Archives for October 2020

29 October 2020 – Israeli-U.S. Agreement and Illegal Israeli Settlements


Israel, the occupying Power, continues its violations and aggressions against the Palestinian people, entrenching its illegal colonial occupation, causing immense human suffering, and destroying the prospects for a just peace. With every passing day, it is trampling international law, mocking the international consensus, and dismantling the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders. Regrettably this is being done with the full support and complicity of the current United States administration.

When it comes to the Palestine question, this US administration persists with its disrespect for international law and the resolutions and authority of the UN Security Council and absolute disregard for the rights of the Palestinian people. Following the provocative declaration made by the US Secretary of State in November 2019 that the Israeli settlements established in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are “not per se inconsistent with international law”, and following the issuance by the US President of his so-called “Vision for Peace”, which, inter alia, attempts to legitimize Israel’s theft and colonization of the Palestinian land, the US and Israel yesterday signed agreements extending further US recognition and support to the illegal Israeli settlement regime and ongoing annexation attempts.

The agreements signed directly violate UN resolutions, including Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) and all that preceded it, which affirmed the illegality of Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and called upon all States not to recognize them as legitimate and not to render any assistance to the occupying Power in their maintenance. Moreover, this constitutes yet another step undermining the viability of the two-State solution and taking us yet farther away from the potential of a just, secure and lasting peace.

While being presented as mere “scientific cooperation” agreements, these agreements are cynically intended to bolster Israeli sovereignty claims in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as the  Occupied Syrian Golan, by specifically extending US-Israeli cooperation to include the Israeli settlements, which had been excluded from previous such agreements. Not hiding the unlawful intentions in this regard, Israeli Minister Zeev Elkin provocatively declared yesterday that the agreements were “a big achievement for Israel’s sovereignty” and “another step towards international recognition of our rights” in the West Bank.

In this regard, we remind that Israel is not the sovereign in any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem, the annexation of which is illegal, null and void, and without any legitimacy. Israel is the occupying Power and it is bound by the rules of international law, including international humanitarian law and specifically as proscribed by the Fourth Geneva Convention, and by the relevant UN resolutions, which it is obligated to respect in accordance with the Charter.

We further recall in this regard the provisions of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), by which the Council, inter alia, unequivocally:

  • Reiterated “its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard”;
  • Underlined “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”;
  • Called upon States “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”.

These are the demands of the Security Council, not simply the Palestinian narrative, and must be respected without exception. Moreover, these demands and the relevant resolutions remain at the core of the international consensus on the fundamental requirements and parameters for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as reaffirmed yet again by one State after another at the Security Council debate held on 26 October 2020.

Here, we recall the ultimate aim of the international community’s efforts and Security Council legislation on this matter, an aim that was reaffirmed in resolution 2334 and continues to be reaffirmed in all relevant resolutions: to bring an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions.

That objective is being gravely undermined every single day by the destructive policies and measures being enacted by Israel, the occupying Power, in the occupied State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law and the rights of the Palestinian people, including their inalienable right to self-determination, and by support being given to this illegal occupation, which only allows it to continue expanding and entrenching itself, only further delaying the realization of a just solution and the fulfilment of Palestinian rights and freedom.

We call on the international community, including the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations, to act on their legal obligations and responsibilities to bring an end to this injustice. We call on the Security Council to uphold its Charter duties and live up to its determination to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its resolutions, including in regards to ongoing efforts to convene an international peace conference for this purpose. We also recall the Council’s determination, as affirmed in resolution 2334, “to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement”.

In this context, we stress that creating an environment conducive to peace requires respect for the law and accountability. We call on all States not to recognize the illegitimate situation imposed by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and not to render any aid or assistance in this regard. Moreover, we appeal for lawful countermeasures to ensure accountability. Only through consequences for the violation of the law and international consensus can we ever hope to bring a halt to these crimes and salvage the prospects for peace. We recall here the Human Rights Council’s database of businesses linked to the Israeli settlements, and reiterate our call for countries to, among other lawful measures, ban the import of settlement goods illegally produced in Occupied Palestine and with the exploitation of our natural resources.

We urge vigilance in regards of the obligation to differentiate between Israel and the territories it continues to occupy. Agreements signed between States and Israel must not cover any of the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. In this context, we also expect that the quarterly report of the UN Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 refer not only to steps taken in respect of this demand, but also in its violation. This is essential for ensuring an accurate reflection of the reality we are dealing with and ensuring the accountability that has been too long missing and that is a pillar of justice, without which peace is not possible.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have this letter distributed as an official document of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, under agenda item 5, and of the Security Council.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Dr. Riyad Mansour

Minister, Permanent Observer

Statement by H.E. Riad Malki, Foreign Minister of the State of Palestine, before the Security Council Open Debate, 26 October 2020

Mr. President,

At the outset, I wish to thank Your Excellency Deputy Minister Vershinin for presiding over this meeting and for the leadership role of Russia in the pursuit of Middle East peace. Let me also thank my brother Mohamed Ali Nafti, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, and H.E. Dang Minh Khoi, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, for participating in this meeting. I also wish to thank Mr. Mladenov for his briefing and efforts.

