At the outset, I congratulate Nigeria on its Presidency of the Security Council under your wise and able leadership. We also express appreciation for Luxembourg’s skilled leadership of the Council in March.
I thank Mr. Robert Serry, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, for his briefing to the Council.
Since the Security Council’s last debate on this issue, there have been many developments on the ground and in the political process. In official letters, we have alerted the Council to the rising tensions and the situation’s deterioration due to Israel’s persistent violations and intransigence in negotiations. We appealed to the Council and the international community to uphold their responsibilities, stressing the criticalness of the hour to salvage the two-State solution on the basis of the pre-1967 borders and the longstanding parameters enshrined in the relevant United Nations resolutions, Madrid Principles, Arab Peace Initiative and Quartet Roadmap.
We have always recognized the necessity of international support and engagement by all concerned parties, including the active mediation role of the United States, the role of the League of Arab States, and the efforts of the Quartet members and the international community as a whole. Moreover, despite the Security Council’s paralysis, we have never ceased appealing for collective action to uphold the law, underscoring the urgency of confronting Israel’s widespread violations and threats to the two-State solution’s physical viability. And, despite all the difficulties, the Palestinian leadership has remained committed to negotiations and acted in consummate good faith.
Regrettably, all of this has been to no avail. The convergence of Israel’s bad faith in the negotiations, including its reneging on the prisoner release agreement, and its unlawful actions on the ground, particularly its intensification of settlement activities and incessant aggressions in Occupied East Jerusalem, seriously undermined the peace process, now totally suspended due to Israel’s unilateral decision to halt negotiations.
The evolution of this situation has prompted the Palestinian leadership to undertake actions deemed necessary to assert and protect the rights of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian people under international law. All actions have been politically legitimate and non-violent, aimed at realizing the inalienable human rights of our people.
In this regard, on 1 April 2014, President Mahmoud Abbas signed 15 instruments of accession to multilateral treaties, affirming the State of Palestine’s acceptance of the principles therein, readiness to uphold legal obligations, and commitment to promoting the rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with the law. Among those are the core treaties of international humanitarian law – the Four Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol 1 and the 1907 Hague Convention, and the core human rights treaties, including, among others, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. We thank the Secretary-General, Switzerland and the Netherlands, in their respective capacities as Depositaries, for their serious, efficient administration of this matter.
This important step was followed by the advancement of long-overdue Palestinian reconciliation with the agreement of 23 April 2014. This matter is widely recognized as critical for the unity of our people and political system and for fulfillment of our national aspirations. Moreover, reconciliation and elections are central to the advancement of the democratic, pluralistic and inclusive society we desire to foster. We are grateful for the support of our Arab brethren, including Egypt’s sponsorship of Palestinian national dialogue, as well as the efforts of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Moreover, we are grateful for the support expressed in this regard by the UN, the majority of Quartet members and friendly States and organizations from around the world.
We reject the occupying Power’s vulgar interference in this internal Palestinian issue – cynically done both during the time of division and now as we move towards unity. We reject its baseless excuses to suspend negotiations and take punitive measures as a result, and call on the international community to hold Israel responsible for obstruction of the peace process. In this regard, we have made clear the fact that the new Palestinian government will adhere to the PLO political program and to commitments and agreements made. Moreover, we reaffirm that reconciliation and negotiations are not mutually exclusive, but necessary steps aimed at achieving a just peace based on international law.
Following the strides made towards reconciliation, a meeting of the PLO Central Council was convened on 26-27 April 2014 in Ramallah under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, with serious discussions on the way forward. The Central Council comprehensively addressed all issues of national priority, including, inter alia: continuing the efforts to advance the State of Palestine’s status in the international arena; the vital role of the international community, including the Security Council and General Assembly, in holding Israel accountable for its violations and in upholding UN resolutions for the achievement of peace; the imperative that any resumption of negotiations be based on clear terms of reference, including respect for the pre-1967 borders, relevant UN resolutions and Arab Peace Initiative, a halt to all Israeli settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem, and respect for the rights of the Palestine refugees in accordance with resolution 194 (III); the imperative of ensuring release of the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners, according to previous agreements, and release of the thousands of other Palestinians in Israeli jails; the need to ensure protection of our holy sites; and the imperative of alleviating the suffering of our people in the Gaza Strip and bringing an end to Israel’s unlawful blockade.
All of these priorities and goals are being pursued by the Palestinian leadership consistent with the relevant provisions of international law and consistent with the clear commitment made to pursue political, legal, peaceful, non-violent means to realize the inalienable rights of our people and a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Despite this proven Palestinian commitment to peace, Israel has maintained its rejectionist stance and persisted with its grave breaches, constantly reaffirming its role as occupier and oppressor, not as peacemaker. Once again, Israel has thwarted peace efforts and, if left unchecked, it will continue to sabotage negotiations, upend the situation on the ground, and bring a definitive end to the two-State solution.
In this regard, despite the clear global consensus on this matter, in recent months Israeli officials brazenly announced plans to build thousands more settlement units in the very same Palestinian Territory from which Israel must withdraw if this illegitimate military occupation is ever to truly end. Israel’s own Central Bureau of Statistics revealed a 123% rise in settlement building this year relative to 2013. In just the nine months since negotiations resumed, Israel declared plans to construct more than 13,000 settlement units, in addition to construction underway on thousands of other units, underscoring its expansionist aims, making a mockery of its alleged commitment to the two-State solution, and tarnishing the credibility of the peace process. In this regard, as stated by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, member of the PLO Executive Committee, we must clarify: “Building is not just building; it’s not something that is so benign. Building is the willful destruction of the two-State solution. It’s a constant act of aggression. It’s a war crime.”
