Tragic Deformity in Palestinian Political Culture ‘Result of Continued Brutality of Occupation’, Institute Head Tells Security Council
Middle East Special Coordinator Says Choice Is Clear: ‘Continue along Downward Spiral or Turn towards Constructive Dialogue’
A senior United Nations official today warned the Security Council of the alarming spike in violence across the northern and central occupied West Bank, leading to numerous Palestinian and Israeli casualties.
Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that deepening occupation, settlement-expansion, high levels of violence against civilians and the absence of a political horizon are rapidly eroding hope among Palestinians and Israelis. Military operations — including air strikes in the West Bank — attacks and settler-related incidents have intensified, alongside the use of more sophisticated weapons by Palestinians, including an advanced improvised explosive device and rockets launched towards Israel.
The Israeli Government recently approved significant amendments to its settlement-planning procedures that could expedite advancement of Israeli settlements plans, he said. He further expressed alarm over the “extreme levels of settler violence”, many armed and systematically attacking Palestinian villages, terrorizing communities.
Israel, as the occupying Power, has an obligation to protect Palestinians and their property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Security forces must exercise maximum restraint, apply proportional use of force and use lethal force only when it is strictly unavoidable to protect life.
“The choice is clear: either continue along the downward spiral of violence and provocations leading to a political vacuum; or turn towards constructive dialogue linked to concrete actions that can create hope,” he said.
The Arab American Institute’s James Zogby shared stories of Palestinian families, some of whom were given an hour’s notice “before the bulldozers came”. These violations, he said, continue to occur daily, impacting the lives of real people. There is an extremist political culture in Israel today. Polling data shows that a majority of Israelis do not view Palestinians as equal human beings.
And given the traumatic nightmare visited upon millions of Palestinians for the past 56 years, is it any wonder that a recent poll shows a majority of Palestinians rejecting moderate leadership and favouring armed struggle, he asked. “This tragic deformity in Palestinian political culture is the result of the continued brutality of the occupation,” he said.
In the ensuing discussion, delegations of the 15-member organ expressed alarm over the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank and Occupied Palestinian Territory and stressed that Israel’s decision to expand settlements is a flagrant violation of international law.
The representative of the United States called Israel’s announcement advancing more than 5,000 settlement units — along with changes to settlement administration that expedite the planning and approval of settlements — deeply troubling. Calling on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that only further inflame the situation, he underscored that recent violence must serve as a call to action for the Council to redouble efforts towards peace.
The delegate from the United Kingdom condemned all attacks on civilians. While Israel has a right to defend itself, its security operations must be in line with international humanitarian law. Its settlement-expansion is illegal under international law. He also stressed that the glorification of killers affiliated with Hamas is abhorrent and must stop.
Several speakers emphasized the need to improve the economic situation in Gaza, with Brazil’s representative saying that much more needs to be done to alleviate the humanitarian situation there. Unless new funding is received, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) may be unable to maintain critical services, he warned.
Gabon’s delegate called on Israel to completely lift the Gaza embargo to allow unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance, as he also urged all parties to uphold the Council’s resolutions, particularly resolution 2334 (2016).
Violence begets violence, said the delegate from the United Arab Emirates, recalling an incident during which senior Israeli officials celebrated Israel’s settlements and called for the killings of thousands of Palestinians. “This must be identified for what it is: dangerous and irresponsible incitement to violence.”
Israel’s representative said that, since the start of 2023, Israelis have been victims of over 3,500 attacks and each day that number grows. Asking why the Council continuously ignores the Palestinian authorities’ promotion of terror and murder of civilians, he emphasized that the terror that Israeli civilians in Jerusalem, Judea and Samara face every single day is exponentially worse than what is conveyed in Council briefings. The Palestinians are interested in one thing only: the destruction of the very notion of a Jewish State. Turning to the Israeli building permits in Judea and Samaria, he stressed that those steps are not an impediment to peace and building there will not stop. It is time to condemn Palestinian authorities’ incitement to violence and confront the most pressing threat to global security: Iran and its dangerous proxies, he said.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that this Israeli Government is “bringing to its ultimate conclusion a plan decades in the making: a State for the settlers in place of the Palestinian State.” He asked the Council: “What would you do if you were a Palestinian — if every day could be your last, killed in the street or your home?” Noting that they have asked for protection, that the Council has passed resolutions and that Palestinians have joined the International Criminal Court, he further asked when concrete measures will be taken. If Council members support a two-State solution based on the 1967 borders, with an independent Palestine living side-by-side with Israel, “how come what is happening in Palestine is possible”, he asked. For the Global South, Palestine is an indicator of how well or ill the international law-based order is, he said, urging for Council meetings to be a prelude to action.
