Statement by H.E. Dr. Riad Malki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, before the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East including the Palestine Question on 23 January 2013

Mr. President,

On behalf of the State of Palestine, I congratulate you and your friendly country Pakistan on your presidency and wise stewardship of the Security Council.  We also express deep appreciation to fraternal Kingdom of Morocco for its skilled leadership of the Council in December.

I thank Mr. Robert Serry, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Special Coordinator of the United Nations, for his briefing today and for his tireless efforts on the ground.

Mr. President,

Today, I also wish to renew Palestine’s warm congratulations to the new Security Council members, the friendly countries of Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Republic of Korea and Rwanda.  We are confident of your commitments to uphold the Charter, international law and the Council’s resolutions, without exception, and we convey our wishes for all success in fulfilling your high responsibilities.  I also convey Palestine’s deep appreciation to the members whose terms ended in December 2012: the friendly countries of Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal and South Africa.  We are grateful for the efforts exerted during their tenure in support of the rights of the Palestinian people and aimed at reaching a just, lasting and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. President,

I am honored to address the Security Council today for the first time on behalf of the State of Palestine, following the historic decision by the General Assembly to accord Palestine nonmember observer State status in the United Nations with its adoption of resolution 67/19 on 29 November 2012.  The overwhelming support of Member States for this initiative is a reflection of the strong support for the inalienable rights and legitimate national aspirations of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination and a life of freedom and dignity in their independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and long-overdue recognition by the Assembly of Palestine’s statehood.  A new era has begun and we hope it will mark the turning point for making peace and security a reality between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and in the region as a whole.

We are grateful for this principled support, for the courageous decision taken by Member States at this juncture in history.  It is high time that the State of Palestine take its rightful place among the community of nations, and our hope is renewed by this important step, which must pave the way for the acceptance of our September 2011 application for full membership in the United Nations.  Moreover, we are encouraged by the signs that this momentous step will reinvigorate the international community’s longstanding, yet unfulfilled, commitment to achieve a just, peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In this regard, it is clear that the support of this resolution constituted an unequivocal reaffirmation of the international community’s commitment to the two-State solution for peace based on the pre-1967 borders, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions – beginning from resolution 181 (II) (1947) to resolution 242 (1967) and all other relevant resolutions thereafter, the Madrid principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Roadmap.  The urgency of this reaffirmation cannot be understated in light of the two-State solution’s severe denigration over the years and the collective consensus that the window of opportunity for justly and physically achieving that solution is rapidly closing.  There can be no one in this Chamber today who can deny this.

The Assembly’s adoption of resolution 67/19 must therefore be viewed as a legitimate, multilateral, peaceful, political effort to save the two-State solution, to reaffirm its basis and to create the proper environment for convening substantive negotiations between the parties – within a credible peace process based on the well-known terms of reference and according to a limited timeframe – aimed at achieving an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory since 1967 and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement that resolves all outstanding core issues, including the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security, water and prisoners.

Mr. President,

Despite this strong message by the international community, the period following the General Assembly’s decision has regrettably witnessed Israeli actions that are the complete antithesis of the two-State solution.  While the Palestinian leadership, under stewardship of President Mahmoud Abbas and the sole legitimate representation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), has reaffirmed its commitment to the path of peace, and reaffirmed its immediate readiness to engage in negotiations on the basis of clear parameters, Israel has instead persisted with the path of occupation and conflict and fear-mongering.

Rather than reciprocating the hand extended in peace, Israel has chosen to embark on a destructive escalation of its illegal agenda in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory, including East Jerusalem – the territory that constitutes the State of Palestine, which it has been illegitimately and forcibly occupying for over 45 years.  As conveyed in a series of letters transmitted by the State of Palestine to the Security Council in this period, Israel has persisted in behaving with utter contempt, deliberately breaching international law and dismissing the will of the international community.

This has been most starkly reflected in intensification of its illegal settlement campaign and its heavy-handed, punitive measures against the Palestinian people and their leadership in the aftermath of adoption of resolution 67/19, including the theft of Palestinian tax revenues, which has exacerbated the financial crisis and compromised the functioning of our national institutions and system of democratic governance.  This has been accompanied by ridicule of the international community, particularly the UN, epitomized, inter alia, in the statement by the Israeli Ambassador in the General Assembly on 29 November and the remarks by the Israeli Prime Minister on 21 December in an interview in which he defiantly insisted on pursuit of Israel’s illegal colonization program and stated: “What the UN says doesn’t interest me.”

On the ground, this attitude has manifested itself in the systematic escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement campaign, particularly in and around Occupied East Jerusalem.  We recall that, in December 2012, Israel flagrantly announced its intentions to proceed with plans for the construction of more than 7,000 units in illegal settlements and the confiscation of hundreds more dunums of Palestinian land throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  At the core of this unprecedented settlement drive are plans for establishing illegal settlements in sensitive areas to the east and south of Occupied East Jerusalem, namely the so-called “E1” area east of the City and a hill area between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, both of which are integral for the continuity and viability of the State of Palestine, and settlement activities in Al-Khalil area and the Jordan Valley.  This provocative Israeli approach is also manifested in the continuation of Israeli settlers’ terror and violence against Palestinian civilians and properties, under protection and with the support of the Israeli Government.

