Statement by Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, New York, 25 January 2018

Mr. President,

On behalf of the State of Palestine, I congratulate Kazakhstan on assuming the Security Council Presidency and express appreciation for your able leadership of the Council’s important agenda.

We thank United Nations Special Coordinator and Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, for his briefing.

Mr. President,

Today, I also extend our warmest congratulations to the new elected members of the Council – Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, The Netherlands, Peru and Poland, wishing them all success in upholding their responsibilities in accordance with the Charter and the Council’s resolutions, as you collectively seek to fulfill the duty to maintain international peace and security.

We also renew sincere appreciation to the countries and delegations of Egypt, Italy, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay upon completing their terms, during which they served with exemplary commitment, competence and wisdom. We recognize your countries’ contributions to the Council’s efforts to address the many critical issues on its agenda, including the question of Palestine, throughout your tenure and in the face of many crises.

This was most recently reflected in the vote convened by the Council on 18 December 2017 on the draft resolution presented by Egypt, as the Arab representative on the Council, on the status of Jerusalem.  While the draft was regrettably vetoed, we remain grateful for the honorable stance taken by the overwhelming majority of countries, reaffirming the relevant resolutions and the principles that are at the key to Palestinian-Israeli peace and are a matter of international consensus.

Mr. President,

Looking back, 2017 ended on a disheartening note as we bore witness to decisions denigrating the rights and national aspirations of the Palestinian people and dismissing the global consensus that has prevailed for decades based on the Security Council’s resolutions on Jerusalem and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in its entirety.

At the same time, however, we found solace and hope in the resounding rejection of such decisions and the unequivocal reaffirmations – here in this chamber, in the General Assembly and from capitals around the world – of the relevant resolutions, including, inter alia, resolutions 476 (1980), 478 (1980) and 2334 (2016); of respect for the legal, political and historic status of the City of Jerusalem; of East Jerusalem’s status as occupied and as an integral part of the rest of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967; of respect for the historic status quo at Al-Haram Al-Sharif and of Jordan’s custodianship of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in the City; and of fundamental positions and principles recognizing Jerusalem’s special status, sensitivity and centrality to peacemaking, hence its designation among the final status issues to be resolved for achievement of a just and lasting peace.

Assumptions that all of this could somehow be skirted, or that peace could be achieved otherwise – whether unilaterally or by illegal imposition of facts on the ground – are faulty assumptions at best and dangerous and reprehensible at worst.

Our position rejecting the 6 December 2017 decision on Jerusalem by the United States has been fully conveyed to the Council and remains unwavering.  We remain insistent on respect for the law and our rights, and we reject this unilateral, provocative decision, which directly contravenes the Charter and UN resolutions on the matter. This decision is null and void and has no legal effect on the status of Jerusalem. We welcome the General Assembly’s decisive affirmation in this regard on 21 December 2017, and reiterate our deep appreciation as well for the actions undertaken by the Arab Ministerial Council, the OIC Summit and the Non-Aligned Movement in response to this crisis.

In response to repeated distortions of our position, I am compelled to clarify further.  Our position is not intended as “disrespect” and should not be translated as such by anyone. On the contrary, it is a position rooted in full respect for the law, for the principles of justice and equity, for the Charter, for this Council, for the Assembly and for the decades-long international consensus on the parameters of a peaceful solution. It is a position of respect for the legitimate national aspirations of our people, who have been so patient and steadfast in spite of the grave injustice they continue to endure.  It is a position of respect for the human rights and dignity of our people, which we cannot allow to be denied.

No price tag can be put on the rights and dignity of any people.  They cannot be quashed by threats, intimidation or punitive action, and such attempts must be rejected by all who seek peace and justice and who truly believe in international law as the path for their realization.

Mr. President,

Moving forward, we will therefore remain resolute on three counts: in calling for the application of international law to the question of Palestine – in all of its dimensions and without exception, in our historic pursuit of the inalienable rights of our people, and in our commitment to peace and coexistence.

Nothing that we have done in this recent period or at any other point in the long years of the Middle East peace process should be misconstrued or cynically portrayed as a rejection of peace. On the contrary – although it is unacceptable that we, the aggrieved party, the occupied people, dispossessed, colonized and brutalized, are being demanded to repeatedly prove our worthiness to “be granted” inalienable human rights, including to be a free people in our own land – we have consistently demonstrated our good faith and our commitment to peace.

