Statement of H.E. Riad Malki, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine before the Security Council, 26 January 2021

Mr. President, 

Allow me at the outset to congratulate Tunisia on its skilled presidency of the Security Council and to express our appreciation for the high-level convening of this open debate, as well as to wish my brother Othman Jerandi a swift recovery. I also wish the President of Mexico a swift recovery. May this year witness an end to this terrible pandemic. Let me note in this regard that the occupying Power has not provided any vaccines to the Palestinian people under occupation to this day, insisting it is under no obligation to do so.

Allow me to also thank Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for his participation and to seize this opportunity to thank Russia for its leading role in the Quartet in the most difficult of circumstances, and President Putin for his repeated efforts to bring the parties together, as well as the Foreign Ministers of Ireland, Mr. Simon Coveney, Mexico, Mr. Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón, and Norway, Ms. Ine Eriksen Søreide, colleagues that I have worked closely with to advance peace, and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Estonia, Mr. Rein Tammsaar, for participating in this meeting. 

I congratulate Mr. Tor Wennesland for assuming his functions as the UN Special Coordinator. We look forward to working with him in his new capacity to advance a just peace. I also welcome my brother Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who remains a tireless advocate of peace. 

I also wish today to express our appreciation to the States that concluded their Security Council terms, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, and South Africa, thanking them for their commitment to international law and peace, and for their support for the rights of the Palestinian people; while also expressing our congratulations to India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico and Norway and wishing them every success as they undertake their terms on the Council.

Mr. President,

The countdown for the demise of the two-State solution is underway. Some say the time has already elapsed. It is our collective responsibility to salvage the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders before it is too late. 

Some wonder if this is the right time for peace. But the very reasons that demonstrate how difficult achieving peace is going to be, including the situation on the ground, the mistrust, the illegal unilateral actions, should prompt more, not less, international involvement, especially since we all agree that we are running out of time.

How much trust was there when the parties to the conflict met in Madrid 30 years ago? How ready were they to negotiate? How willing was then Israeli Prime Minister Shamir to make peace?  How pleased were the Palestinians that the PLO could not even send its own delegation? What did the situation on the ground look like? The world decided it was time to solve this conflict and was not going to take “no” for an answer. I can tell you with certainty, without Madrid, we would not have made it to Oslo. 

The momentum for peace is something we create, not something we wait for, and I know there is no lack of willingness around this table and beyond to see peace prevail.

We thus reiterate our call for a collective approach mobilizing the international community and demonstrating its resolve to achieve peace. In this context, we call for revival of the Quartet and its engagement with partners and the parties, as well as for the continued mobilization of this Security Council. We also reiterate our call for the convening of an international peace conference that can signal a turning point in this conflict, like Madrid did three decades ago, and to launch final status negotiations based on the international terms of reference and parameters. Our call for multilateral engagement is not an attempt to evade bilateral negotiations, but rather an effort to ensure their success.

Mr. President,

Does anyone here believe that Israel has really dropped its annexation plans? Or is the reality actually that it is finalizing those plans on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as we speak, advancing over 3000 new settlement units in the last few weeks alone, accelerating demolition of Palestinian homes and the displacement of our people, with settlers’ violence reaching an all-time high, and with repeated provocations at the holy sites, especially at Al-Haram Al-Sharif? 

Israel’s goal has always been the same: grabbing maximum Palestinian geography with minimum Palestinian demography. The outcome of this policy is known. Millions of Palestinians enduring oppression, discrimination and blatant segregation, denied their most basic rights and deprived of control over their land, their resources, their borders and their lives. Who would accept that? We cannot. Would any of you? The question therefore remains how to convince Israel to choose peace not annexation, or in the words of former US President Jimmy Carter, peace not apartheid.

In 2016, the Quartet stressed the urgent need for affirmative steps to reverse the negative trends on the ground in order to “prevent entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations” of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. In response to the rapid deterioration of the situation on the ground, the Security Council adopted resolution 2334 (2016), a roadmap to salvage the two-State solution and achieve peace. 

