On behalf of the State of Palestine, I extend our warm congratulations to the friendly country of Sweden on its election to the Security Council and thank you for convening this important debate under Sweden’s presidency.
We thank the United Nations Special Coordinator and Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, for his briefing at the outset of this debate.
Today, I also extend our sincere congratulations to the other newly-elected members of the Council – Bolivia, Ethiopia, Italy and Kazakhstan, wishing them all success, confident in their commitment to upholding their Charter responsibilities.
We also renew our deep appreciation to the countries and delegations of Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela upon completion of their Council terms, during which they served with exemplary dedication and skill, contributing to the Council’s efforts to address the many critical issues on its agenda, including the question of Palestine, as most recently reflected in the important action taken by the Security Council on 23 December 2016 with the adoption of its resolution 2334 (2016), which, inter alia, reaffirmed in unequivocal terms the principles that are at the heart of Palestinian-Israeli peace and are a matter of international consensus.
In the few weeks since its adoption, much has been said about resolution 2334 (2016). Analysis has emerged from all corners of the globe, both on the resolution’s content and the broader circumstances leading to its adoption by the Council with near unanimity. While widely viewed as long-overdue, it has been deemed extremely necessary.
The majority have stressed the resolution’s significance, politically and legally, and the chance it provides for rectifying course to salvage the two-State solution on the 1967 lines and to open a path towards ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, justly resolving the question of Palestine in all aspects, and ultimately making Palestinian-Israeli peace a reality. This is at the core of the unanimous welcome for the resolution, with the exception of Israel and a few of its supporters, to whom it must be again clarified:
Resolution 2334 (2016) is not anti-Israel; it is anti-settlements, anti-violence, anti-human rights violations. As such, resolution 2334 (2016) is clearly pro-peace, pro-international law, pro-two-States and thus pro-Palestine and pro-Israel.
Moreover, resolution 2334 (2016) cannot by any sense of reason be characterized as one-sided. The law – on which the resolution is firmly based – is universal and fair and can never be biased. This is a fact and is the lifeline of our international system.
In this way, the Council’s adoption of the resolution has not only revived hope in peace prospects, but has, more broadly, revived convictions in international law and the Council’s own credibility. That is no small feat against a backdrop of crises undermining belief in international law, especially among younger generations. For them, ongoing injustice and the failure to bring them peace, security and prosperity only further deepen despair and anger and heighten their vulnerability to radicalizing forces.
The opportunity to underscore the law’s applicability and strengthen its respect must therefore not be lost in the commotion of noise by Israel, the occupying Power, or its intimidation of those seeking to uphold it, as heard so aggressively in this chamber on 23 December and thereafter by Israeli officials, who have reacted to resolution 2334 (2016) with extreme hostility and rejection. The stakes are too high – the possibility of peace in the present, but also our collective future – and must be prioritized.
We believe it is precisely for this reason that the grounding of resolution 2334 (2016) in the law and its commitment to peace has been so widely and strongly welcomed. Yet that is also the very same reason why the Israeli Government – which has always sought to impose might over right – has so fiercely opposed the resolution, preferring instead to persist with its empty rhetoric and legal acrobatics to justify its continuing illegal colonization of the Palestinian land and oppression of the Palestinian people, in flagrant contempt of the law and international community.
The will of the Council and international community as a whole to stand by the resolution and implement its provisions will be an indicator of whether the two-State solution can be saved or not and whether peace will be possible or not.
To the few appalled by the fact that the Security Council dared to adopt resolution 2334 (2016), we say: Read the resolution and its clear call for peace. Read the UN Charter, beginning with the purposes and principles defined with Article 1, including maintenance of international peace and security in conformity with the principles of justice and international law and upholding the right of peoples to self-determination, and Article 2, stipulating, inter alia, that all Members shall abide in good faith with the obligations assumed under the Charter… and shall give the UN every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the Charter. Recall also Article 6, which states that a Member persistently violating Charter principles may be expelled from the organization. Compliance with Security Council resolutions is thus clearly obligatory, regardless of whether it is a Chapter VI or VII resolution.
The adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) represents a turning point. It is a moment of truth. Israel, the occupying Power, must choose between occupation and peace. They are mutually exclusive and cannot coexist. It is time for Israel to choose whether the two-State solution will become reality or whether history will be set on a different course.
