Israeli, Palestinian Leaders’ Statements on Two-State Solution Positive Sign, But Words Must Be Turned into Action, Speakers Tell Security Council
Welcoming statements by the leaders of Israel and the State of Palestine during the seventy-seventh General Assembly session as a positive sign toward resuming the peace process, speakers in the Security Council today called for those words to be turned into action and progress be delivered on a two-State solution, especially in light continuing settlement activity and violence against civilians.
Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, reported that settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as violence against civilians, have continued. In the West Bank, 29 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, while Israeli settlers and civilians perpetrated 128 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in one death. In Gaza, 49 Palestinians were killed, while one Israeli civilian and one Israeli security forces personnel were killed.
Urging Palestinian factions to redouble efforts in reuniting Gaza and the occupied West Bank, he also called for support from the international community for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA). The Agency needed sustainable funding sources to protect the delivery of services to millions of Palestine refugees. “There must be a bridge between these immediate challenges and the longer-term objective of achieving the vision of two States,” he emphasized.
However, he also highlighted the statements made during the high-level week of the General Assembly’s seventy-seventh session, commending Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s support of the two-State solution and acknowledging President Mahmoud Abbas’s commitment to a peaceful resolution. Stressing that there has been little progress in the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), despite the provisions stating that settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must cease, he added: “Israelis and Palestinians must determine how they envision the future. Negotiations can no longer be pushed off indefinitely.”
In the ensuing debate, many speakers reiterated their support for a two-State solution and the resumption of the peace negotiations, with some emphasizing that the Israeli settlements and acts of violence must stop to prevent further impact, not only on civilian lives, but also on the economy.
The representative of China, citing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s statement that "a large majority of Israelis support the vision of the two-State solution”, also recalled that President Mahmoud Abbas recognized the statement as positive and had urged the Israeli Government “to sit at the negotiating table immediately to implement the two-State solution”. The Council must take more vigorous action to support the Palestinian people in restoring their inalienable rights, he added.
The representative of the United States, underscoring her country’s continued support for a two-State solution, also noted the recent statements made in the General Assembly and urged that these words be turned to action. She stressed, however, that “there are no shortcuts to Statehood”, voicing her opposition to unilateral actions that exacerbate tensions and move the needle further from peace.
Kenya’s representative drew attention to the numerous sideline events on the Israel-Palestine issue during the seventy-seventh General Assembly session, remarking that they demonstrated continued efforts to fill the gap of an elusive political peace process. Underlining that implementing resolution 2334 (2016) requires the political will of both parties, he called for the presentation of clear objectives, timelines and feasible solutions to resolving pending issues.
However, the Russian Federation’s representative pointed out that Israel continues its settlement activities in violation of international law. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory will remain explosive until the parties reach a mutually acceptable compromise, he said, stressing that violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are related to the stagnated peace process.
The representative of United Arab Emirates spotlighted the economic impact of the settlement activities, reporting that attacks by Israeli settlers include those on agricultural crops, which many Palestinian families depend on as a primary source of income. With the approaching olive harvest, she said that the same period last year saw an unprecedented upsurge in attacks.
Brazil’s representative, emphasizing that poverty, food insecurity and lack of hope have provided ground for extremist forces, said that the easing of restrictions on people and goods into and out of Gaza was a promising measure. Economic growth can contribute to intra-Palestinian reconciliation, stabilization and dialogue resumption. Collaboration on all matters, including security, can only occur with strengthened Palestinian institutions and a viable Palestinian economy, she emphasized.
Also speaking were representatives of Norway, Ireland, Gabon, Ghana, Albania, United Kingdom, Mexico, India and France.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:33 a.m.
TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that, despite the provisions laid out in Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) that settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory cease, such activities have continued during the reporting period from 17 June to 20 September. In the West Bank, 29 Palestinians, including six children, were killed and 1,813 Palestinians, including 27 women and 194 children were injured by Israeli security forces. Israeli settlers and other civilians perpetrated 128 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in one death and 51 injuries. In Gaza, during the escalation of tensions between armed groups in August, 49 Palestinians were killed, of whom at least 26 were civilians, while one Israeli civilian and one Israeli security forces personnel were killed in addition to 50 Israelis and eight security forces personnel injured.
