Fourth Committee Hears Support for Referring Question of Palestine to International Court of Justice for Advisory Opinion
Proposal Draws Criticism from Israel, United States
Several delegates voiced support today for the General Assembly to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, as the as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.
The proposal — which drew criticism from the representatives of Israel and the United States — appears in a draft resolution titled “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/77/L.12), on which, among other texts, the Committee will take action on 11 November.
Bangladesh’s representative, among others, hailed that proposal and looked forward to its adoption by the Assembly. He noted that ongoing brutality and atrocities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including limited access to health care, education and livelihood activities, are having a devastating impact on socioeconomic conditions.
Venezuela’s representative said that, with the Security Council unable to force Israel to abide by its resolutions due to the use of the veto by one of its permanent members, an advisory opinion from the Court will make it possible to keep alive a political horizon leading to the end of the Israeli occupation.
Israel’s representative, however, said the Palestinians are exploiting the Court “as a weapon of mass destruction in their jihad war of Israel demonization”. Weaponizing an international body to force Israel to submit to outrageous Palestinian demands will destroy any chances for future dialogue, he warned, adding that unilateral Palestinian steps will be met by unilateral Israeli steps. He went on to ask why some delegates choose to play the same role every year in the Palestinian charade.
The United States’ representative added that language about an advisory opinion was inserted late in negotiations, with insufficient time for consultations. Noting that the question of Palestine is among the most discussed topics at the United Nations, he said it is time to get past talking points and to abandon resolutions that are biased against Israel.
South Africa’s representative said that the facts on the ground lead to only one conclusion, and that is that Israel is perpetrating an apartheid system against the Palestinian people. “It is a strong comparison to make, and it is not one South Africa makes lightly for we understand the term beyond any doubt,” he said, emphasizing that calling out Israel for documented atrocities against Palestinians is not antisemitic.
Also speaking today were representatives of Iran, Libya, Niger, Türkiye, Algeria, Brunei Darussalam, Namibia, Indonesia, Kuwait, Japan, Qatar, Lebanon, Sudan and Malaysia.
The observer for the League of Arab States also spoke.
The observer for the State of Palestine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 11 November, to take action on outstanding draft resolutions and to conclude its work for the main part of the General Assembly’s seventy‑seventh session.
Mr. GEHLICH (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories contains plenty of disturbing findings, including details of the horrendous experiences of innocent Palestinians and other Arabs, including children. The Special Committee’s mandate needs to be supported in order to raise awareness and mobilize international action to alleviate the suffering, he said, adding that the Israeli occupation is at the epicentre of all conflicts in the Middle East. He condemned the forced eviction and forcible transfer of Palestinian families and also drew attention to violence, trespassing and intimidation by Israeli settlers as well as measures to accelerate the Judaization of Jerusalem while erasing the city’s Palestinian Christian and Muslim heritage.
Mr. ABUSREWEL (Libya) associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that despite repeated statements at the United Nations, gross violations of the Palestinians’ rights persist. Countries continue to deplore and resolutions get adopted, but there is no change on the ground. “We all have the right to ask, ‘Where are we heading?’” Peace will never be achieved if the occupying Power continues to occupy Palestinian land. The two-State solution fades by the day, he said, expressing concern about a new Palestinian generation that does not believe in peace or see a path to an independent Palestinian State. Underscoring the right of return of all Palestinian people, he noted that the Palestinian cause will always be important to the Arab conscience.
The representative of Niger said that the absence of serious negotiations and the inability to resolve the main issues that fuel the Israel-Palestinian conflict have created an alarming security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He deplored the disproportionate use of force and recalled the international obligation of every State, even Israel, the occupying Power, to protect civilians. He also noted the chronic underfunding of humanitarian action in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The apartheid situation which the Palestinian people are experiencing as a result of the Israeli occupation is deeply concerning, and the two-State solution should be supported, he said.
Ms. OZGUR (Türkiye) stated that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is fuelling tension and conflict, diminishing prospects for lasting peace in the region and undermining prospects for a two-State solution. Describing the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as fragile, she said the decision to list several Palestinian civil society groups as “terrorist” should be revoked. Unilateral actions and provocations trigger more violence in the region, she said, adding that the lack of progress towards resolving the conflict is deeply troubling. Equally frustrating is the international community’s lack of interest in finding a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the conflict. It is essential to return to the path of negotiations, she emphasized.
Mr. AL-BARATI (Yemen) said that without the establishment of a viable Palestinian State, there is no way that stability in the Middle East can be ensured. The Security Council must implement resolution 2334 (2016), and the occupying Power should put an end to all settlement activity. The siege of Gaza and the detention and assassination of Palestinians must end. Calling for an end to disunity and a beginning for reconciliation, he added that Palestine must be given full membership in the United Nations.
