houses demolished when Israel declared part of the land as a military zone. The daily life of women, men and children was also problematic, as the settlements were established for the “exclusive benefit” of Israeli Jews and were maintained and developed through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Ms. Chanet pointed out that the numerous checkpoints and strict military control undermined freedom of movement, and impeded access to places of worship, property and natural resources, especially water.
78. She mentioned that discrimination in daily life also existed in the application of the law, since in fact two distinct legal systems were in place in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which were applied separately to Israeli settlers and Palestinians. The latter population was routinely subjected to arbitrary arrests and detentions, including administrative detention. In 2012, approximately 4,100 Palestinians were in military detention, of whom 143 were between the ages of 16 and 18, and 21 were under the age of 16. From the time of their arrest, those detainees had faced multiple violations of their rights to liberty, security and fair trial; 60 per cent of Palestinian children served their sentences inside Israel. She informed that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had recently sent an urgent appeal to Israel indicating that that situation was not acceptable and that it was the only situation of its kind existing in the world.
79. Ms. Chanet informed that, in its report, which had been endorsed by the Human Rights Council on 22 March 2013, the mission had put forward a number of recommendations: the international community should call on Israel to comply with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and cease all settlement activities without preconditions; urge it to ensure prompt remedy for all Palestinian victims of human rights violations; put an end to violations linked to the presence of settlements and ensure full accountability for all settler violence; and put an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of the Palestinian people.
80. The mission, she concluded, had also called on all Member States to comply with their obligations under international law and to assume their responsibilities in their relations with a State breaching norms of international law. In addition, private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and ensure that they did not adversely affect the Palestinian people. Finally, she mentioned, Member States had to take appropriate measures to ensure that businesses in their territory or under their jurisdiction conduct activities in or related to the settlements, and respect human rights throughout their operations.
81. Nawaf Salam, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations in New York, discussed the role of the Security Council in the application of the State of Palestine for membership in the United Nations. Lebanon was on the Security Council as an elected member, and Mr. Salam had presided over it during the month the application had been submitted. When the submission of Palestine reached the Council, the 15-member body had had to look into whether the entity applying met all the criteria for statehood, as outlined in the Montevideo Convention of 1933, he explained. There were specific criteria under international law defining statehood: a permanent population, the Palestinians; and a territory, as Gaza and the West Bank could be considered as such. He pointed out that the fact that final borders not having been defined was not an impediment to statehood, as it was the case for other States where borders where disputed with neighbouring countries. The third criteria, he said, was that functioning institutions for self-government were in place.
82. In the case of Palestine, he continued, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Peace Process had concluded that Palestinian governmental functions were, at the time, sufficient for a functioning State. Those conclusions had been confirmed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, members of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, at its meeting on
19 March 2013. Another criterion for statehood, he continued, was that the entity had the capacity to enter into relations with other States. It was evident that that criteria had been met, given that Palestine had missions and embassies operating in more than 100 countries. Another factor considered, he noted, was whether membership would violate previous agreements. The basis for Palestinian statehood preceded any Palestinian-Israeli agreement, hence it could not be in violation of them. In fact, he added, Palestinian statehood was rooted in General Assembly resolution 181 (1947), often labelled as Israel’s “birth certificate”.
83. Ambassador Salam continued describing the many meetings held on this question by the Security Council, including those of the expert-level Committee on the Admission of New Members, designed to look into the application. The Security Council did not reject the application; however, it was not put to a vote, as it was expected that the vote would yield a number of abstentions or that the application would be vetoed. At the time, the report of the Security Council had concluded that the Committee had been unable to make a unanimous recommendation to the Council.
84. Since then, he said, the issue had been resolved by the General Assembly, with the adoption of resolution 67/19 on 29 November 2012, which admitted Palestine as a non-member observer State; thus the question of Palestinian statehood was now moot. Concluding, he stressed that the Security Council had the responsibility, under the Charter of the United Nations, to help the newborn State of Palestine, or any newly admitted State or observer, to put an end to occupation and secure its independence. The Council was still tasked to look into Palestine’s full-fledged membership, and he expressed hope that it would consider it favourably.
85. La Yifan, Deputy Director-General of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, said that, since its inception, the United Nations had accorded prominence to the Palestine issue in the General Assembly, the Security Council, its human rights body and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. He reminded that UNRWA had made valuable contributions to alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people. Regrettably, he said, all United Nations resolutions on the Palestine issue had yet to be fully and effectively implemented. The Middle East peace process needed to be revived, the security and humanitarian situations remained grave, and the establishment of a Palestinian State was still an uphill struggle.
86. Looking forward, Mr. La outlined China’s view of the challenges that the United Nations needed to address: it must continue to push for an early resumption of the Palestine-Israel talks and strive for substantive results. History had shown time and again that there was no military solution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel. The two sides had to reach agreement through political talks and find a way to break the impasse. He recalled that Palestine had recently launched a bid for United Nations membership, and its efforts had received the understanding and respect of the international community granting it observer status at the United Nations and earlier when it was granted full membership in UNESCO. The Security Council, so far, had failed to reach agreement on the application of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations.
87. He pointed out that the United Nations should find a comprehensive solution to the Palestine issue by reinforcing the linkages between peace and development. The Government of Palestine faced a mounting deficit, the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the Gaza Strip, remained bleak, and the blockade imposed by Israel against the Gaza Strip had aggravated the plight of the Palestinian people. The United Nations was therefore duty-bound to sharpen its focus on the local economic and social situation by increasing support to alleviate the humanitarian situation, improve the livelihood of the local population and work towards the goal of mutually inclusive, reconciliatory and peaceful coexistence of peoples of different ethnicities and religions.
