Statement by H.E. Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour before the United Nations Security Council, Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, 20 January 2014, New York

I thank H.E. Mr. Nasser Judeh, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Jordan, for presiding over this meeting, and thank H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General, for his briefing. I reaffirm the State of Palestine’s gratitude for the principled efforts you have respectively and consistently exerted for peace and a just solution to the question of Palestine.

Mr. President,

It is with immense pride that we see Jordan assuming the Presidency of the Security Council, and we convey our congratulations and wishes for success during its tenure.  Likewise, we extend sincerest congratulations to all the new non-permanent members – Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria, confident in your adherence to the Charter and abilities to fulfill the serious responsibilities of this organ, including vis-à-vis the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the goal of a just, comprehensive solution, a matter central to international peace and security.

On this occasion, we also express congratulations to the outgoing members of the Council – Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo – on the completion of their tenure, and reaffirm our appreciation for the principled positions taken regarding Palestine during the Council’s deliberations over the past two years.

Mr. President,

Today, 20 January, is being observed in the United States in commemoration of the life of the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.  Dr. King’s wisdom inspired and transformed a generation, changed the course of history, and continues to inspire today.  We recall today his declaration that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an escapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (1963, Letter from the Birmingham Jail)

This principle lies at the heart of this organization’s aim to promote peace, security, human rights, development and dignity for all peoples. And it is a principle acutely applicable to the injustice that continues to be borne by the Palestinian people, an injustice that has harmed our people, our region, and the global aspirations for peace, security and friendly relations among nations.

This is why the Palestine question has remained on the UN agenda for nearly seven decades.  It is why the General Assembly has repeatedly affirmed the permanent responsibility of the UN until the question is justly resolved.  It is why an International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is annually observed on 29 November.  And it is why the Assembly has rightly proclaimed 2014 as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

The grave impact of this conflict and, inversely, the multitude of benefits that a peaceful solution would have for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, the Middle East and the international community as a whole are facts widely recognized.  This was recently echoed by US Secretary of State John Kerry – who continues to expend tireless efforts, along with the Arab Ministerial Follow-up Committee, the Quartet members (European Union, Russian Federation and UN) and many countries from all over the globe, in support of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a peaceful settlement – when he stated, on 5 January, “The stakes here are much bigger than just Israel and Palestine. This is a conflict that is felt around the world. It is a conflict that has implications with every leader I have met anywhere in the world as Secretary of State or a senator… And President Obama is determined that the United States of America and his Administration will do everything in our power to exhaust the possibilities of finding that peace.”

Mr. President,

We recognize and laud this serious engagement by the international community, and urge that this support be translated into intensified efforts for the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in this year.  As negotiations are ongoing between Palestine and Israel, the international community and this Council have clear responsibilities and cannot remain on the sidelines. For decades, time, energy and resources have been heavily invested towards realization of a two-State solution based on the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principles, Arab Peace Initiative, and Quartet Roadmap.  Now is the time to follow-through on that investment with political will and courage.

The longstanding consensus on the parameters of the solution must be reaffirmed, not set aside: completely ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967; achieving the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel in peace and security based on the pre-1967 borders; and ensuring a just solution for the Palestine refugee problem based on the relevant resolutions, including resolution 194 (III).

The Security Council has a duty to ensure respect of its resolutions, which form the backbone of a fair and sustainable solution. The welcomed international pledges to support and ensure the implementation of a future peace agreement are surely based on the premise that this will be a lasting peace, not one that doesn’t survive the ink on paper.  This requires respect for the principles of a just solution of all core issues – refugees, Jerusalem, borders, settlements, security, water and prisoners – and it is vital that the international community stand by those principles and persuade Israel, the occupying Power, to respect them. This is what will facilitate a permanent agreement and guarantee its viability. And, in the immediate present, this is what will foster an environment conducive for credible negotiations, real progress, and ultimate achievement of our collective goals.

Mr. President,

On our part, the Palestinian Government and people are committed to peace and justice and are exhausting all efforts, conducting ourselves on the basis of international law, relevant UN resolutions, including of this Council, the well-known parameters of the peace process and the agreements reached from 1993 onwards.  We have responsibly participated in all stages, rounds and initiatives of the peace process for over twenty years, including the current negotiations.  And, we are doing so on the basis of historic compromise and great sacrifice.

