If Left Unchecked, Rising Violence, Unilateral Activities in OPT Could Undermine Fragile Stability, Special Coordinator Warns Security Council – Press Release (SC/14747)

8940TH MEETING (AM)
SC/14747
21 DECEMBER 2021

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Expressing concern over a fragile and deteriorating security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the special coordinator for the region, in his briefing to the Security Council today, stressed that rising levels of violence should be a clear warning to the international community to take action in order to prevent further bloodshed.

Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the 15-nation organ that the rising levels of violence seen in recent weeks “should be a clear warning to us all”, and that — if left unchecked — will lead to yet another destructive, bloody round of violence.  Ongoing unilateral steps — such as Israeli settlements advancement and demolition activities of Palestinian homes — was undermining the institutional stability of the Palestinian Authority and the cessation of hostilities that has held since May.

However, he also cited the positive development of recent local council elections in West Bank communities, in which over 25 per cent of candidates were women.  Further, the Central Election Commission announced the start of preparations for a second round of municipal elections, to be held in March 2022.

Nonetheless, Israeli settlement expansion remains deeply concerning, he said, calling on the Israeli Government to cease all such activities immediately.  The deterioration of the security and socioeconomic situations across the Occupied Palestinian Territory must also be reversed, with all parties avoiding unilateral steps that change the realities on the ground.

Strengthening the Palestinian Authority is critical to maintaining stability on the ground.  However, while financial support towards this end is essential, it is not enough.  He expressed hope that 2022 will present opportunities to reverse negative trajectories and present ways to restore a political horizon.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates shared the Special Coordinator’s concern over rising tensions and violence and joined his call to Israelis and Palestinians alike to refrain from actions which would undercut advancement of the two-State solution.

The representative of Niger, Council President for December, speaking in his national capacity, noted that as of 6 December, no less than 835 Palestinian structures have been demolished by the Israeli authorities, often based on military regulations whose illegality under international law is well known.  These demolitions will have displaced approximately 1,044 people this year alone, the highest number of since 2016.

Viet Nam’s representative noted that no progress has been made in the five years since the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) on settlement activity.  Rather, demolitions, evictions and violence continue, he said, underscoring that it is not the lack of a legal framework but the lack of implementation that is hindering progress.  While the security of Israel must be respected, it is in Israel’s security interests to implement the resolution, along with other United Nations relevant resolutions, he said.

France’s delegate concurred that the positive trend of previous months has been jeopardized by unilateral actions.  The pause of construction in the Atarot settlement offers a stay, but it must be definitively abandoned, as it would be the first new settlement in Jerusalem in 25 years.  With record levels of demolitions and evictions amid increasing settler violence, he welcomed the determination of Israeli authorities to combat extremism.

Tunisia’s representative emphasized that the major issue is that the parties do not feel obliged to respect Council resolutions.  “This is why the situation in the Middle East is held hostage to tension and instability,” he pointed out.  The root cause — the occupation — must be tackled, he stressed, noting that without global peace, there can be no security and stability.

The representative of the United States spotlighted the important role played by civil society members on the ground — citing a recent visit by Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the United States to Ramallah, where she was inspired by their efforts to advance democracy, human rights and economic opportunity.  While the United States has contributed more than $318 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) this year, he stressed that the Agency once again faces a funding shortfall, calling on all States to contribute.

Council members also bade farewell to five outgoing nations — Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Vietnam — whose terms conclude at the end of 2021, with many thanking those delegations for their efforts during their tenure on the Council.  Several speakers also affirmed their commitment to work with the incoming members, including Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates.

Also speaking were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Kenya, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, United Kingdom, Ireland, Estonia, Norway, India, China and Mexico.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:04 p.m.

Briefing

TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, expressed continuing concern over the deteriorating security situation in the occupied West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem.  Ongoing unilateral steps — such as Israeli settlement, advancement and demolition activities — further exacerbate the situation and undermine the institutional stability of the Palestinian Authority.  If left unchecked, the situation in the West Bank could deteriorate further, also impacting the situation in Gaza and undermining the cessation of hostilities that has held since May, he emphasized.

Detailing recent violence resulting in the death and injury of Palestinian and Israeli civilians, he urged all parties to take steps to lower tension and restore calm.  Turning to positive developments, he noted that local council elections occurred on 11 December in West Bank communities, in which over 25 per cent of candidates were women.  On 12 December, the Central Election Commission announced the start of preparations for a second round of municipal elections, to be held in March 2022.

“Israeli settlement remains deeply concerning”, he stressed nevertheless, spotlighting the consideration of plans to expand settlement in areas that would threaten the continuity of a future Palestinian State.  Such activities constitute a flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions and international law, and he called on the Israeli Government to cease all settlement activities immediately.  Further, the deterioration of the security and socioeconomic situations across the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be reversed, and all parties must avoid unilateral steps that change the realities on the ground.

