Statement by Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour before the United Nations Security Council, Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, New York, 20 April 2017

Mme. President,

At the outset, I congratulate you on your assumption of the Security Council Presidency, confident of the United States’ skilled guidance of the Council’s important work. I also express our appreciation to the United Kingdom for its leadership of the Council in the month of March.

I thank the UN Special Coordinator and Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, for his briefing to the Council.

Before making my national statement, I wish to note that, while the State of Palestine is Arab Group Chair for April, the Council of Arab Ambassadors has decided that Jordan, in its capacity as Host and President of the 2017 Arab Summit, shall deliver today’s statement on behalf of the Group. We align ourselves with that statement, as well as the NAM and OIC statements.

Mme. President,

We meet at a time of simmering crises, rising tensions, and declining optimism about prospects for Middle East peace. At the heart of the instability in our region remains the Palestine question, a grave injustice that continues without remedy, causing misery to millions, and that continues to pose a threat to international peace and security.

The persistence of this injustice also continues to fuel perceptions of bias and double-standards and to be exploited by extremist elements to justify their vile actions and as a recruitment tool. There can be no discussion of countering extremist terror and stabilizing the region without recognizing this fact, as well as the imperative of addressing the root causes of our region’s conflicts, in order to fully resolve them and allow us to enter a new era in the Middle East.

That said, it is beyond clear: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is about the denial of a people’s inalienable rights and a prolonged foreign occupation; it is not a conflict arising from incitement or terror. A territorial solution and fulfillment of rights are what will solve the conflict – ending the Israeli occupation of our land and realizing Palestinian national aspirations and rights, including to self-determination and freedom and a just solution for the Palestine refugees, in conformity with international law, the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Mme. President,

The Security Council has a role and responsibility to foster such a just and peaceful solution, consistent with its Charter mandate. Resolution 2334 (2016) is the most recent articulation of the Council’s positions, decisions and determination in this regard and reflects the longstanding international consensus on this issue.

We reiterate: Resolution 2334 is not anti-Israel; it is anti-settlements, anti-violence, anti-violation of international law, and is thus actually and clearly pro-peace and pro-two-States – Palestine and Israel – and was globally welcomed as such. The resolution provides the most viable path to preserve the two-State solution on the 1967 lines and create the necessary conditions to end the occupation, justly resolve the conflict in all aspects, and make Palestinian-Israeli peace and security a reality.

We call once again for full respect of resolution 2334. In this connection, we welcome the Secretary-General’s report pursuant to the resolution, as orally delivered on 24 March 2017. Yet, we reiterate the expectation for written reports to ensure proper documentation of implementation of the resolution’s provisions and of the developments promoting or obstructing its objectives.

Also, while the report rightly reiterated the call for complete cessation of illegal Israeli settlement activities; reiterated the call for cessation of violence and incitement; reaffirmed the global consensus on the two-State solution and noted ongoing international efforts to promote it; and reflected on the worrying reality on the ground; we believe further analysis, based on international law and the context of the occupation, as well as recommendations to rectify the negative trends, are required in future reports to assist the Council in upholding its duties. We await the next report in June, coinciding with the marking of 50 years of the occupation.

Mme. President,

We condemn Israel’s disrespect of Security Council decisions, as evidenced in its flagrant violations of resolution 2334. Thousands of violations have been deliberately carried out, including the advancement of at least 6,000 more settlement units in the months since the resolution’s adoption – even the establishment of a new settlement – along with other violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Settlement activities are eroding the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines and must stop immediately in all manifestations, as demanded by the Council. The colonization, fragmentation, and annexation of our land will never bring peace.

Here, we also recall the clear affirmations by the Council that “it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations”; and reiterate as well the call upon all States “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”. Actions consistent with these provisions are more urgent than ever.

Each day, as more violations entrench the occupation, hope and potential for a solution are gravely diminished. At the same time, Israel’s contempt diminishes the Council’s own stature and credibility, seriously compromising its ability to act with authority in other crises around the world.

How can this situation be acceptable to anyone, least of all Council members? Security Council resolutions must be implemented without exception. As in any other case, Israel must comply with Council demands and its legal obligations, or be held accountable. It cannot continue to be absolved of responsibility for its crimes and violations, its perpetuation of the conflict, and its obstruction of peace.

