Fourth Committee Approves Six Draft Resolutions, All by Recorded Vote, Addressing Middle East Situation and Palestinian Question
Few Substantial Changes Made to Texts amid Ongoing Regional Strife
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved six draft resolutions today, all by recorded votes, relating to the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, as well as a decision regarding its programme of work, thus completing its work for the main part of the General Assembly’s seventy‑eighth session.
Among the six draft resolutions, the text titled “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/78/L.13), was approved by a recorded vote of 85 in favour to 13 against, with 72 abstentions.
By its terms, the Assembly would reiterate its demand that Israel cooperate with the Special Committee in implementing its mandate. It would express grave concern about the critical situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory resulting from unlawful Israeli practices and measures and call for the immediate cessation of all illegal Israeli settlement activities. It would also call for the lifting of the blockade of the Gaza Strip as well as the complete cessation of the excessive and indiscriminate use of force and military operations against the civilian population, among other measures.
That text, as well as the others, were technical rollovers, with no substantial changes from the resolutions adopted by the Assembly during the seventy‑seventh session. They were submitted under the agenda items “United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” and “Israeli practices and settlement activities affecting the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories”.
The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said that the present moment did not allow for engagement on changes to reflect the current situation. In Gaza, children are under rubble and the death toll has crossed 10,000, but the Security Council remains paralysed, he said, adding that it is not enough for the international community to reaffirm the principles set out in past UN resolutions. Rather, it must implement them.
Israel’s delegate, who called upon Member States to vote against the resolutions, said that today’s resolutions made no mention of war crimes committed by Hamas, the 1,400 murdered, or the exploitation of aid by Hamas for its terror activities. Further, the texts do not mention the failure of the Palestinian Authority to condemn terror or the destructive role of Iran.
The draft resolution titled “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/78/L.11) — approved by a recorded vote of 161 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 11 abstentions — would affirm the necessity for the continuation of the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the importance of its unimpeded operation, pending the just resolution of the question of the Palestine refugees. It would also call upon all donors to continue to strengthen their efforts to meet UNRWA’s anticipated needs.
The draft resolution titled “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/78/L.10) — approved by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 4 against (Canada, Israel, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Guatemala, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Uruguay, Vanuatu) — would have the Assembly express its deep concern about the extremely critical financial situation of UNRWA and attempts to discredit the Agency despite its proven operational capacity and consistent implementation of its mandate. It would also call upon Israel to ensure the safety of the personnel of the Agency and the protection of its institutions.
Also approved today was a draft resolution titled “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/78/L.12), by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Guatemala, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Togo, Vanuatu). Its terms would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General take all appropriate steps to protect Arab properties, assets and property rights in Israel. Further, it urges the Palestinian and Israeli sides to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues within the framework of final-status peace negotiations.
By the terms of “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/78/L.14) — approved by a recorded vote of 146 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 23 abstentions — the Assembly would call upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and to desist from establishing settlements. Further, the Assembly would call upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and identity cards on Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan and from its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.
By a recorded vote of 145 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 18 abstentions, the Committee approved the draft resolution titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/78/L.15). By its terms, the Assembly would condemn settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan and any activities involving the confiscation of land, the disruption of the livelihood of protected persons, the forced transfer of civilians and the annexation of land, whether de facto or through national legislation.
The Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft decision outlining its programme of work for the Assembly’s seventy-ninth session.
In closing remarks, Mathu Joyini (South Africa), Committee Chair, noted that the Committee approved a total of 33 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions over the course of 26 formal meetings.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene in 2024 at a date and time to be announced to take up the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and to elect its Bureau for the Assembly’s seventy-ninth session.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Committee first took up three draft resolutions under the agenda item “United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East”.
The representative of Indonesia, speaking also on behalf of South Africa, introduced the draft resolutions titled “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/78/L.11) and “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/78/L.12).
On “L.11”, he said that the events of the past week underscore the indispensable humanitarian and stabilizing role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). More than 730,000 Palestinian civilians are currently sheltering in the Agency’s 151 schools and facilities, he noted. The current draft is based on the resolution of the seventy‑seventh session with only minimal technical updates, he said, while noting that this past month, Israel's violations not only persisted and escalated but have reached unprecedented levels.