Concerted efforts — more than have been expended thus far — are needed to restore hope and strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s institutional stability, he continued.  Highlighting the fragility of the situation in Gaza, he urged further efforts to solidify the cessation of hostilities and meet the needs of the population.  Further, movement and access must be improved with a view towards full lifting of closures in line with resolution 1860 (2009).

Stressing that the rising levels of violence seen in recent weeks “should be a clear warning to us all”, he stated that — if left unchecked — festering drivers of conflict will lead to yet another destructive, bloody round of violence.  The international community must act now to prevent that outcome.  To that end, strengthening the Palestinian Authority is critical to maintaining stability on the ground.  While financial support towards this end is essential, he underscored that it is not enough.  Negative actions that undermine the Authority must stop.  He went on to express hope that 2022 will present an opportunity to reverse negative trajectories and find ways to restore a political horizon.

Statements

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR (United States) expressed concern over rising tensions in the West Bank and in and around Jerusalem, especially against civilians and urged authorities to condemn violence and respond in a proportionate and reasonable manner.  Such episodes risk precipitating even more violence, he said, calling on Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from any action which would undercut advancement of the two-State solution, including demolitions, settlement expansion and eviction from homes, and compensate those imprisoned for acts of terrorism.  Noting the important role played by civil society members, he cited a recent visit by Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the United States to Ramallah, where she was inspired by their efforts to advance democracy, human rights and economic opportunity.  He also expressed support for the role played by Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organizations in monitoring human rights abuses.  Citing Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan’s welcome of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet to the United Arab Emirates last week, he looked forward to working with that State, as well as other incoming Security Council members, Albania, Brazil, Gabon and Ghana.  While the United States has contributed more than $318 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 2021, he voiced concern that the Agency once again faces a funding shortfall, thanking recent contributors including Qatar and Kuwait, and calling on all States to join that effort.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that general improvement in the situation in the Middle East region is impossible without a solution to the Palestinian problem.  The situation is complicated by unilateral actions — expropriation and destruction of Palestinian property, settlement construction, arbitrary arrests, violation of the status of the Holy Sites and incitement to violence.  He expressed concern about the Israeli leadership’s plans at the end of October to resume, after a brief pause, the building of illegal settlements on the West Bank and to double the number of settlers in the Jordan Valley by 2026.  He called on the parties to resume the peace process on a universally-recognized international legal basis that includes the two-State formula.  He also called attention to the intention to hold the next unifying meeting in Moscow as soon as the leading Palestinian political forces and movements are ready to agree and enshrine common approaches in the relevant document.  His country is counting on the assistance of other interested parties, first and foremost Egypt, he added.  Further, it is crucial for UNRWA to continue its integrated work to provide humanitarian assistance to the millions of Palestinian refugees in the Middle East without hindrance.

GIDEON KINUTHIA NDUNG’U (Kenya), condemning recent terror attacks and shootings that Hamas and other groups continue to laud and claim, stressed that no cause can justify the deliberate targeting of civilians.  These acts of terror must cease.  Towards that end, he urged all political, civilian and religious leaders from both sides to speak up and demonstrate daily effort to mitigate cycles of conflict.  Turning to resolution 2334 (2016), he underscored that its implementation must address the issues of settlement and territorial contiguity, along with the viability of the two-State solution.  Pointing out that five years have passed since that resolution was adopted, he said that the international community has “little to show in terms of its implementation”.  Despite decades of talk about a comprehensive, just and lasting peace, actual efforts in preventative diplomacy and peacebuilding always seem to constitute “catch-up” or reactionary endeavours.  To salvage resolution 2334 (2016) and safeguard achievements made so far, he urged future reports to analyse the impact of issues such as settler expansion, demolition and the issuance of housing permits on the situation writ large.  He added that, while needs in Gaza must be addressed, the world must not lose sight of the security and economic challenges present in the West Bank.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) affirmed that only the two-State solution with recognized borders along 1967 lines with both parties having Jerusalem as their capital can fulfil the aspirations of both peoples.  While those lines have been defined under international law and resolution 2334 (2016), the resolution has been unable to prevent settlements.  The positive trend of previous months has been jeopardized by unilateral actions, firstly by Israeli settlement expansion.  The pause of construction in the Atarot settlement offers a stay, but that construction must be definitively abandoned, he stressed, noting it would be the first new settlement in Jerusalem in 25 years.  With demolitions and evictions reaching record levels this year amid increasing settler violence, he welcomed the determination of Israeli authorities to combat extremism.  However, Israel’s designation of six Palestinian humanitarian non-governmental organizations as terrorist groups — including one that received a human rights prize from France — represents a dwindling of space for civil society in Palestine.  Palestinian authorities must also bolster democratic governance.  The international community must act to reverse recent trends, consolidating the ceasefire in Gaza and stepping up reconstruction efforts.  Calling for a surge in donations to UNRWA to enable the Agency to pay December salaries, he stressed the importance of restoring a political perspective between Israelis and Palestinians to build trust.