Before this august Council, we reiterate what is abundantly clear under international law: all Israeli settlement activities are illegal.  Regardless of whether it is one unit or thousands; called a settlement or an outpost; and regardless of the pretext, it is all illegal.  Countless resolutions have affirmed this, as has the ICJ Advisory Opinion of July 2004.  Moreover, Israeli settlement activities constitute grave breaches under the 4th Geneva Convention, i.e. war crimes, as further determined in accordance with Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Israel’s illegal settlement campaign also constitutes the main obstacle to the attainment of a peace based on the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.  A halt to settlement construction is not a precondition; it is a legal obligation.  This invokes the duty of the Security Council, in line with its Charter mandate for maintenance of international peace and security, to act to preserve the viability of the solution for this conflict on which there has long been a global consensus.  We are at a pivotal moment; a firm message must be sent to Israel that all of these illegal policies must be halted or that it will have to bear responsibility for its violations and its destruction of the two-State solution.

Mr. President,

Clearly, the fact that Israel has never been held accountable for its crimes has fostered its impunity and emboldened its rejection of the path of peace.  Here, it must be recalled that Israel’s hostile, punitive behavior following resolution 67/19 was actually preceded by yet another Israeli military aggression against the Gaza Strip in November 2012 and repeated declarations by Israeli officials about their preferred path: the path of war.  Once again, a barrage of death, trauma and terror was inflicted on the Palestinian people by Israel, the occupying Power, without consequence.

Hundreds of Palestinian casualties were caused, including many children and women, and homes and infrastructure were again destroyed by indiscriminate Israeli aerial bombings of densely-populated civilian areas, including refugee camps.  Human suffering, already massive due to the Israeli blockade imposed in 2007 in collective punishment of the population, deepened.  Regrettably, the Security Council, with exception of the press statement issued after conclusion of the ceasefire on 21 November, again failed to shoulder its responsibilities to stop this Israeli aggression and protect the Palestinian civilian population in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Nevertheless, then, as now, the Palestinian leadership repeatedly reaffirmed its rejection of the path of war and its commitment instead to the path of peace.  Public support for this position, which constitutes the core of the political program pursued by President Abbas and his government, was manifested across Palestine, and particularly in Gaza, at the start of this year in the massive rallies held on 4 January to mark the 48th anniversary of the Fatah movement and in support of President Abbas and longstanding Palestinian national aspirations.

The significance of this must be highlighted, and must serve as a clear answer to those who question the Palestinian people’s support for peace and those would question President Abbas’ legitimate leadership.  It is in this context that reconciliation between the Palestinian political factions, primarily Fatah and Hamas, is being pursued to end the division, which is being demanded by our people and is vital for our national goals.  Here, we reiterate appreciation to the Arab Republic of Egypt, the League of Arab States and all other concerned parties for their efforts and express hope that Palestinian unity will soon be fully achieved and that it will be respected by the international community.

Mr. President,

In spite of Israel’s constant provocations and hostilities, which are raising tensions and destabilizing the situation on the ground, the developments of 29 November 2012; the conclusion of the ceasefire in Gaza; and the popular nonviolent acts of Palestinian peaceful resistance to the occupation – most recently displayed in the courageous creation of the Bab Al-Shams and Bab Al-Karamah protest villages on confiscated Palestinian land marked for Israeli colonization and in weekly demonstrations in villages throughout Palestine against the settlements and the Wall – are all abundant evidence of the Palestinian commitment to the path of peace.

However, in choosing to blindly adhere to its expansionist agenda, Israel is undermining the contiguity and unity of the land of the State of Palestine, threatening the viability of the two-State solution and hastening consideration of other alternatives for a solution between the two nations that exist on this land – Palestine and Israel.  We are at a crossroads and Israel must choose: either to honestly engage in a meaningful political process for achievement of the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders, a historic compromise and relative justice to which we committed decades ago; or to force us into in an era in which that solution is abandoned and the Palestinian people enter a new stage in their national struggle to defend and achieve their rights through all peaceful, political, diplomatic and legal means available to the State of Palestine.

The international community has a historic responsibility before it.  Action must be immediately undertaken, foremost by this Council, to compel Israel to cease its breaches of the law and to commit to the path of peace.  Negotiations cannot succeed while being sabotaged by an unrelenting occupation that mocks and makes impossible the achievement of peace. Moreover, the past years have proven that the parties, left alone in an unequal, unfair negotiations framework, cannot achieve peace.  Reaffirmation of clear parameters for the solution and a commitment of adherence by the parties are therefore also necessary.

Business as usual cannot continue.  What is needed is bold leadership, particularly by those who have staked a claim in shepherding the peace process over all these years, and a significant UN role, including by the Security Council.  This leadership must be consistent with the professed values of freedom, tolerance, human dignity and justice, core elements for peace and stability in our world and our region, without exception.  Strong political and moral will are needed to salvage the two-State solution, to help the parties overcome the political deadlock and to guarantee the success of the political process for the realization of a final peace agreement during this critical year, 2013.

The Palestinian people and their leadership remain committed to the two-State solution, as is the wider Arab and Islamic world, as reflected in continuous support for the historic Arab Peace Initiative since 2002.   We appeal to the international community to heed this call for peace and to act with conscience to support those who yearn for freedom and to help us usher in an era of long-overdue justice and independence for the Palestinian people and Palestinian-Israeli peace and security.

Thank you, Mr. President.