Statement by H.E. Dr. Riyad Mansour, Minister, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, Quarterly Open Debate “The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question”, 29 April 2019

Mr. President,

I thank the German and French Presidencies of the Security Council for their skillful joint leadership over these past two months.

I also thank Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, for her briefing and able guidance of the Department. We also recognize the ongoing efforts of UN Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov and his team, as well as the vital role and support of UNRWA and the efforts of OCHA, UNICEF, UNDP and all UN Agencies on the ground, at this critical time.

Mr. President,

We meet at a moment of great uncertainty and volatility. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is rapidly declining, despair is rising and a peace horizon is being nullified by an occupying Power that insists on imposing its illegal agenda at any cost.

The outlook has become even grimmer after an Israeli election further entrenching the extreme right that has come to rule Israel as a racist, apartheid State under Prime Minister Netanyahu. The absolute support given to Israel by a Permanent Member of this Council has only emboldened its flouting of the law, further fueling its human rights violations against our people and colonization of our land.

Aided and abetted in its crimes, Israel’s expansionist appetite is growing. Just listen to their recent cynical statements on the intent to annex the Israeli settlements illegally constructed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and their blatant dismissal of Palestinian rights. Such inflammatory rhetoric, let alone the countless war crimes being carried out every single day in broad daylight, are shamelessly bragged about by the Prime Minister and other Israeli officials in total contempt of the Council’s authority and the international community at large.

Mr. President,

We have heard the condemnations from around the world of such provocative statements, incitement and illegal actions. The rejection has been resounding. We have also heard the repeated calls for a halt to Israel’s illegal and destructive policies and for compliance with its legal obligations. We are grateful for these principled positions and the solidarity extended to our people and just cause.

But, clearly, condemnations alone will not suffice; the calls, no matter how gentle or firm, will not be heeded by Israel, which continues to trample international law and make a mockery of the international system. By now, it should be obvious: appealing to and appeasing Israel have never worked.

Without accountability, how can anyone expect anything other than the unbridled impunity we have witnessed for decades and even worse? It’s time to turn words into deeds, solidarity into action. Serious measures must be urgently taken by the international community to hold Israel, the occupying Power, accountable. There must be consequences for violations; it is the only thing that can stop the unraveling and reverse course to salvage the possibility of a peaceful and just solution and spare the Palestinian and Israeli peoples decades more confrontation and conflict, suffering and loss.

This is neither a radical call, nor a threat. Taking action is a duty, based on rules, principles and demands enshrined in the Charter, international law and UN resolutions. It’s a responsibility, consistent with the longstanding international consensus and commitments repeatedly made yet unfulfilled.

Mr. President,

The Palestinian people haven’t suffered for decades and waited nearly a century for their freedom – since they were first recognized as ready for independence – to resign themselves to “limited autonomy”. Those who believe so ignore history, international law, and the resolve of a people to attain justice and equality. Let me also remind that the Palestinian leadership’s acceptance of a State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, was a historic and painful compromise and not one that should be dismissed or ridiculed by newcomers to peacemaking.

The Palestinian right to self-determination has long been recognized and supported globally. The ICJ has affirmed it to be a right erga omnes. The Palestinian people hold steadfast to their legitimate national aspirations for independence, return, and realization of their full civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, their inalienable human rights, and will not surrender to a lesser fate.

The international consensus in this regard is strong, just as it is strong on the two-State solution on the 1967 borders as the foundation of a peaceful solution based on international law, the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid land for peace principle, Arab Peace Initiative and Quartet Roadmap. This was unequivocally reaffirmed by the Security Council in resolution 2334 (2016) and remains the core of the international community’s position, as reflected in the past weeks, months and years.

Occupation, annexation and human rights violations can never be accepted as just and moral and can never be accepted as the “new normal”, no matter the spin, rhetoric or pretexts.

The wanton killing, injury and terrorization of Palestinian children, women and men by Israeli occupying forces and extremist Israeli settlers, and the detention and imprisonment of thousands of Palestinian civilians, including children, constitute gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law amounting to grave breaches.

Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip is illegal; isolating and imprisoning 2 million people is mass collective punishment tantamount to a war crime and is the main source of the disastrous humanitarian crisis and despair there, as expressed in the protests of the Great March of Return.

Israel’s so-called “withholding” of Palestinian tax revenues is blatant theft, violating bilateral agreements and the Geneva Convention prohibition on the pillaging of the occupied people’s resources.

Israeli colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal. Whether settlements or walls, home demolitions or evictions, forced transfers, threats to the historic status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites, or any annexation measures, all are unlawful, war crimes, and cannot be justified under any pretext, whether security claims, biblical edicts or so-called legislation by the occupying Power.

All of these illegal policies and practices must end. They will never be accepted as legitimate, will always be rejected and resisted, and will never lead to peace and security.

Mr. President,

An occupation that has existed and entrenched itself for 52 years through such violations cannot be considered legal as per international law. It is an illegal occupation and Israel is an illegal occupant. The international community must stop normalizing this occupation and stop treating it with any deference. It is illegal in every manifestation and must be brought to an end.