The meeting began at 10:27 a.m. and ended at 12:50 p.m.
JAMES ZOGBY, Arab American Institute, said that Palestinian victims need to be known and the impact of the humiliation and abuse on these families must be understood. He shared stories of families given an hour notice “before the bulldozers came” or the farmer standing powerless as 100-year-old orchards were demolished. “Behind each incident are real people whose lives were upended, futures darkened, their families traumatized and angry,” he said. Annually the General Assembly speaks to these violations of human rights, but its resolutions are ignored. When Palestinians prepare a case for the International Criminal Court, they’re threatened with sanctions. These violations continue to occur daily, impacting the lives of real people.
“Their voices must be heard,” he stressed, underlining the special responsibility the United Nations has in regard to the matter. Israel is the only country conditionally admitted for membership, obligating it to implement United Nations resolutions-past prior to its admission. It is not Israel that is being singled out for criticism, rather it is Israel that is being singled-out by some in the United States and excused for its behaviour. There is an extremist political culture in Israel today. Polling data demonstrates that a majority of Israelis do not view Palestinians as equal human beings.
Given the traumatic nightmare visited upon millions of Palestinians for the past 56 years, is it any wonder that a recent poll shows a majority Palestinian rejecting moderate leadership and favouring armed struggle, he asked. “This tragic deformity in Palestinian political culture is the result of the continued brutality of the Occupation,” he added. Israel needs to know that there are red lines, which, if crossed, have consequences. And Palestinians need to know they are not alone and that violence is not the answer. “Only after we have changed the political dynamic and helped transform the political deformities infecting both societies can a political horizon emerge and meaningful negotiations take place,” he said.
TOR WENNESLAND, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, speaking via videoconference, said there has been an alarming spike in violence across the northern and central occupied West Bank, leading to numerous Palestinian and Israeli casualties. Military operations — including air strikes in the West Bank — attacks and extremely high levels of settler-related violence have intensified dramatically, alongside the use of more sophisticated weapons by Palestinians, including an advanced improvised explosive device and rockets launched towards Israel. Reactions by officials to the incidents have varied, with some rejecting the violence and condemning vigilantism, and others making alarming, inflammatory statements. On 18 June, the Israeli Government approved significant amendments to Israeli settlement-planning procedures that could expedite advancement of Israeli settlements plans. In response to the decision, the Palestinian Authority pulled out of a long-awaited meeting of the Joint Economic Committee.
Regarding other significant developments, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced that it had resumed its service delivery to Palestine refugees in the West Bank, after four months of disruption due to a work dispute with the West Bank Staff Union and a strike, he said. Turning to the implementation of the provisions of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), he expressed grave concern by the escalating spiral of violence in the occupied West Bank. “I am particularly alarmed by the extreme levels of settler violence, including large numbers of settlers, many armed, systematically attacking Palestinian villages, terrorizing communities, sometimes in the proximity of and/or with the support of Israeli security forces,” he said. Israel, as the occupying Power, has an obligation to protect Palestinians and their property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to ensure independent, impartial and transparent investigations into all acts of violence.
He urged security forces to exercise maximum restraint, apply proportional use of force and use lethal force only when it is strictly unavoidable to protect life, and conduct thorough, independent, impartial and prompt investigations into all instances of possible excessive use of force. Children must never be the target of violence, used or put in harm’s way. “I remain deeply troubled by the relentless expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, that fuels violence and is impeding access by Palestinians to their land and resources,” he said, noting the alarm the recent Israeli Government decision which may expedite expansion in Area C. Israeli settlements constitute a flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions and international law. “I call on the Government of Israel to cease the advancement of all settlement activity immediately,” he added, also urging that country to end the demolition of Palestinian-owned property and prevent the possible displacement and eviction of Palestinians.
