Applauding Recent Diplomatic Talks between Israelis, Palestinians, Speakers in Security Council Urge Parties Commit to Agreements
If Implemented, Communiqué Would Be ‘Important Start to Reversing Negative Trends on Ground’, Says Middle East Coordinator
With the converging Ramadan, Easter and Passover holidays now beginning, the senior United Nations official for Middle East peace urged Palestinians and Israelis to promptly crystalize agreements reached at two recent diplomatic meetings — their first direct talks in years — as he briefed the Security Council today about ongoing violence, expanded settlement activity and escalating rhetoric on both sides.
Tor Wennesland, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem must be respected at this holy and sensitive time for the region’s three major religions. “This should be a period for safe and peaceful religious reflection and celebration for all,” he said, calling on leaders to refrain from provocative actions and messages.
He recalled that, on 26 February, senior officials from Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Palestine and the United States officials met in Aqaba, Jordan, to reaffirm their commitment to all previous agreements, and to work towards a just and lasting peace. The parties committed to steps to de-escalate the situation on the ground, pause unilateral measures and prevent further violence, including by upholding the status quo at the holy sites, he said. The meeting was followed by a similar session on 19 March, with the same parties attending, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
“If implemented, the steps outlined in Aqaba would be an important start to reversing negative trends on the ground,” he said. However, the current situation on the ground reflects a different trajectory. Outlining a rising tide of violent incidents and steps by Israel that run counter to Security Council resolutions, he noted in particular that Government’s decision to repeal part of the 2005 Disengagement Law, which had previously ordered Israeli settlers to evacuate parts of the occupied West Bank. The Government also announced its authorization of nine settlement outposts there, and advanced plans for over 7,200 housing units.
Meanwhile, he said, demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures continued, and daily violence increased significantly, with casualties on both sides. Following the 26 February killing by a Palestinian of two Israelis, hundreds of Israeli settlers descended on the West Bank town of Huwwara and neighbouring villages, killing 1 Palestinian and injuring 387 others, and Palestinian armed groups responded by launching rockets from Gaza towards Israel. Some Fatah officials and social media pages praised and glorified the perpetrators of attacks against Israelis, while several members of the Israeli Knesset praised the attacks by settlers and called for Huwwara to be “wiped out”.
Recalling the Council’s recent presidential statement reaffirming its commitment to a two-State solution and its opposition to terrorism and unilateral actions, he voiced concern over the continued Israeli settlement-expansion, which “further entrenches the occupation, fuels tensions and systematically erodes the viability of a Palestinian State as part of a two-State solution”. Leaders on both sides must help calm the situation, avoid spreading inflammatory rhetoric and speak up against those seeking to incite and escalate the situation, he stressed, reiterating the United Nations firm support for a two-State solution.
As Council members and other representatives took the floor, many praised the parties’ recent engagement in their first direct talks in nearly a decade, echoing the Special Coordinator’s calls for all commitments to be turned into tangible progress on the ground. Meanwhile, some expressed deep concern over Israel’s recent decision to legalize nine settlements in the occupied West Bank and to approve thousands of new housing units, actions which several delegates said are in direct contravention of resolution 2334 (2016) and international law.
The United Kingdom’s representative joined other speakers in commending Israeli and Palestinian officials for their recent engagement in Jordan and Egypt, and in calling on them to abide by the commitments made there. Condemning indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza, he said that, while Israel has a legitimate right to self-defence, unilateral incursions that result in the deaths of innocent Palestinians only escalate tensions. Israeli security forces must operate in line with international law and show restraint in the use of live fire. He also emphasized that Israel must cease its approval of settlements and legalization of outposts in Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly East Jerusalem, and voiced his delegation’s opposition to the repeal of the Disengagement Law.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates said the constructive recent engagement between the parties in Jordan and Egypt “could not be more urgent”. To truly de-escalate the situation, they must commit to the joint Sharm el-Sheikh communiqué and fully implement its parameters, including putting a stop to unliteral measures. Calling on the Council to send a strong, unified message, he said Israel must reverse its recent bill allowing settlers to return to four settlements in the northern area of the occupied West Bank.