Mr. President,

It is time to drop the old talking points.

It is ridiculous to claim that the Palestinians “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, when in fact the PLO signed an agreement with Israel just months after the start of the first ever negotiations between the two sides, despite all the shortcomings of those accords, which history has proven.

It is preposterous to consider that Israel’s right to security could justify its occupation and oppression of an entire nation for decades, or justify denying us our right to self-determination and to a sovereign and independent State, and or justify denying our own right to security.

It is absurd to claim that it is the Palestinian side that does not want negotiations, when Israel is the one trying, on the ground every single day, to illegally preempt the negotiations on all final status issues.

It is ludicrous to claim that the obstacle to peace is Palestinian intransigence, when our positions are actually aligned with the international consensus and the resolutions of this Council, while Israeli positions and policies are flagrantly in breach of international law and UN resolutions.

The parties identified final status issues that should be negotiated based on internationally-agreed terms of reference and parameters by 1999. Here is Netanyahu’s stance on these issues: Jerusalem, including occupied East Jerusalem, shall be Israeli. Illegal settlements shall remain in place. Refugees shall remain refugees. Israel shall continue to control our borders. Israel shall control all of the Jordan Valley and with it most of our natural resources. These positions are contemptuous and unlawful, and they translate into a simple truth: Israel does not want to end its illegal occupation, it wants to make it permanent. And we are the ones labeled ‘intransigent’?

It is time to abandon the failed recipes of the past.

We cannot allow Israeli unilateralism to prevail while the world continues calling for bilateral negotiations.

It is no longer enough to call on parties to negotiate, this call must be accompanied by measures to incentivize respect for obligations and to dissuade from illegal unilateral actions.

It is no longer enough to say settlements are illegal, one must ensure accountability, distinction and non-assistance.

It is no longer enough to speak of a two-State solution, it must be accompanied with the recognition of the State of Palestine and support to its sovereignty over the territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.

We could have tried to find answers to Israel’s violence through violence, to be heard and considered relevant. We did not.

We could have adopted a disruptive behaviour, since constructive behaviour is underrated these days. We did not.

We could have contributed to transforming this political conflict into a religious one, fueling it so we are not the only ones to feel its flames. We did not.

Despite decades of Israel’s oppressive policies, and of measures aimed to bring us to our knees, politically and financially, President Abbas called in his message to the General Assembly, as he has before this Council, the UN Secretary-General to undertake, in cooperation with the Quartet, mandated by this body to advance peace, and the Security Council, preparations to convene an international conference, with the participation of all concerned parties, early next year, to engage in a genuine peace process, based on international law, UN resolutions and the relevant terms of reference.

This call is the ultimate demonstration of our commitment to peace and to a path based on inclusion not exclusion, legality not illegality, negotiations not diktats, multilateralism not unilateralism. I know many of your countries have already expressed support to President Abbas’s initiative and we look forward to continue working with all of you to see it materialize, including through meetings of this Council, such as this one held during Russia’s presidency. 

Mr. President,

Israel decided, only under pressure, to freeze its plans for formal annexation of areas beyond occupied East Jerusalem. But it has not renounced its decades-long policy aiming to control maximum Palestinian land with minimum Palestinians, in other words maximum Palestinian geography with minimum Palestinian demography. Its de facto annexation continues with the advancement in recent days of 5000 settlement units deep into the West Bank, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem. The international community must act to salvage peace, or we will all bear the consequences.

As long as Israel does not bear the cost of occupation, and instead continues reaping its benefits, it will never negotiate in good faith. The international community must address the shortcomings of the past, by linking its relations with the parties to their respect of their obligations under international law and the peace process, by helping them reach an agreement and implementing it and by enforcing a binding timeframe.

The international peace conference can generate the necessary momentum and mobilize the international community at large to help the parties negotiate a peace agreement that will forever change our region. Anything else is volatile, and it is futile.

Two-third of our people were forced into exile, and we did not surrender. Tens of thousands were killed, and we did not surrender. Hundreds of thousands were displaced, and we did not surrender. The equivalent of half of our male population, over 800,000 Palestinians, was arrested and we did not surrender. What makes anyone think we would surrender now?

