Statement by H.E. Dr. Riyad Mansour, Ambassador, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, United Nations Security Council, The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, 8 December 2017

Mr. President,

I thank Japan, in its capacity as Security Council President, for its leadership and its convening of this emergency meeting.  I also express our gratitude to the eight members of the Council – Egypt, Bolivia, France, Italy, Senegal, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Uruguay – that requested this meeting as a matter of urgency following recent alarming developments regarding Jerusalem. We also thank Special Representative and Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov for his briefing to the Council and thank the Secretary-General for his statement in this regard.

Mr. President,

We come before the Security Council today with a sense of urgency and foreboding. We urge the Council to act swiftly to uphold its Charter duties and the integrity and authority of its resolutions in light of the violations and provocations against Jerusalem’s legal, political and historic status and the rights and legitimate national aspirations of the Palestinian people.

The extremely regrettable announcement, on 6 December, by United States President Donald Trump, declaring America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and its decision to move its embassy to the City, in direct contravention of Security Council resolutions and the longstanding international consensus on Jerusalem, has heightened tensions and risks complete destabilization of this volatile situation, with far-reaching consequences.

The Israeli Government’s glee at this decision underscores that the situation we face today has been blatantly instigated by the occupying Power. Rather than complying with the Council’s repeated demands to cease its violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Israeli Prime Minister and his Government have persisted with these crimes and with their incessant bullying of the world leaders to endorse Israel’s illegal policies and practices in the City and to even join it in the attempts to destroy the two-State solution on the pre-1967 lines, including by altering and undermining Jerusalem’s legal status, character and demography along with that of the rest of the occupied territory, in grave breach of international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions.

We have often lamented this impunity, but not often enough addressed the enabling of these crimes that has led to the grave reality we now face. Complicity must be recognized. The US decision to reward Israelis impunity undermines and essentially disqualifies its leadership role to seek peace in the region.

Indeed, the resounding rejection of this provocative decision by world leaders is indicative of the rejection of all such illegal policies and measures and of the immense concerns regarding the dangerous implications of this decision, including on the prospects for peace and security in the region and beyond. We are grateful for the strong, principled positions expressed by States and organizations worldwide.

The global consensus in this regard is clear: international law and the relevant Security Council resolutions, including, inter alia, resolutions 478 (1980) and 2334 (2016), must be upheld and respected; the status of Jerusalem cannot be unilaterally altered or determined by any State; and this decision by the US should be reconsidered and rescinded.

Mr. President,

That the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to pose a threat to international peace and security is beyond question. This has been reconfirmed by the national, political and religious sensitivities and emotions stirred by these developments.

Jerusalem’s significance to the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, cannot be underestimated.  President Abbas, in his statement of 6 December, clearly reaffirmed our historic, national and religious attachment to the Holy City.  His declaration, along with those by Palestinian officials and millions of Palestinian citizens, should leave no question that Jerusalem is a matter of priority and a redline for Palestinians. There can be no just and lasting solution to the Palestine question without a just solution to the question of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem has long been the heart of Palestine and always will be.

Jerusalem’s significance to all Arabs and Muslims worldwide also cannot be underestimated.  It is the first qibla and Al-Haram Al-Sharif is the third holiest sanctuary in Islam.  The historic status quo at Al-Haram Al-Sharif must be fully respected and preserved, as appealed for repeatedly by the Arab and Muslim nations and by the international community as a whole, as reflected in the resolutions of this Council and the General Assembly. We recognize the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and its special role and effort in this regard as custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem.

And, the clarity and strength of statements made in recent days – a profound backlash against this irresponsible, unilateral decision – reaffirm the legitimate concerns and interest of the international community in the question of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has long-been accorded a special political and legal status, beginning with General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 1947, in which the City was designated a corpus separatum, and the many resolutions thereafter calling, inter alia, for protection of the City’s unique spiritual, religious and cultural dimensions and heritage and for access to its holy places by people of all religions and nationalities, with due regard for the fact that Jerusalem is sacred to the followers of the three monotheistic religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The Assembly has just reaffirmed these principles by a vast majority in its resolution on Jerusalem, contrary to the false Israeli narrative and rhetoric in this regard.

Mr. President,

Israel has never been recognized as sovereign over Jerusalem by any country.  Its status remains unresolved, as affirmed in Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and by its designation as a final status issue in the Middle East peace process for decades.  Moreover, East Jerusalem remains occupied territory since 1967 and an integral part of the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to which international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention, applies, as reaffirmed by the Council, most recently in resolution 2334 (2016), the Assembly and the International Court of Justice.