Albania’s delegate commended the parties for the understandings reached in Sharm el-Sheikh, in particular, noting that such engagement has not been seen in nearly a decade. Expressing hope that such meetings will continue and help lower tensions on the ground, she underlined the need to protect civilians and condemned terrorist attacks against Israel, describing them as unacceptable. She also noted an alarming increase in attacks since the beginning of 2023 on synagogues in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as terrorist attacks on civilians, emphasizing that such acts must be condemned and perpetrators brought to justice.
China’s delegate echoed calls on the parties to end acts of violence, adding that Israel — as the occupying Power — should uphold its obligations, restrain its security forces from using excessive force, investigate incidents and hold perpetrators accountable. At the same time, he said, Israel’s legitimate security concerns must be considered. Welcoming recent diplomatic efforts by regional countries, he expressed hope that the commitments agreed will be translated into practice on the ground. Describing the situation on the ground as “feverish” — with the stalled peace process at its heart — he urged the global community to elevate the matter with a new sense of urgency.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine drew attention to escalating rhetoric by Israeli Government officials, including the recent denial by its Finance Minister of the Palestinians’ very existence. Such a statement is an attempt to justify “what is to come”, he said, pointing out that it coincided with a push forward in Israel’s illegal annexation policies. Every effort must be made to stop that annexation, end violence and stop provocations, he said, noting that the Israeli settlement trends identified and condemned in Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) have only continued. The Palestinian side will leave no stone unturned to prevent bloodshed, he said, adding: “This is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of wisdom, one acquired at great cost.”
The representative of Israel, meanwhile, described such narratives by Palestinian officials as “distortions of reality” and warned that their repeated lies to the Council only serve one objective — to eternalize the conflict and de-legitimize the idea of a Jewish State. While Israeli law enforcement investigates acts of violence, the Palestinian Authority glorifies terrorists who spill innocent blood. Describing resolution 2334 (2016) as a biased, anti-Israel text, he said reconciliation will never be possible while the Palestinian leadership continues to call for the murder of Israeli civilians. Israel will act against those who choose the path of violence, and will do the work the Palestinian Authority refuses to — namely, thwarting terror attacks, he said.
Also speaking were the representatives of the United States, Russian Federation, Brazil, Switzerland, Ghana, France, Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Gabon and Mozambique.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 12:06 p.m.
TOR WENNESLAND, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefing the Security Council via video link from Jerusalem, noted the start of the holiday period when the holy month of Ramadan coincides with Passover and Easter. Emphasizing that the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem must be respected, he urged all sides to refrain from unilateral steps that escalate tensions. “This should be a period for safe and peaceful religious reflection and celebration for all,” he said, calling on leaders to engage to that end and refrain from provocative actions and messages. Outlining he contents of the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of Council resolution 2334 (2016) — which covers the period from 8 December 2022 to 13 March 2023 — he said Israeli settlement activities have continued through that time, in contravention of the resolution.
On 2 January, he said, the Israeli Government informed the High Court of Justice that it intends to legalize the outpost of Homesh, built on private Palestinian-owned land, including by repealing part of the 2005 Disengagement Law. Relevant legislation to that end is currently being advanced in the Israeli Knesset. On the same day, the Court gave the Government 90 days to explain why the outpost should not be evacuated. On 12 February, the Government announced its authorization of nine outposts in the occupied West Bank, while the Higher Planning Committee advanced plans for over 7,200 settlement housing units. Nearly 1,000 of those are in outposts that are in the process of legalization under Israeli law. Demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures continued across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing 388 people. Israel’s High Court of Justice has given the Government until 23 April to submit its response to a petition to implement demolition orders in the village of Khan al-Ahmar, and a hearing on that matter is set for 1 May.
