Statement by Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour, before the United Nations Security Council, Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question on 24 April 2013

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Mr. President,

I am honored to address the Security Council today, and I congratulate you and your friendly country Rwanda on your presidency and skilled leadership. We also express appreciation to the Russian Federation for its leadership of the Council in March.

I thank Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, for his briefing on developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as in the region.

Mr. President,

We are already four months into this year and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem – the territory that constitutes the State of Palestine – remains precarious as the political impasse persists and conditions on the ground continue to decline.  While many have referred to the status quo and its un-sustainability during the impasse, we must face reality: there is no status quo; the situation has actually never stopped changing, and regrettably not for the better.

Israel continues to pursue illegal policies aimed at altering the demography, character and geographic nature of the Territory, directly endangering the viability and very possibility of the two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders.  This is being done systematically and deliberately, in grave breach of international law.  As land confiscations, settlement construction, and human rights violations continue, the prospects for achieving that solution are diminishing.  At the same time, the belief that peace can soon be realized is also diminishing, as expressed in growing Palestinian civilian protests against the occupation.  Israel’s violent suppression of peaceful protests continues to cause casualties, further aggravating the situation, as is ongoing Israeli settler terror and havoc against Palestinian civilians and their land.

The combination is highly toxic and requires immediate remedy.  Urgent action is needed to salvage the prospects for achieving a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – based on the longstanding parameters that are well-known to everyone in this Chamber, parameters that form the foundation of the two-State solution and the essence of an historic compromise, which the Palestinian leadership has committed itself to and the international community widely supports.   With each passing day, an opportunity is lost to reverse the damage done by Israel’s nearly 46-year military occupation and to instead promote genuine peace, security and coexistence between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.

Mr. President,

The Palestinian leadership has therefore welcomed recent efforts by concerned parties to revive the path of peace, including the important visit of United States President Barack Obama to the region in March.  We welcome the priority accorded to resolving the conflict, the renewed commitment to a just peace, and the efforts to create an atmosphere conducive for progress.  We have repeatedly proven, in word and deed, our commitment to finding a political path forward for the achievement of peace.  We have thus sincerely engaged in follow-up meetings with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as meetings with the Arab Ministerial Follow-up Committee, including at the Arab Summit in Doha.  In this regard, the Arab commitment to peace, reaffirmed for over a decade in the context of the Arab Peace Initiative, is unquestionable.

Yet, we know that intention alone cannot overcome the serious obstacles posed by Israel, the occupying Power, which have repeatedly undermined and actually sabotaged past efforts for peace.  We thus believe the following elements are imperative for facilitating a meaningful political process and the success of any forthcoming initiative:

Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, must cease.  This would constitute a serious signal from Israel that it is ready to negotiate in good faith an end to the occupation.  There is a global consensus on the illegality of Israel’s settlement campaign.  Moreover, everyone is in agreement – colonization, expansionism and annexation are entirely incompatible with ending occupation and making peace.

Israel’s leaders must realize that peace cannot just be spoken of from lofty podiums to appease the international community, while the occupation continues to be entrenched.  They must demonstrate they are ready for peace and act to make it a reality.  This requires a halt to all settlement activities and acceptance of the principle of withdrawal from the lands forcibly seized in 1967, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of this Security Council.  Accordingly, Israel must also accept the global consensus that negotiations begin on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders and that only by negotiation can this border be adjusted between the two sides.  These steps would contribute to diffusing the situation, build the necessary trust and fostering the appropriate atmosphere for the launch of negotiations.

A further imperative is the release of Palestinian political prisoners and detainees in conformity with prior agreements and consistent with international law and humanitarian principles.  As indicated in our letters to the President of the Council in past months, their plight remains a priority for the Palestinian people and their leadership, with 17 April recently commemorated as “Prisoners Day”, and sensitivities surrounding this issue are high, not least because of the illegality of their capture and the occupying Power’s inhumane treatment.

Currently, 4,900 Palestinians are in Israeli captivity, among them are 235 children, 1,200 persons needing urgent medical treatment, and 168 persons held under administrative detention without charge or trial.  Dozens more Palestinians continue to be arrested and detained every week in Israeli military raids throughout the country.  The brutality of their imprisonment has drastically raised tensions, particularly following the torture killing of Arafat Jaradat in detention in February and the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh due to medical neglect last month, prompting widespread civilian protests.

