The international community’s immediate priority in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be reversing the trends that marked 2022 as one of the deadliest years in recent history, the United Nations senior official working to end the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict told the Security Council today as it held its regular open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question.
Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that, even as a new year dawns, the dangerous cycle of violence that characterized recent months continues to persist, amid increased political tensions and a long-stalled peace process.
“The violent trends that dominated the last months of 2022 continue to take a devastating human toll,” he said, adding: “Preventing more loss of life and reversing negative trends on the ground must be our collective priority.” At the same time, the global community must not lose sight of the ultimate goal — to end the Israeli occupation, resolve the conflict and realize a two-State solution.
Noting that a new Government has just been sworn into power in Israel, he said that country’s settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have regrettably continued, and more violence has been observed at the hands of both parties. A total of 14 Palestinians were killed between 8 December 2022 and 13 January 2023, and another 117 were injured by Israeli security forces. According to Israeli sources, five Israeli civilians and four security forces personnel were injured by Palestinians in attacks, clashes, the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, and other incidents.
He added that the 3 January visit by Israel’s new Minister for National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, to the holy sites in Jerusalem — which was widely viewed as a provocative act — and following the Council’s 5 January meeting on the visit, is still sparking tensions. Meanwhile, an additional source of friction was a resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 30 December 2022, which requested the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion relating to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
Against that backdrop, he called for courageous political leadership, along with concerted support from partners around the globe, to prevent spoilers and extremists from “pour[ing] more fuel on the fire”.
Both the recent General Assembly resolution and the Israeli Minister’s visit were widely discussed today by both Council members and the wider United Nation membership. Delegates also raised concerns about the trend of escalating violence and the inability of the parties to re-launch formal peace process negotiations, which have been stalled since 2014.
Addressing the Council, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine noted that “peace is still possible”, albeit less probable with every day that passes. Spotlighting Israel’s violations of international law, he underlined his rejection of the impunity Israel enjoys for such crimes as killing and maiming Palestinians and conducting mass arbitrary arrests. “Whatever leverage you have, whatever tools are at your disposal, whatever influence you enjoy — they must be used now, or it will no longer matter later,” he urged Council members.
However, the representative of Israel, rejecting the charade of “false victimization”, said the statistics constantly fed to the Council about Palestinian fatalities are not true. The vast majority of Palestinian fatalities and casualties are not civilians, but, instead, terrorists who were “neutralized in the midst of their acts of violence”. Pledging to unpack those misleading claims at every forthcoming Council meeting, he went on to describe the General Assembly’s recently adopted resolution as a “poisonous and one-sided text”, but disguised as a seemingly innocent and non-toxic one.
France’s representative was among those speakers who urged the Council to mobilize to avoid an escalation on the ground. Calling on the parties to exercise restraint, he declared: “It is the responsibility of the Council to enforce international law, including its own resolutions,” such as resolution 2334 (2016) relating to Israeli settlement-expansion. Calling on the new Israeli authorities to take measures to end violence perpetrated by settlers, he also urged them to cease their legalization of outposts in the West Bank, and called on the global community to urgently relaunch the peace process.
The representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), voicing grave alarm over Israel’s ongoing acts against Christian and Islamic holy places, joined others in condemning the recent provocative incursion by Israel’s Minister for National Security to the Aqsa Mosque compound. “These Israeli provocative and irresponsible acts offend the feelings of Muslims across the globe, violate their religious rights and eternal attachment to this holy site, and jeopardize stability in the region and beyond,” he warned
Egypt’s delegate also condemned the Israeli Minister’s recent visit to Al-Haram al-Sharif. Calling on the parties to refrain from any steps that could lead to a further escalation, he said the Council should assume its responsibility vis-a-vis the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. Among other things, he said, that would require a stop to all unilateral measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the lifting of all movement restrictions in Gaza, international protection for the Palestinian people and accountability for those responsible for violations against them.
Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, urged the international community to break “the cycle of concern and inaction”, while welcoming the General Assembly’s adoption of its resolution requesting an International Court of Justice advisory opinion. Calling on Israel to uphold international law and resume a credible peace process to achieve a two-State solution, she pointed to a possible economic recession in the horizon, warning that, for millions of Palestinians, hardships will only multiply.
Nonetheless, South Africa’s representative noted that, since the Council last met on this topic, the situation has become even more precarious for Palestinians. If nothing is done, the Council will meet again in a month’s time to lament more violence and death, he said, asking if the United Nations was created to receive reports on violations of human rights and international law without attempting to say or do anything. The international community must seek a solution that facilitates equality and equity for all people who have the right to live in the territories of Israel and Palestine.
The representative of Morocco recalled that King Mohammed VI had underscored that the lack of political logic and the actions of extremists might transform the conflict from a political into an ideological conflict. He also noted that the King had highlighted the legal and historical importance of the city of Jerusalem as common heritage of mankind in the Jerusalem Declaration signed with His Eminence, Pope Francis. As well, an agency, created in 1995, promoted projects in education, health and culture and improve living conditions of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and preserve Jerusalem’s status as a link between monotheistic religions and a place for those religions to connect, he said.
In that vein, the representative of Brazil emphasized that improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people is an important step towards peace. Economic growth can contribute to intra-Palestinian reconciliation, which is a crucial step towards stabilization and the resumption of genuine dialogue. He joined other speakers in condemning all actions aimed at creating a fait accompli on the ground and changing the demography of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, while expressing support for the Special Coordinator’s assessment that the “mere management of this conflict in perpetuity is not an option”.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Albania, Ghana, China, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Gabon, Ecuador, Mozambique, Switzerland, Russian Federation, Malta, Japan, Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Türkiye, Iran, Syria, Malaysia, Iraq, Kuwait, Maldives, Bangladesh, Norway, Cuba, Argentina, Brunei Darussalam and the Republic of Korea.
Representatives of the European Union, the League of Arab States and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also participated.
Source: UN Security Council