This has been done despite the enormous sacrifice we have been asked to make in the context of the historic compromise devised by the international community in the form of the two-State solution on the 1967 lines. We accepted this compromise thirty years ago in 1988 and have adhered to it ever since, throughout every phase of the peace process from Oslo forward. We remained committed even in the face of the duplicity, bad faith and illegal policies and practices by Israel, the occupying Power, destroying not only the two-State solution, inch by inch and day by day, but also destroying the very belief that peace is possible.  This cannot be reasonably denied by anyone.

It is therefore appalling to witness the resurgence of claims by the Israeli Prime Minister and other government officials that the President of the State of Palestine, President Mahmoud Abbas, is not a man of peace. Exploiting the current circumstances and the anger and resentment they have caused, they are again attempting to distract the international community and evade responsibility for the political deadlock and deplorable situation on the ground by making such false, shameful claims about the Palestinian side. We have seen this demonization before; it is repugnant and we firmly reject it.

History and facts speak for themselves and such claims could not be farther from the truth. President Abbas’ commitment to diplomacy, international law, negotiations and non-violence as the means for achieving a peaceful and just solution that would realize the rights of the Palestinian people and their legitimate aspirations to live in freedom, dignity and security in their homeland, while coexisting side by side with Israel in the context of a two-State solution, has been demonstrated time and time again.

He continues to actively consult with capitals across the globe, just days ago in Brussels, and in visits over the past year to Amman, Ankara, Addis, Cairo, Beijing, Berlin, Madrid, Moscow, New Delhi, Paris, Washington and elsewhere and has also received delegations non-stop, all in our continuing search for peace. This has been his life’s work and has been conformed to, in word and deed, by the Palestinian leadership for decades. Doubting that – in the storm of provocations and schemes we are being subjected to in this moment and in response to our firm stance on principle – reveals utter mal-intent and is unethical and offensive.

Mr. President,

Against the backdrop of these developments and the ever-worsening situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in our refugee camps throughout the region, it is an understatement to say that the Palestinian people are facing an existential crisis.

We have rung the alarm bells before to no avail. Yet we are compelled by the gravity of the situation to do so again today. We do this with deep conviction in the justness of our cause and concern for the plight of our people, but also with abiding conviction in the power of international law and the role of this organization to deliver us to justice and to a peaceful end to this conflict that has inflicted so much suffering and tragedy.

Right now, the world is witnessing in shocking detail the dehumanization of the Palestinian people, their subjugation and deprivation, the attempts to erase their history, heritage and identity, and the systematic decimation of their communities, of generation after generation, and of their will and hope, with zero horizon for an end to this travesty. Our stand is thus neither a case of brinksmanship, nor posturing.  This is about people’s lives, in this case an entire nation. It is a crisis unquestionably about our very existence in our homeland, our rights, including to self-determination and return, and our survival as a people.

And, it is, as in similar crises in history, entirely man-made, worsened every day by decisions of man, by greed, cruelty and might over right, tormenting and determining the fate of innocent children, women and men. Their crime? Their ethnicity as Palestinians and religion, as Muslims or Christians, as non-Jews, and yet their insistence to live in freedom and dignity in their homeland.

For this, they are openly degraded and demonized by the occupying Power and its public, which is being incited against them to the point of outright extremism and terror. They are being forcibly driven from their homes and land by a violent, oppressive occupation that is unrelenting in its colonization, fragmentation and annexation of their territory, with settlements and the wall being built at a feverish pace. Their human rights are being trampled and they are being besieged and blockaded in a massive form of collective punishment. They are being arrested, detained and imprisoned – with even children not spared this horror as we witness in the plight of a 16-year old girl, Ahed Tamimi, and a 16-year-old boy, Malik Al-Jawabra, among the hundreds of children abducted from their homes, held captive by the occupation, and being “tried” by the only juvenile military court in the world.

All of this is being done under the pretext of “security” and religious edicts and whereby any means, no matter how brutal, immoral or illegal, are justified in the ongoing pillage, displacement, humiliation and torture of the other. Even in this august chamber – the highest multilateral political, security body and in a secular organization established on the basis of international the law, our one common language – we are subjected to biblical preaching and denigration of the rights of an entire people based on religious ideology and premises of supremacy and exclusivity.

This is not only contradicts international law and human rights, but sets a dangerous precedent in this Council far beyond the confines of the Palestine question. The purposes and principles of the Charter and the very reason for the UN’s existence are being trampled before our eyes and without consequence. Again, the message is that the law does not matter; that those who follow the rules will lose, while those who break and mock the rules will win. What impact will such a message have on our youth at this critical moment in the history of our region and the world?