Mr. HOSSAIN (Bangladesh) said that ongoing brutality and atrocities, including limiting access to health care, education and livelihood activities, are having a devastating impact on socioeconomic conditions in Palestine. Realizing the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination requires dismantling, once and for all, the Israeli settler-colonial occupation and its apartheid practices. He went on to welcome, in the forthcoming draft resolution on Israeli practices affecting the human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice and looked forward to the General Assembly adopting that text.
Ms. SAMAI (Algeria), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, said that resolving the Palestinian question is crucial for peace in the Middle East and the world. Expressing support for the sovereignty of the Palestinian people, she called for the creation of an independent Palestinian State and respect for the rights of refugees. Israel continues to undermine the two-State solution through its occupation and apartheid policy, she said, expressing concern about the settlement activities and the confiscation and demolition of Palestinian homes. The occupying Power has created a fait accompli based on discrimination, she said, adding that it is essential to put the two-State solution back on track. She went on to say that the occupation of the Syrian Golan is a threat to peace that has no legal basis.
Ms. OMARALI (Brunei Darussalam), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that her delegation supports the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Emphasizing her country’s solidarity with the Palestinian people, she strongly condemned repeated violations of their dignity and human rights. The occupying Power must cease all forms of aggression and fully comply with international law. The occupying Power’s refusal to engage with the Special Committee has caused a further deterioration of health, social and economic conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she added. “This lack of accountability is of utmost concern, and its effects have aggravated a situation that has already been heavily impacted by conflict and the pandemic,” she said.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States), stressing that a negotiated two-State solution remains the best way to ensure Israel’s security and fulfil the Palestinian desire for a State of their own, highlighted the importance of direct negotiations. Reiterating his country’s opposition to the General Assembly’s annual resolutions against Israel, he said that the failure to acknowledge the shared history of the Haram al-Sharif and Temple Mount in those texts demonstrates that they are intended only to denigrate. New language in this year’s draft resolution which requests an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice was inserted late in negotiations without sufficient time for consultations. Noting that the Israeli-Palestinian situation is one of the most discussed topics at the Organization, he said it is time to get past talking points. The signing of the Abraham Accords and other normalization agreements means that Government officials, businesspeople and students are traveling between Israel and those States that signed them. “Yet here in conference room four, all still seems to be the same,” he said, calling for the abandonment of resolutions that are biased against Israel.
The representative of Namibia stated that the United Nations archives are replete with evidence of practices of annexation, settlement expansion and human rights violation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Such injustices are tolerated year after year, for which the occupying Power is not sufficiently held to account. Clearly, Israel opts not to open itself to scrutiny, she said. The two-State solution remains the only viable solution for a comprehensive and lasting peace. She supported ongoing efforts for Palestine to be recognized as a Member State as well as the proposal for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences arising from Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
The representative of South Africa said that the facts on the ground lead to only one conclusion, and that is that Israel is perpetrating an apartheid system against the Palestinian people. “It is a strong comparison to make, and it is not one South Africa makes lightly for we understand the term beyond any doubt,” he said, emphasizing that calling out Israel for documented atrocities against Palestinians is not antisemitic. He suggested that the United Nations explore resuscitating a mechanism like its Special Committee against Apartheid to review Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians’ rights, adding that South Africa supports full membership for Palestine in the Organization.
The representative of Indonesia said that there must be an end to Israel’s illegal occupation and actions, adding that sanctioning illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory can only lead to increasing violence. The occupying Power must be held accountable for its violations of international law and international humanitarian law. The international community must continue to push for a just and lasting solution, while parties must restart the peace process with the aim of achieving the two-State solution, she said.
The representative of Kuwait, emphasizing that Jerusalem has an Arab identity, said the Palestinians have a right to their own independent State. The international community must take more effective steps to end Israel’s crime of occupation, its unfair blockade of Gaza and its armed attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure. He stressed that the occupation, settlement activities and forced displacements violate the United Nations Charter and Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), adding that the situation is undermining prospects for the two-State solution.
The representative of Japan, reaffirming support for the two-State solution, expressed concern about the large number of casualties on the ground. Calling for both restraint and confidence-building measures, he condemned the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which violate international law and affect Palestinian human rights. Highlighting the dire humanitarian, socioeconomic and security situation in the Gaza Strip, he said that when people lose hope for the future, they are more inclined to violence. Going forward, Japan will continue to play an active role in Palestine, he said, adding that the holding of elections in Palestine is crucial for ensuring the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority.
GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel), describing his country as the only vibrant liberal democracy in the Middle East, said that by supporting their lies and distortions, the Committee is showing the Palestinians that they can continue spreading their culture of hatred while denying Israel's right to exist. As long as they continue to get support from an immoral, politicized anti-Israel majority at the United Nations, the Palestinians will never make any concessions that are essential for reconciliation and peace. The Palestinians are only interested in the destruction of the Jewish State by any means, he added. When the United Nations voted 75 years ago to establish a Jewish State, the Palestinians immediately rejected that plan “and attempted to murder all of the Jews in Israel”. Since then, they have rejected every peace plan ever put forward, he said.