While the ceasefire following the Gaza escalation in May has held, there is a constant risk that events in the West Bank could spill over into the Strip, he warned. The Palestinian Authority’s fiscal and institutional challenges, exacerbated by funding shortages, remain concerning and may further aggravate the deterioration on the ground. The deepening occupation, settlement-expansion, the high levels of violence against civilians, the absence of a political horizon are rapidly eroding hope among Palestinians and Israelis, and particularly among youth, that a resolution of the conflict is achievable. “The choice is clear: either continue along the downward spiral of violence and provocations leading to a political vacuum or turn towards constructive dialogue linked to concrete actions that can create hope and a political horizon,” he said.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States), expressing concern over the impact of recent violence on United States citizens, said his country is engaging with the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to secure the welfare of such individuals and to provide “equal measures of justice and security” for all Palestinian and Israeli civilians affected. Israel’s recent announcement advancing more than 5,000 settlement units — along with changes to settlement administration that expedite the planning and approval of settlements — is deeply troubling, he went on to say. Calling on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that only further inflame the situation, he underscored that recent violence “must serve as a call to action for all of us in the Council to redouble our efforts towards peace”. Also expressing concern over the financial crisis faced by UNRWA, he called on regional actors and the international community to urgently consider providing the Agency with greater financial support.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) voiced concern over Israel intensifying steps to create irreversible facts on the ground, including forcible evictions of Palestinians, destruction of their houses and seizures of their property. Since the beginning of 2023, there have been regular outbursts of violence in the West Bank and Gaza — over the past two months, 100 people were victims of such violence, including Russian nationals. In May, more than 600 housing units were erected in West Bank. In June, the Israeli Government decided to expedite the bureaucratic procedures that are needed to build more than 4,500 housing units in the West Bank, which is a violation of international law. On the continued demolition of Palestinian houses, he recalled that, in May, about 200 people — including 80 children — were evicted. Also, he voiced regret over the unilateral decision made by the United States and the European Union to freeze the activity of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), expressing regret over the events of the last 10 days, said that they “make clear that caution, restraint and common sense have been outdone by inflammatory rhetoric, unilateral decisions, senseless violence and terror”. He appealed to the parties to comply with international law — including the principles of distinction and proportionality — and to uphold their obligations to protect civilians. Between 14 March and 14 June, Israeli authorities have advanced some 920 housing units in East Jerusalem and approved 1,890 such units in the West Bank. It is disheartening to note, he emphasized, that the Council’s consistent calls, along with commitments made voluntarily, have been disregarded. He therefore appealed to the parties to demonstrate — “with deeds” — their will to work towards a solution to the conflict, to avoid further provocation, “to remember that revenge is not justice” and to end the dangerous cycle of violence.
FELIX AKOM NYARKU (Ghana) condemned the continuing pattern of violent attacks and direct confrontations between Palestinians and Israelis. Expressing concern over the volatile security and dire humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, he cited developments including Israel’s expediting of construction permits to promote the planned construction of 4,560 new housing units in the West Bank. He further noted the use of live ammunition by Israel Defense Forces in a refugee camp in Jenin on 19 June, resulting in the death of many Palestinian civilians including children; and increased incidence of firing of rockets by Palestinian armed groups from Palestinian controlled areas into Israeli territory and Israeli settler communities bordering the West Bank. He called on both parties to refrain from further unilateral actions by establishing a joint civilian committee that will work to promote confidence-building measures and comply fully with international humanitarian law.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) voiced concern about the Israeli Government’s decision on 18 June to modify the planning procedures for settlement activities and the advancement of the 4,000 housing units by the Israeli planning authorities. He said that the settlement policy, expulsions and demolitions of Palestinian homes are not only contrary to international law, but are major obstacles to the realization of the two-State solution and an impediment to achieving a just and lasting peace. Underscoring the crucial role of the Kingdom of Jordan as official custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, he called on each party to abstain from any bellicose rhetoric or other provocations that could reignite tensions. He called on Israel to completely lift the Gaza embargo to allow unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance. Urging restraint, cessation of hostilities and dialogue, he urged the parties to uphold the Council’s resolutions, particularly resolution 2334 (2016).
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) underscored that Israel is obliged not to take any measures that would introduce permanent changes — in particular demographic and administrative changes — in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In this respect, she called on Israel to renounce the change in the approval procedure for construction in the settlements of 18 June and the construction of more than 4,500 new housing units in the settlements. Following the operation carried out on 19 June by the Israeli security forces in the Jenin refugee camp, which claimed the lives of seven Palestinians, including two children, and left nearly 100 injured, she stressed that the use of force must meet the criterion of proportionality and respect the right to life. Warning against the alarming escalation of violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she said that 2023 has followed on from the previous year, with 126 civilians killed, including 35 children.