ISIS AZALEA MARIA GONSALVES (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), underlining her country’s solidarity with the State of Palestine, stressed that the world is watching and losing faith in this Security Council, as well as in the international rules-based order, for failing to uphold the very rules that had been adopted.  The lack of progress towards the two-State solution is egregious.  The escalation of hostilities in Gaza, forced displacement through home demolitions, undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, extrajudicial killings of Palestinians, the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on Palestinians and the situation of Palestinian refugees must be addressed with urgency.  She reiterated that the establishment of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.  The continued demolition and seizure of Palestinian structures is also deeply concerning.  She called on the Israeli authorities to lift the years-long blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, to allow for the reconstruction of Gaza in its entirety.

DINH QUY DANG (Viet Nam) pointed out that the number of Palestinians killed by the use of force in the West Bank alone has been three times as high as that of 2020 and 2019, and the rate of injuries has been even higher.  Settler-related attacks remain a major concern, he noted, observing that no progress has been made in the five years since the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016).  On the contrary, the negative trends on the ground have continued with more settlement expansions, demolitions, evictions, and violence.  It is not the lack of a legal framework but the lack of implementation that is hindering the settlement of this conflict, he stressed, reiterating that the resolution’s implementation remains the only way forward.  There is no viable alternative.  The security of Israel must be respected, but it is in Israel’s security interests to implement resolution 2334 (2016), along with other United Nations relevant resolutions, he said.

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) calling on all parties to actively prevent the cycle of violence, reported that her Government continues to urge the Government of Israel to permanently end its settlement expansion and settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  Welcoming the decision by the Jerusalem district planning committee to postpone the decision to construct housing units in Atarot beyond the 1967 lines, she urged Israeli authorities to not move forward with those plans.  Underscoring the toll that the prolonged conflict has taken on the people of Gaza, she said the United Kingdom has provided $2.6 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund for the launch of its Child Sensitive Cash Assistance Programme in Gaza, aimed at helping vulnerable households, especially children, access basic services.  Urging a continuation of increased dialogue between the parties to improve stability across the region, she expressed her country’s firm commitment to a two-State solution, based on 1967 lines and with Jerusalem as a shared capital.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), spotlighting that there are now an estimated 800,000 people now housed in illegal settlements, called on Israel to halt all settlement activity, including in the sensitive areas of E1, Atarot and Givat Hamatos.  Further, 2021 has seen a record high number of Palestinians affected by demolitions, evictions and confiscations, with Palestinian families in Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and al-Walajeh being confronted with a looming legal deadline.  In East Jerusalem alone, 121 children have been impacted by demolitions and confiscations this year.  In 2021, the Israeli Security Forces in the West Bank killed 72 Palestinians, including 17 children, using live ammunition.  She also said she was deeply disturbed by the surge in violence in the West Bank, including attacks in Jerusalem and the killing of civilians.  Earlier this year the international community witnessed the most significant escalation in hostilities since 2014, leading to the death of more than 200 people, including over 60 children.  UNRWA has confirmed that more than half of the children in the Gaza Strip require mental health support, she said, stressing that the inherent rights of Palestinian children are violated on a daily basis.  She further noted that national Palestinian elections are essential to renew the legitimacy of national institutions.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) strongly condemned the terrorist attacks and violence against civilians, including the deadly shooting near Nablus last Thursday.  Noting the recent decision by the Israeli authorities to postpone the approval of a plan for some 9,000 settlement units in Atarot, he urged Israel to permanently halt all settlement plans on the occupied West Bank, including in East Jerusalem.  Pointing to the increase in restrictions by Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including arbitrary detentions, he called upon the Palestinian authorities to ensure freedom of expression of human rights defenders and protesters and to ensure protection of the witnesses in the trial for Nizar Banat’s killing.  Turning to Gaza, he noted the recent positive steps by Israel on easing the restrictions on the movement of goods and called for additional improvements to movement in and out of Gaza, while considering Israel’s security concerns.

TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) said the concerned parties do not feel obliged to respect the Security Council resolutions.  “This is why the situation in the Middle East is held hostage to tension and instability,” he said, adding that this leads to the violation of the basic rights of the Palestinians.  The Secretary-General’s report notes the scope of the violations committed by the occupying Power, he said, emphasizing that no progress has been made in terms of the settlements, seizures of land and demolitions of homes.  He also noted that there has been no end to violence against civilians and pointed to the flagrant violations of rights of Palestinian people by the occupying Power.  The occupying Power must respect its commitments under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, he underscored, condemning the violence against settlers and excessive use of force by the Israeli forces.  Civilians are being attacked and six Palestinian non-governmental organizations have been targeted.  The root cause — the occupation — must be tackled, he said, noting that without global peace, there can be no security and stability.