88. The issue of Palestine was at the heart of the Middle East question, he declared. In the context of fundamental transition in the region, that issue had taken on greater importance and added urgency. Promoting a just and peaceful solution was critical to the long-term peace and security of the region. To achieve this goal, China believed that the United Nations should enhance its role in some important areas: first, the Security Council must engage in a more active and pragmatic way so as to expand its role in achieving the early resumption and substantial progress of Palestinian-Israeli talks, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State and the peaceful coexistence of the two States. The Security Council needed to reiterate that the relevant United Nations resolutions on the Palestine issue must be effectively implemented, that both sides needed to take effective measures to overcome barriers to the peace talks to achieve their early resumption and substantial progress, and that violations of United Nations resolutions were unacceptable. The Security Council also needed to send missions, at the request of the Palestinian side, to assess the situation on the ground, and show its support to the Palestinian people. In addition, the Security Council should grant its early approval of Palestine’s application for full United Nations membership.
89. Second, he continued, the United Nations needed to strengthen its involvement in humanitarian and development efforts, and adopt an integrated approach to the Palestinian issue. Over the years, the Committee, UNRWA and other United Nations agencies had joined forces and made positive contributions to resolving the issues of Palestinian refugees, the environment, the protection of the rights of women and girls, and humanitarian assistance. The United Nations had to make innovative efforts and utilize the resources of all relevant agencies in order to ensure that they work together towards a common goal. At the same time, he opined, the United Nations should mobilize the various resources made available by the international community and increase its support to Palestine in the areas of human resources and economic development. All pledges of support must be honoured by all parties in a timely manner, he stressed.
90. Third, he put forward, the United Nations needed to expand its cooperation with all regional organizations, including the League of Arab States, to bring into play their respective comparative advantages, in a concerted effort to move the peace talks forward. Because of its geographical proximity and common culture, he noted, China viewed the Arab League as having a unique role to play in settling the dispute through such peaceful means as mediation, negotiation and good offices and creating an enabling environment and necessary conditions in this regard. In closing, he said that China expected that with the joint support of all peace-loving countries, the United Nations would make even greater contributions to safeguarding the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and promoting the Middle East peace talks.
91. Mohammed Loulichki, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations in New York, noting that his delegation currently held a seat on the Security Council, called for the revival of collective international engagement towards the two-State solution. He said that he had planned some of his remarks to focus on Jerusalem, in particular the importance of transforming a hybrid city into a binational city, and one of the bridges for cooperation and peace between the different religions living there. However, he explained, the earlier debate had centred on a one-State solution versus a two-State solution, so he wished to address that important issue.
92. He pointed out that the search for peace in the Middle East, particularly the Palestinian-Israeli track, was at an impasse. More and more influential figures from both sides were now saying that it was time for a one-State solution, he noted. The vision of two States was a culmination of decades of wars and negotiations, he explained. The Oslo and subsequent negotiations had led to a possibility of a practical solution of two States, but, unfortunately, he remarked, the absence of political will and visionary leadership had prevented a positive outcome. The two-State solution had been sponsored by the United States, he explained, which was a “broker” for that vision, adding momentum to the idea among the Palestinian people and worldwide. The Palestinians should not be blamed for not having been a genuine partner for peace. He reminded that the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, combined with the lack of engagement by Israel, had triggered pessimism about the two-State solution. At this point, he reasoned, admitting failure would mean that the United Nations and the international community had been unable to deliver on a promise made 56 years ago to the Arabs, particularly, to the Palestinians. Moreover, if the painful compromises by the Palestinians were not rewarded with a solution based on United Nations resolutions, it would be a blow to the credibility of the United Nations.
93. He recalled that in the 1960s both sides had contemplated the idea of a one-State solution as appealing. To argue it, one should start by considering what configuration one State would have. One view would envision a Jewish State with a majority of Jews living with a large minority of Palestinians. A second option, he continued, would be a binational State, such as a federation or confederation. A third option would entail a secular State with two nations fully integrated and not separated, living within one border. Finally, there was the option of one State with one person-one vote with constitutional guarantees for both Palestinians and Israelis enjoying the same rights to prevent any discrimination or domination.
94. He declared that, despite all these options, the one-State solution was still not a realistic one. Neither side, he said, was ready to accept it, not when walls had been built and land expropriated, and resentment and frustration had grown. Moreover, the Palestinians did not buy the idea that it would be a democratic State. Also, Israelis were not ready to lose the Jewish character of a State and Palestinians would not remain a minority. Hence, the idea of one State remained “intellectually attractive, but ‘politically unachievable’,” he concluded. Thus, there was no alternative than “sticking to” the two-State solution and trying to implement it “as quickly as possible”. Otherwise, the alternative was extremism and chaos. Over the years, Palestinians had shown their strength through their resilience and resistance to the occupation, through their commitment to the negotiation process and through the support of the international community in favour of a shared land with a shared capital. Referring to the spirit of cooperation and co-existence that he saw during the Casablanca conference, after the signing of the Oslo Accords, he called for reviving the spirit for the sake of generations to come.
95. In the discussion that followed, the Ambassador of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, addressing the issue of the one-State solution, said that the fastest way to get there would be to have a two-State solution. The problem, he affirmed, was that as long as there was no independent State next door to Israel, Palestinians would never be treated as equals. Discussions of a one-State solution were merely an academic exercise reflecting the frustration with the political stalemate. Once an equal State next to Israel existed, he assured, then the door would open to a new historical relationship. No one would have thought, after the Second World War that reconciliation between Germany and France was conceivable, but if those countries succeeded in forging the relation they have today, he argued, it would be possible also for Israelis and Palestinians. However, he continued, the foundation of an independent Palestinian State had to be laid first, before the doors would open to a new relationship, adding that anything less would be a continuation of the subordination of the Palestinian people, whether inside the Green Line, in East Jerusalem, or inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Ms. Bitton said she agreed with the comments of the Ambassador, and she thought that Israelis might be willing to discuss a two-State solution only because a one-State solution frightened them. Mr. La argued that the parties should be convinced of the benefits of the two-State solution and the idea should be promoted, including through these meetings, which should be held also in Israel and in the United States. Other panellists also agreed with Ambassador Mansour that ultimately, the two-State solution was the durable solution. Respect for the right of self-determination should be upheld and occupation, abnormal and contrary to international law, had to end.
