The role of parliamentarians in ensuring respect for international law

United Nations Headquarters New York – 21 November 2014



1. The   Meeting held on 21 November at the United Nations Headquarters in New York focused on “The role of parliamentarians in ensuring respect for international law”. Eleven expert speakers, parliamentarians from 18 national and regional parliaments, 3 inter-parliamentary organizations, Members and Observers of the Committee, other United Nations Member States, United Nations Agencies, and civil society were actively participating.

2. Speakers in the Opening Session underscored the important role of parliamentarians vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Many noted that their collaboration with the United Nations on peace, security and human rights issues was growing. Parliamentarians stressed that they had a special responsibility to ensure that their Governments actively promote the peaceful realization of a comprehensive, just, and lasting solution of the conflict and uphold international law.  

3. In his message to the Meeting, the Secretary-General of the United Nations stressed that the two-State solution was long overdue.  The parties, supported by the international community, should demonstrate the collective political will to end the conflict.  Israeli settlement expansion ran contrary to the two-State solution. Parliamentarians, through interaction with their governments, could help ensure that international obligations were upheld.  He voiced serious concern about rising tensions in East Jerusalem, and called for an end to incitement and de-escalation by both sides.  Deploring the suffering of the people in Gaza in the aftermath of the summer’s brutal war, he called on donors to disburse without further delay generously pledged funds for its reconstruction.

The Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People called on all parliaments to follow the example of Sweden, as well as of the parliaments of Britain, Spain and France, and recognize the State of Palestine.  Parliamentarians should ensure that governments lived up to their commitments in terms of accountability for the violations of the law of war and protection of civilians.  It was necessary to break the vicious cycle of “rebuild and destroy” exemplified by Gaza.  He urged donors to honour their Gaza pledges and compel Israel to lift the Gaza blockade.  He voiced support for a Security Council resolution which would legislate an end to the Israeli occupation and called on parliamentarians to align national legislation with international law by affirming the illegality of Israeli settlements.

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations and Representative of the State of Palestine expressed appreciation for the solidarity of parliamentarians reflecting the sentiments of their peoples who supported an independent State of Palestine.  He called for global solidarity with more than two dozen imprisoned Palestinian parliamentarians.  He commended the movement in the European parliaments calling on Governments to recognize the State of Palestine.  He expressed the hope that new momentum building in the international community could help re-launch the peace process towards salvaging the two-State solution and making it a reality.  He outlined a stark choice between a negative destructive path fueled by Israeli extremists, or by exerting all necessary political, diplomatic and legal efforts aimed at achieving peace, including through the adoption of a Security Council resolution that would set a clear time-frame for the end of the Israeli occupation.

The Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union recalled that Palestine was a full member of the IPU.  The Organization offered a unique platform for a constructive dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli parliamentarians.  Parliamentary diplomacy was an effective tool for peace, as were building a functioning democracy, and respect for human rights.  In that regard, he informed of IPU efforts to facilitate the release of Palestinian parliamentarians from Israeli prisons, as well as a capacity-building programme by the IPU for the Secretariat of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The Secretary-General of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union renewed his Organization’s support for the creation of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  He condemned the criminal acts by settlers particularly against Christian and Islamic holy sites and voiced support for all efforts to bring to the Israeli perpetrators to justice.  He called on the people of the world to support the just struggle of the Palestinians and all parliaments to recognize Palestine.

The President of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly said parliamentarians should raise their collective voice in all international forums so that the rights of the Palestinians were protected and international human rights and humanitarian law respected.  Creating a conducive atmosphere for dialogue was imperative to attaining a peaceful resolution to the long-running conflict.  The way forward should be based on agreed international parameters with clear timelines and benchmarks.

4. Plenary I featured briefings by the Department for Political Affairs (DPA), UNRWA, OCHA, and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices.  DPA expressed alarm over the escalating tensions in Jerusalem that were affecting also parts of the West Bank and Israel. Those tensions, if left unchecked, could turn into a religious conflict that reverberates far beyond the region. Israeli settlement expansion and the increase in demolitions of Palestinian buildings were further contributing to the tensions on the ground.  Also, the situation in Gaza remained fragile with tremendous needs for recovery and reconstruction.  The Palestinian Government of National Consensus should be empowered to assume its responsibilities in Gaza.  The overall situation on the ground attested to the need to resume peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians to end the cycle of violence and reverse the trend towards a one-State reality.  The United Nations was committed to work with the parties and the international partners for an end of the occupation that began in 1967, and for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, the Roadmap and the Arab Peace Initiative.

UNRWA pointed to its humanitarian and advocacy mandate to protect and provide relief to Palestine refugees and stressed that it had brought to the attention of the “duty bearers” violations of refugees’ human rights.  Palestine refugees had been paying a disproportionately heavy price during the conflicts in Syria and Gaza.  Besieged refugees in Yarmouk near Damascus receive just 20 percent of needed food.  UNRWA facilities came under attack during the Gaza war, and there was increasing use of live fire used by Israel in UNRWA camps in the West Bank.  

