8604TH MEETING (AM)
SC/13930
27 AUGUST 2019

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Scattered violence, rising death and injury tolls, and the ongoing construction of settlements in occupied territory continue against a backdrop of stalled negotiations on how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today.

“Tangible steps can and must be taken to reverse the negative trajectory of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict urgently,” he said by videoconference from Jerusalem.  Indeed, a two-State solution is in jeopardy due to chronic violence and violations of human rights, from attacks on civilians to the tensions at Jerusalem’s holy sites.  He emphasized that the resultant explosive mix can only be resolved by leadership willing and capable of returning to the table for meaningful negotiations towards a sustainable and just peace.

He went on to stress that the peace process has reached a complete political deadlock, despite a temporary agreement on the transfer of tax revenues from Israel to the Palestinian Authority and a project intended to provide drinking water for 200,000 people in the Gaza Strip while preventing a crisis in the enclave’s health sector.  As such, the United Nations remains committed to supporting the efforts of Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict on the basis of international law, relevant United Nations resolutions and previous agreements, he said, evoking the vision of Israel and Palestine as two States living side by side in peace and security.

Many Council members agreed that the deficit in trust between Israelis and Palestinians arose from such actions as targeted attacks against civilians by Palestinian militants and Israel’s ever-expanding settlement construction, in violation of Council resolutions and international law, citing more than 2,000 new housing units planned for the West Bank.  At the same time, the demolition of Palestinian property and the eviction of their owners are ongoing amid Israel’s continuing aggression, said Kuwait’s representative, adding that daily violence against Palestinians has reached unprecedented levels.

Indeed, many Council members condemned recent violence and expressed support for a two-State solution.  However, Equatorial Guinea’s representative pointed out that Council unity is absent on key issues.  In fact, the 70-year-old Israeli‑Palestinian conflict reflects the absence of a definitive political solution, raising questions about its destabilizing effects across the Middle East and calling the Council’s role and responsibility into question, he added.

South Africa’s representative echoed that point, declaring:  “If the Council cannot uphold its own decisions, it begins to lose its effectiveness of purpose.”  Côte d’Ivoire’s representative said the absence of a viable consultation framework has led to further violence and a deficit in trust between the two sides.  She urged Council members to settle their differences and work together.

The Russian Federation’s representative said no solution will ever emerge from unilateral action, stressing that the only way forward is to pool regional and international efforts.  Destroying all that has been achieved to date is fraught with terrible consequences for the entire Middle East, he added, reiterating his country’s offer to host meetings between Israel and Palestine with no preconditions.

Condemning all violence, the Dominican Republic’s representative said Hamas and Palestinian Jihad must end the targeting of civilians.  As for the dire conditions in Gaza, she emphasized the critical need to ensure predictable funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), while recalling that Switzerland, Belgium and other countries suspended their funding to that entity after reports about the involvement of a director in inappropriate sexual conduct and abuse of authority.

Also speaking today were the Secretary of State in the Chancellery of the President of Poland, as well as representatives of the United States, China, France, Belgium, Peru, United Kingdom, Indonesia and Germany.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:37 a.m.

Briefing

NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, spoke by videoconference from Jerusalem, highlighting the rising violence occurring against a backdrop of complete political deadlock in the peace process.  This explosive mix can only be resolved by leadership willing and capable of returning to the table for meaningful negotiations towards a sustainable and just peace, he emphasized.  Spotlighting recent violent incidents, he cited the killing of several teenagers and the wounding of more than 100 people, condemning attacks on civilians while stressing that violence and terrorism must be condemned by all.  Meanwhile, the expansion of settlements, as well as the demolition and seizure of Palestinian properties continue, he said, pointing to plans for the construction of some 2,400 housing units in Area C settlements in flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.  Such actions undermine the chances for establishing a Palestinian State on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions and as part of a negotiated two-State solution, he noted.