C. Plenary session III
Towards a resumption of meaningful negotiations:
the role of the international community
96. The speakers in plenary session III addressed the following sub-themes: (a) “Action by individual United Nations Member States”; (b) “Initiatives by regional organizations: Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, League of Arab States, European Union, Association of South East Asian Nations”; and (c) “Support for the two-State solution by civil society”. The plenary was chaired by Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez, the Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations and Vice-Chair of the Committee.
97. Wu Sike, Special Envoy of China on the Middle East Issue, acknowledging that the conflict was “both acute and complex”, said it could not be resolved by the efforts of the parties alone. The international community needed to lend its strong support and make concerted efforts. Having dealt with this issue for many years, he realized that all progress and achievements were the result of the efforts of the international community, including the establishment of the principle of “land for peace”, the signing of the Oslo Accords and the launch of the Arab Peace Initiative. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict had a far-reaching impact on the peace and security of the region and, indeed, of the world and, for this reason, he argued, the international community had the responsibility to facilitate the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
98. Referring to his recent visit to Palestine, Israel, Egypt and Jordan, he said, he felt an even greater yearning on the part of the people in the region for Palestinian-Israeli peace. He remarked that the parties involved showed a greater willingness to promote peace and the resumption of negotiations. The peace process, however, still faced many obstacles and, reflecting on what to do next, China had specific suggestions. It was crucial to uphold justice. The Palestinian demand to end the occupation as well as their legitimate right to establish an independent and sovereign State, should be respected. Pushing for the removal of settlements and other obstacles to promote mutual trust between the Palestinians and the Israelis was necessary, as was pushing for the early resumption of peace talks with substantive progress.
99. China also believed it was necessary to do more to support the Palestinian economy and the training of its people. Efforts to improve the Palestinian humanitarian situation and to contribute to Palestinian economic and social development, especially in the areas of infrastructure, investment and development, had to be exerted, so that the State of Palestine would gain capacity for sustainable self-development and would have the human resources needed for an independent State. Moreover, he said, the security situation on the ground needed to be improved. Palestinians and the Israelis should be urged to end violence and stop all violent activity targeting the civilians of either side. This, he opined, would go a long way to prevent interference in efforts to resume negotiations. He also called for promoting civilian exchanges and dialogues. Encouraging and supporting engagement between the two peoples, especially among their young people, would allow peace to take root in their hearts, which would have a far-reaching impact and would lay the foundation for a durable peace.
100. As a member of the international community, China actively supported international efforts to promote peace and has always been a positive force in promoting the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Mr. Wu stressed that China believed in its traditional thinking "peace is of paramount importance" and its diplomatic doctrine of “peaceful settlement of international disputes and crises”. For this reason, he affirmed, the Government of China had always attached great importance to the promotion of peace between Palestine and Israel. The post of Special Envoy for the Middle East was the first special envoy ever appointed by the Government of China, he noted. Not long after the new Chinese Administration was sworn in, he highlighted, it had invited the leaders of Palestine and Israel to Beijing and had encouraged the resumption of negotiations. President Xi Jinping also put forward a four-point proposal for the settlement of the Palestinian question, he recalled.
101. He noted that his country had provided assistance for Palestinian development, with no strings attached. The previous month it had once again pledged to provide economic and technological assistance to Palestine and cash assistance for the emergency humanitarian relief efforts. It had also pledged to train 1,000 Palestinian professionals over the next three years, and it would increase its support to education and other areas. On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords, the international community was facing new realities in its efforts to promote peace, he opined. All relevant parties should act with a greater sense of urgency and redouble their efforts. China was a permanent member of the Security Council, and he assured that it was working with the rest of the international community to promote the resumption of peace negotiations and to make its contribution to the achievement of peace and stability in the region.
102. Abdulaziz Aboughosh, Ambassador of Palestine to Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Brunei Darussalam, said that, despite all the efforts exerted by the international community over 20 years of negotiations to find a solution to the Palestinian issue, the colonial settlement policy of the Government of Israel and all illegal measures against the Palestinian people had brought negotiations to a standstill. He welcomed the recent attempts to restart negotiations by the United States, European initiatives, and the four-point proposal of Chinese President Xi Jinping as important steps in the right direction.
103. Palestinian primary goals in engaging in direct negotiations with Israel, he reminded, were to ensure their freedom and the fulfilment of the right to self-determination and a just resolution of the plight of the Palestine refugees. To promote meaningful negotiations, Palestine called on the international community to urge Israel to stop the colonization of East Jerusalem and the West Bank and to end the siege on Gaza; to stop all kinds of financial and other support to Israel mainly by removing tax advantages for financially supporting settlements; and bring Israel before the International Criminal Court to be held accountable for all humanitarian crimes and violations against Palestinians.
104. At the same time, he urged the international community to take immediate and concrete steps to secure the release of the Palestinians prisoners, including all those held without charges; help in establishing a viable Palestinian State based on pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital; insist that Israel negotiate a prompt and just solution to the refugee problem; put an end to the Gaza blockade; and impose sanctions, military, economic, social, cultural, sports and in other fields, in order to impel Israel to comply with international law and to implement United Nations resolutions aimed at achieving Middle East peace.
105. The actions of Israel to intensify its control over Palestinian lives, land and natural resources were eroding the possibility of a two-State solution, he said, declaring that Palestinians were ready for lasting peace based on international law, and their positions were clear and known to the world. Palestinians were ready to make tough concessions, once again, but they could not wait forever for their freedom. The illegal actions of Israel had to stop; the international community could and must play a role and hold Israel accountable. It was time to grant the Palestinians their long-awaited freedom, he declared.
