All Parties Must Act Now to Lower Tensions, Reverse Negative Trends Undermining Prospect of Two-State Solution, Middle East Coordinator Tells Security Council
Security Council members today expressed their alarm with the escalating tensions and violence plaguing the occupied Palestinian territories as a top United Nations envoy laid out the troubling trends that are undermining prospects for a peaceful two-State resolution of the conflict.
Tor Wennesland, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, speaking via video teleconference, told Council members it is crucial that all parties act immediately to lower tensions and reverse the negative trends undermining the outcome of a two-State solution, with a contiguous, independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian State. This means actions to defuse the crises and maintain calm, as well as intensified efforts to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and support a broader strategy. This strategy means collective efforts by the parties and the international community to create a two-State reality. In his briefing, Mr. Wennesland highlighted material from the Secretary-General’s report, which covers the period between 19 March and 16 June, as well as developments since the reporting period ended.
He said he is alarmed over the levels of violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel over the past months. Regarding the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) during the reporting period, he said the Israeli settlement‑expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remains deeply troubling and flagrantly violates United Nations resolutions and international law. It undermines the prospect of achieving a two-State solution by systematically eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous, independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian State.
He called on the Israeli Government to immediately cease the advancement of all settlement activity and end the demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned property. He expressed concern over the potential implications of the Israeli High Court’s ruling on Masafar Yatta and the humanitarian toll on the communities in question if eviction orders are enforced. He called on Israel to end the demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned property and prevent the possible displacement and eviction of Palestinians, in line with its obligations.
The delegate of the United States said the tension on the ground is palpable and dangerous. Expressing outrage over terrorist attacks against Israel and rocket fire from Gaza, he also condemned settler violence against Palestinians, noting that more than 1,000 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in 2021 — seven times the number in 2020. He urged that upcoming evictions do not take place and called on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions. He noted the upcoming visit by United States President Joseph R. Biden to the region and expressed strong support for a two-State solution.
The representative of China noted Israel’s plan to advance 4,000 housing units and threaten the eviction of 1,200 Palestinians. He stressed that settlements violate the right to self-determination and preclude a geographically contiguous independent Palestinian State, making it even harder to achieve a two‑State solution. He urged Israel to stop flouting resolution 2334 (2016) and condemned violence carried out by Israeli security forces and settlers.
The representative of Kenya called for accountability to combat the continuing wave of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas, the Palestinian Jihad and other militant groups in Israel. He also called for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians that have tragically claimed both Israeli and Palestinian lives. While quarterly Secretariat reports are essential to keep the Council informed, they should also lay out broader trends and give a sober analysis of the implications of the realities on the ground — including the prospects for a two-State solution. Reports should present clear objectives, timelines and feasible solutions to resolving pending issues. Ending the conflict requires the political will of both Israeli and Palestinian authorities to succeed.
Several Council members urged the international community to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The United Kingdom’s delegate said that during a recent visit to the region, his country’s Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East observed first hand the Agency’s vital work, which maintains a crucial role in extending assistance to the area. This week, the United Kingdom announced it multi-year funding arrangement and has provided £50 million to the Agency. He called on all donors to provide predictable multi-year funding. The international community cannot ignore the conflict’s toll on the people of Gaza and its significant impact on their living standards, he said, urging all parties, backed by the international community, to move back to dialogue.
India’s delegate, noting the increased work permits for Palestinians from Gaza to work in Israel, said more efforts are needed to ease the humanitarian situation. That includes dialogue among relevant stakeholders and steps to address the precarious situation of UNRWA. India is committed to support the Agency and provided $20 million over the last four years while pledging $5 million for 2022. He also called for direct negotiations between the parties, recognizing Palestine’s legitimate aspirations to Statehood and Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
Brazil’s delegate also expressed concerned with the Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis and said a broad political process cannot thrive without appropriate economic conditions. Coordinated international assistance is an integral part of efforts for peace and stability and is equally important to correct the structural impediments facing the Palestinian economy. Support is needed to strengthen the economy’s industrial and agriculture production. Joining other speakers in lamenting UNRWA’s chronic lack of funding, he noted Brazil’s recent announcement of additional funds and commended Palestine’s Central Election Commission for successfully concluding the voting processes for local councils.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Gabon, France, Russian Federation, Ghana, Norway, Ireland, Mexico, United Arab Emirates and Albania.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:33 a.m.
TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, speaking via video teleconference, highlighted material from the Secretary‑General’s report, which covers the period between 19 March and 16 June 2022, as well as developments since the reporting period ended. He expressed alarm over the levels of violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel over the past months. Since mid-March, 49 Palestinians have been killed in demonstrations, clashes, Israeli security operations, including in Area A, attacks and alleged attacks against Israelis and in settler‑related violence. The period has also been marked by the most serious terrorist attacks inside Israel in years, in which 11 Israelis and three foreign nationals were killed. The firing of a rocket from Gaza towards Israel, the first since April, is a reminder of the fragility of the Gaza Strip’s situation.
Mr. Wennesland told Security Council members it is crucial that all parties take immediate steps to lower tensions and reverse the negative trends that undermine the outcome of a two-State solution, with a contiguous, independent viable and sovereign Palestinian State. This means actions to defuse the crises and maintain calm, as well as redoubled efforts to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and support a broader strategy. This broader strategy would ensure collective efforts, by the parties and the international community, that aim to create a two-State reality.
He then made several observations regarding the implementation of the provisions of Council resolution 2334 (2016) during the reporting period. Calling Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, deeply troubling and a flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions and international law, he said they undermine the prospect of achieving a two-State solution by systematically eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous, independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian State. He called on Israel’s Government to immediately cease the advancement of all settlement activity and end the demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned property. He went on to express his deep concern by the potential implications of the Israeli High Court’s ruling on Masafar Yatta and the humanitarian toll on the communities in question if eviction orders are enforced. He called on Israel to end the demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned property, prevent the possible displacement and eviction of Palestinians, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian and international human rights law, and approve plans that would let Palestinians in Area C and occupied East Jerusalem to build legally and address their development needs.
He said he remains gravely concerned by continuing violence against civilians, which exacerbates mistrust and undermines a peaceful resolution to the conflict. “I am appalled by the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and disturbed by the behaviour of some Israeli security services in the context of her funeral,” he said. He reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for an independent and transparent investigation into her killing and to ensure those responsible are held accountable.
The situation in Gaza remains fragile and the risk of escalation persists. More needs to be done to alleviate the humanitarian situation and enable the economy to grow, with the eventual goal of a full lifting of the Israeli closures, in line with Council resolution 1860 (2009), he said. The Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis — compounded by the constraints of the occupation, the absence of serious Palestinian reforms and unclear prospects for donor support — requires urgent attention. He welcomed the European Union’s renewed financial support, which will give the Palestinian Authority critical temporary relief. As commodity prices spike, humanitarian needs and costs are rising across the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Shipping costs alone have increased more than 25 per cent over 2021. To sustain current operations in the region until the end of 2022, and offset increasing costs, the World Food Programme (WFP) requires an additional $36 million. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) shortfall remains at $100 million. He thanked all Member States that have already funded UNRWA in 2022 and those States that confirmed additional funds at the recent pledging conference in New York last week.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said the tension on the ground is palpable and dangerous. He expressed outrage over terrorist attacks against Israel and rocket fire from Gaza, ending a two-month break, noting Israelis near Gaza live in constant fear, a situation that must end. He also condemned settler violence against Palestinians, as over 1,000 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in 2021 — seven times the number in 2020. Urging that upcoming evictions do not take place, he called on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions. Citing an upcoming visit by United States President Joseph R. Biden to urge calm, he expressed strong support for a two-State solution, with a democratic and Jewish State of Israel alongside a viable Palestinian State. He further called for accountability in the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, also voicing over concern over the ongoing practice of using human remains as a bargaining chip by both sides. With 1.8 million Palestinians suffering food insecurity in March, he observed that UNRWA’s capacity to deliver food and health care is hindered by its long-standing financial instability, while the United States is its largest donor, providing $338 million in 2021 and already promising $79 million for 2022.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said his country’s Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East, Amanda Milling, visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories last week and met many inspirational Israelis and Palestinians carrying out vital work to improve the situation. Yet, this visit took place against increased violence and instability across the occupied Palestinian territories. There are continuing negative trends and there is unnecessary loss of life. The protection of human rights is essential, she stresses. Turning to UNRWA, he said the Minister observed first hand the Agency’s very important work, noting that it maintains a crucial role in providing assistance to the area. The United Kingdom this week announced it multi-year funding arrangement and has provided £50 million to the Agency. He called on all donors to provide predictable multi-year funding. The international community cannot ignore the toll the conflict has taken on the people of Gaza, he said, stating there has been a significant impact on their living standards. He urged all parties, backed by the international community, to move back to dialogue.