MONA JUUL (Norway) urged the Israeli Government to halt and reverse the disturbing trend of unabated settlement activity, demolitions, evictions, and violence.  The daily violence throughout the Occupied Territory, including clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, high levels of settler-related violence, attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and the use of lethal force by Israeli security forces against Palestinians is of great concern.  She also reiterated Israel’s responsibility to protect all civilians from violence, particularly children.  Regarding Palestine’s financial situation, she welcomed progress in implementing the recommendations from the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee and the Quartet meetings in Oslo in November.  Also commendable was the agreement between the European Union, Palestinian, and Israeli authorities to launch shipments of containers through the King Hussein-Allenby Bridge border crossing with Jordan, as well as the continued assistance by Qatar and $100 million of additional financial support by Algeria.  Highlighting the Palestinian Authority’s holding of the first round of local elections recently, she stressed that it is now imperative that the second round of elections are held as planned in March 2022.

T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) noted that violent attacks against Palestinian and Israeli civilians, acts of destruction, provocation and incitement have continued during the reporting period.  Condemning all such acts, he called upon the parties to immediately make concrete efforts to reverse these negative trends.  Acknowledging the opening of channels for communication between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, he spotlighted steps taken to stabilize the fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority and improve the socioeconomic conditions of Palestinians.  Those included the progressive easing of restrictions in the Gaza Strip for commodities and construction materials and increasing work permits for Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza.  Successful conclusion of the prisoner exchange talks would help the process further, he added.  Stressing that durable and long-lasting peace can be achieved between the people of Israel and Palestine only through a two-State solution, he reiterated that there is no alternative to direct peace negotiations between the parties.

DAI BING (China) expressed regret about the continuing non-implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) and the ceaseless expansion of settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Noting that tenders for settlement units in Area C had doubled this year and the demolition of Palestinian structures had risen to the highest level since 2016, he said settlement activities undermine the contiguity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, squeeze Palestinians’ living space, and jeopardize the prospects for a two-State Solution.  Israel must cease its settlement activities.  On the security situation, he expressed concern about intensified violence by settlers and underlined that tensions last week in Nablus have “once again sounded the alarm”.  He called on all parties to work together to deescalate tension and to refrain from measures that exacerbate the situation.  Israel must abide by international humanitarian law and thoroughly investigate attacks by settlers.  At the same time, its right to exist and its legitimate security concerns must be respected.  Since the outbreak of violence in May, the Gaza Strip is in dire need of reconstruction, he pointed out, calling on the international community to offer assistance and support UNRWA and for the blockade to be lifted.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico), highlighting the fifth anniversary of the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) — which sought, inter alia, to halt the advancement of settlements — emphasized that much remains to be done in this regard.  Around 800,000 Israelis are living in settlements, housing units that jeopardize the geographical contiguity of Palestinian territory continue to be built and the rate of demolition in 2021 has been the highest since 2009.  Against that backdrop, he urged Israel to cease the construction of new housing units, as well as the seizure and demolition of Palestinian property.  Spotlighting the 540 settler attacks that have occurred over the last two years, he expressed concern over persistent volatility on the ground and condemned actions impinging on the status of holy sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Additionally, at least 341 Palestinian minors have been detained by Israeli forces and are suffering from mistreatment and lack of access to legal counsel.  He underscored the importance of respecting fundamental freedoms — such as those of expression and association — and urged decisive action to implement resolution 2334 (2016) and achieve the objectives set out five years ago.

ABDOU ABARRY (Niger), Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, stressing that it is high time for the international community and the Security Council to abandon their wait-and-see attitude of reiterating principled positions and other professions of faith, while the prospect of an independent Palestinian State and the two-State solution becomes increasingly remote.  As of 6 December, no less than 835 Palestinian structures have been demolished by the Israeli authorities, very often based on military regulations whose illegality under international law is well known.  These demolitions will have resulted in the displacement of approximately 1,044 people this year alone, the highest number of displaced persons since 2016.  In addition to the despair and desolation of entire families put on the street, there are persecutions and attacks against the Palestinian population by Israeli settlers, who are protected by the Israeli forces in their actions.  All these illegal practices of the occupying Power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have, over time, come to be the major obstacle for the return of trust and peaceful coexistence between the two peoples — a real hindrance to progress towards the only solution that is right — the two-State solution.  The socioeconomic and humanitarian situation throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory is another source of concern.  Given its crucial importance in assisting the Palestinian populations taken hostage by Israel, UNRWA deserves to be supported and its activities funded.

For information media. Not an official record.


2022-01-12T11:54:54-05:00
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