106. Yifat Bitton, Associate Professor of Law, Sha-arei Mishpatim Law College, Hod HaSharon, Israel, based her remarks on a paper entitled “Discrimination due to Arabness and Jewish-Arabness and the New Bridge for Peace for Israel and Palestine”. At the outset,
Ms. Bitton stated that while the Israeli society was usually considered very homogeneous, it was in fact composed of three distinct ethnic groups: the “Ashkenazis”, or Jews of European descent, the Mizrahis, Jews of Arab/Muslim descent, and the group of African, mainly Ethiopian descent. She argued that reliance on the concept of “difference” in claims of discrimination failed to acknowledge discrimination within groups. She advanced the notion of discrimination as difference-based as too limited, which missed forms of discrimination shaped and practiced within a “sameness” socio-legal environment. That point was exemplified by analysing the case of the de facto discriminated group of Mizrahi Jews in Israel, who were officially recognized as Jews but were discriminated against in practice, although to a much smaller extent than the Palestinians, the ultimate “Others”.
107. Discrimination, she continued, was traditionally perceived as a practice of domination comprising the following stages held by the hegemonic group against a minority group:
(i) identifying alleged differences between the two groups; (ii) using these differences to establish distinctiveness; and (iii) using the distinctive features to draw the lines of unjustified differential treatment of the minority group. This discrimination format, she explained, did not apply to all disadvantaged groups. The intra-Jewish Israeli discrimination setting, for example, was rooted in the opposite notion of “sameness” rather than of difference. The discrimination from which Mizrahi Jews suffered was defined by a twofold similarity the group members carried: to Israeli Jews on the one hand, and to Arab Palestinians, on the other hand. Basing the argument on the studies of Edward Said’s book Orientalism, she argued that Mizrahis were in fact an invented group that to a significant extent served as the “Orient” of eurocentric Israel.
108. In a radical move, she argued, in order to cross into the anti-discrimination discourse in an effective way, Mizrahi Jews should embrace the “Arab” component of their own identity. In her opinion, reconstructing Mizrahis’ legal identity as “Arab” would create a discursive “third space” for both Palestinians and Mizrahis, in which they could collaborate in articulating and contesting unique shared oppression allegations. To elucidate this point, she put forward an example of how in Israel the link between settlements and welfare was detrimental to both Palestinians and Mizrahis. In fact, she explained, the funding allocated to the settlers was much higher than the welfare provided to the poorest groups in the Israeli society. That, she further commented, was one of the main reasons for the recent protests in Israel. A two-pronged critique of Israeli discrimination systems could benefit both groups, and pave a new path for a “bridge” between Palestinians and Jews; however, she admitted, that approach had not gained serious review and evaluation so far. She called for Mizrahis and Palestinians alike to break the identities set for them by the Arab-Jew binary, and reconstruct them more fluidly and realistically. Once the identities were reconceptualized as what was known in cultural studies as a “third space,” some barriers between the two groups and between them and the attainment of justice would be demolished, she declared.
109. Shlomo Molla, a former Member of the Knesset for Kadima and Hatnuah, noting that the peace process had been ongoing for 20 years, said that hope had been lost when Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated by a Jew. He criticized current Prime Minister Netanyahu as a tragedy for Israel, adding that the he was only a politician and not a visionary leader. In his view, the majority of Israelis understood that peace with Palestine was needed, but Prime Minister Netanyahu by himself, without pressure from Europe and the United States, would not be looking for a solution. The strategy of Mr. Netanyahu, he opined, was holding talks for talks’ sake, keeping the process going. For that reason, he recalled, Tzipi Livni, Minister of Justice and Chief Negotiator on the Palestinian Issue, had declared that she would not remain in the Government, if Mr. Netanyahu did not conduct serious negotiations within one year.
110. Mr. Molla encouraged the United Nations to play a very strong game with regard to the peace talks and to take some strong actions. He suggested that the United Nations must admit the Palestinian State into its ranks. When the United Nations, on 29 November 2012, took the Palestinians seriously, Israel should have realized something was changing, he affirmed. Thus, a way must be found to create the State of Palestine within the framework of the United Nations, he opined. Moreover, he added, the United Nations must ask Israel to release the more than 8,000 prisoners in Israeli jails. The United Nations must also do its best to unite the Palestinian people because Israel’s major concern was the separation of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. He also proposed that the United Nations called on the Government of Israel to remove the checkpoints. Finally, the United Nations, as well as non-governmental organizations, must work to create a new environment and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, people to people, professional to professionals, youth to youth.
111. In closing, Mr. Molla affirmed that Israelis were very concerned about a one-State solution and, in his view, they would never agree to that. And even if they did, it would be a State of apartheid in the West Bank, not a democratic one-State with equal rights for all its citizens. For this reason, he called on all Governments to push for the resumption of direct talks, in view of reaching a two-State solution.
112. Nathan Stock, Assistant Director, Conflict Resolution Programme, the Carter Center, outlining the history of the attempts made in the last 25 years to reach a peace agreement, from the Algiers Declaration in 1988 to the Declaration of Principles in 1993 and the Oslo process that followed, it was clear, he stated, that that approach had not been successful. In fact, far from creating an independent State of Palestine, the number of Israeli settlers living in the occupied territory had nearly tripled since the Declaration of Principles had been signed. When late Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat had signed the Declaration, he had taken an historic gamble – he had put his faith in the Government of the United States to act as an “honest broker” between the two sides, but also to push Israel to compromise. That gamble had been predicated on certain, seemingly reasonable assumptions. First, especially as of the early 1990s, the United States was undoubtedly the world’s only superpower. Second, it had enormous potential leverage with Israel, through generous annual military aid and the use of its veto in the Security Council. Third, and perhaps most importantly, a peace agreement was in the national interest of the United States.