Yet the challenges we face on the ground are formidable. Mistrust, cynicism and despair are rising among the Palestinian people, as they continue to witness and endure illegal Israeli practices, which, far from bringing an end to the occupation, are further entrenching it, deforming the two-State solution, impeding socio-economic development, inflicting vast human suffering, and diminishing the hopes that the current peace process will lead to the realization of their freedom and rights.

Since the resumption of negotiations, Israel has announced plans to construct more than 7,600 settlement units, along with construction underway on thousands more units throughout the Occupied State of Palestine, including in and around East Jerusalem, and also continues Wall construction, destroying the contiguity of our land with such illegal colonization measures.

The occupying Power also continues almost daily military raids of Palestinian areas, perpetuating the violent, destructive face of occupation. Palestinian civilians continue to be killed and injured by the occupying forces.  Settler terrorism is rampant.  Provocations against Christian and Muslim holy sites, including at Al-Haram Al-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem, persist, inflaming religious sentiments and high tensions.

Moreover, despite the welcomed release of long-term Palestinian prisoners, during 2013 alone at least 4,553 Palestinians, including children, were arrested or detained, adding to the ranks of over 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. Also, at least 200 Palestinian homes were demolished in the past year by Israel, forcibly displacing hundreds of people. And the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip continues to deepen the isolation, poverty and humanitarian hardships of our people, particularly our vulnerable refugees, whose subsistence has been almost totally reliant on the support of UNRWA.

Mr. President,

None of this engenders confidence in, or popular backing for, the negotiations. On the contrary, the continuation of Israel’s illegal actions and provocative declarations further destabilize the situation and poison the atmosphere, obstructing progress and preventing peace from taking root on the ground and in the hearts and minds of our peoples.

Of course, making peace requires negotiations. But making peace also requires respect for international law and requires a change in mentality, behavior and discourse, consistent with the goals of the peace process and essential for preparing the public for new realities. The negotiations cannot be an objective in themselves or be used as cover to perpetuate the status quo.

There must be an immediate halt to Israel’s settlement activities and its attempts to assert control over more territory, whether in Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley or elsewhere, as well as a halt to the arrest of Palestinian civilians, demolition of homes and forced displacement of Palestinian families, and all policies of collective punishment against our people, including in Gaza.  This is imperative for creating trust and an appropriate environment for negotiating an end to this conflict, whereby the independent, sovereign, contiguous State of Palestine and the State of Israel can coexist in peace and security and just solutions can be reached on all outstanding core issues.

Mr. President,

A lasting solution must be founded on respect for international law and human rights.  Peace and security cannot take root in the absence of these, as justice and rights are essential for peace to prevail anywhere.  Thus, in reaffirming Palestine’s commitment to a peace based on two States, we reaffirm also our commitment to redressing the injustice borne by our people and fulfilling their national aspirations and rights, including the right to return and the right to self-determination.

The Palestinian leadership is acutely aware of this moment’s significance and, despite the Israeli obstructions, is negotiating in good faith.  If the opportunity for peace before us is lost, it will not be for lack of effort by Palestine or by the international community, including the Arab States, whose historic Peace Initiative stands and is backed by intensive efforts, including the support of the 57 OIC countries.

Should Israel choose to persist with colonization, annexation and oppression, rather than choosing the path of peace, the response by the international community, including this Council, must be firm, based on the law and the global consensus regarding the conflict. The message to Israel must be clear: illegal actions will entail consequences and Israel will be held responsible should such actions lead to the collapse of peace efforts and the two-State solution.

Mr. President,

Once again, before concluding, I must convey our grave concerns about the tragic situation of Palestine refugees in Syria. As the conflict rages, our refugees, like other civilians in the country, continue to suffer death, injury, destruction, displacement, and even starvation-to-death of children, women and men. The plight of the thousands of Palestine refugees trapped in the Yarmouk camp is shocking and inhumane. We urgently appeal for humanitarian access to the camp and to all civilians suffering in this conflict, in line with international law.

This crisis reconfirms the extreme vulnerability of the Palestine refugees and the need for a just solution for their plight in the context of any peace agreement and in the context of regional peace. We commend the efforts of UNRWA and other humanitarian organizations providing emergency aid to the Palestine refugees in Syria, as well as those who have fled to Lebanon, Jordan and other countries. As the Geneva conference approaches, we appeal for the exertion of all possible efforts to ensure the protection of all civilians in Syria, including the Palestine refugees, and to find a political solution to end this horrific conflict.

I thank you, Mr. President, and thank the members of the Council, including the distinguished Ministers of Luxembourg and the Republic of Korea participating in this meeting, for your attention to these important matters.