ALLEGRA PAMELA R. BONGO (Gabon) said Israeli authorities’ approval of plans to advance more than 4,000 units to various locations in the West Bank exacerbates its territorial fragmentation, calling on them to renounce any expansionist project, any demolition or dispossession of property belonging to the Palestinians. Police violence, which accompanies the multiple mass arrest operations with the use of live ammunition on Palestinian civilians, in particular women, young people and children, is unacceptable, as is any act of terrorism or rocket fire on Israel from Gaza. Calling on politicians on both sides to prevent, combat and suppress hate speech and intolerant rhetoric, which fuel belligerence and undermine peace efforts, she welcomed the condemnation by the President of the Palestinian Authority of terrorist acts targeting Israeli civilians, as well as condemnation by members of the Israeli Government of racist and stigmatizing speech against the Palestinians. She further noted results of the United Nations preliminary investigation into the circumstances of the death of Ms. Abu Akleh, calling on both parties to work together to ensure justice is done.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) expressed his country’s concern with the escalating violence in the area and defends the two-State solution in the absence of viable alternatives. It is the only just and sustainable solution that responds to the interests of both peoples, he noted. France will never waver when it comes to Israel’s security, however he said it must bring a halt to the extension of settlements. France is also concerned with violence against civilians. Israel must suspend the eviction of Palestinian families, as these evictions foster despair and can lead to violence, he said, noting that it makes the emergence of political solutions difficult. More must be done to improve the lives of Palestinian people. France continues to provide support to civil society and has increased its support to UNRWA, providing $35 million in 2022. Justice must be carried out and in investigation made into the death of Mr. Abu Akleh. Furthermore, he said there should not be any change to the 1967 lines other than those agreed to by the parties.
ZHANG JUN (China) said that, under Israeli occupation, Palestinian viability is being squeezed, with 18 per cent of Sector C designated for military exercise and 50 per cent for other purposes, effectively closing it for Palestinian activities. With Israel entrenched in its plan to advance 4,000 housing units, threatening eviction of 1,200 Palestinians, he stressed that settlements violate the right to self-determination and preclude a geographically contiguous independent Palestinian State, making it even ever harder to achieve a two-State solution. Urging Israel to stop flouting resolution 2334 (2016), he condemned violence by Israeli security forces and settlers, and called for that country to launch a criminal investigation into the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh, and explain itself before the international community. Citing the question of Palestine as a litmus test for international justice and fairness, he noted UNRWA has existed for over 70 years — meaning the issue has not been settled for that long. A generation has grown up under violence and blockade, he said, calling for serious attention, requiring urgent decisive action to prevent the situation from falling completely off track.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) observed that, in the past year, Israel approved the creation of more than 12,000 housing units; more than 1,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed. Also noting that, by 2026, the Israeli Government has plans to double the number of Israelis living in the West Bank and the occupied Syrian Golan, he said that the Russian Federation does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights. Further, the level of violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased, he said, criticizing the arbitrary arrest of Palestinians and the recent killing of Ms. Abu Akleh. On 10 June, the Israeli air force attacked Syrian territory and seriously damaged the Damascus International Airport. This stopped all flights, including humanitarian flights, into the area. There is the sense that these unilateral unlawful actions are being taken with the silent consent of Washington, D.C., essentially blocking any possibility for the revival of the peace process. The fact that the international community ignores the systemic violation of Palestinian rights is a clear example of the Western States’ double standards towards human rights, he said, adding that his country is experiencing this situation in Ukraine, as well. Expressing support for the initiative of Egypt and Algeria for the region, he said that the Moscow formula remains on the table.