FERGUS JOHN ECKERSLEY (United Kingdom) said the security situation in the West Bank and Occupied Palestinian Territory continues to deteriorate. Last week saw more loss of life, when seven people, including two children, were killed in an Israeli raid in the city of Jenin in the West Bank. While Israel has a right to defend itself, its security operations must be in line with international humanitarian law. Terror attacks, such as the killing of four Israelis near the settlement of Eli by Hamas-affiliated gunmen on 20 June are barbaric and unjustifiable. The glorification of these killers by Hamas and other organizations is abhorrent. He condemned recent scenes of settler violence in Turums Ayya where homes and property were burned down and civilians attacked, resulting in the death of one Palestinian. The United Kingdom opposes settlements, which are illegal under international law, he emphasized, calling on Israel to cease and reverse its policy of supporting their expansion.
ZHANG JUN (China) said the fundamental solution to the Palestinian question — the heart of the Middle East issue — lies in the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian State, based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The international community needs to step up development assistance and humanitarian aid to Palestine, he underscored, calling for peace talks, respect for the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem and avoidance of provocative rhetoric and actions. In firm opposition against all violence against civilians, he emphasized that the occupying Power must fulfil its obligations under international law and guarantee the security of the people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He expressed concern about the new settlement resolution — recently adopted by Israel — which streamlines and expedites the settlement approval process, adding: “every inch of settlement-expansion represents a further squeeze on the living space of Palestine”.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) strongly condemned all attacks targeting civilians, in particular the terrorist attack perpetrated on 20 June in the West Bank, killing at least four Israelis, as well as the growing violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians — including the destruction of their homes and property. Expressing serious concern over clashes that took place on 19 June during an intervention by the Israeli army in Jenin, which left at least six dead — including a child — he stressed that children should not be targeted. Calling on the Israeli Government to abandon its intention to approve plans for construction of nearly 5,000 new housing units in the West Bank, he further noted that the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNRWA will have to suspend some activities in Gaza and the West Bank without new resources, urging Member States to help fund humanitarian aid.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) condemned the terrorist attack on 20 June that killed four Israelis in the West Bank, as well as the subsequent violence by settlers against Palestinians. Alarmed by the possible recurrence of such events during the Eid al-Adha holidays, he also expressed serious concern regarding Israel’s announcement regarding its decision to advance planning for the building of more than 4,000 new units on 19 June, as well as 1,000 units on 21 June at the Eli settlement. “We once again call on Israel to cease settlement activities immediately,” he stressed. Both Israel and the State of Palestine need to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any inflammatory words or actions. UNRWA is key to regional peace and stability, he continued, urging fellow Member States to provide the necessary donations to make sure the Agency is fully funded.
ANTÓNIO MAPUA BAMBISSA (Mozambique) strongly condemned Israel’s military attack against the Palestinian civilian population in the refugee camp of Jenin, in the West Bank. Calling for an immediate ceasefire and a slowdown in the escalation of violence in the region, he expressed support the two-State solution, which respects the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and independence, and the right to existence of the State of Israel. “The people of Israel and the people of Palestine deserve a firm political commitment of their leaders for a sustainable dialogue, avoiding violent confrontations, occupations and attacks,” he said. Humanitarian assistance plays a decisive role in restoring hope, he noted, highlighting the role of humanitarian institutions, such as the UNRWA and WFP.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said the key word of the meeting is “violence”, which risks being a normal, banal thing, with endless carnage on both sides. “However, it is a dead end, as it kills hope and annihilates efforts for peace”, he stressed. Noting that last week was extremely fatal for both sides, he called on the parties to reverse the horrible trend of violence and escalation by withdrawing from unilateral acts, renouncing inflammatory rhetoric and nationalist extremism. Condemning the Hamas terrorist attack on 20 June in Eli killing four Israeli civilians, he expressed support for Israel’s right to self-defence from terror through proportionate response — also voicing concern over the impact of the conflict on Palestinians, often the victims of disproportionate response, and calling for a thorough investigation of settler violence. “Unfortunately, destroying is easier than building,” he stressed, voicing support for the two-State solution — as peace is the work of the visionary.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), voicing concern about deadly violence against civilians, Israel’s military incursions in the West Bank and the disproportionate use of live ammunition of explosive weapons in populated areas, urged Israel to exercise utmost restraint and prioritize the protection of civilians. She also voiced concern about the detention of Palestinian children, as well as the Israeli Government’s decision to expedite the expansion of settlements, stressing that the latter imperils the viability of an independent, contiguous Palestinian State. “Immediate steps must be taken to de-escalate the situation, reverse negative trends and relaunch credible negotiations and dialogue between both parties,” she stressed. She called on both sides to hold further meetings in the Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh quintet format and to implement the commitments made in the respective joint communiqués. The international community must come together to participate and support international and regional diplomatic efforts aimed at salvaging the stalled peace process, she added.