Voicing concern over the civilian deaths and injuries, including those of children, caused by the latest escalation in Gaza, he pressed Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law. He also condemned the indiscriminate launching of rockets by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza into civilian population centres in Israel. Expressing concern over the deteriorating security situation in the occupied West Bank, he underscored that Israeli security forces must use lethal force only when unavoidable and must hold those responsible for instances of death or injury resulting from its use accountable. In addition, he condemned acts of terrorism against civilians, including the 14 August attack targeting Jewish worshippers near Jerusalem’s Old City. “The glorification of such acts is unacceptable and further undermines the possibility of a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” he stressed.
Parties must respect and uphold the status quo and the special role of Jordan as custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, he continued. Calling upon Palestinian factions to redouble efforts in reuniting Gaza and the occupied West Bank, he said that it is also crucial that Palestinians hold elections to renew legitimacy of national institutions. As well, Member States should support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) with sustainable funding sources to protect the delivery of services to millions of Palestine refugees. The current negative trajectory puts at great risk the Palestinian Authority’s efforts toward Statehood.
“There must be a bridge between these immediate challenges and the longer-term objective of achieving the vision of two States,” he emphasized, with Israel and a sovereign Palestine State living in peace based on 1967 borders and Jerusalem as the capital of both States. Turning to recent developments during the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly, he commended Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s support of the two-State solution, while acknowledging President Mahmoud Abbas’s commitment to a peaceful resolution. Stressing that the international community sees little progress in the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), he concluded: “Israelis and Palestinians must determine how they envision the future. Negotiations can no longer be pushed off indefinitely.”
MONA JUUL (Norway), having chaired last week’s Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting, reiterated the need for Israelis, Palestinians and international partners to urgently restore the political horizon for peace, improve cooperation and the situation on the ground and strengthen Palestinian solutions. While there has been recent progress on trade issues, work permits and Palestinian reform plans, the challenging situation requires more. She welcomed Israel’s and Palestine’s General Assembly addresses supporting the two-State solution and reaffirmed her country’s stance that such a solution based on the 1967 borders ensures the rights and safety of Palestinians and Israelis. However, regarding the “little” progress on resolution 2334 (2016), she stressed that continued settlement building, demolitions and evictions erode trust, fuel and deepen tensions and undermine the two-State solution. She also voiced concern over plans to legalize farm outposts in the West Bank. Describing the movement restrictions on children and teachers as unacceptable, she also reiterated her deep concern over Masafer Yatta. Israel should remove restrictions and revoke all eviction and demolition orders. Turning to the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank, she called for restraint and proportionality. Force should only be used when necessary, in a manner which minimizes harm against civilians — including children — and preserves life. Spotlighting the execution of five prisoners in Gaza, she called for the immediate stop of the use of the death penalty. Internal division must end and, instead, there must be a focus on strengthening the Palestinian Authority by ensuring democratic renewal and stronger institutions, she emphasized.
ZHANG JUN (China) emphasized that the plight of the Palestinian people has not been forgotten; a just and lasting settlement remains the common aspiration of the international community. Bearing the primary responsibility for maintaining peace and security, the Security Council must take more vigorous action to support the Palestinian people in restoring their inalienable rights. Citing the statement delivered by Prime Minister Yair Lapid during the high-level week that "a large majority of Israelis support the vision of the two-State solution”, he also recalled that President Mahmoud Abbas recognized the statement as positive and had urged the Israeli Government “to sit at the negotiating table immediately to implement the two-State solution”. To this, he expressed hope that both sides can translate their political will into constructive actions to recognize the two-State solution based on relevant United Nations resolutions. In the past two years, the war in Gaza has claimed hundreds of Palestinian lives, along with a recent surge in violence in the West Bank. If the security of one side is based on the insecurity of the other, the cycle of violence will continue and security cannot be achieved, he cautioned. He urged Israel to fulfil its obligations under international law to provide safety to the people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and immediately stop all settlement activities that violate international law and “squeeze the living space of the Palestinian people”.