Israel often wonders why we enjoy such international solidarity. It is because former colonial powers and liberation movements alike know these colonial policies well: violence, subjugation, intimidation, mass arbitrary imprisonment, discrimination, humiliation, fragmentation of the land, confinement of the occupied people, expansion of illegal settlements, exploitation. They cannot support such actions. History has taught them better.

The international consensus, UNRWA’s mandate and role, the Palestinian people’s resilience have all been sorely tested. And yet they prevail. It is now time to take the initiative. There isn’t a people too many in the Middle East, there is an independent state missing. You cannot solve the Middle East equation by denying this fundamental factor. You cannot end this conflict without freedom for the Palestinian people, and our freedom will never be compatible with Israeli soldiers in our streets, Israeli drones in our skies and Israeli control over our borders.

Ask Maher Al-Akhras who has been on hunger strike for over 90 days to denounce, at the peril of his life, the most arbitrary form of detention, the so-called administrative detention, ask Amer Snobar, barely 18, and beaten to death yesterday by Israeli soldiers who had apprehended him and kept hitting him on his head and neck with the butt of their rifles until he could no longer breathe, ask the mother of the child killed on his way to school, the athlete whose leg was amputated after a sniper acted as if he was playing a videogame, the owner of a house built by years of sweat and destroyed in an instant, and the farmer whose crops were burnt by settlers, they will all tell you “we will not coexist with occupation”. We want to end occupation, so we can coexist, so we can know justice, so we can be free, so our region can know true peace and security.

Thank you Mr. President.

15 October 2020 – Israeli Settlements and Other Violations


I write to draw your attention to the critical situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, due to the ongoing and escalating illegal policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, perpetrated against the Palestinian people.

Most letters circulated in the recent period by the Security Council mention the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting its severe and multidimensional effects. The evolving situation has brought forth several important lessons which stress the principle of collectivity and shared humanity.

Regrettably, however, this is not the case in Palestine, where Israel, the occupying Power, continues to exploit the pandemic, aggressively advancing its settlement colonization and annexation schemes, entrenching its 53-year military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. As the international community focuses its collective efforts on mitigating the dire impact of the pandemic on people, societies and economies globally, Israel has instead seized it as an opportune moment to further trample the law and further harm the Palestinian civilian population under its illegal occupation. Despite Israel’s claim to desire peace and stability, such dangerous and illegal actions prove otherwise, clearly pointing to its true desire: more Palestinian land.

Just this week, on 14 and 15 October, the Israeli government approved the construction of another 5,000 settlement units in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, primarily in areas deep inside the West Bank. Such duplicity cannot be ignored as Israel persists with its violations and further undermines the two-State solution on the pre-1967 lines, paving way for an apartheid one-State reality, while it simultaneously disguises itself as a regional partner who believes in advancing peace and stability, attempting to promote its standing in the international community based on false credentials.

The international community must explicitly demand once again that Israel immediately cease all of its illegal settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Settlement activities constitute a flagrant violation of international law amounting to grave breaches, i.e. war crimes. Israel must be demanded to  abide by its legal obligations, including under the Fourth Geneva Convention, as reaffirmed in Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), or suffer the consequences of its rogue behavior.

To Israel, “suspending” its annexation plans obviously does not mean that it intends to abide by international law as it continues to pursue all measures aimed at the colonization and annexation of our land. Annexation has not stopped, it is happening every single day with every settlement expanded, every home demolished and every Palestinian family forcibly displaced.

While many in the international community have directly called on Israel to permanently abandon its annexation plans, the occupying Power continues to ignore these calls, proceeding apace with its illegal schemes, swallowing up more Palestinian land by the day. The lack of accountability has undoubtedly enabled and emboldened such grave breaches, which are destroying the two-State solution and constitute the main obstacle to peace.

Home demolitions and forced evictions are continue to be everyday occurrences for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. According to OCHA, Israel demolished more than 500 Palestinian buildings in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the start of 2020, with a total of 134 structures demolished in in East Jerusalem alone. Disregarding international law and the sensitive urgency of the pandemic, Israel has intensified its inhumane practice of home demolitions and forced evictions, rendering hundreds more Palestinians homeless.

Israel uses the pretext of ‘construction without a permit’ to justify its illegal policies. Yet, as repeatedly reported by UNSCO, Israel, breaching all of its legal obligations as the occupying Power, makes it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain such permits, as the objective is to deliberately restrict Palestinian development and dispossess Palestinian families, creating a coercive environment that forces them to leave their land. Moreover, as highlighted by Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov during his last Security Council briefing on the Question of Palestine, many Palestinians are actually forced to demolish their own homes in order to avoid the heavy demolition fees imposed by the Israeli government.