He voiced regret that daily violence increased significantly during the reporting period, with 82 Palestinians — including 1 woman and 17 children — were killed by Israeli security forces during demonstrations, clashes, security operations, attacks against Israelis and other incidents. More than 2,600 Palestinians were injured. In addition, 4 Palestinians were killed and 89 injured in a growing number of attacks by Israeli settlers. Meanwhile, 13 Israeli civilians — including one woman and three children, and one foreign national — were killed and 49 other Israelis were injured by Palestinians in shooting and ramming attacks, clashes and other incidents. Also citing search-and-arrest operations conducted by Israeli forces in the West Bank and high numbers of resulting detentions, he went on to outline several specific fatal incidents, which are increasing in Area A and elsewhere.
The reporting period has also been marked by a spate of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, he said. In occupied East Jerusalem, six Israelis, including a child and one foreign national, were killed in a Palestinian shooting attack outside a synagogue on 27 January. Three Israelis, including two children, were killed in a ramming attack on 10 February in occupied East Jerusalem. Shooting attacks by Palestinians killed three Israelis, in other parts of the West Bank on 26 and 27 February, and seriously injured three others in Tel Aviv on 9 March, one of whom later succumbed to his wounds. Following the 26 February killing by a Palestinian of two Israelis from the Har Bracha settlement in Huwwara, hundreds of settlers descended on the West Bank town and neighbouring villages, carrying out arson and other attacks. Amid the violence, 1 Palestinian man was shot and killed, while 387 others were injured.
In the aftermath of those fatal incidents, he said, Palestinian armed groups launched seven rockets from Gaza towards Israel, of which one fell short within the Strip, one landed in an open space inside Israel. Five were intercepted by the Israeli air defence system. In retaliation, the Israel Defense Forces conducted two air strikes against what it said were militant targets in Gaza, with no injuries reported. Noting that acts of provocation, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric also continued throughout the reporting period, he said some Fatah officials and social media pages — as well as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad — praised and glorified perpetrators of attacks against Israelis and called for additional attacks. One senior Fatah official called Israel a “fascist enemy that loves to murder and spill blood”. An Israeli minister conducted an inflammatory visit to Jerusalem’s holy sites, while several members of the Knesset praised the attacks by settlers against Palestinians and their property, adding that the town of Huwwara should be “wiped out” by Israeli forces.
In other developments, he said, the Israeli Government approved a series of measures against the Palestinian Authority, including the transfer of some $39 million to families of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks from Palestinian Authority tax revenues withheld by Israel. The Government also announced that, following acts of terrorism by Palestinians against Israelis, it would reinforce security forces, broaden operations and take punitive measures against the perpetrators and their families. On 2 February, Israel’s Finance Minister announced that Israel would double — to approximately $30 million — the monthly deductions from tax revenues that it withholds. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority’s difficult financial situation has resulted in ongoing cuts to public sector salaries.
The United Nations continued to deliver vital humanitarian and development assistance in Gaza, he said, adding that the review period saw a higher flow of people and goods through Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings. Israel issued over 20,000 worker and business permits, the highest number in years. On 12 February, the League of Arab States convened a conference titled “Jerusalem: Resilience and Development”, in Cairo. Participants called for the establishment of a committee of legal experts tasked with helping give “justice to the Palestinian people”, and financing a mechanism to support small and medium-sized enterprises. On 26 February, senior Jordanian, Egyptian, Israeli, Palestinian and United States officials met in Aqaba, Jordan, reaffirming their commitment to all previous agreements, and to work towards a just and lasting peace. The parties committed to steps to de-escalate the situation on the ground, pause unilateral measures and prevent further violence, including through upholding the status quo at the holy sites.
Recalling the Council’s recent presidential statement reaffirming its commitment to a two-State solution and its opposition to terrorism and unilateral actions, he said that five European Union countries, along with the United Kingdom, have all issued statements condemning the increasing violence and calling for de-escalation. Expressing his own deep concern over the continued Israeli settlement-expansion, he said such actions “further entrench the occupation, fuel tensions and systematically erode the viability of a Palestinian State as part of a two-State solution”. Israeli settlements have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of international law. Calling on the Government to halt them immediately, he condemned all acts of violence against civilians by any side, and urged leaders to help calm the situation, avoid spreading inflammatory rhetoric and speak up against those seeking to incite and escalate the situation.