Turning to “L.12”, he said that the text reaffirms that Palestinian refugees are entitled to their properties and the income derived from them. It requests the Secretary-General to take all appropriate steps for the protection of Arab properties and urges both sides to address the issue of Palestine refugees’ properties in the final status negotiation.
The representative of South Africa, introducing the draft resolution titled “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/76/L.10), said that the number of UNRWA personnel killed by Israel’s current military assault and bombardment of Gaza has increased from 89 to 99 over the past four days. The draft resolution reaffirms that the delivery of assistance by UNRWA remains essential for alleviating the plight of more than 5.9 million Palestinian refugees and for regional stability against the backdrop of continuing crises and the current unprecedented suffering inflicted on the population of Gaza. The text expresses concern about ongoing breaches of the inviolability of the Agency’s premises and calls on Israel, the occupying Power, to cease obstruction of UNRWA’s work and ensure the safety of the Agency’s personnel and installations. He also noted that the draft urges all States to support the work of the Agency, which is the first line of assistance for basic and critical humanitarian services to those suffering, especially in Gaza.
The representative of Israel, making a general statement, said that, once again, the “automatic anti-Israeli majority here at the UN will ensure that all six draft resolutions will be passed this morning, regardless of their content or the actual situation on the ground”. He called on all decent, democratic, fair and peace-loving Member States to vote against these draft resolutions, not only because of the lies and one-sided narratives within them, but also because of what is not mentioned in the texts. There is no mention, he said, of war crimes committed by Hamas, the 1,400 murdered and more than 4,700 wounded in Israel on 7 October; the more than 9,500 rockets fired from Gaza since 7 October aimed at Israeli civilians, or the exploitation of aid by Hamas for its terror activities.
Neither do the draft resolutions mention the terrorist infrastructure built in proximity to civilian facilities, the moral failure of the Palestinian Authority to unequivocally condemn terror, or the destructive role of Iran that has bankrolled, armed and trained Hamas and unleashed its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen to further terror against Israel and other countries in the region, he said. In addition, there is no mention that the texts are promoted by “systematic violators of any law and human right known to man,” including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. “For all of these reasons, I call upon Member States to vote against these resolutions,” he said.
The representative of the United Kingdom acknowledged that the language in the draft resolutions does not reflect the current context in Israel and Gaza. The United Kingdom’s vote on these texts will not undermine its enduring solidarity with Israel in the wake of the heinous terrorist attacks of 7 October, he said, reiterating support for that country’s right to self-defence. Israel must act in line with international human rights and humanitarian law and take every feasible precaution to avoid harming civilians, he said, adding that Hamas does not speak or act in the interest of the Palestinian people.
The representative of the United States said that one-sided resolutions, either in the Security Council or the Fourth Committee, will not help to advance peace, but rather they will perpetuate long-standing lines of division. “This package of resolutions will neither advance peace nor create the conditions for negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.” The United States opposes any and all resolutions that are one-sided or seek to hold Israel to a standard not expected of other countries. In this regard, he said that the United States will abstain on the resolutions “L.10”, “L.11” and “L.12”, adding that this should not be interpreted as a lack of confidence in or support for UNRWA. Urging Member States to match their rhetorical support for UNRWA with concrete financial support, he pointed to the United States’ contribution of $1 billion since 2021, including an additional $100 million in humanitarian assistance for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. The volume of aid entering Gaza is not enough, he continued, adding that the United States has identified mechanisms to enable fuel to reach hospitals and to meet other urgent needs in the south of Gaza, adding that these new mechanisms should be fully operationalized.
The representative of Cuba said that it is not right, at the present time, to question the content of these resolutions. “It is precisely because of that absent content” that the Security Council was not able to adopt a resolution. He pointed out that the texts also do not mention the 10,328 Palestinians killed over the last month, including 4,000 children; the more than 100 UN workers killed; or the more than 18,000 tonnes of explosives used. Recalling the words of Fidel Castro, he said that the “heroic Palestinian people are an impressive example of selflessness and patriotism, and they are the living example of the greatest crime of our time”. He then asked delegates to vote in favour of the draft resolutions.
The Committee first approved draft resolution “L.10” by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 4 against (Canada, Israel, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 7 abstentions (Cameroon, Guatemala, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Uruguay, Vanuatu).