Likewise, the plight of Samer Issawi, whose hunger strike has lasted for over 260 days in protest of his re-arrest and detention without charge, has galvanized Palestinian sentiments and remains of high concern.  We salute Issawi’s brave resilience in demanding his freedom.  While noting yesterday’s positive developments, we reiterate our appeal to the UN Secretary-General and all concerned members of the international community, including the European Union, Russian Federation and United States as the other members of the Quartet, to continue their efforts to compel Israel to release Issawi.  He and all other Palestinian prisoners and detainees should be released and return to their families and communities and not be exiled from Palestine.

Also, we reiterate our call for an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, which continues to debilitate and disfigure the Palestinian society, inflicting severe socio-economic and humanitarian hardship, isolation and regression on our people, as recently highlighted by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and others. While recognizing the global financial crisis affecting all, this blockade is totally obstructing Palestinian economic subsistence and must end.  It is an unjust situation for our people to bear as well as for the donor community that is constantly asked to pay the price for Israel’s illegal occupation measures.

Mr. President,

Partial or temporary remedies will not help; all of these critical issues require a political solution.  As stated at the AHLC, convened in March 2013, by Norway’s Foreign Minister, “Efforts to solve Palestine’s acute economic problems are essential, but will only be meaningful within the framework of a negotiated two-State solution…”  This is true of all the problems and crises that persist and are symptoms of the larger problem: the continuation of the conflict and the absence of a just solution.

The basis for that solution is clear and present in the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and in the Madrid principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap.  What is needed is the political will to take action on this basis to overcome the prevailing obstacles and advance serious negotiations to resolve all core issues within a set timeframe.  For this to happen, Israel cannot continue to be absolved of its legal obligations and must be held accountable.  Tangible efforts by the international community to compel Israel to abide the law are way overdue and should not be considered optional; they are vital for stabilizing situation and giving peace a chance. The political impasse is unsustainable and efforts to simply “manage” the conflict are unacceptable, as evidenced by mounting pressure and protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory against the backdrop of instability in the region.

We strongly hope that Secretary Kerry succeeds in his efforts along with other regional and international partners to launch a credible peace process.  These efforts must include the Security Council.  The Council cannot passively remain on the sidelines, abdicating its responsibilities vis-à-vis achievement of a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establishment peace and security in our region.  Further, in this context, we support the efforts of the Arab Ministerial delegation that will soon be visiting various capitals, including Washington, aimed at promoting a political horizon.

On our part, once again, in this Chamber, I reaffirm the commitment of the Palestinian leadership to a peaceful settlement in accordance with the two-State solution.  However, I must stress that at the core of this commitment is our obligation to preserve the dignity of the Palestinian people and ensure justice for them.  Essential to this is fulfillment of their national aspirations and rights, including the right of our refugees to return and the right to self-determination in our independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr. President,

Before concluding, I wish to refer to two additional issues.  On the internal Palestinian front, we continue to strive for an end to the political division.  Active efforts are being exerted under the leadership of President Abbas and with regional support to achieve reconciliation.  We are grateful for the international community’s support for unity, which is a national interest for the Palestinian people and which we hope can soon be realized.  Further, we hopeful that elections can soon be undertaken in continuation of the democratic path we have chosen.  In this regard, while Prime Minister Fayyad has resigned and while commending him for his laudable, serious work at the helm of the government over the past years, we wish to reassure the international community and ask for their support as we undergo this transition.

Today, I must also express our grave concerns about the situation of Palestine refugees in Syria.  As made clear in briefings over the past week, the violent conflict raging there continues to claim so many civilian lives, including of Palestine refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled Syria, again suffering displacement.  This crisis underscores the ongoing plight of the Palestine refugees and the need for a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the question of Palestine in all its aspects, as well as the urgency of a political solution for the tragic conflict in Syria.  We appeal to the international community, including the Security Council, to uphold the responsibilities in this regard.

I thank you, Mr. President.