113. However, he explained, the United States had long had a general pro-Israel bias and had elaborated on its roots. Unfortunately, the gamble of Yassir Arafat had not paid off, he noted. For much of the last 20 years, the United States had been generally willing to act as a mediator between the two sides, but it had been generally unwilling to use incentives and disincentives to encourage Israel to make politically difficult decisions. The reason for that, he believed, was a reduction in the role of the United Nations as the mediator between Israel and the Arab world and in a qualitative change in nature of the pro-Israel bias in the United States. There was a well-documented rise of the right wing, pro-Israel lobby in the United States. By the 1990s, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and allied groups were a more potent force than they had been during the Nixon and Carter years. The political positions of the lobby had also moved to the right, mirroring the evolving political discourse in Israel. Also, the attacks carried out on 11 September 2001 in the United States had made Muslims, as a whole, appear threatening to many Americans. There was a tendency, particularly on the right, to label all Muslims with the brush of Al-Qaeda. In this context, the Palestinians had suddenly appeared threatening to many Americans. Israeli officials had moved quickly to argue that the United States and Israel were now fighting a common terrorist enemy. Finally, he believed that there existed an influential minority in the United States, including some political elites, who viewed United States and Israeli national interests as essentially one and the same. However, no two countries were the same, nor could their interests align on every issue, he argued.
114. Despite the shift in perception of some United States political elites, he noted that President Obama did not personally ascribe to this world view. He believed President Obama would like to see a two-State solution and Secretary of State John Kerry would like to be remembered as the Secretary who had resolved this conflict. But in his opinion, Secretary Kerry could be successful only if the President decided to use the full powers of his Office. Unfortunately, he lamented, his record to date suggested that President Obama had no intention of prioritizing Palestine in that way, and rather viewed this issue as a political liability that was less important than the domestic policy struggles. However, he believed that the status quo would not endure forever. A new generation of American Jews was much more likely than their parents to question Israeli policy and was less likely to accept Israeli practices that were out of sync with their liberal values. In his view, that trend suggested that in the coming decades a more robust pro-peace Jewish political constituency would emerge.
115. But in the near term, he opined, it would be up to the Palestinians to challenge the status quo. This should include, he suggested, a series of four integrated measures designed to non-violently shift the balance of power vis-à-vis Israel. First, the Fatah leadership should make every effort to reconcile with Hamas. A new Legislative Council, National Council and Presidential elections should come out from this process. Second, the PLO should be prepared to take additional steps at the United Nations and other international forums to assert Palestinian sovereignty and pressure Israel. The General Assembly vote of 29 November 2012 not only conferred non-member observer State status on Palestine; it also demonstrated that the Palestinians had leverage with regard to Israel and the international community. Further action could include a series of graduated measures, such as signing non-threatening international instruments and conventions, joining those international agencies that were strategically important to the United States, or accessing judicial bodies such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, without automatically taking the next step of filing cases against Israel. Third, he stressed that the PLO should insist on international law, including Security Council resolutions, as the reference point for the resolution of the conflict, as well as insist on holding the Israeli occupation to account for violations of international humanitarian law. Fourth, a unified Palestinian leadership should begin to develop a broad-based strategy for popular mobilization and non-violent resistance and develop some form of coordinated strategy. The PLO/Palestinian Authority also would have to help ensure that the messages and goals of the non-violent movement were consistent and coordinated with the political leadership. The PLO/Palestinian Authority could do more to call attention to boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts, especially with regard to efforts to vet and ban settlement products.
116. He admitted that none of the above would be easy for President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership, in Fatah, Hamas or the other factions. Even though, he said, the last 20 years had, unfortunately, made it clear that the Palestinians could not rely on the United States to provide the leverage they lack, they should remain willing to engage in talks with Israel over the creation of a State along the 1967 borders. At the same time, he argued, they should begin to move deliberately, and non-violently, to impose costs on Israel for the status quo because, without these measures, Israel was extremely unlikely to end the occupation, he concluded.
117. A brief discussion ensued about the support of “orientals” to the Palestinians, with divergent views expressed, both from the floor and the podium. Participants heard that it was a very complex issue and not necessarily one that could be deduced by referencing support or lack thereof from elections results.
118. Panellists returned to the issue of settlements, insisting that until those were removed from the West Bank, the international community must continue to pressure Israel; it also must insist on the establishment of an environment conducive to the removal of the checkpoints in order to allow Palestinians to build a new life.
119. The Ambassador of Palestine to China said that this debate had gone on for more than 65 years, during which Palestinians had gone from one step to the next, from being terrorists to refugees, to forgettable people and to revolutionaries, and again had imposed their presence on the international community. And now the world was supporting the just cause of the Palestinian people. But, unfortunately, he asserted, the United Nations had made beggars of the Palestinian people. The United Nations had divided Palestine into two States. But where was the other State, he questioned. In his view, the United Nations had an obligation to create the State of Palestine. He deplored that democracy and human rights were empty words when it came to the Palestinians. It was unacceptable, he declared, to continue to have future generations of refugees. There had been positive changes over the years, but the day after a positive declaration, the politicians “stepped back”. The two-State solution was mentioned by United States Presidents; but none of them, he noted, had worked seriously for the settlement of the conflict. Moreover, in his view, the Israeli leadership feared peace with the Palestinians because of the consequences it would have for its own society.
IV. Closing session
120. La Yifan, Deputy Director-General of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China delivered the closing statement as representative of the host country. He remarked that the Meeting had been held against the backdrop of increased investment by the parties in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In the past two days, he noted, delegates had held in-depth discussions and had achieved consensus on many topics, including the need to create favourable conditions for the resumption of negotiations, and the role of the international community in promoting the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks. He observed that the Meeting had produced an international call for three factors that would help promote the peace process: stronger political will of the parties: in the context of intensified efforts by the international community, the parties should come up with stronger political determination to overcome obstacles and build consensus to carry the Middle East peace process forward overall; more effective concrete action: China viewed all initiatives conducive to reconciling Israeli-Palestinian differences and to promoting the resumption of dialogue and negotiation as valuable and worthy of full attention. He added that all parties should overcome interference and take concrete action to move closer together based on the principle of “land for peace”, thereby actively fostering a favourable environment for the resumption of talks. Finally, stronger support by the international community, as the conflict was related to both international and regional peace and security. He stated that the international community should help the parties to increase their sense of responsibility, and urge them to be more positive, active and constructive towards the resumption of negotiations. Moreover, he said, they should also be encouraged to eliminate the obstacles preventing the process to move forward. Highlighting the efforts of the League of Arab States, he urged the Quartet to take substantive actions. Mr. La reiterated China’s full support for a greater role to be played by the United Nations and its Security Council.