It is critical to de-escalate the situation and move towards re-establishing a political horizon, he said, noting that — if implemented — the steps outlined in Aqaba would be an important start to reversing negative trends on the ground. At the same time, the absence of intra-Palestinian unity continues to undermine Palestinian national aspirations, he said, calling on all factions to take concrete steps to reunify Gaza and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, under a single, democratic Government. Finally, he called on United Nations Member States to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) with sustainable funding to protect the delivery of vital services to millions of Palestine refugees, which remains crucial to stability in the region, and reiterated his staunch support for a two-State solution.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), expressing concern over sustained violence in Israel and the West Bank, said that 2023 is on track to surpass the staggering levels of violence seen in 2022. She rejected such violence, also stressing that accountability and justice should be pursued with equal vigour and resources in all cases of extremist violence. Further, she urged the parties to refrain from unilateral actions and unhelpful rhetoric that increase tensions as April’s confluence of religious holidays approaches. The United States will support all measures to restore calm and support peace, and she called on Council members and regional parties to join in such efforts. Emphasizing that a two-State solution remains the best way to ensure that Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side in peace and security, she urged — even though prospects feel remote at the moment — that a “horizon of hope” be preserved. If the parties commit to peace and dialogue, a “brighter future is possible”, she added — one of equal measure of freedom, security and prosperity for all.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) commended the parties for the understanding reached in Sharm el-Sheikh on 19 March. Noting that such level of participation had not been seen in nearly a decade, she voiced hope that meetings under such format will continue and help de-escalate and lower tensions on the ground, especially now that the region is approaching its religious festivals. She commended the United States and Jordan for facilitating the meeting and Egypt for organizing and hosting it. Voicing concern about the situation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, she underscored that the protection of civilians is an obligation under international humanitarian law and must be fully observed by all and in all circumstances. Condemning the terrorist attacks against Israel, she said those are unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Noting the alarming increase in attacks since the beginning of 2023 on synagogues in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as terrorist attacks on civilians, she said such acts must be condemned and perpetrators brought to justice.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that, since the beginning of 2023, the world has witnessed increased incidences of violent raids by Israeli forces, attacks by settlers and cases involving the disproportionate use of force. Further, daily reports of mass arbitrary arrests accompany a tense situation around the holy places of Jerusalem, which is all the more urgent in the context of Ramadan. While confirming Israel’s right to ensure its security, he urged restraint from provocative, hateful rhetoric that will only complicate the situation, such as the dangerous, irresponsible statement recently made by Israel’s Finance Minister. He also expressed concern over the Knesset’s adoption of laws depriving Israeli Arabs of citizenship and rejecting medical care for Palestinian prisoners. The situation will be explosive until the parties reach mutually acceptable agreement on all final-status issues, he underscored, stating that Israeli settlements are violations of international law and a main barrier to the resumption of negotiations between Israel and Palestine — for which there is no alternative. He added that the United States is trying to impose an economic peace on Palestinians, rather than satisfying their legitimate aspirations for an independent State.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), commending Israeli and Palestinian officials for their recent engagement in Jordan and Egypt, said it is now critical for both parties to abide by the commitments made there and take forward confidence-building measures. The Palestinian Authority must resume security cooperation with Israel, fight against terror and incitement and maintain security in Area A. Condemning indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza, he said that, while Israel has a legitimate right to self-defence, unilateral incursions that result in the deaths of innocent Palestinians only escalate tensions. Israeli security forces must operate in accordance with international law, show restraint in the use of live fire and conduct thorough investigations into the deaths of Palestinian civilians. He also emphasized that Israel must cease its approval of settlements and legalization of outposts in Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in East Jerusalem, voicing the United Kingdom’s opposition to the repeal of the Disengagement Law — which further undermines prospects for a two-State solution and damages any renewed efforts at de-escalation — and condemning all forms of violence committed by settlers.