The fact is that while Israeli settlers enjoy the Israeli government’s full support for the illegal expansion and construction of settlements and outposts in occupied territory that facilitates the illegal transfer of these settlers to our land, Palestinian civilians cannot construct a single room or home in their own land without obtaining the nearly-impossible permit from Israeli authorities. Moreover, not only do Israeli occupation forces take part in attacks on Palestinian civilians through home demolitions, forced evictions, military raids, and other crimes, they also protect armed and fanatic settlers in carrying out attacks against Palestinians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Aided and abetted by the occupation forces, Israeli settler violence has escalated in the recent period, including the destruction of Palestinian-property, vandalism, uprooting trees, and direct attacks against civilians.

As October marks the start of the olive harvest season in Palestine, our people face the constant threat of settler violence. In the past week, Israeli settlers perpetrated numerous attacks against Palestinians and stole olive harvest across the West Bank. In the village of al-Jabaa settlers attacked Palestinian farmers and destroyed 300 trees in two attacks. More than 1 million productive trees have been destroyed by the Israel occupation since 2000, according to a 2019 UNCTAD report. Needless to say, the majority of the complaints against such attacks are rarely investigated by Israel.

Along with the spike settler violence, Palestinian access to farmlands continues to be undermined by the Israeli military’s severe restrictions on the freedom of movement, particularly due to the Wall, military checkpoints, and randomly erected roadblocks. Occupying forces routinely block agricultural roads to obstruct the movement of farmers during the olive harvest season, impairing the livelihoods of thousands of families. Furthermore, settler violence and military restrictions equally undermine the central role of olive harvest in Palestinian culture, society and history.

Israel’s inhumane policy of administrative detention also continues to endanger Palestinian, including children and women. Incarceration of civilians without trial and without charge is a routine practice by the occupying Power that has inflicted untold suffering on  the Palestinian people. At least 350 Palestinians are being administratively detained among the nearly 5,000 being imprisoned by Israel. Governments, human rights groups, and other international organizations have called for the release of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons without being charged, tried, or convicted.

The case of Maher al-Akhras, a 49-year old Palestinian man and father of six children who has been on a hunger strike for more than 80 days since his arrest and administrative detention by Israeli occupation forces in July, is one such case requiring immediate attention. According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, al-Akhras is “on the verge of death” as he protests his unlawful incarceration.

As the occupying Power, Israel is responsible for the lives and wellbeing of prisoners, whether held in Israeli prisons in the Occupied Palestinian Territory or in Israel, which violates the Fourth Geneva Convention due to the illegality of transferring prisoners outside of occupied territories. Given the pandemic’s impact and the increase in transmission rates in the region, Israel must heed the international community’s call and release vulnerable prisoners, particularly women, children, older persons and those with pre-existing medical conditions, and must release administrative detainees, including Mr. al-Akras, whose life is in present danger.

Turning to the situation in the Gaza Strip, we once again sound the alarm about the deplorable humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions there due to Israel’s 13-year blockade that has inflicted such severe deprivation, hunger and misery on its two million inhabitants. Israel regularly bans the entry of fuel shipments, using punitive measures that endanger the livelihood of millions of vulnerable people. As previously stated by many States, United Nations agencies, and international organization, Gaza’s overburdened health care system cannot cope with additional suspensions or reductions of power sources while facing the threat of COVID-19. In this regard, according to a WHO report, COVID-19 cases in Gaza have risen by 84 percent, compounding the hardships and fears being faced by the Palestinian people, who are prevented by the occupation of accessing international tools and capabilities to deal with the challenges and consequences posed by the pandemic.

In this context, we must reiterate our appreciation for the assistance being extended to the Palestinian people from across the globe and in spite of the challenging circumstances facing countries in this era of COVID-19. This includes in particular the vital assistance being provided through UNRWA, OCHA, UNICEF, WHO, WFP and other UN agencies and humanitarian organizations on the ground and direct assistance by the international donor community.

Considering Israel’s half century old occupation and incessant violations, the Palestinian people are sadly not surprised at the escalation of crimes and exploitation of this time of pandemic by the occupation. This is the direct result of lack of accountability for an occupation that has only expanded its territorial control by the day over the last 53 years. Given its complete departure from the two-State solution, Israel’s calls for “peace” should not be trusted until the international community sees a correlation in Israeli behavior with international law, the relevant UN resolutions, including resolution 2334, and the internationally-agreed parameters for a just solution, which remain at the core of the international consensus. Until then, the international community, including the Security Council, must hold the occupying Power accountable, rather than rewarding its dangerous behavior with silence and inaction, while ignoring the pain and suffering endured by the people living under its military rule.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have this letter distributed as an official document of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, under agenda item 5, and of the Security Council.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Dr. Riyad Mansour

Minister, Permanent Observer