121. He stressed that the international community, including the United Nations, should play an active role in resolving the Middle East question, and he expected the Palestinians and Israelis to narrow their differences through peace talks. In this regard, he recalled that in May, the President of China had announced China’s four-point proposal on the resolution of the question of Palestine, which reflected the firm support of China for the just cause of the Palestinian people and its sincere hope for a political solution to the question of Palestine. In closing, he stated that by hosting the United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, China wished to do its part to advance the process. China, he concluded, would work together with the international community to continue to play a constructive role in the early realization of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
122. In his closing remarks, Riyad Mansour, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, paid tribute to the people and Government of China for having made every effort to contribute to the success of the Meeting. He was also grateful for the energetic role being demonstrated by China in getting more involved in finding a solution to this conflict. With good relations with both sides, China was well placed to move things in the right direction, he noted.
123. Ambassador Mansour acknowledged the very serious effort being exerted recently to try to remove the obstacles from the path of peace and open the doors for a meaningful political process that would lead to the end of occupation and allow for an independent State of Palestine. The global consensus, he continued, was for the two-State solution, and every effort should be made to accomplish that objective. Palestinians believed they had demonstrated a flexible and responsible attitude after the result of the 29 November 2012 vote in the General Assembly. Yet, immediately after the overwhelming adoption of historic resolution 67/19 on Palestine with 138 countries having voted in favour of non-member observer State status and 9 having voted against it, the Israeli Government had resorted to a series of illegal activities. First was the announcement of more settlements, including the intention to build 11,500 settlement units in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in and around Jerusalem; including in the “E-1” area. This was contrary to the acknowledgment by all, including the United States, that the settlements were illegal and an obstacle to peace which needed to be halted. Moreover, he added, Israel had withheld tax revenues on goods that had come through Israeli ports, which was in violation of the Paris Agreement. He reminded that those illegal actions by the Government of Israel had been taken to put political pressure on Palestinians for something they had done legally at the United Nations.
124. In addition, he said, the Government of Israel had refused to acknowledge that it was an occupying Power, a position that had become more extreme after the last election, he noted. Israel also did not respect the global consensus on the settlements and border issues, he pointed out. What Palestinians needed, he stated, was a concrete signal that they would engage in negotiations to end the occupation. Israel, he continued, had invited the Palestinians to engage in peace talks while at the same time expanding settlements, changing the reality in East Jerusalem and not observing the 1967 borders. He called for a collective effort to bring Israel into compliance on those issues: settlements and borders. Ambassador Mansour declared that the leaders of the PLO were ready and willing to negotiate, whether Palestine became a full member of the United Nations or not. However, he said, if the process did not yield a solution, Palestinians would do everything they could, legally and politically. The situation was ripe, he emphasized, for adopting General Assembly resolutions that would call for practical steps to move towards a solution. Continued indifference by the Israeli leadership might force the Palestinians in that direction, he opined. This was a historic moment, he concluded, and he sincerely hoped that Israel would wake up and make the right choice.
125. Abdou Salam Diallo, Chair of the Committee, said in his closing statement that the discussions of the two days should serve as a wake-up call. The region was standing at a historic crossroads and the following weeks would determine the shape of things for years to come. One thing was clear: there was no going back to business as usual since General Assembly resolution 67/19 of November 2012 created a new reality and Palestinians were serious about using the new opportunities. At the same time, international efforts were under way to restart negotiations, which were complicated by the latest spurt of Israeli settlement announcements.
126. The international community should keep the focus on the strategic goal: the end of the Israeli occupation, the emergence of a sovereign and independent State of Palestine on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as capital and the return of refugees. Negotiations or any additional strategies being considered had value as long as they would lead to that goal in the end. It was correctly argued many times, that without negotiations there would be no two-State solution; however, negotiations alone would not be enough, he said. Serious obstacles remained, such as the continued Israeli settlement expansion; hence, urgent international efforts were needed to curb such illegal practices. Moreover, he added, Palestinians needed to finalize their reconciliation.
127. Mr. Diallo quoted what Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakat had said to the Committee at a recent meeting in New York, that he was “the most disadvantaged negotiator in history, with no armed forces and no economy”. On his own, Mr. Erakat had said, he had little leverage to extract an Israeli military pullout and return the refugees to their homes. That was why, Ambassador Diallo pointed out, Palestinians needed international solidarity. Generous support for Palestinian institutions, for their humanitarian and development needs and, most importantly, practical steps to enforce international law were needed. Concluding, he said that the determined engagement of the international community was required in order not to risk missing perhaps the last window of opportunity for the two-State solution.
Summary of the Chair
1. The United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, hosted by the People’s Republic of China and organized under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, examined the ways in which the collective international engagement towards a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be revived. Representatives of Governments, intergovernmental organizations, including various United Nations bodies, and civil society, together with expert speakers from China, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, the State of Palestine, the United States of America and the United Nations, shared their expertise at the Meeting.