LUÍS GUILHERME PARGA CINTRA (Brazil), voicing concern about the situation in Israel and Palestine, warned against an escalation of violence, without a genuine commitment from all parties to create conditions for the peaceful celebrations of upcoming religious holidays. All parties must exercise maximum restraint and avoid provocations, including extremist rhetoric, he said, welcoming the joint communiqué from the 19 March meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh on the necessity of both parties to actively prevent any actions that would disrupt the sanctity of the holy sites. He also thanked Egypt, Jordan and the United States for their diplomatic efforts to bring together Israeli and Palestinian authorities and emphasized the need to pursue confidence building measures to enhance mutual trust, create a political horizon and address outstanding issues through direct dialogue. Noting the escalation of violence, he stressed that all violations of international humanitarian law must immediately stop. Israel must immediately cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, in compliance with resolution 2334 (2016). He further called on Israel to stop the continued demolitions and seizures of Palestinian structures, as well as the displacement of Palestinian families.
ADRIAN HAURI (Switzerland) expressed deep concerned about the high level of violence and the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East. Stressing that statements by the Israeli Finance Minister denying the existence of the Palestinian people are unacceptable, he called on Israel to respect previous agreements towards a two-State solution, as well as the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan. Emphasizing that protecting the civilian population is the priority, he voiced concern about operations by Israeli security forces in the West Bank — which frequently result in high numbers of Palestinian victims — and condemned acts of violence against Palestinian civilians committed by settlers, as well as those committed by Palestinians against Israeli civilians. Such acts, as well as allegations of disproportionate use of force, must be investigated and must not go unpunished. He meanwhile noted with concern the transfer of governance of settlers’ civil affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, stressing that Israel must refrain from taking measures that would introduce permanent changes, and deplored the revocation of several clauses of the Disengagement Act, calling for peace and a return to dialogue at the start of the holiday season.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) noted recent positive developments in the Middle East peace process — including the first direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials in years — and welcomed commitments made by both parties at those meetings. He also welcomed recent positive developments between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and encouraged that rapprochement to continue in order to lessen tensions throughout the region. Notwithstanding those positive steps, he nevertheless expressed concern over the escalation of settler-related activities and other negative trends on the ground, deploring the high level of violence on both sides and voicing particular concern about human rights violations being committed in refugee camps and elsewhere. As the spring holiday seasons approach, he urged the parties to build upon their recent talks, and called on Israel to refrain from building or authorizing any new settlement outposts. He also urged both sides to work together to establish a joint committee aimed at creating confidence-building measures. He also reiterated Ghana’s position in support of an internationally negotiated two-State solution, with Israeli and Palestinian States existing side by side in an environment of peace and security.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) condemned Israeli settler violence against Palestinian civilians, as well as terror attacks against Israeli civilians. While reiterating his country’s commitment to Israel’s security, he expressed concern over recent Israeli operations in the West Bank and called on that country to protect Palestinian civilians in line with its international obligations. The cycle of violence must end, and actors must show restraint as the period of religious holidays begins. Taking note of commitments recently made in Sharm el-Sheikh, he urged that they be followed by actions on the ground, which includes respecting the historic status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem. He went on to stress that lasting de-escalation can only occur if Israel’s settlement-building policy ends, expressing concern over legislation seeking to legalize settlements in the northern part of the West Bank. Also calling on Israeli authorities to reverse their decision to expel Palestinians from certain neighbourhoods, he underscored that France will never recognize the annexation of territory. These unilateral measures violate international law and make the prospect of realizing a two-State solution increasingly remote, he added.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) said the acts of violence against civilians in Nablus, Jenin and other places must be investigated and those responsible brought to justice and held accountable. Noting that the behaviour and statements of leaders have an influence on how others act, he called for moderation and a demonstration of genuine commitment to peace. He further called for prudence and caution during holy festivals, emphasizing that the status quo of the holy sites of Jerusalem and the role of Jordan as custodian must be respected. Welcoming the February high-level meeting in Aqaba and the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh on 19 March, he said it is encouraging that parties have agreed to establish a mechanism to reduce violence and any incendiary actions or statements. Voicing hope that agreements reached will be implemented, he called on parties to be consistent between their stated intentions and actual actions.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) noted the constructive engagement between the parties in Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba, which “could not be more urgent”. To truly de-escalate the situation, the parties must commit to the joint Sharm el-Sheikh communiqué and fully implement its parameters, including putting a stop to unliteral measures. Calling on the Council to send a strong, unified message urging the implementation of relevant resolutions and the relaunching of a serious and credible peace process, he added that Israel must reverse its recent bill allowing settlers to return to four settlements in the northern area of the occupied West Bank. He cited that Government’s recent commitment to “not discuss any new settlement units for four months and to stop the authorization of any settlement outposts for six months”, also calling on it to immediately stop all settler violence, hold perpetrators accountable, uphold its responsibilities under international law, end its raids in Palestinian cities and villages, and stop the demolition of Palestinian property. He further called on all parties to refrain from provocative rhetoric and statements that could incite hatred and violence, and condemned the Israeli Finance Minister’s calls to “wipe out” the village of Hawara and his denial of the history and existence of the Palestinian people.
