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, 25 July 2017

Mr. President,

I congratulate you on your assumption of the Security Council Presidency this month, confident of China’s skilled leadership and guidance of this Council’s important work.

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

Before proceeding, we also renew our deep appreciation to Bolivia for its wise leadership of the Security Council in June, including its convening of the 20 June meeting of the Council to somberly mark and reflect on the 50th year of Israel’s foreign occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands since 1967.

As reflected in the statements made by Council members that day, the international consensus is firm and clear: the two-State solution on the basis of the pre-1967 borders – remains the central pillar of a just, comprehensive, and peaceful solution based on the relevant resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative. Also clear are the responsibilities of this Council, as per the Charter, to act to advance a solution to this conflict, which continues to impact international peace and security. And, yet, we continue to face the tragic consequences of this illegal occupation and the rapid deterioration on all fronts; the absence of a credible political horizon to end the occupation, end this injustice and realize the Palestinian people’s rights, including to self-determination.

Mr. President,

We come before the Council today amid escalating tensions and instability in our homeland and a profound sense of worry. The fragile situation in Occupied East Jerusalem has been inflamed yet again as Israel, the occupying Power, presses forth with its reckless and destructive agenda against our people and holy sites, especially Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which houses holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, in absolute contempt for international law and the will of the international community.

The situation that we have repeatedly warned against – the stoking of a religious conflict – is rapidly unfolding as Israel persists with its illegal actions in Occupied East Jerusalem, including its aggressive behavior and provocative violations of the historic status quo at Al-Haram Al-Sharif, aggravating religious sensitivities to the point of eruption. We are clearly at the tipping point.

We must therefore again warn against the dangers of such provocations and incitement and the fueling of yet another cycle of violence, which will surely have far-reaching consequences in this already-volatile climate.

We condemn the closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israel and all other related provocative and inflammatory measures.

At this moment, Occupied East Jerusalem is a city besieged from within and without by military checkpoints, occupation forces, settlements, armed and violent settlers. The Palestinian people in the city face negation, subjugation, discrimination, home demolitions, and violence, with the aim to forcibly transfer them out of their city. Israel openly and shamelessly pursues discriminatory plans and policies based on religious and national affiliation.

The Palestinian people are resisting the recent provocative measures, including the closure of Al-Aqsa, the banning of the Friday prayers, and restrictions on access to the holy sites, by praying in the streets. They are expressing peacefully their rejection of these illegal measures against their rights and their holy sites. Yet peaceful demonstrations and steadfastness in preserving the character and identity of the city are being met with violent repression. Such aggression, provocations and violations must be immediately halted in order to avert complete destabilization and collapse of the situation.

We recognize efforts undertaken thus far by concerned parties in the region and across the international community to de-escalate the situation in Jerusalem, and affirm the Palestinian leadership’s readiness to cooperate with such efforts. In this context, we recognize the important role and supervision of the Islamic of Waqf at Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the first qibla and third holiest site in Islam, and recall the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in the City.

Yet, Israel continues to ignore the international community. A clear, unified message must be conveyed to Israel to cease and reverse all such illegal actions and policies. Further, explicit calls must be made for an end to Israeli incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, including by government officials, regarding the City and the holy sites, such as remarks by Israel’s Public Security Minister, who brazenly declared: “Israel holds sovereignty over the Mount, no matter what other countries’ positions are and if we decide that a certain move has a certain advantage, then it is carried out.” Such declarations are aimed at illegally asserting Israeli control over Al-Haram Al-Sharif in the heart of Occupied East Jerusalem, which remains an integral part of the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

De-escalation is urgent. We appeal for continuation of all efforts to restore the historic status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound and achieve calm. This requires the lifting of all measures in violation of the historic status quo, including any hindrances or obstructions violating the access by Palestinians to this this holy site and their freedom of worship. We recall here the Council’s press statement of 17 September 2017, in which it was underscored that “Muslim worshippers at the Haram Al-Sharif must be allowed to worship in peace, free from violence, threats and provocations”.

We recall also, of course, the numerous relevant Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem, from 1948 to 1967 to the present day, with the most recent being resolution 2334 (2016), which explicitly underlinedthe non-recognition of any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.

We call for the full respect and implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions. This Council not only has the power to enact the law; it has a duty to uphold it; its credibility and authority in this case and all cases depend on it. The question of Palestine cannot remain the exception to every rule.