FERGAL TOMAS MYTHEN (Ireland), expressing concern over the recent spike in violence in Jenin following incursions by the Israeli security forces, said he was appalled at the level of casualties in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This year, Israeli forces have killed more than 80 Palestinians and injured more than 7,400 in the West Bank. “Israel has a right to defend itself, but in doing so, it must respect its obligations under international law,” he emphasized. Israel’s relentless expansion of new settlements is in flagrant violation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) and international law. He expressed particular concern regarding plans in the E1, Givat Hamatos, Atarot, the Lower Aqueduct, Givat HaShaked, and Har Gilo West areas, which would effectively encircle East Jerusalem and disconnect it from major urban areas in the West Bank. Further, Israel must restrain from demolishing the village of Khallet Athaba in Masafer Yatta. Forced evictions, resulting from demolitions, give rise to violations of human rights. Ireland has increased its support to UNRWA by €2 million, bringing its total support to €8 million, he reported, reiterating concern over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that has been exacerbated by the ongoing Israeli blockade in contravention of resolution 1860 (2009). He also condemned the execution by Hamas of five prisoners on 4 September, calling for the end of the practice of executions. Captured Israelis, including human remains, should be returned to Israel. He urged the Council to move from talking about the need for a two-State solution to taking steps towards inclusive and lasting peace.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that the August escalation demonstrates, yet again, that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory will remain explosive until the parties reach a mutually acceptable compromise on all final-status issues. The worrying regularity of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are related to the stagnated peace process, and Israel seems to enjoy carte blanche to use force against the Palestinians. Expressing concern about potential provocations at the Aqsa Mosque compound in the coming months due to upcoming holidays and elections, he also pointed out that Israel has conducted mass arrests, infringed on the freedom of the press, limited the work of human-rights organizations and continues its settlement activities in violation of international law. “Israel is creating irreversible facts on the ground,” he said, pointing to an increase in settlement-building, forced evictions, housing demolitions and property seizures. Further, Israel’s unlawful acts go beyond the West Bank and Gaza Strip, violating the sovereignty of neighbouring States — particularly Syria and Lebanon. The Russian Federation is against these actions to protect national security that provoke other countries, which can make the situation in the region more tense. Adding that lasting stability was not possible absent a restored political horizon and revived peace process based on a two-State solution, he underscored that the United States was being counterproductive through its attempts to replace meeting Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for an independent State by “coercing them to an economic peace”.
AURÉLIE FLORE KOUMBA PAMBO (Gabon), expressed concern over the lack of progress on the Palestinian issue, spotlighting the increase of violence and deterioration of the humanitarian situation, particularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She reaffirmed support for the two-State solution and called on the parties of the conflict to resume negotiations in good faith and re-establish trust. In this regard, she underscored the important role of the countries in the region and the Quartet to assist in resumption of peace talks. “We were encouraged by the statement of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, at the General debate of the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly, when he spoke for an agreement with Palestinians based on the two States for two people with the reservation of respect for Israel’s security,” she said. She also welcomed the efforts made by the Quartet and other partners, such as Germany, France, Egypt, Jordan, as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to reach a broadly shared solution of two States. She reiterated Gabon’s full support to the Special Coordinator for his indefatigable efforts in achieving peace in the Middle East. “Diplomatic efforts must continue to resume the peace process,” she emphasized.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), noting the positive attempts by Israel to improve ties with regional countries following the Abraham Accords, welcomed the encouraging statements made by Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Mahmoud Abbas during the seventy-seventh General Assembly session. He condemned all incidents of terrorism against Israel and urged all militant groups to channel their energy towards a robust political process; violence will not help resolve the conflict. He also voiced concern about the dire humanitarian situation and human rights abuses against Palestinians, especially in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Urging parties to de-escalate tensions and generate political momentum for direct negotiations, he underlined that growing insecurity in the West Bank and Gaza does not augur well for a peaceful resolution. Moreover, all parties must comply fully with international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations and relevant Council resolutions. He urged Israel to respect the inalienable rights of Palestinians and to abide by its legal obligations under the fourth Geneva Convention relating to the protection of civilian persons in time of war. The path for lasting peace can only run through a two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders and requires constructive engagement by the Council and the wider international community, he emphasized.