SHINO MITSUKO (Japan), voicing concern about the recent violent attack in the Jenin refugee camp and Israel’s continued settlement activities in the West Bank, said the Israeli Government must stop its settlement activities, demolitions and evictions. She condemned the killing of two Israelis in Huwara on 26 February, the shootings of Israelis in several cities, and the rampage against Palestinians in Huwara carried out by some Israeli settlers, and called for an immediate cessation of violence. All parties must exercise maximum restraint and avoid any unilateral actions that could escalate the situation further, she said, adding that Japan is seriously concerned and resolutely rejects the Israeli Finance Minister’s provocative remarks on 19 March. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed concern over unilateral measures taken by both sides and conveyed Japan’s readiness to contribute to the easing of tensions towards the realization of a two-State solution in his telephone conversation with Israel President Isaac Herzog on 14 March, she recalled, urging all parties to engage in meaningful constructive dialogue.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) expressed regret over recent, alarming patterns of violence, terrorism and loss of life, which disregard the provisions of resolution 2334 (2016) and the Council’s recent presidential statement on this issue. She also expressed regret over the number of casualties resulting from Israeli operations in the West Bank, urging that country’s authorities to exercise restraint in the use of live ammunition in search-and-arrest operations. Further, increasing acts of terror are disturbing — including the 9 March attack in Tel Aviv, for which Hamas claimed responsibility — as is horrific settler violence within the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Against that backdrop, she stressed the importance of dialogue to de-escalation, which is critical due to the approaching period of religious festivities. She underscored that, during this period, parties must refrain from unilateral actions that attempt to alter the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem. Recalling the latest European Union statement issued on 8 March, she added that new perspectives for peace must be considered and welcomed the constructive commitments made with partners in the Arab League to revive the Arab Peace Initiative.
GENG SHUANG (China) called on all parties to end acts of violence, expressing support for the Special Coordinator’s efforts to ease tensions. Israel, as the occupying Power, should uphold its obligations, restrain its security forces from using excessive force, investigate incidents and hold perpetrators accountable. At the same time, Israel’s legitimate security concerns must be considered. Welcoming recent diplomatic efforts by regional countries — through which the parties have reached agreement on several critical matters — he expressed his hope that those commitments will be translated into relevant policies and practices on the ground. He voiced deep concern over Israel’s recent decision to legalize nine settlements in the occupied West Bank, and to approve more than 7,000 new housing units, urging that country it to fulfil its obligations under Council resolutions and end all unilateral changes to the status quo. Describing the situation on the ground as “feverish”, he said the stalled peace process lies at its heart. The global community should elevate the matter with a sense of urgency — including by promoting larger, more authoritative peace conferences — and countries with influence over the parties should play a more earnest and constructive role, he said.