It then approved “L.11”, by a recorded vote of 161 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 11 abstentions.
Next, it approved the draft resolution “L.12” by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Guatemala, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Togo, Vanuatu).
The representative of Canada, in an explanation of position, said that his delegation voted in favour of the draft on assistance to Palestinian refugees as part of its long-standing commitment to ensuring that millions of Palestinian refugees receive basic services. The war in Gaza began after the brutal terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel, he said, reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself. UNRWA is playing a crucial role in helping to preserve the lives of civilians, he said, calling upon all parties to protect civilians. Further, UNRWA must uphold humanitarian values, including neutrality, to ensure that funds reach those in need. There are too many resolutions related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and too many which single out Israel, he said, adding that Canada will continue to vote no on texts that do not address the complexity of issues.
The Committee then took up draft resolutions under the agenda item “Israeli practices and settlement activities affecting the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories”.
The representative of Cuba introduced the draft resolutions titled “ Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/78/L.13) and “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/77/L.14).
On “L.13”, he said there is a general international concern with respect to the illegal policies and measures taken up by Israel in the territory that has been occupied since 1967. These actions have severe impacts on human rights as well as the humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions of the civilian population living under illegal occupation. Pointing to Israel’s violations of international law, he said that the reports of the Special Committee and other United Nations agencies show that the human rights crisis has deepened and has particularly affected Palestinian civilians. Turning to recent events in the Gaza Strip, he said that Israel’s actions could be qualified as genocide, adding, “The possibility of a two-State solution is becoming an illusion.” The draft resolution contains a call for Israel, the occupying Power, to respect international law and for the international community to adopt measures to guarantee respect of these laws, he said.
Turning to “L.14”, he said that no changes were introduced to the text, except for updating some dates. Expressing concern that the Syrian Golan has remained occupied since 1967, he said that the resolution demands that Israel end its occupation and its repressive policies, including racial discrimination, detention, torture and illegal use of natural resources.
The representative of Namibia introduced the draft resolution titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/78/L.15). Highlighting the “grave conditions” under which the text is being introduced, he said that Israeli violations have persisted and escalated in flagrant disregard of repeated calls by the Security Council and the General Assembly for the occupying Power to respect its obligations under international law. The text reflects the severity of the current situation, along with the imperative for accountability to stop such violations, protect Palestinian civilians and enable the attainment of justice and peace. Further, it reiterates the General Assembly’s call on Israel to comply with the Charter of the United Nations and its other international legal obligations. He urged all Member States to support this draft resolution, as well as the other texts under this agenda item.
The representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, made a general statement, saying that there is no justification for terror and the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas. Reaffirming Israel's right to defend itself, she called on Hamas to immediately release all hostages, many of whom are European Union citizens. Expressing concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, and calling for safe and unhindered humanitarian access, she emphasized the need to avoid regional escalation. The European Union is ready to contribute to reviving a political process on the basis of a two-State solution, she said, adding that the resolutions under consideration are technical updates and therefore, the European Union’s delegations will be reiterating previous voting patterns. UNRWA is pivotal to delivery of essential services to Palestinian refugees, she said, expressing regret that there was no opportunity for negotiations on the text concerning the Agency, which does not reflect the situation on the ground. Stressing that the reference to “Palestine” in the texts cannot be construed as recognition of the State of Palestine, she added that the European Union has not expressed a legal qualification on the term “forced displacement”.
The representative of the United States said that when the current crisis ends, the situation “must not go back to the pre-October 7 status quo” in Gaza and the West Bank — one in which Hamas terrorizes Israelis and violent extremist settlers terrorize Palestinians in the West Bank. He underlined the need for a “positive vision for what comes next,” centred around a negotiated two-State solution that includes both Gaza and the West Bank in a viable Palestinian State. The United States is committed to supporting such a solution through constructive measures, but these three draft resolutions do not contribute to this vision as they are deeply flawed and “do not meet this moment”. Nevertheless, the United States will continue to work with all parties to chart a future where Israelis and Palestinians have equal measures of security, freedom, justice, opportunity and dignity, and where Palestinians can fully realize their legitimate right to self-determination and aspirations for a State of their own, he said.