2. At the opening session, the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, representing the host country, had expressed China’s support for the State of Palestine and for the United Nations to play a bigger role in the peace process. Referring to President Xi Jinping’s four-point proposal for the settlement of the Palestinian question, he stressed the need to redouble efforts to promote the peace talks and to continue working towards the two-State solution through peaceful negotiations. He pointed out the importance of seeking a comprehensive solution encompassing both peace and development tracks, suggesting an incremental approach that would focus first on ending settlement activities, violence against civilians and the Gaza blockade, as well as resolving the issue of Palestinian prisoners, in order to create an atmosphere conducive to peace talks. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his message to the Meeting, welcomed the renewed efforts of the United States and the recent commitment by Arab leaders to revive the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, and invited the Government of Israel to respond positively to this offer. He expressed alarm at Israel’s continuing settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, home demolitions, the displacement of the Palestinian population, and the deteriorating conditions of the civilian population of Gaza. The Secretary-General stressed the importance of financial support to the Palestinian Government, called for the complete opening of crossings into Gaza, and expressed support for efforts to promote Palestinian reconciliation. The Chair of the Committee expressed appreciation for China’s support of the Palestinian cause, drawing attention to its unique position to make a contribution to the peace process, owing to its economic and political weight and its friendly relations with both parties. Noting the importance of the efforts deployed by United States Secretary of State Kerry and the significance of the League of Arab States Peace Initiative, as well as of Palestinian reconciliation, he called for a collective push by the international community, including the United Nations, a revitalized Quartet, regional organizations, Member States and civil society, towards the resumption of negotiations. The Chair also called on countries to ensure the respect for international law. The Secretary-General of the Palestinian People’s Party, representing the State of Palestine, reaffirmed the appreciation for China’s long-standing political, developmental and moral support to the Palestinian people and its current efforts to facilitate the revival of the peace process. He welcomed the Chinese vision for peace, its principled position in supporting full Palestinian membership in the United Nations and the important role played by China as a permanent member of the Security Council, as an advocate for Palestinian rights and for a peaceful and just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
3. In his keynote presentation, the Assistant-Secretary General for Political Affairs welcomed the re-engagement of the United States towards reaching a final status agreement, noting it was a serious effort that required political will and courage from each side, a meaningful framework, a timeframe, a conducive environment on the ground, and concerted action by key regional stakeholders and the international community. He expressed appreciation for the efforts of China and welcomed the reaffirmed Arab Peace Initiative, which, importantly, held a promise for regional stability. He also expressed the United Nations support for and the importance of Palestinian reconciliation, as well as the elections, and warned of the risks of missing the current window of opportunity.
4. A number of representatives of Governments and an intergovernmental organization expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people, support for the State of Palestine based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the need to put pressure on Israel to abide by international law.
5. The participants then reviewed Israeli actions on the ground that run counter to the realization of the two-State solution, in particular its policies to separate the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the expansion of settlements across the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem; the construction of the separation wall, in violation of international law; and its policy of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem aimed at achieving demographic change. It was recalled that the International Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements, established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2012, pointed to a number of rights of the Palestinian people that were being violated by Israel, such as the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, to liberty, security and fair trial. Unlike the settlers, the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory faced arbitrary arrest and detention, including administrative detention, and discrimination in daily life and under the law. Attention was drawn to the precarious situation of the Palestinian refugee population, which had been increasing by over 3 per cent annually. In Gaza, the figures were striking: 75 per cent of the population were Palestine refugees, and between 60 and 80 per cent of the Gazan youth were unemployed. In the West Bank, restrictions on freedom of movement, settlement expansion and growing settler violence were severely impacting the refugee population. Faced with deep poverty, marginalization and vulnerability, refugees had continued to rely not only on their resilience, mutual support and kinship, but also on the services of UNRWA. The Agency has been confronted, particularly following the crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic, with the acute need for more human and financial resources to cope with the emergencies.
6. Experts from Israel reviewed a number of Israeli measures implemented against the Arab minority in Israel, noting that for Israel its “Jewishness” was more important than its democracy; in other words, democracy worked only for the Jewish population of Israel. A participant called on the international community to pay attention to the Arab minority in Israel, which was part of the Palestinian people, referring specifically to Israeli plans to confiscate land in the Negev and displace the Arabs residing there. In terms of the prospects for the resumption of the peace process, the current mood in Israel, as reflected in the press and parliamentary debates, seemed to favour the status quo. In particular, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been a non-issue in the recent Israeli elections, with social equality and military service for ultra-orthodox Jewish community figuring as the two top concerns. The visits by United States Secretary of State Kerry made no headlines in Israel. The status quo basically meant the institutionalization of the occupation, a sort of one-State solution. At the same time, it was noted that the Israelis feared a binational State in both economic and demographic ter A speaker proposed that the group of Mizrahi Jews in Israel, of Arab/Muslim descent, should embrace the “Arab” component of their identity, thereby creating a “third space” for both the Palestinians and the Mizrahis, in which they could collaborate and contest shared oppression. This, the expert argued, would create a new bridge for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
7. A debate on the two-State versus one-State solution unfolded. The Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations, a country currently serving as a member of the Security Council, compared both options. He stressed that the fulfilment of the two-State vision would be the culmination of decades-long efforts and the realization of the “land for peace” principle. It would lead to the end of the occupation and full normalization of relations between the Arabs and the Israelis. This was the vision sponsored by the United States, the United Nations and, most importantly, it was also what the Palestinians wanted. However, Israeli actions that were not conducive to the achievement of the two-State solution gave rise to the consideration of other options, namely, the one-State solution. The configuration it would take was not clear, in particular whether the Palestinians would have the same rights as the Jewish population. While intellectually appealing owing to many commonalities between the two peoples and their economic interest to coexist and cooperate, it was felt that this option was not politically viable, especially as neither of the two peoples were willing to accept it. The Palestinians wanted their own State, and the Israelis were not prepared to lose the State with the Jewish character. In addition, the separation wall, expropriation, resentment, the absence of a culture of mutual tolerance and respect were not elements of a good foundation for a democratic State in which two peoples could live together. Giving up the hope that an independent State of Palestine could be realized would mean that the United Nations and the international community as a whole had failed to deliver on the promise made to the Palestinians; and that the painful compromises made by the Palestinians would not be rewarded. The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations reinforced the above message, explaining that both the popular feeling among the Palestinian people and its official representation favoured the two-State solution. The road leading to one State based on total equality would inevitably be reached through the two-State solution. Other participants agreed, clarifying that once there was an independent State of Palestine, that State would be on an equal footing with Israel and would be able to develop political, economic and other forms of cooperation.