ALLEGRA PAMELA R. BONGO (Gabon) expressed concern over recent violence, including attacks in Hawara on 26 February and in Tel Aviv on 9 March. While Israel has the right to security, it must be exercised pursuant to international humanitarian law. Stressing that ongoing settlement activities and hate speech are heightening tensions, she called on all parties to exercise restraint and work to restore trust. She also highlighted the role of regional countries and those States with influence over the parties, welcoming the 19 March meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh and urging that commitments made there be respected. She went on to spotlight the worrisome economic situation faced by the Palestinian Authority, which has been made worse by the freezing of tax receipts collected by Israel. Urgent measures must be taken to ensure economic recovery, she underscored, also calling on the international community to “be more resolute” with financial support for UNRWA. She added that the international community must not allow despair to develop nor a feeling that “violence is inevitable” to take hold.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique), Council President for March, speaking in his national capacity, said the establishment and expansion of settlements, and all unilateral measures taken by Israel with the aim of altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian territory, are contrary to international law. Israel’s compliance with United Nations resolutions, particularly those calling for a two-State solution is crucial, as a condition for the two peoples to live in peace and security side by side. Both Israelis and Palestinians are called to refrain from unilateral initiatives and actions, which can further aggravate the prevailing tension and violence. Voicing concern about the humanitarian situation in the occupied lands, as well as the rising insecurity, death and injuries of Palestinian civilians, he stressed that the protection of those affected, mostly young people and women, is urgently needed. The Council has a responsibility to act collectively for the settlement of this conflict, he said, welcoming the efforts by international partners aimed at creating the necessary conditions for the holding of presidential and legislative elections in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said the Palestinian people have existed, “and will continue existing”, on their land. They have endured dispossession, displacement, discrimination and denial of their most fundamental rights, but they have not disappeared. Noting that the recent denial by Israel’s Finance Minister of the Palestinians’ very existence is an attempt to justify “what is to come”, he said that statement came as Israel’s unlawful annexation pushed ever forward. Asking how Israel continues to justify killing Palestinians in the streets, keeping 2 million of them under an inhumane blockade for more than 15 years, colonizing their land, displacing them and demolishing their homes, he said diplomatic efforts that took decades are now being undone before the world’s collective eyes. “We must respond, collectively,” he stressed, adding that the Palestinian side will leave no stone unturned to prevent bloodshed. “This is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of wisdom, one acquired at great cost,” he stressed, emphasizing that the holy month of religious holidays for the three monotheistic religions is now beginning. “Every effort must be mobilized to stop annexation, violence against our people and provocations,” he stressed, emphasizing the international community’s duty not to wait, but to act now, “to prevent a fire that will devour everything it encounters”. The trends identified and condemned by resolution 2334 (2016) have continued unabated, and must be stopped and reversed. The alternative is more pain, more blood and more hatred, he warned, stressing that whatever political capital is needed to uphold international law and advance a just and lasting peace “is worth it”.
GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) underscored that, despite the “distortions of reality” constantly advanced by Palestine, Israel is — unquestionably — the most vibrant liberal democracy in the Middle East. While observing that no democracy is perfect and that people may make mistakes, he said that, when violence is committed or laws are broken, Israel acts to bring perpetrators to justice. “This is the reality in Israel,” he said. Palestine’s repeated lies to the Council serve only one objective — to eternalize the conflict and de-legitimize the idea of a Jewish State. This has been — and continues to be — the Palestinian Authority’s only goal, and while Israeli law enforcement investigates acts of violence, the Authority glorifies the terrorists who spill innocent blood. He said that, in 2021 alone, the Palestinian Authority paid over $175 million to terrorists and their families, adding that “this sick practice continues”. Noting that the Council was just briefed on resolution 2334 (2016), he stated that even the drafter of that biased, anti-Israel text understood that reconciliation is impossible while the Palestinian leadership continues to call for the murder of Israeli civilians. Questioning why the Council never addresses this crucial issue, he underscored that his country will not remain idle. Israel will act against those who choose the path of violence, and will do the work the Palestinian Authority refuses to: namely, thwarting terror attacks. Adding that this debate is supposed to cover the situation in the entire Middle East, he asked why the Council is not discussing “the radioactive Shi’ite elephant in the room” and urged those present not to allow Iran’s threat to the region to be side-lined by Palestine’s lies.