OCHA pointed out that massive destruction of housing and critical infrastructure in Gaza during the summer war meant that 100,000 displaced Palestinians were facing the winter under severe conditions, with the UN as their only lifeline.  The reconstruction effort in Gaza had begun but pace remained slow, and there was little progress on empowering the Palestinian Consensus Government on the ground.  It was imperative for the donors to answer the Gaza emergency appeal.  The humanitarian situation in Palestine was a man-made emergency, it was stressed.  A fair planning and land use regime for Palestinians in areas under Israeli control, an end to demolitions and  forced relocations of Bedouins, moving the separation Wall to the Green Line, and lifting the Gaza blockade were needed to improve the humanitarian and human rights situation dramatically and reduce assistance needs by the Palestinian people.

The Special Committee was appalled by the scale of death and destruction in Gaza.  It urged the General Assembly to address Israeli non-compliance with United Nations resolutions, and called on the international community to investigate companies that illegally profit from settlements and on civil society to exert pressure on such corporations.  

5. The Meeting continued with Plenary II focusing on “Action by parliamentarians to uphold international law and advance Israeli-Palestinian peace”.  Parliamentarians from the Palestine National Council, the Knesset, Parliaments of Algeria, Brazil, the European Parliament, the People’s Council of Indonesia, the Mexican Parliament, the Moroccan Parliament, the Irish Senate, the Jordanian Parliament, the House of Representatives of Malta, the Senate of Pakistan, the Swedish parliament, the Parliament of South Africa, as well as a member of the Executive Board of the Meretz Party (Israel) took the floor.  Speakers stressed the need to use the leverage of parliamentary diplomacy to bring about the necessary advances in the peace process and raise awareness of the deteriorating situation.  Speakers praised the recognition of the State of Palestine by the Swedish Government.  Some speakers also pointed to the United Nations as the natural locus where the question of Palestine should be resolved and a just peace for both sides achieved.


6. Several parliamentarians expressed full support for Palestinian statehood and pledged to do their utmost to ensure diplomatic recognition of the State of Palestine by their national Governments, support Palestinian rights and international law.  Calls were made for solidarity with 22 Palestinian Parliamentarians held in Israeli jails without trial and for their release.  Several parliamentarians drew attention to renewed acts of aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, while a member of Parliament highlighted growing racism in Israel against Arabs.  The recent upsurge of violence was described as a result of the collapse of negotiations and the absence of a political horizon and hope. Parliamentarians had a responsibility to push for a just final status agreement the contours of which are known, it was stated.  It was pointed out that the diplomatic recognition of the State of Palestine can help move the peace process forward by making the parties less unequal.  Parliamentarians were also duty bound to promote dialogue between the two sides, by securing respect for democracy and human rights.  Parliamentarians also had a responsibility to hold their Governments accountable for the respect of international law.  They should pressure their Governments to implement UN resolutions and end the Israeli occupation.  The EU had to enforce the human rights clauses in the Association Agreement with Israel and leverage its economic power.  Parliamentarians should persistently voice their objection to Israel’s violation of international law and the occupation, it was stressed.  It was the Parliamentarians’ responsibility to hold Israel accountable for the grave situation in Jerusalem and Gaza threatening peace in the region. Parliamentary resolutions condemning the Israeli aggression in Gaza in July-August 2014 were recalled.  

7. Parliamentarians as well as national Parliaments and inter-parliamentary organizations must play a proactive role in promoting the realization of Palestinians’ inalienable rights, peace and security and stability for the region, and raise more awareness of the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  They should urgently engage with Israeli and Palestinian parliamentarians for dialogue, it was stressed.  A speaker called for the Meeting to adopt a call for the lifting the Gaza blockade.  Another speaker proposed making 2015 the year of consciousness for the UN to take responsibility for its failures vis-à-vis the question of Palestine.  He said Israelis needed a wakeup call regarding their mistreatment of Palestinians and he called on 2015 to be the year of Jewish consciousness. 

8. In the closing session, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations thanked the participants for the strong presence at the meeting and for the statements of support for the ongoing struggle to achieve Palestinian rights.  He took note of the high sense of justice by so many people in all corners of the world, who conveyed the sense that the Israeli occupation must end and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people be realized.  The Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People summed up the major concerns expressed by the participants about the stagnated peace process, the alarming situation on the ground and the continued violations of international law by the occupying Power.  He called upon the parliamentarians to apply Security Council and General Assembly decisions on the national level and to push their executive branches to live up to their obligations under international law.  Parliamentarians should continue and invigorate their efforts to create the necessary international climate conducive to the achievement of a permanent and just solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.