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said that escalating Israeli military actions, including aerial strikes, the first in the West Bank in almost 20 years, further exacerbates the tensions. Among those injured last week, there was the son of a Brazilian citizen, shot in the head and shoulder during the invasion of the Palestinian village of Turmus Ayya by Israeli settlers. Moreover, reports indicate dangerous and hate-filled rhetoric, provocations and incitement from officials of both sides, fuelling violence. Brazil condemns all violence against civilians, be they Palestinians or Israelis. Brazil also condemns the recent decisions by the Israeli Government to advance the construction of housing units in existing settlements in the West Bank. Demolitions and evictions raise concerns about the risk of forcible transfer. In Gaza, much more needs to be done to alleviate the humanitarian situation, he said. Unless new funding is received, UNRWA may be unable to maintain critical services.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), Council President for June, speaking in her national capacity, said it is time for determined, intensified action to de-escalate the situation on the ground via the peace process — this means greater diplomatic efforts at both the regional and international levels. The international community must also firmly underscore that violence begets violence and security is ephemeral in the absence of justice, rule of law and accountability. Sounding the alarm over repeated and violent incursions by Israel into Palestinian cities and villages, she drew attention to the recent aerial bombardment of the West Bank — the first since 2002. She also recalled an incident during which senior Israeli officials celebrated the settlements and called for the killings of thousands of Palestinians. “This must be identified for what it is: dangerous and irresponsible incitement to violence,” she said, adding that such statements from of the highest levels of Government fuel grievances. Further, she called on Israel to put an immediate stop to terrorist attacks by settlers and to prosecute those responsible.
GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel), detailing Palestinian terror attacks and noting that they are underreported, said that, since the start of 2023, Israelis have been victims of over 3,500 attacks, and each day that number grows. The Palestinian terror fueled by incitement and incentivization of violence spewed from all levels of Palestinian leadership is the root cause of this conflict and any escalation, he stressed. Asking why the Council continuously ignores the Palestinian authorities’ promotion of terror and murder of civilians, he emphasized that the terror that Israeli civilians in Jerusalem, Judea and Samara face every single day is exponentially worse than what is conveyed in Council briefings. Israel is a democracy governed by the rule of law, he emphasized, stressing that: “Extremists who take the law into their own hands through vigilantism and violence cross a red line and will not be condoned by Israel.”
The Palestinians are interested in one thing only: the destruction of the very notion of a Jewish State, he emphasized. That cancerous hatred, which has poisoned the minds of children and adults, is the root of the conflict and must be addressed and condemned by the Council. Turning to the Israeli building permits in Judea and Samaria, he stressed that those steps are not an impediment to peace and building there will not stop. Council meetings tend to neglect the real threat to the Middle East, he underscored, detailing the Ayatollah regime’s actions as the world’s number one State sponsor of terror. It is time to condemn the Palestinian authorities’ incitement to violence and confront the most pressing threat to global security: Iran and its dangerous proxies, he stressed, urging the Council to stop ignoring what is truly important and start acting where it can make a difference.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said he would not dignify his Israeli counterpart’s customary barrage of lies and distortions with a response. Stubborn fascist enemies of peace will not learn from the fact the Council members were not responding in any positive way to those statements, he stressed, calling it “a theatre of the absurd”. He said the Israeli Government is “bringing to its ultimate conclusion a plan decades in the making: a State for the settlers in place of the Palestinian State”. Israel knows its actions are condemned worldwide, but as long as they can displace Palestinians, they will continue — with the only will facing them being the will of the Palestinian people. The Council condemned this terrorism as it should. However, noting that terrorists are usually arrested and prosecuted, he asked if any such action would be taken in this case.
“What would you do if you were a Palestinian — if every day could be your last, killed in the street or your home?”, he asked. Noting they have asked for protection, that the Council has passed resolutions and that Palestinians have joined the International Criminal Court, he further asked when concrete measures will be taken. “No one wins if despair prevails,” he stressed — as despair will not lead to surrender, but more anger, with the Palestinian people facing an existential threat with no help on the way. Noting that Council members support the two-State solution on the 1967 borders, with an independent Palestine living side by side with Israel, he asked: “How come what is happening in Palestine is possible?” Emphasizing that for the Global South, Palestine is an indicator of how well or ill the international law-based order is, he called for meetings to be a prelude to action — as the consequences of not acting are infinitely higher.