In Occupied East Jerusalem, such illegal measures have been taken to extremes, seriously aggravating the situation and inflaming religious sentiment. We condemn all of these illegal measures and the acts of provocation and incitement routinely committed by Israeli extremists, including settlers, government officials and religious zealots, particularly at Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which aim at unlawfully and forcibly asserting Israeli control, altering the demography, character and identity of this sensitive area, and undermining the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine.
Moreover, in this regard, we firmly reject any attempts by the occupying Power to temporally or spatially divide Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Such actions threaten to gravely destabilize the situation, with far-reaching consequences, and must be halted. We reiterate the need to ensure freedom of religion and access to the City by all worshippers and condemn the restrictions imposed by Israel that impeded the worship of Palestinian Christians and other pilgrims during Easter week, and the constant restrictions against Palestinian Muslims seeking to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
We underscore the centrality of East Jerusalem as an integral part of the Palestinian Territory occupied in 1967 and reaffirm that its unlawful annexation by Israel, which has never been recognized by the international community, remains null and void. In line with the collective demarche made to the President of the Security Council by Palestine, along with the Chairs of the OIC, Arab Group, NAM and CEIRPP, and Jordan and Egypt, the international community must demand that Israel, the occupying Power, comply with its obligations under the 4th Geneva Convention and the relevant UN resolutions on Jerusalem.
This period also witnessed continued use of lethal violence by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilian population, a population entitled to protection under international law and which the occupying Power is obliged to ensure the well-being of, instead purposely violates their right to life, targeting Palestinians for death, injury and other forms of harm. More than 60 Palestinians have been killed by the occupying forces in the nine-month period of negotiations. This has included children, among them Wajih Al-Ramahi, 15, Saji Darwish, 18, and Yousef Al-Shawamreh, 15. It has also included violence against women, among them the killing of Amneh Qudeih, age 57, in Gaza.
Here, we must refer to the repeated Israeli allegation of “throwing stones” as a pretext for killing Palestinian youth and other civilian protesters. The murder of Palestinians by Israel, the occupying Power, for expressing their opposition to this brutal, 47-year military occupation and its illegal, inhumane policies and conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territory violates international humanitarian law and other international norms.
Also over the past months, Israeli settler violence and terrorism has persisted. This has included attacks on Palestinian school children, farmers and other villagers; the killing of an elderly Palestinian man, Saleh Malihat, by a settler running him over in a car; and attacks on olive trees and other Palestinian properties by gangs of settlers, who continue to act with impunity and zero accountability for their crimes.
Throughout this period, Israel has also continued its non-stop arrest of Palestinian civilians. More than 4,000 Palestinians have been detained since the negotiations began in July. Human rights violations permeate the entire Israeli prison system, inflicting grave suffering, deplorable conditions and humiliation on the more than 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli captivity, including the 187 children being held in Israeli prisons. Palestinians held under administrative detention also continue to carry out hunger strikes, endangering their lives, in protest of their imprisonment without charge or trial. We draw attention again to their plight, and call on Israel to release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners and to release all Palestinian prisoners and detainees.
Added to all of this is the humanitarian crisis that persists in the Gaza Strip due to Israel’s continuing illegal blockade and gross collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population there, along with recurrent violent military attacks. UN agencies, including UNRWA and OCHA, continue to highlight the severity of this crisis to no avail. This unlawful situation is deepening hardships, especially among the Palestine refugee population, who constitute the majority of Gaza’s residents, with massive socioeconomic and humanitarian consequences. We call again for an end to the Israeli blockade and call for sustained, regular opening of Gaza’s border crossings in line with relevant resolutions.
Time and again, we have come before the Security Council and called for action to compel Israel, the occupying Power, to respect its legal obligations, including under the Council’s own resolutions. At this critical time, the longstanding international consensus on the parameters of the solution, enshrined in UN resolutions, 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 refugees based on resolution 194 (III).
Time and again, we have called on Israel to genuinely commit to the path of peace, only to face repeated frustration and disappointment. While we, despite the burdens of occupation and sixty-six years of Al-Nakba, have done our part to uphold international law and to act in good faith in the context of all initiatives and negotiations aimed at resolving this tragic conflict, regrettably, up until the present moment, this has all been to no avail and our people continue to suffer gravely from the occupation, oppression and dispossession so unjustly inflicted on them.
Yet, we have not given up on peace, and we call on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities at this crucial juncture to make it a reality. Israel, the occupying Power, must be demanded to comply with the law and must be held accountable should it persist with its blatant violations. The time is past due for Israel to be held to the same rules that all States are obliged to respect, without exception. This requires, inter alia, a clear rejection by the international community of Israel’s cynical excuses and pretexts aimed at entrenching the occupation and evading peace under the cover of negotiations. Lip service to peace should never be accepted as a substitute for genuine steps for peace.
We are all too aware that the status quo is unsustainable and that peace negotiations can never succeed under such conditions. The State of Palestine is ready to uphold its obligations and commitments to make peace a reality. However, a real partner for peace is missing. Israel, the occupying Power, must change its behavior on the ground and in the negotiations and truly commit to the path of peace. Here, the role of the international community, including the Security Council, is vital; it must demand and act collectively to ensure Israel’s respect for its legal obligations and foster the appropriate conditions for credible negotiations to achieve Palestinian-Israeli peace.
The Palestinian people will never forgo their inalienable rights, and the Palestinian leadership will continue to take all necessary political, legal and peaceful measures for the fulfillment of those rights and the achievement of justice, freedom and peace for our people. We once again appeal for the international community’s support in this noble endeavor.
I thank you, Madame President.