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India), noting that violent attacks have taken the lives of many Palestinians and Israelis during the reporting period, reiterated the call for their complete cessation. Tensions are rising over the potential eviction of Palestinian families from Masafer Yatta and unilateral actions on the ground that threaten the viability of the two-State solution must be eschewed. The international community and the Council must send a strong signal against any State that would endanger that goal. Taking note of increased work permits for Palestinians from Gaza to work in Israel, he stressed that more is needed to alleviate the humanitarian situation, with dialogue among relevant stakeholders, as well as addressing the precarious situation of UNRWA. He reiterated his country’s commitment to support the Agency, providing $20 million over the last four years and pledging $5 million for 2022. He also called for direct negotiations between the parties, recognizing Palestinian legitimate aspirations to Statehood and Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), describing the Secretary-General’s latest report as troubling, said it reflects a further departure from the Council’s expectation in 2016 that Israel would cease settlement activities. Calling for utmost restraint, he recalled the duty of the Israeli authorities to take significant steps — consistent with the transition contemplated by prior agreements — against advancement projects, evictions and demolitions which undermine the prospects of a two-State solution. He also expressed concern over the recent spate of killings of more than 60 Palestinians and called on the Israeli authorities to thoroughly investigate all instances of alleged disproportionate use of force. “The Middle East peace process cannot also be brought back on track in an environment of insecurity, instability and mistrust,” he stressed, emphasizing that the recent spate of terrorism in Israel “cannot under any circumstances be considered useful to the Palestinian cause”. Condemning all acts of terrorism, he called on the leadership of the parties to demonstrate zero tolerance for such acts and for all acts of violence.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) voiced concern over continued violence and mounting tensions over the last month, while deploring all terrorist attacks and thoroughly condemning the launching of rockets that put civilians in harm's way. He urged the parties to refrain from any acts that could further incite violence and tensions in the region, including the use of dangerous and hateful rhetoric and unilateral actions. Also expressing concern over the Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis, he said a broad political process cannot thrive in the absence of appropriate economic conditions. Coordinated international assistance must be an integral part of efforts for peace and stability, and it is equally important to address the structural impediments imposed on the Palestinian economy, which needs support to strengthen its industrial and agriculture production. Joining other speakers in lamenting UNRWA’s chronic lack of funding, he noted Brazil’s recent announcement of additional funds and went on to commend Palestine’s Central Election Commission for successfully concluding the voting processes for local councils.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said resolution 2334 (2016) is clearly not being implemented, as settlement building, demolitions and evictions continue. Expressing particular concern about plans to demolish several villages in Masafer Yatta — and about Israeli military training that has already started in the area — she warned that if such plans are carried out, the humanitarian consequences will be dire. “All measures aimed at altering the demographic composition of the occupied areas are in violation of international humanitarian law,” she stressed, urging Israel to refrain from carrying out its plan and to halt all settlement expansions, evictions and demolitions. She also noted the high number of Palestinian civilians killed so far in 2022 and condemned all terrorist attacks, including the ones that have killed 10 Israeli and three foreign civilians. Turning to UNRWA, she warned that the continued funding crisis could have dramatic impacts — including for regional stability — and encouraged all the parties to help move the Palestinian Authority onto a firmer fiscal footing.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) recalled that resolution 2334 (2016) demands that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. However, no such steps were taken during the reporting period, though settlements are illegal under international law and gravely undermine prospects for a two-State solution. In 2021, only 10 building permits were granted for Palestinians, compared to 2,526 housing starts in settlements. Further, the Masafer Yatta eviction case increases the risk of the forcible transfer of some 1,150 Palestinians. The establishment of a firing zone is not an “imperative military reason” to transfer a population under occupation. Also noting that during the reporting period, Israeli Security Forces killed nine children, she called for those responsible to be held accountable, while condemning attacks from the Gaza Strip. With economic hardship increasing for the Palestinian people, in the context of rising fuel and food prices, she urged the Palestinian Authority to do more and to intensify the process towards elections. Expressing concern over the tensions in Jerusalem and unacceptable challenges to the status quo in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, she stressed that the custodian role of Jordan must be respected.