In his speech explaining why the United States did not resort to the veto, Secretary Kerry explained that the two-State solution was a Palestinian interest, an Israeli interest, a regional and international interest, but also a US interest. He stressed that the “critical decision about the future – one state or two states – is effectively being made on the ground every single day”, noting that “the status quo is leading towards one state and perpetual occupation, but most of the public either ignores it or has given up hope that anything can be done to change it”, adding that “with this passive resignation, the problem only gets worse, the risks get greater and the choices are narrowed”.

This lucid assessment about the urgency to act to salvage the two-State solution was followed by four years where the Trump administration used the United States’ might and influence to support Israel’s unlawful efforts to entrench its occupation and control, breaking with decades of US diplomacy. Even the most vulnerable, millions of Palestine refugees, were not spared as the Trump administration withdrew US funding from UNRWA seeking to bring the Agency to collapse in spite of the international consensus on its indispensable role pending a just solution. What if these considerable resources were used to advance freedom, justice and peace, not annexation and apartheid? 

Mr. President,

The last four years have tested our collective resolve, yet the international consensus has endured and prevailed. The members of this Council, of the Quartet, the Munich group, and the international community as a whole stood up against annexation, reaffirmed their support for Palestinian rights, supported UNRWA, and continued to work for a just and lasting peace. Now is the time to heal and repair the damage left by the previous US administration.

President Abbas has congratulated President Biden on his election and expressed our hope for the resumption of relations and positive engagement. We look forward to the reversal of the unlawful and hostile measures undertaken by the Trump administration and to working together for peace. We welcome the decision of the new administration to rejoin the international law-based order and hope the US will play an important role in multilateral efforts for peace in the Middle East.

Mr. President,

This is not a time for passive resignation but a time for resolute action. Without such action, neither reversing negative trends on the ground, first and foremost illegal settlement activities, nor resuming meaningful final status negotiations, will be possible. The deterioration of the situation on the ground is directly linked to the attempts of one party to prejudge and dictate the outcome of negotiations, implementing annexation that would destroy any prospect for a sovereign and contiguous State of Palestine, while pretending to accept a two-State solution.

There are those who ask: what can be done that has not been tried already? But did the world truly use the toolbox available to it to end this occupation and conflict? 

How does the world deal with other conflicts? Does it say that the parties shall negotiate and just wait for them to be ready and agree? Or does it find the necessary resources to push parties towards negotiations and away from unlawful unilateral actions, including by upholding third parties’ obligations? Does it only condemn violations or make sure that their cost far outweighs their benefits by creating incentives for compliance with obligations and disincentives for their breach? Does this Council in adopting its resolutions accompany them with the means to ensure their implementation as per its Charter duties, or does it offer its resolutions as mere advice for the parties to decide if they take it or not? 

Since both parties say they are committed to peace, why not allow the deployment of international observers truly empowered to assess compliance? Why fear consequences for whomever breaches their legal obligations? Why not conduct final status negotiations under international auspices? Why reject the idea of binding timeframes? This is the path towards changing the dramatic reality underway in Palestine. We stand ready to do our part and will continue fulfilling our obligations.

Mr. President, 

An entire nation is yearning for freedom and its calls must be answered. We do not ask for anything more than what the UN Charter prescribed for all peoples, nor will we accept anything less. We cannot accept a future of walls and blockades, humiliation and subjugation. We will spare no effort in advancing an independent, sovereign, viable, contiguous and democratic State of Palestine on the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. We will do by resorting to peaceful means alone, even in the most challenging of circumstances. 

While we pursue our long journey to freedom and peace, we call for immediate protection for our people, who are equally entitled to security, until such time where we can ensure their protection as a sovereign State. 

President Abbas has issued a decree calling for Palestinian legislative and presidential elections, as well as for the Palestinian National Council. This is an integral part of the efforts to resume our democratic life and to achieve national reconciliation and unity. We thank all those who are supporting these efforts and ask for international support and assistance to ensure the integrity of these elections, including by helping to avert and remove any Israeli obstacles to their conduct, notably in East Jerusalem, as well as respect for the outcome.

In this period of electoral campaigns, there are those who, in trying to secure votes, remain committed to international law, the two-State solution and peaceful means, and those who instead announce settlements, advance annexation and persist in their provocations. May people not be duped by the ills of demagogy, supremacy and domination and rather choose the path of equal rights, mutual respect and shared dignity. With your help, may our future be one of freedom, security and prosperity for all. A future of peace, not apartheid. Thank you.