In this regard, the international community has repeatedly affirmed that settlement activities are illegal, are destroying the two-State solution, and call into question Israel’s commitment to achieving a just, negotiated peace. Resolution 2334 (2016) has made clear once again that the law cannot accommodate unlawful policies and schemes; on the contrary, it is Israel that must change and must comply with the law. The absurd notion being entertained by some quarters in Israel, including by the Prime Minister and his cabinet, that instead of abiding by the law, the law can be twisted and distorted to bless Israel’s illegal actions must be exposed and dismissed.
Here, it must be firmly stated: halting settlement activities should never to be seen as a concession or pre-condition; it is about fundamental respect for the law.
The law prohibits all activities aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of occupied territory. Resolution 2334 (2016) unequivocally reaffirmed all of this. The demand on Israel to cease completely all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and abide by its legal obligations is explicit. Settlement construction and expansion, construction of the wall, displacement of Palestinian civilians and all other such illegal actions must stop and be reversed. This must take effect immediately. Salvaging the two-State solution is dependent on this, as is the prospect for peace.
It is time for the full implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) and all of its provisions. Follow-up must begin immediately and all must uphold their obligations.
The demands and obligations upon Israel, the occupying Power, are clear and it must be held accountable in this regard.
The Security Council must implement its resolutions, without exception.
States have clear responsibilities as well, individually and collectively. We highlight here the call on all States in operative paragraph 5 to distinguish between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. In this regard, the Council rightly reaffirmed 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. We appeal to all States to uphold their obligations not to assist in the perpetuation of this illegal situation and to accord full respect to the Council’s decision.
In this regard, neither the existence nor lack of bilateral negotiations can exempt States and international bodies from assuming their responsibilities.
The Secretary-General is also requested to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the resolution. We look forward to the publication of his periodic reports and to serious consideration by the Security Council as we seek to continue moving forward to a peaceful solution. In this connection, we wish to laud UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for declaring the pursuit of peace the hallmark of his administration and express our confidence in his leadership and our full commitment and cooperation to this most noble end.
Of course, the Palestinian Government pledges its respect for resolution 2334 (2016), pledges its commitment to peace, commitment to international law, commitment to the two-State solution, and commitment to non-violence and combating terrorism. Furthermore, we reaffirm the readiness to abide by our obligations to the best of our ability, bearing in mind the very serious obstacles we face under Israel’s occupation. We also reaffirm our readiness to continue cooperating with all international and regional efforts to advance a just peace and appeal for intensification of such efforts and support to the parties in this regard, as called for by the resolution.
Of course, we understand the need for negotiations and have repeatedly engaged in good faith in direct negotiations to no avail. Palestine has actually supported every single recent peace effort, while Israel has rejected those efforts and reprimanded countries initiating or supporting them. We said yes to Paris, yes to Moscow, yes to resolution 2334 (2016), as we said yes to the 1967 borders as a historic compromise and to the terms of reference of the peace process as per international law, the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Arab Peace Initiative, and Quartet Roadmap – all opposed, ignored or violated and undermined by Israel. This is why international involvement is indispensable.
In this regard, we welcome the convening by France of the Middle East Peace Conference on 15 January to harness international support to preserve the two-State solution and promote peace. The Paris Conference underscored the urgency, inter alia, of restoring a credible horizon for meaningful peace negotiations and reaffirmed the role of multi-lateral diplomacy for addressing challenges in the Middle East and beyond. We hope it will serve as impetus for continued global efforts for peace, including in terms of the efforts of the League of Arab States, the Quartet, Egypt and the Russian Federation, as well as the significant statement of 28 December 2016 by the United States Secretary of State.
The 1967 borders are the delineating line between conflict and peace. We are fast approaching a point of no return. Implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) is the way back from the brink, providing the means to ensure an end to the Israeli occupation, realization by the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination in an independent, sovereign, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side with Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders and in peace and security, and a just solution for the plight of the Palestine refugees. The international community must act now to revive the possibility of peace.
In this year marking 70 years since the partition and 50 years since the onset of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which remains under an inhumane Israeli blockade, and in this 50th year since the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 242 (1967), we may save the two-State solution or may have to bury it. Let us seize this opportunity to usher in a new era for Palestinian-Israeli peace, Arab-Israeli peace and global peace.
I thank you, Mr. President.