Condemning counterproductive resolutions that support the Palestinians’ destructive approach, he said that the text before the Committee this session is different because the United Nations is about to hammer the final nail in the coffin. The Palestinians are exploiting the International Court of Justice “as a weapon of mass destruction in their jihad war of Israel demonization”, he said, adding that co-opting the Court will put the conflict on a suicidal crash course. Weaponizing an international body to force Israel to submit to outrageous Palestinian demands will destroy any chances for future dialogue, he said. Unilateral Palestinian steps will be met by unilateral steps by Israel, he added, questioning why some delegates choose to play the same role every year in the Palestinian charade. Recalling the President of Palestine’s ultimatum, delivered in the General Assembly, in which he said that Israel has one year to concede to his demands, after which he will turn to the International Court of Justice, he said that ultimatums do not facilitate reconciliation. Palestine has not stopped paying hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorists, he said, adding that in the last 11 months there have been nearly 5,000 Palestinian terror attacks. Israel is a peace-seeking country, he said, adding that delegations that support this year’s draft resolution are marionettes.
The representative of Qatar said that according to recent reports, illegal settlement activities around Jerusalem are continuing. Such activity throughout Israel-occupied territories is illegal and impedes the two-State solution. Israel's decision to impose its laws and jurisdiction on the Syrian Golan are null and void and have no legal effect, he added. The international community must shoulder its moral and legal responsibility, end the occupation and pressure Israel into engaging in a genuine peace process, he added.
The representative of Lebanon said that Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Special Committee, including granting it access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, is aimed at impeding it from fulfilling its mandate. It is sad and unfortunate to see that Israeli practices against Palestinians reflect a systematic policy that continues to be implemented without any accountability. Under the pretext of security, Israel violates the most basic rights of Palestinian people and all Arabs. He condemned the occupying Power’s efforts to double the number of Israeli settlers in the Syrian Golan, adding that the international community must address such violations.
The representative of Sudan, citing the reports of the Secretary-General and the Special Committee, said that Israeli practices are igniting tension, threatening the two-State solution and eradicating any hope for life and peace. The occupation should end, and Israel should implement all international resolutions, he said, adding that the international community should pressure Israel to end its attempts to change Jerusalem’s demographic make-up. Palestine should be given full membership in the United Nations, he added.
The representative of Venezuela expressed concern at the worsening situation in Palestine as well as prospects for the two-State solution due to Israeli practices and its treatment of the Palestinian people. The Security Council is unable to fully discharge its mandate and call for full compliance with its resolutions due to the use of the veto by one of its permanent members. That has enabled Israel to continue to practice colonialism and apartheid. An advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice will make it possible to keep alive a political horizon leading to the end of the Israeli occupation, he said.
The representative of Malaysia, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Israel’s systematic oppression and denial of basic human rights to Palestinians are tantamount to the crime of apartheid. Expressing alarm about the intensification of illegal settler violence, he pointed out that such attacks are often carried out with the support of the security forces. Noting that the occupying Power continues to undermine the political horizon through its actions, he said its intractable attitude reflects the unwillingness to work towards a just solution for lasting peace in the region. He urged the international community to implement relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions and supported the call to seek guidance from the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the prolonged violation of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.
NASRIA ELARDJA FLITTI, observer for the League of Arab States, associating himself with the Arab Group, said that Israel’s settlement policy is aimed at the total annexation of Palestinian and Arab lands through demolition, evacuation, illegitimate detention and the killing of Palestinian people. Condemning all Israeli violations in the occupied Arab territories, including the occupied Syrian Golan, he said that such abuses deprive people of hope as they fight for their inalienable right to self-determination as well as the right to natural resources. Without the start of negotiations, they will not be able to overcome feelings of despair and frustration. The goal is not to have the Israeli leadership agree in the General Assembly with the importance of the two-State solution, he continued. Rather, the goal should be to translate that vision on the ground through the immediate start of direct negotiations and by putting an end to brutal attacks by settlers and security forces. Stressing the need to put an end to apartheid measures, he also noted the increased violence against journalists, such as Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while wearing a vest that identified her as a member of the media.
Right of Reply
The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that Israel’s disdain for the United Nations is one reason why multilateralism and the international system is in crisis. The country disrespects and violates a plethora of resolutions because it believes it is above the law. Shielded in the Security Council, and absent true measures of accountability, Israel is accustomed to getting away with its crimes. How is turning to the International Court of Justice escalatory and violent, when doing so is actually a peaceful and legitimate choice? she wondered.