Mme. President,

I must turn now to the human dimension of this conflict and the endless suffering being caused to the Palestinian people, young and old, by this illegal and brutal occupation at the hands of the Israeli occupying forces and extremist Israeli settlers.

As we meet today, more than one thousand Palestinians are on hunger strike in non-violent protest of their captivity, inhumane treatment and torture by Israel. This hunger strike, led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian parliamentarian and leader, jailed for 15 years now, aims to call attention to the plight of the over 6,500 Palestinians imprisoned or arbitrarily detained, including men, women, youth, children and elected officials, and to secure legitimate rights being denied to them by Israel, in grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention.

We call for international solidarity with our prisoners in this peaceful effort to compel Israeli compliance with the law and respect for their human rights and to avert the dangerous consequences of deterioration of this situation. We believe that the ICRC can play a positive, facilitating role and urge all necessary efforts in this regard. Moreover, we stress that the release of our prisoners and detainees is indispensable for peace, one of the most important indicators of the readiness to end the oppression and occupation and create peace and coexistence.

Today, we must also remind the Council of the appalling situation of captivity of 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip under Israel’s illegal blockade in an act of massive collective punishment, a crime against humanity. For nearly 10 years, an entire population has been imprisoned, denied freedom of movement, access to livelihoods, access to basic supplies, even vital medicines, deprived of clean water and energy, and forced to live in the ruins of war, as even reconstruction continues to be obstructed and at least 40,000 people remain displaced from the destruction caused by the 2014 Israeli aggression. We caution that hope is fading and despair rising in Gaza, and reiterate our call for an end to the blockade and for respect by Israel of its obligations as an occupying Power under international humanitarian law.

Mme. President,

Our calls for respect of international law go hand in hand with our readiness to engage in negotiations to achieve peace. The Palestinian leadership has clearly committed itself to negotiations and has acted in good faith in over two decades of peace processes. We are insistent, however, on international law as the foundation and guarantor of peace. Resolution 2334 fully recognized this and the Palestinian leadership is committed to respect of that resolution.

We are engaging with all efforts to advance a just solution. This includes engagement with the new US administration of President Trump. Several Arab leaders have met with the President since the Arab Summit, reaffirming their commitment to peace, in line with the Arab Peace Initiative, which marked its 15th anniversary last month, was remarkably renewed again, and still awaits reciprocation by Israel. President Abbas will also soon travel to Washington, ready to engage in political dialogue with the US and all other concerned partners, including the Quartet, to launch a credible political horizon, on a clear basis and in a set timeframe, that will lead to a solution that ends the Israeli occupation and achieves the independence of the State of Palestine, with its capital East Jerusalem, based on the two-State solution on the 1967 lines, whereby the Palestinian and Israeli peoples can live side by side in peace and security.

At the same time, internally, we continue to pursue the development and strengthening of our national institutions and to also seek to heal the divisions in the Palestinian political system. We hope that ongoing reconciliation efforts will come to fruition, recognizing the imperative of unity for achievement of our legitimate national aspirations.

Mme. President,

Failure to justly resolve the Palestine question, the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, has brought us to several regrettable milestones in this year: the 50th year of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip and other Arab territories in June of 1967; 100 years since the Balfour Declaration; 70 years since the General Assembly’s decision to partition Mandate Palestine by its resolution 181 (II), which led to the Nakba of the Palestinian people that continues to this day; and 10 years of Israel’s inhumane blockade of Gaza.

The status quo is far beyond unsustainable. This is starkly shown by the prisoners’ hunger strike; the immense despair in Gaza; the high tensions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as Israel’s settlement and wall construction, demolition of Palestinian homes, violent military raids and arrest campaigns, and Israeli settler terror and provocations against our civilians continue unabated; and the painful tragedies being endured by our refugees throughout the region.

It is an explosive situation requiring immediate action to uphold the law, reverse the deterioration on the ground, and avert further crises. We thus call again for responsible, collective efforts to advance a genuine peace process to achieve, without delay, the end of the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and the just, lasting and comprehensive peace we have long sought. We appeal to the international community, with the Security Council at the forefront, to heed our appeals and to act urgently on their obligations in order to restore hope in the possibility of peace and to actually make it a reality.

I thank you, Mme. President.