The representative of Poland noted his country’s support for UNRWA, both on political and financial levels, adding that his delegation decided to maintain its voting manner on the relevant resolutions. “We know very well the consequences of war, invasion and terror,” he said, adding that it is vital to ensure humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians in Gaza. All parties involved must allow third-country nationals, including Polish citizens and members of their families, to leave the Gaza Strip safe and sound. Israel has the right to defend itself, he said, calling for immediate release of all hostages.
The representative of the United Kingdom, in an explanation of position, said that his delegation will maintain its voting positions on these three resolutions in line with the United Kingdom’s long-standing approach. Expressing support to the two-State solution, he said that today’s voting does not undermine the United Kingdom’s solidarity with Israel in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks or its support for Israel's right to self-defence. “Hamas does not speak or act in the interests of the Palestinian people,” he said, reiterating support for the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. He further strongly condemned settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, stressing that “the settlements are illegal under international law and contrary to the cause of peace”.
The Committee approved “L.13” by a recorded vote of 85 in favour to 13 against, with 72 abstentions.
It then approved “L.14” by a recorded vote of 146 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 23 abstentions.
Next, it approved “L.15” by a recorded vote of 145 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 18 abstentions.
The representative of Syria, in an explanation of vote, said that Member States, through their widespread support for these texts, rejected the forcible occupation of others’ territories and violations of peoples’ rights. They sent a strong signal to Israel to end its occupation of both the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan. Underscoring the right to regain the entire Golan, under occupation since 1967, he said that all measures undertaken by Israel to change its natural or demographic character, or to impose Israeli laws and management, have no legal impact. “The Golan was, and remains, Arab and Syrian,” he added.
The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine noted that “we are not surprised” by the massive number of co-sponsors and overwhelming support for the draft texts approved today. However, while it is wonderful to reiterate the principles in the resolutions, the international community must move one step forward towards implementation. This is the job of the United Nations and this is how multilateralism must work. On the technical rollovers, he noted that the moment did not allow for engagement on changes to reflect the current situation. The Council has been paralysed since this aggression started unfolding in the Gaza Strip, where children are under rubble, half the dwellings have been destroyed and the death toll has crossed 10,000. This necessitated action by the General Assembly, he recalled, expressing gratitude to the 121 countries who voted in favour of an Assembly resolution calling for an immediate end to the carnage and killing. The international community must implement that immediately, he added.
The representative of Iran said that the adoption of today’s draft resolutions by an overwhelming majority demonstrated strong support for both realizing Palestinians’ inalienable rights, and holding the occupying regime accountable for its crimes. Durable peace can only be achieved by ending the occupation, returning refugees to their homeland and establishing a Palestinian State. Responding to remarks made by the representative of Israel, he said that the regime’s shameful history of more than 75 years can be summed up in a few words — “occupation, brutality, massacre and flagrant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law”.
The representative of Switzerland, noting that the resolutions do not address the situation on the ground since 7 October in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, condemned the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas, recognized Israel’s right to ensure its defence and called for protection of civilians. The principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution must be respected, he said, adding that humanitarian pauses or truces are necessary to guarantee humanitarian access and meet the needs of the population. The international community must not lose sight of the fact that the only foundation on which peace and stability can rest is the two-State solution, he said.
The representative of Lichtenstein said that her country maintained its voting position from last year on the texts of resolutions adopted by the Committee. These texts were put forward as a technical rollover in the spirit of diplomatic cooperation and compromise as they do not address developments that have taken place in Israel and Palestine since 7 October. She reiterated her country’s condemnation of the terrorist attack by Hamas, affirmed Israel’s right to self-defence and joined the call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.
Speaking in the exercise of right of reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that the allegations made by Israel represented “a sinister disinformation campaign and propaganda campaign” against his country. Such actions seek to distract the international community’s attention away from Israel’s most heinous war crimes. The Gaza Strip is increasingly becoming “a living hell” and the Middle East situation is spiraling out of control, he said, urging the international community to take urgent measures to hold Israel accountable for its crimes.
Finally, the Committee acting without a vote, then approved a draft decision titled “Proposed programme of work and timetable of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) for the seventy-ninth session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.4/78/L.16).