In the same vein, we must ask: what message is being sent by the reduction of humanitarian support at this time of need? What is to be gained from depriving innocent, vulnerable refugees of subsistence and driving them into desperation? How does this serve the cause of peace and stability? How can the politicization of humanitarian assistance be accepted? It cannot in any way.

We appeal for compassion and the upholding of humanitarian law, principles and collective responsibilities. We urge donors to enhance support UNRWA to ensure the continuity of its internationally-recognized, vital humanitarian and development assistance to more than 5.5 million Palestine refugees and its contribution to regional stability in this most volatile period. We welcome the recent statement by Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl and his call on the international community to stand with the Agency in respect of longstanding commitments and shared principles, and also welcome Secretary-General Antonio Guttéres’ efforts to mobilize support.

We also recognize the important roles of the host countries and the generous response of some States to accelerate their support at this time in order to this General Assembly-mandated UN agency, in line with obligations, commitments and the relevant resolutions, pending a just solution. We call on all States to increase their support, if possible, to the Agency, highlighting the Commissioner-General’s message that, beyond humanitarian aid, UNRWA stands for hope and respect of rights and dignity, so crucial in the absence of a solution and growing despair and uncertainty about the future.

Mr. President,

In the span of a year, we have seen hopes rise for peace and the sudden dashing of those hopes.  One year on since the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) in this chamber, the dramatic deterioration of the situation, the escalation of tensions, and the deepening political deadlock are cause for grave concern.

We continue to believe that resolution 2334 (2016) represents the best chance for rectifying course and salvaging the two-State solution on the 1967 lines towards ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, justly resolving the question of Palestine in all aspects, and making Palestinian-Israeli peace a reality. This was at the heart of the urgency of the resolution’s adoption and its unanimous global welcome at the time, with exception of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government, who stand in obstruction of the two-State solution and all peace efforts.

The failure to implement the relevant resolutions and to hold Israel accountable in the face of its flagrant non-compliance and violations only further foster such impunity, diminishing peace prospects, day by day, hour by hour. Complacency and defeatism in the face of these crimes and, worse yet, any manner of complicity, are totally unacceptable. In this context, actions violating relevant resolutions and granting recognition to Israel’s illegal measures in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, are inexcusable, unlawful and must be rejected by all.

Mr. President,

Now is the time for collective action in follow-up of the explicit calls made in resolution 2334, including for intensification of international and regional diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967.

Now is the time for the international community to mobilize the political will to implement the relevant resolutions and to revive the peace option, averting the grave impact the continued unraveling of the situation will have regionally and globally. Recent developments to the contrary must not dissuade us from moving forward on this basis, but rather must strengthen our resolve.

We reiterate here the Palestinian leadership’s call, as pronounced at the highest levels in the PLO Central Council last week, for a collective peace process under international auspices aimed at achieving a just solution and fulfilling the long-denied rights of the Palestinian people. This is a fair request, for despite all our best efforts, it is clear that unilateral initiatives have failed. The mechanisms for such a collective process already exist and should be immediately activated.

We call on the Quartet, bearing in mind its responsibilities; call on the Security Council, bearing in mind its Charter duties and relevant resolutions; and call on the United Nations, bearing in mind its permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until it is justly resolved, to act now, on the basis of international law and with the tools available to them, to stem this dangerous downward spiral and salvage the prospects for peace.

We underscore the stated readiness and capacities of the European Union and the Russian Federation to fulfill their respective roles in the Quartet, in accordance with its Security Council-mandated responsibilities, and believe that its expansion to include other relevant and willing international and regional partners would serve the cause of peace.  We urge all peace-loving countries, large and small, to support our call for collective action without delay in the interest of peace and justice.

Here, we reiterate our appeal to those countries that have not yet done so to recognize the State of Palestine on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in line with the relevant resolutions, in respect of the erga omnes right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and as a significant contribution to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict, based on the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security. All States must step up their efforts to uphold their commitments and obligations to bring an end to the unlawful and unjust situation that prevails.  No peace initiative will ever succeed otherwise.

On our part, in spite of immense challenges and rising hopelessness, we shall continue adhering to international law and engaging responsibly with the international community, using all political, diplomatic, legal and popular means possible to realize the freedom and independence of our people, restore their rights, and establish a just and lasting peace. We respectfully ask that this good faith be reciprocated and that you not let the Palestinian people down at this most critical, existential moment.