Despite relative calm in the Gaza Strip, weekly protests and violence continued at the perimeter fence, where the Israel Defense Forces used live ammunition, killing 1 person and injuring 545 others, he reported.  Meanwhile, the health sector sorely lacks resources, with the United Nations Humanitarian Fund supporting projects to ease the alarming situation and prevent a crisis.  At the same time, some initiatives — including improved access to drinking water due to a Kuwait-supported desalination plant that will serve 200,000 people, and an increase in the number of permits given to Palestinian businessmen and labourers — are reducing the impact of the ongoing humanitarian and economic crises, he noted.  However, serious movement and access constraints on national staff of United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations in Gaza remain, he said, adding that Israel must significantly improve the movement and access of goods and people to and from Gaza as a step towards the lifting of closures.

Turning to other concerns, he reiterated calls to uphold the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, in accordance with the special and historical role of Jordan as their custodian.  In light of the continued demolition of Palestinian homes in Areas A, B and C of the West Bank, on the East Jerusalem side of the barrier, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that the Palestinian leadership will suspend compliance with agreements signed with Israel and start establishing mechanisms to implement that decision, he recalled.  Noting that the Palestinian Authority has refused, for the sixth consecutive month, to accept less than the full amount of tax-revenue transfers that Israel owes it, he said both sides agreed on 22 August that the Palestinian Authority will receive $568 million in reimbursed taxes levied by Israel on fuel.  This important measure will temporarily relieve the Palestinian Authority’s financial situation, even though disagreement over the bulk of tax-revenue transfers remains, he added.

He went on to report on other developments in the region over the past 48 hours, citing, in particular, media reports about two unmanned aerial vehicles crashing into the Beirut suburbs, and about an air raid targeting a military base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the Beka’a Valley on the Lebanon-Syria border.  The United Nations reiterates its appeal to all concerned parties to cease violations of resolution 1701 (2006) and to fully implement its provisions and calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint in action and rhetoric, he said.  In closing, he stressed:  “Tangible steps can and must be taken to reverse the negative trajectory of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict urgently.”  The United Nations remains committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict on the basis of international law, relevant United Nations resolutions and previous agreements, and realizing the vision of two States — Israel and Palestine — living side by side in peace and security.

Statements

KRZYSZTOF SZCERKI, Secretary of State, Chancellery of the President of Poland and Council President for August, spoke in his national capacity, saying it is imperative that all parties prevent further violence and engage in good-faith efforts to that end.  All sides must also demonstrate commitment to peace through both actions and policies.  Poland supports a two-State solution, he said, expressing support for all international efforts to break the current impasse in the political process.  Commending the efforts of the United States, he emphasized that lasting peace will not be possible without compromises or respect for the basic principles of international law.  Recalling last week’s incidents in Lebanon, he appealed for maximum restraint, warning that instability in one country in the Middle East can rapidly destabilize the wider region.  He went on to underscore his country’s support for the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), saying its efforts make a tangible difference to those living in the midst of conflict.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said that incidents such as the recent murders of an Israeli hiker and an army corporal in the West Bank undermine attempts to find a solution to the conflict and to build trust between the two sides.  Highlighting Hamas’s praise for the attacks, he asked how so many at the United Nations can refuse to condemn an organization whose leaders made such statements, emphasizing that it is beyond time for Hamas to put the interests of Gaza’s people first.  He went on to note that, despite years of discussion in the Council, there has been little progress towards a solution that creates a lasting, secure and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians.  However, the United States remains committed to pursuing a comprehensive peace through direct negotiations, he emphasized, encouraging all to keep an open mind regarding its efforts and to remain actively engaged with its representatives.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), condemning Israeli aggression, said there are those who think the situation cannot get any worse, yet daily violence directed against Palestinians has reached unprecedented levels.  Calling upon Israel to stop all such acts of aggression, he also called upon the international community to support UNRWA in carrying out its mandate to provide education, health and social services to Palestine refugees.  Recalling the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, he emphasized the need to abide by international terms of reference in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He went on to call upon Israel to stop its repeated violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and to adhere to its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and relevant resolutions.