De-escalation of this perilous situation is contingent on respect for the law, including as enshrined in the relevant resolutions, and this in turn is what will preserve the sanctity of the holy sites and preserve the fleeting prospects for peace.

Protection of human life is equally urgent. International humanitarian law and human rights law must be respected without exception. We deplore the killing and injury of all innocent civilians.

Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable for its violations and negligence, including with regard to the terror of its settlers against the Palestinian civilians under its occupation; it cannot continue to be absolved of its legal obligations. We mourn the loss of five of our youth, who were brutally killed last week by the occupying forces, and pray for the recovery of the more than 1,000 peaceful demonstrators who have been injured. We deplore also Israel’s ongoing military raids and arrest of Palestinian civilians, including children, adding to the thousands of Palestinians unlawfully imprisoned and abused by the occupation.

We must remind in this Chamber that the Palestinian people are an unarmed, defenseless people. We must also remind that Israel is the occupying Power and is not the sovereign in any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and cannot be permitted in any way to act as sovereign, whether in practice, policy or rhetoric.

Mr. President,

This occupation, entrenched and sustained by Israel’s illegal policies and practices over the decades, is the context and harsh reality in which all of these disturbing developments are taking place. And all of this is happening against the backdrop of the Council’s adoption of resolution 2334 (2016), a resolution that was unequivocal as to the occupied status of the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since 1967 and the illegality of all measures aimed at altering the demography, character and status of that territory.

Resolution 2334 determined a clear path away from conflict and towards peace. We must not allow the occupying Power to continue dragging us in the opposite direction. In the absence of serious steps to implement resolution 2334, and in the absence of any consequences for Israel’s flagrant disrespect of the resolution, the occupying Power has not only persisted with its violations – committing thousands since the resolution’s adoption – but has been encouraged and emboldened to accelerate its reckless colonization and annexation campaign. The occupying Power’s actions continue to endanger Palestinian civilian lives and risk further destabilizing the ground, with potentially dramatic consequences for Palestinians, for Israelis and for the region and the prospects for peace and security. We must not underestimate the risks; despair, anger and tensions throughout Palestine are extremely high, especially among our youth, who have known not a single day of freedom or dignity under this abhorrent occupation.

Mr. President,

An hour away from Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied West Bank, 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip remain under Israel’s illegal blockade in an act of massive collective punishment. For a decade, 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. This is the reality of their lives and this man-made catastrophe is deepening by the hour and requires urgent remedy, including humanitarian, humane and political solutions.

Gaza is unlivable for humans. Not in a decade, or in a few years, or a few months, Gaza is unlivable now, as we speak. While Palestinian unity is vital and a priority, only the end of the Israeli blockade can bring back life to Gaza. We thus again appeal for immediate action to save the Palestinian civilian population there from this inhumanity and to avert another explosive crisis.

Mr. President,

Seventy years after the UN was first seized with the question of Palestine, the denial of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination still continues. How many Palestinian generations will have to endure the suffering caused by the persistent dispossession, exile and military colonial Israeli occupation in all its manifestations?

Here, I must state before the Council: if affirmation and defense of the Palestinian people’s rights is equated with being “anti-Israel”, then it means that only the negation of Palestinian rights can be considered “pro-Israel”. That is not only offensive and unacceptable; it becomes an existential matter for the Palestinian people. Moreover, it implies that a just peace – one that recognizes the legitimate national aspirations and rights of the Palestinian people – is not possible and that somehow our collective pursuit of peace is “anti-Israel”.

We reject such an equation, and continue to believe that peace is possible, not by negation of our rights, but rather by ending the Israeli occupation of our land, securing Palestinian rights, including to self-determination and freedom, and ensuring a just solution for the Palestine refugees, in conformity with international law, the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative.

The Palestinian leadership has, and will, continue to engage positively with every peace effort. We say this even at a time of great pain and turmoil being endured by our people and in our land for we are fully convinced that it is the path of peace and international legitimacy that will rectify this grave injustice and ensure that the Palestinian people will one day live in dignity, freedom and sovereignty in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, side by side with Israel and all of its other neighbors in peace and security within recognized borders. We urge this Council to uphold its Charter role and responsibilities in this hour of urgency.

Thank you, Mr. President.