8. The participants agreed on the paramount need to create conditions conducive to negotiations that would lead to the realization of the two-State solution. In line with the recommendations of the Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements, the participants pointed to the need for Israel to comply with the Fourth Geneva Convention and cease all settlement activities without preconditions, ensure full accountability for all violations including for all acts of settler violence, put an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of the Palestinian people, and observe the prohibition of the transfer of prisoners from the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the territory of Israel. They furthermore called upon Members States to comply with their obligations under international law in their relations with a State breaching peremptory norms of international law. The participants also agreed that measures should be taken for Israel to start feeling the cost of the status quo; that was the only way to push it towards ending the occupation. Several speakers thought putting pressure on Israel was imperative in order to move toward a solution.
9. The participants recognized the need for Palestinian reconciliation as a necessary requirement for the progress and the success of the peace process. A member of the Palestinian Legislative Council called for a “more realistic approach” to the issue of reconciliation, which would take into account external factors that impeded the progress in implementing the reconciliation accords. The latter provided for a transitional national consensus government to be made up of independent figures and have as its main function the holding of general elections within three months of its inauguration. It was noted that Israel, backed by the United States, was rejecting the practical implementation of the accords, threatening retaliatory measures. It was suggested that the United Nations should encourage this process by urging Member States that hosted communities of Palestinian refugees to facilitate the conduct of the Palestinian elections in their territory and possibly oversee the process. Without doubt, the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in the diaspora, fully supported the reconciliation accords and expected their leadership to implement them.
10. Stressing that the status quo was unsustainable, the participants called for the United Nations to be at the forefront of the peace efforts, on the basis of the values and principles of the Organization that were expressed in its many resolutions that have, up to this day, remained unimplemented. Chinese officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs outlined the areas in which the United Nations should play an increasingly important role: first, the Security Council should be more active and more realistically involved in efforts to promote the resumption of peace negotiations, including sending a delegation, at the Palestinian request, to the Palestinian Territory. China also supported the acceptance by the Council of the Palestinian application for full United Nations membership. Second, the work of the United Nations in humanitarian and development areas should be strengthened, and the donors should fulfil their pledges as soon as possible. Finally, the United Nations should work with the League of Arab States, in view of the latter’s special position and the regional and political closeness to the conflict, to promote negotiations, mediation and good offices. The Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations, whose country presided over the Security Council when Palestine introduced its application for full United Nations membership on 23 November 2011, explained that the question of Palestinian statehood, debated by the Council’s Committee for admission of new members at the time of the Palestinian application, was no longer an issue following the granting by the General Assembly of non-member observer State status to Palestine. The application for full membership, however, remained with the Council. The participants urged the Council to decide favourably on the request, noting that its examination should not be linked to political considerations, such as the Quartet activity, or subordinated to the negotiation process or its outcome.
11. The participants called for a new approach, with a stronger, more effective and more creative engagement by the international community, including efforts by China, the Russian Federation and the European Union. While some were hopeful about the renewed United States efforts led by the Secretary of State Kerry, the speaker from the Carter Center gave a rather sobering view of the prospects of the current United States engagement towards a revival of negotiations and a final status agreement. He noted that the ability of the United States to effectively utilize its leverage with regard to Israel had gradually decreased, owing to various factors; namely, the rise of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States; the attacks of 11 September 2001 and the ensuing fight against a common terrorist enemy; and a shift in the perception of some United States political elites who seemed to perceive United States and Israeli national interests as one and the same. These factors, combined with the unwillingness of President Obama to expend the necessary political capital to push Israel towards territorial concessions, did not augur well for the success of the mission of the United States Secretary of State. On a positive note, however, it was pointed out that considerable shifts were under way within the United States Jewish community, in particular the new generation, which was more likely to question Israeli policy that was not in line with their liberal values. A more significant Jewish pro-peace constituency might develop in the future, creating the hope that it could eventually influence the United States policy.
12. The participants thought that the Palestinians should remain open to negotiations without relying on the United States to “deliver” Israel; rather, they should challenge the status quo through measures intended to non-violently shift the balance of power, which should include: reconciliation accompanied by a transitional justice process that would address the needs of families of victims of internal violence; joining, as a State, international instruments and conventions, international agencies and judicial bodies such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice; insisting on international law, including United Nations Security Council resolutions, as the reference point for the resolution of the conflict, and holding Israel to account for its violations; and developing a coordinated strategy for popular mobilization and non-violent resistance that would involve major Palestinian factions, civil society and activist groups. Non-governmental organizations had much to contribute towards creating such an environment, fostering dialogue between the two peoples, especially the youth. Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council pointed to the need to strengthen the popular resistance to the occupation and the economic and social development of the Palestinian people, calling on donors to accelerate the provision of assistance to stabilize the finances of the Palestinian Authority.
13. In the closing session, the representative of China stressed the need for stronger political will, more practical action and greater support by the international community to promote the peace process. China favoured a greater role for the United Nations, including the Security Council, and was ready to play a constructive role, in line with its four-point proposal. The Quartet also had to take action in order to push for the resumption of negotiations. The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations expressed appreciation for the energetic role China had demonstrated, involving itself in efforts to find a solution. He noted that the Palestinians, following the admission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, had demonstrated much responsibility and flexibility towards fostering an environment conducive to negotiations. However, Israel had not reciprocated, and continued with its illegal activities. Stressing the fact that the Palestinian right to self-determination was not negotiable, he pointed to the right of Palestinians to join international instruments and conventions, including the International Criminal Court, and called on the international community to adopt resolutions containing concrete measures to stop illegal Israeli behaviour. The Chair of the Committee pointed to the new reality created by General Assembly resolution 67/19 and new opportunities that the Palestinians were ready to take advantage of. He called on the international community to curb illegal Israeli practices, and on the Palestinians to finalize their reconciliation. Finally, he called on the international community to salvage the two-State solution by supporting the Palestinian institutions and through practical steps to enforce international law.
Document Type: Meeting report, Publication, Report, Summary
Document Sources: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
Subject: Closures/Curfews/Blockades, Gaza Strip, Human rights and international humanitarian law, Inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, Jerusalem, Occupation, Palestine question, Peace process, Peace proposals and efforts, Refugees and displaced persons, Settlements, Statehood-related
Publication Date: 19/06/2013