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) recalled that, for the first time in more than a decade, the Israeli Prime Minister recommitted to the two-State solution, which is the most promising end to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. He underlined the crucial importance of upholding the ceasefire between the parties and putting every effort to bring them close to “meet, talk and seek solutions”. “This is how the Oslo Accord happened. This is how future accords may and should happen,” he said. Spotlighting the growing number of work permits issued to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to work in Israel, he said that this would contribute to the well-being of people, build trust and promote better understanding between the parties. He also voiced his rejection and condemnation of every terrorist attack against Israel or anywhere else, expressing support for Israel’s right to defends itself in the framework of the international law. Detailing the recent unprovoked massive and large-scale cyberattack on Israel’s critical and Governmental infrastructure, sponsored and carried out by groups affiliated to Iran, he stated that his country could well relate to the concerns of security of other countries, Israel in particular. Calling on the parties to refrain from actions that undermine the peace process, he underscored that the expansion of Israeli settlements goes against international law and jeopardizes the two-State solution as a “cornerstone” of the peace process. The parties should refrain from inflammatory rhetoric, he stressed, adding that peace talks are the only way to move ahead.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya), detailing the numerous sideline events on the Israel-Palestine issue the matter during the seventy-seventh General Assembly session, emphasized that they demonstrated continued engagement, commitment, and focus and reflected efforts to fill the gap of an elusive genuine political peace process underpinned by direct dialogue. However, the lack of meaningful progress in implementing resolution 2334 (2016) is contributing to widening the gap of that political peace process. The uniqueness of that resolution lies in the fact that it is propositional, not prescriptive. Underlining that its implementation requires the political will of both parties, he called for the presentation of clear objectives, timelines and feasible solutions to resolving pending issues. That would help the Council examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of relevant resolutions. He also spotlighted progress made from the Israeli and Palestinian authorities’ cooperation in Gaza and affirmed the need for the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem to be upheld and respected. Settlements, demolitions, and evictions continue to increase in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and acts of violence against civilians, including children and youth, have claimed both Israeli and Palestinian lives. Condemning such violence, he called for accountability and strengthened efforts to combat terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas, the Palestinian Jihad and other militant groups in Israel. He also urged all concerned parties, including communal political and religious leaders, to support efforts in mitigating the cycles of conflict and demonstrate political commitment in line with resolution 2334 (2016).
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) welcomed the Prime Minister of Israel’s support for a two-State solution, adding that her delegation looks forward to seeing intensified efforts to create a suitable political environment for the resumption of serious political negotiations between the two parties on final status issues. However, she pointed to recent reports of Israel’s plan to build 560 new settlement units in the southern part of East Jerusalem, specifically on lands considered to be a "buffer zone" of a World Heritage Site designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Such settlement activity undermines the two-State solution and constitutes a flagrant violation of both international law and relevant Council resolutions. Moreover, attacks carried out by settlers against Palestinian communities must stop. This includes attacks on agricultural crops, which many families depend on as a primary source of income. Spotlighting the approaching olive harvest season, she said the same period last year saw an unprecedented upsurge in attacks. Also noting the return of students to school this month, she underlined the right of Palestinian children to access education without obstacles or intimidation. According to reports of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of August there were 56 pending demolition orders for schools in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that provide educational services to more than 6,000 children.
MELINA ESPESCHIT MAIA (Brazil), in welcoming the General Assembly address by the Israeli Prime Minister, reiterated her country’s support for a two-State solution as the only way to meet the aspirations of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and ensure security. However, until fundamental issues are addressed, the cycle of acute crises and short-term fixes will only persist. As confidence between parties must be restored for meaningful negotiations to resume and flourish, she urged all parties to maintain the ceasefire, exercise maximum restraint and comply with international humanitarian law. Investigations should clarify all alleged violations and hold those responsible accountable. The safety, security and status quo of religious sites should also be preserved, she added. In spotlighting the role that poverty, food insecurity and lack of hope have in providing ground for extremist forces, she noted the easing of restrictions on people and goods into and out of Gaza as a promising measure. As economic growth can contribute to intra-Palestinian reconciliation, stabilization and dialogue resumption, she encouraged continuous cooperation between Palestine and Israel. Collaboration on all matters, including security can only occur with strengthened Palestinian institutions and a viable Palestinian economy, she emphasized. In noting the risk of chronic underfunding, she echoed the call to restore UNRWA’s capabilities.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) welcomed Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s and President Mahmoud Abbas’ support for a two-State solution during their speeches at the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly. However, expressing deep concern about the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank, she urged all parties to reduce tensions and avoid destabilizing, unilateral actions. She also urged Israel not to proceed with demolitions at Masafer Yatta and condemned the execution of five Gazans by Hamas this month, voicing her opposition against the death penalty in all circumstances. Highlighting that this year recorded the highest number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank by Israeli forces since the United Nations started recording fatalities in 2005 — and stating her full support for Israel’s right to self-defence — she emphasized that transparent investigations are needed when there are accusations of excessive use of force. In addition, she said she was appalled by terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens as there is no justification for such violence. Welcoming progress on economic issues, including electronic payment of Palestinian workers in Israel and eVAT, she advocated for bolder action to deliver real economic change in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and for the reconvening of the Joint Economic Committee. She also voiced her continued support for UNRWA and encouraged further dialogue to ensure delivery on its mandate. Peace will be achieved only through meaningful dialogue which tackles the drivers of instability of violence in the immediate term, she said, calling for further and deeper engagement towards this shared goal.