EVA NIAMKE (Côte d’Ivoire) said the absence of a viable consultation framework has led to further violence and deficits in trust.  Inviting the parties to heed calls for dialogue, she said a just and lasting solution is imperative and both sides must refrain from actions likely to fuel tensions, urging greater international efforts to establish new peace talks without conditions.  Turning to the deteriorating conditions in Gaza, she said development partners and humanitarian agencies must lend their support.  She urged Council members to settle their differences and work together, and international partners to continue their support for UNRWA, which plays a determining role in relieving the suffering of Palestine refugees.

ZHANG JUN (China), expressing concern about new tensions breaking out across the Middle East, noted that the question of Palestine is at the root of conflict in the region.  Emphasizing that the international community must uphold multilateralism and promote dialogue, he said all parties must move towards each other and immediately stop inflammatory rhetoric and destructive actions.  They must focus on promoting a just and lasting solution based on the existing international consensus, he said, stressing that a two-State solution is the only way.  Security Council resolutions must also be implemented, he said, calling upon Israel immediately to stop demolishing Palestinian property, as well as all legal and unilateral actions aimed at legitimizing settlements.  It must also lift the blockade on Gaza, he said, underlining the need to continue initiatives to boost the Palestinian economy.  Commending UNRWA’s contribution to improved living conditions for Palestine refugees, he recalled that, on 30 July, China and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement relating to an education project, adding that Beijing also provides support to UNRWA and to bilateral initiatives.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) called upon parties to exercise restraint, emphasizing the need to protect civilians.  She went on to state that stability in Gaza depends on a negotiated solution, lifting the blockade and ensuring security guarantees for Israel.  However, that country’s ongoing settlement policies are taking the parties farther away from a two-State solution, she noted.  Turning to the clashes in Jerusalem, she called upon the parties to refrain from any action or declaration that could incite further tensions.  She also called for preserving the two-State formula.  In the meantime, the immediate focus should be on improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza, she said, adding that, in the absence of a political solution to establish peace, UNRWA’s projects are essential.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) strongly condemned both Israel’s settlement policy and attempts to consolidate it.  As the occupying Power, Israel has an obligation to protect the rights of the Palestinian population, he emphasized.  Expressing concern about recent incidents at Haram al-Sharif, he stressed the importance of upholding the status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites.  Turning to Gaza, he underlined the importance of UNRWA’s mandate and the need for Israel to guarantee unimpeded access for humanitarian and development actors.  He went on to call upon Palestinian movements to stop encouraging children to participate in violence and on the Israeli authorities to stop the administrative detention of children.

PAUL DUCLOS (Peru), while recognizing Israel’s right to self-defence, emphasized that it must act with proportionality.  It must also comply with Council resolutions and stop settlement construction, demolitions and evictions, he said, stressing that its actions contravene international law, threaten the territorial integrity of any future Palestinian State and undermine the possibility of a two-State solution.  He went on to call for progress in the inter-Palestinian reconciliation effort and international support for addressing UNRWA’s funding crisis.  On Lebanon, he said that country’s territory and sovereignty must be respected and urged all stakeholders to act with moderation while also avoiding unilateral actions.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) expressed concern about growing tensions in Gaza, including attempts by militants to infiltrate Israel.  He encouraged the Palestinian Authority and Israel, as well as regional and international actors, to advance long-term proposals to address the threat posed by Hamas.  He went on to emphasize his country’s commitment to UNRWA, describing the agency as a vital humanitarian and stabilizing force in the Middle East.  Emphasizing the right of every Israeli and Palestinian to live in peace and security, he reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s support for a two-State solution, he encouraged the United States to put forward detailed proposals for a viable peace agreement addressing the concerns of both sides.

JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) said the 70-year-old Israeli‑Palestinian conflict reflects the absence of a definitive political solution, raising questions about its destabilizing effects across the Middle East and calling the Council’s role and responsibility into question.  Unity is absent in the Council, he noted as he called upon Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from actions that could exacerbate the situation.  He went on to highlight UNRWA’s work, pointing out that the agency has helped to employ 9,000 men and women.

BERIOSKA MORRISON GONZÁLEZ (Dominican Republic) called upon the international community to guarantee the protection of civilians and condemn all actions that violate human rights.  Efforts are also needed to help Israel and Palestine return to negotiations.  Condemning all violence, she said Hamas and Palestinian Jihad must end the practice of targeting civilians.  Turning to the dire conditions in Gaza, she emphasized the critical need to ensure predictable funding for UNRWA, while recalling that Switzerland, Belgium and other countries suspended their funding after reports about an agency director involved in inappropriate sexual conduct and abuse of authority.  Moving forward, all parties must do their utmost to open the doors to negotiating a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she said.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) called for an end to violence and provocations, noting that violence against Palestinian civilians in Gaza remains persistent with no accountability and that the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound by Israeli forces in the morning of Eid al-Adha on 11 August represented a serious act of provocation that gave rise to religious and political tension.  The root cause of the conflict — the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israel — must be addressed, he emphasized, deploring the Council’s failure to respond to such illegal actions.  “In other words, multilateralism is under constant threat,” he warned, calling for unity among Council members.  Noting a sharp deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the increased vulnerability of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, he went on to stress the need for sustained humanitarian assistance.  In this regard, the role of UNRWA is vital, he added.

JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) expressed concern about recent statements in Israel calling for the annexation of the West Bank in whole or in part, adding that, if that becomes Government policy, it would be a clear violation of international law.  There is no fast track to peace, but creating facts on the ground will not lead to sustainable peace, he said.  Underscoring Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security, he called on all parties to refrain from unilateral measures, adding that an upsurge in violence, including deadly attacks by Hamas, make the resumption of talks more difficult.  He reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to UNRWA, describing the entity as indispensable.  Turning to recent incidents in Lebanon, he called on all sides to exercise maximum restraint.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), expressing his delegation’s unwavering support for a two-State solution, also voiced grave concern about the continued disregard for the prevailing and long-standing peace process — including the systematic foreclosure of final‑status issues.  Meanwhile, the continuation of settlement expansion violates international law, undermines peace prospects and contravenes Council resolutions, thereby damaging the organ’s credibility.  “If the Council cannot uphold its own decisions, it begins to lose its effectiveness of purpose,” he stressed, adding that its members should work towards restoring trust between the parties and prevent further antagonism between them.  The rockets fired into Israel from Gaza in recent days and the deadly Israeli response are clear indications that, as long as the impasse continues, instability will be perpetuated and more lives will be lost.  Calling for written reports by the Secretary-General on the matter, he also proposed that the Council reconsider its long-delayed visit to the region, adding that a “mini-mission” could be undertaken should some members be unwilling to participate.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), expressing concern at continuing tension in the Middle East, said it is clear a solution will not emerge from unilateral action.  The only way forward is to pool regional and international efforts.  Recalling the 23 July statement to the Council by the special representative of the United States, Jason D. Greenblatt, he said that destroying all that has been achieved is fraught with terrible consequences for the entire region.  Noting also that Israel was created thanks to General Assembly resolution 181, he wondered how far the United States would go in reviewing past decisions at the United Nations.  Underscoring the role to be played by the Quartet in support of the peace process, as well as the Russian Federation’s offer to host meetings between Israel and the Palestinians with no preconditions, he said it is high time for the Council to send a mission to the region to build trust and allow for negotiations to be relaunched.  He went on to call on all parties to take steps to de-escalate the crisis in the Gulf, which threatens international efforts to resolve conflicts in the region.