It is strange that when it comes to Palestine, the call for action to uphold the law – whether to stop the colonization, provide protection to the occupied people or even something as simple as banning illegal settlement products – is viewed as delusional rather than as a legitimate tool to remedy this injustice.

This faulty approach has to change. After almost three decades of negotiations and appealing to the occupying Power – from the Madrid Peace Conference, through the Oslo process, the Quartet efforts, the Annapolis Conference, the Paris Conference, and every other attempt in between – Israeli violations, violence and intransigence have only become more flagrant. Only accountability can create the necessary pressure to break this toxic cycle towards finally ending the occupation and achieving the rights of the Palestinian people, the cornerstone for a peaceful and secure Middle East.

The Security Council has been patently clear in this regard. It was explicit in resolution 2334 (2016) in its determination not to recognize any changes to the 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations, and directly called on States to differentiate, in their relevant dealings, between Israel and the territories it has occupied since 1967.

This is an obligation. To Member States contemplating establishing missions in Israel, whether diplomatic, trade or cultural, and to representatives of Member States undertaking official visits to Israel: this obligation, in accordance with Security Council resolution 478 (1980), includes Jerusalem. There are no exceptions.

Decisions and declarations signed by others in departure of international law and UN resolutions cannot change facts and cannot legitimize what is illegitimate.

The Security Council, in resolution 478 (1980), unequivocally deemed Israel’s annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem to be unlawful, null and void and without legal effect. Likewise, in resolution 497 (1981), it deemed Israel’s annexation of the Occupied Syrian Golan to be unlawful, null and void and without legal effect. The same applies to any annexation measures planned or imposed by Israel over any part of the territories it has occupied since 1967.

The prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force stands. Recognition of such annexations by any country, no matter how large and powerful, is without legal effect.

We thus reiterate our condemnation and complete rejection of recent decisions by the United States, taken in violation of the Charter and Security Council resolutions and with zero regard for the inalienable rights and fate of millions of Palestinians.

Similarly, as speculation abounds about the pending American “peace plan”, we reiterate: any initiative detached from international law and the relevant UN resolutions and dismissive of human rights can neither be viable, nor just, and will not succeed.

International law is abiding and Security Council resolutions are valid and binding until implemented. Moreover, States have a responsibility not to recognize as lawful a situation created by breach of the law. And, a State assisting another State in the commission of internationally wrongful acts incurs liability. This is not our personal narrative; these are established international rules and norms that must be upheld.

Mr. President,

Despite the bleak picture, we haven’t given up hope. Some may say we’re living in denial; we are not. We recognize the enormity of the crisis we face – existential, in fact – but we haven’t abandoned our belief that international law will lead us to justice.

On the contrary, despite deep worries about the weakening of the rules-based order and its ability to withstand current challenges, we are reassured of its strength and longevity by the firm statements from across the international community denouncing Israel’s attempts to annex Occupied East Jerusalem and Occupied Syrian Golan and affirming that positions in this regard remain unchanged.

We see that strength and longevity also in the firm commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative, affirmed again by the Arab Summit in Tunisia last month, as well as in the strong positions repeatedly reaffirmed by the EU, OIC, NAM and countless capitals around the world. We see it in the ongoing efforts of the AHLC and generous support of donors, regionally and internationally, who have long assisted in building and strengthening the institutions of the State of Palestine.

We see it in the international community’s strong support for UNRWA’s mandate, pending a just solution for the Palestine refugees and in the response to the Agency’s funding crisis, including the OIC’s establishment of a Waqf for the refugees. We see it in the resolute efforts of Jordan as custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem; and we see it in the efforts by Egypt and Russia to help us heal our painful division and restore Palestinian unity. And, we see it in every principled vote at the UN in support of right and justice, despite immense pressure and threats.

Of course, as stressed at the outset, more than words are needed. Business as usual cannot continue. It is a time to act; we cannot continue to decry the threats to multilateralism and our international system without seriously acting to protect, restore and revive them based on our shared values, humanity and future. Only then can we overcome the challenges and rectify course. This is a matter of urgency for Palestine, but also of urgency for the international community and it must seize the opportunity now.

On our part, we are ready to do so. We remain committed to a peaceful, political, legal, non-violent path for realizing our rights and bringing an end to the conflict, and President Abbas has once again extended his hand in peace. Prime Minister Shtayyeh, newly at the helm of the Government of the State of Palestine, has committed to work with all partners to address the humanitarian, socio-economic, security and protection crises affecting the Palestinian people, despite severe austerity measures imposed following Israel’s theft of our revenues. And, we are coordinating closely with our regional partners, as reflected in the recent League of Arab States Ministerial Meeting in Cairo, to address the challenges we face.

No one can accuse us of not wanting peace or not seeking the best interests of our people; our only condition is that any effort or initiative be based on international legality, on the parameters enshrined over decades in the relevant UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. This is a minimal ask and should be respected, not disparaged, by those who seek to lead peacemaking efforts. We appeal to the international community to rise now to its responsibilities before it is too late.

I thank you, Mr. President, thank the Council Members for your attention and urge you to act.