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said that the report by the Special Coordinator demonstrates the very limited progress in implementing resolution 2334 (2016). Settlement expansion undermines the viability of a two-State solution and are violations of international law and United Nations resolutions, he noted, also spotlighting the demolition of properties and the displacement of the Palestinian population, as seen in Masafer Yatta and other places. Noting the increasing violence, he deplored the recent attacks in Holon in which an Israeli woman was killed. The situation in East Jerusalem was alarming and the provocations at the mosque unacceptable, since, as seen previously, they may have disastrous consequences. He, therefore, called for restraint and for parties to avoid any action affecting Jerusalem’s historic, demographic, religious and cultural nature. Noting that the situation in the West bank continued to deteriorate, he called on the Israeli forces to observe the principles of necessity, proportionality and distinction. Confidence-building efforts must be supported by an inclusive long-term political process in which both parties can participate constructively, with a shared objective of dealing with the root causes of the conflict. “Special recognition should be given to reiterated support for the two-State solution from the international community, particularly the commitment of both by President Abbas and Prime Minister Lapid to that solution”, he emphasized. “The time has come to resume the political process under the auspice of the international community and hopefully with a more active leadership from the Security Council,” he added.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) expressed concern about the unfortunate loss of civilian lives, reiterating her call for a complete cessation of violence against civilians, including women and children, as well as about the acts of terror and violence in Israel and the West Bank. Noting the rising tensions due to provocative action and rhetoric, she called for the historical and legal status quo at Jerusalem’s holy places to be upheld. Highlighting the Palestinian severe economic and humanitarian hardship, she stressed that humanitarian assistance must be prioritized. While detailing her country’s continued support to the Palestinian people through bilateral development partnership in sectors like health, education, women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship and information technology, she said that Palestinian students and officials, as well as Palestinian refugees under UNRWA, are provided with scholarships each year to undergo education in premier institutions. Moreover, the support also extends to grassroots Palestinian intuitions and UNRWA for humanitarian services. In addition, given the current financial situation of the Agency, the disbursement of this year’s $5 million contribution has been advanced. The developments in Palestine only reaffirm the urgent need for political dialogue and resumption of direct negotiations between the parties towards establishing a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine with secure and recognized borders, she stressed, adding that "there is no alternative to a negotiated two-State solution.” To that end, she welcomed the statement of Prime Minister Yair Lapid at the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly and expressed her full support for all diplomatic efforts to strengthen the international community’s collective commitment to resume negotiations and facilitate the peace process.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), underscoring that her country’s support for a two-State solution has not changed, recalled support for the same recently expressed in the General Assembly and urged that these words be turned to action. Both parties must work in good faith towards this end. She stressed, however, that “there are no shortcuts to Statehood”, opposing unilateral actions that exacerbate tensions and move the needle further from a two-State solution and, thus, further from peace. These include terrorist attacks and incitement to violence against Israelis, as well as violence inflicted by settlers and development plans that would fragment the West Bank. Instability in the West Bank serves neither Israelis nor Palestinians, and she called on both sides to work towards peace without delay. In this, the United States is doing its part to help. Detailing measures towards this end — including increased funding for UNRWA and work to expand 4G connectivity to Gaza and the West Bank — she urged countries espousing support for the Palestinian people to “translate that conviction into concrete improvements on the ground”. She also called on the Palestinian Authority to ensure respect for human rights and refrain from making payments to those who harm Israelis, stressing that a strong Palestinian Authority is the in the interest of the entire region. “Even if present circumstances don’t lend themselves to negotiation, we must not retreat into cynicism,” she added.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), Council President for September, speaking in his national capacity, said that the priority is to halt unilateral measures. He underscored, that illegal settlements bring into question any possibility of resuming the peace process and the two-State solution. “Demolitions, evictions have to stop,” he stressed. He reiterated his call to maintain the status quo of the holy sites and reaffirmed his country’s determination to work towards re-establishing a political horizon. He also said that France will support any initiative aimed at bringing the parties to negotiating table and he called for a relaunch of direct negotiations. “Only a two-State solution, living side by side and in peace and security, and with Jerusalem as a capital of both, will bring a just and lasting peace to Israelis and Palestinians and to the entire region,” he affirmed. He went on welcoming the “opening” shown by Prime Minister Yair Lapid during the General Assembly and urged that this statement be translated into actions. The Council must mobilize itself in favour of resuming peace negotiations as soon as possible, he added.