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE (Mexico), expressing regret over the lack of progress in implementing resolution 2334 (2016), echoed calls on Israel to cease its settlement activities and related demolitions and evictions. Calling for the Israeli Supreme Court to reverse its 4 May ruling on Masafer Yatta, which threatens to evict some 1,200 civilians, he said the underlying causes of the conflict clearly remain unaddressed. However, frustrations cannot be used to justify terror attacks. He voiced concern over the high number of Palestinian minors detained by Israeli authorities, calling for those currently held to be immediately freed, as well as for an independent investigation into the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh. The lack of structural reforms on the ground hampers the effectiveness of donor funding, he said, stressing that economic progress must be accompanied by steps towards an inclusive political process, characterized by the holding of free and fair elections with the broad participation of women and young people.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) cited ongoing cycles of tensions, continued settlement activity and disturbing statistics stemming from violent incidents involving children and youth, while calling for accountability to combat the continuing wave of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas, the Palestinian Jihad and other militant groups in Israel. He also called for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians that have tragically claimed both Israeli and Palestinian lives. While quarterly reports remain essential in keeping the Council informed, there is also a need to present broader trends and offer a sober analysis of their implications within the context of the current realities on the ground — including the prospects for a two-State solution. Reports should present clear objectives, timelines and feasible solutions to resolving pending issues. Stressing that the onus of ending the conflict does not necessarily fall on the Council, he said it requires the political will of both Israeli and Palestinian authorities to succeed, and noted steps taken by the Israel’s Government to approve work permits and improve the regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings in line with resolution 1860 (2009).
GHASAQ YOUSIF ABDALLA SHAHEEN (United Arab Emirates) said the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements jeopardizes the geographical contiguity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and deeply affects peoples’ lives, especially women and children. These settlements are points of tension and perpetuate violence. They also undermine peace efforts and violate international law and United Nations resolutions. He emphasized the necessity of abiding by Council resolution 2334 (2016), regarding the prevention of all acts of violence against civilians, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction, especially as tensions escalate. The fragile situation should not be left unaddressed and regional and international diplomatic efforts must be intensified to proactively maintain calm and contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to peace. Regarding the worsening humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in the Gaza Strip, and with the spike in commodity prices, he stressed the importance of using concrete measures to revive the economy and ease the movement of workers and trade flows. He reiterated the United Arab Emirate’s permanent and historical commitment to the Palestinian people, including through humanitarian aid and support for the health and education sectors.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), Council President for June, speaking in his national capacity, expressed regret that resolution 2336 (2016) has not been implemented, and that settlements continue to expand, dimming hopes for a meaningful peaceful resolution. The security of Israel will never be in question, but settlements do not contribute to it, leading to violence and loss of lives on both sides. Israel is a democracy, he observed, and the backbone of every democracy is the rule of law. He expressed concern over threats to the preservation of the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and incendiary and hate speech that further exacerbates tensions, also condemning terrorism in all its forms and incitement to commit such heinous acts. The killing of Ms. Abu Akleh and the storming of her funeral procession by Israeli police require an independent and impartial investigation to establish the truth, he said. Commending vital support from the European Union to the Palestinian people, including to UNWRA, he warned that such measures will never be enough, nor are they gamechangers. However, they are important since they help reverse the negative trends, and keep the hope alive for the peaceful resolution of the conflict.