We recall the Council’s resolutions on Jerusalem, including, inter alia, resolutions 476 (1980) and 478 (1980), and the clear determination that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention”, are null and void”, and “must be rescinded forthwith”.

Resolution 478 (1980) rejected Israel’s attempts to forcibly annex East Jerusalem, deeming the enactment by the occupying Power of its “basic law” as a violation of international law and demanding that it be rescinded.  The Council further specifically called on all Member States to accept its decision not to recognize the “basic law” and any other such actions seeking to alter the character and status of Jerusalem, and directly called on “those States that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City”.

In resolution 2334 (2016), the Council unequivocally affirmed 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”.

The US decision cannot change these facts. Actions contrary to Security Council resolutions do not have any legal effect and cannot change the applicability of international law to this situation, including the prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force. The occupied territory of the State of Palestine – encompassing the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip – is an established, legal and political fact.  No policy announcement can change that reality, nor can it negate the rights of the Palestinian people, as per international law and the relevant UN resolutions.

Mr. President,

The Security Council must reaffirm its clear position on the status of Jerusalem and affirm its rejection of all violations of that status by whomever and whenever. Security Council resolutions remain fully valid and must be implemented; these resolutions are the key to peace.

The very negative messages sent by this reckless action to our people – that our conviction in international law and the international system; our patience and perseverance; our endless pursuit of peace and good-faith cooperation with all peace initiatives; no less our historic, painful compromise for peace based on the two-State solution; have all been to no avail and that those who play by the rules will lose, while those who trample the law will win – must be redressed.  The Council must act to restore the Palestinian people’s belief in international law as the most viable path the realization of our rights and freedom, to restore our belief that peace is possible, and to ensure that not another generation will suffer this grave injustice.

As cautioned by President Abbas repeatedly, the Council must also act to avert the risks of further exacerbation of religious sensitivities, which threaten to transform this solvable political-territorial conflict into a never-ending religious war that will only be exploited by extremists, fueling more radicalism, violence and strife in the region and elsewhere.

We call on the Council to denounce the recent decision on Jerusalem and to act responsibly and assert its authority in the efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We will work with partners in pursuit of a resolution and believe that Article 27 (3) of the Charter should be applicable in this regard.

We call again on the United States to rescind this decision and rectify this serious matter, in conformity with relevant resolutions and in a manner that will salvage the prospects for a peaceful solution and ensure, sooner rather than later, a future of peace, security, prosperity and dignity for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.

In line with the relevant resolutions, we call on all States not to recognize the unlawful situation resulting from Israel’s illegal measures, not to recognize such unilateral decisions, and to act accordingly in all of their policies and actions, including vis-à-vis Israel’s illegal settlement colonization of our land.

We also call on those States that have not recognized the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, to do so as a matter of urgency.  Such a practical step would be in accord with the longstanding international consensus, and their own declared commitment, regarding the two-State solution.  Considering recent developments, this would also represent an important contribution to salvaging peace prospects, pushing back against actions that undermine the efforts to achieve a just and lasting solution based on the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid Principles, including the principle of land for peace, and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

We call, yet again, for collective peace efforts. In resolution 2334 (2016), the Council urged the intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving, without delay, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. It is high time for all concerned parties to mobilize such efforts.

We cannot continue repeating the same failed formula and mistakes of the peace process of decades past.  It is clear that only a collective effort can resolve this prolonged conflict.  The recognition that all must do their part and that a multi-lateral approach is the more effective path has been central to the Arab Peace Initiative, to the French Initiative, as well as the efforts of Russian Federation, China, Egypt, and the Quartet.  It is urgent to expand upon and accelerate those efforts. One party cannot continue to monopolize the peace process, especially not one that acts with bias in favor of the occupying Power, at the expense of the law and the rights of the occupied people.

Mr. President,

On our part, in the days ahead, President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership will continue their consultations at all levels to address this critical situation and determine the most appropriate path forward. This will include emergency meetings of the PLO Central Council to affirm a unified Palestinian national position, as well as the upcoming Arab Ministerial Meeting in Jordan and the OIC Summit in Turkey.

Central to all of these efforts will remain our overarching priorities: protection of our steadfast people, our land, including Jerusalem, and our Holy Sites for as long as Israel’s belligerent foreign occupation persists, and the exertion of all efforts to bring an end to that occupation and to achieve a just and lasting peace that fulfills the rights of the Palestinian people, ensures a just solution for the plight of the Palestine refugees, in accordance with resolution 194 (II) and the Arab Peace Initiative, and achieves the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, where our people can finally live in freedom, dignity, peace and security side by side with Israel and all other neighbors in a new Middle East.

I thank you, Mr. President.