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(24 January 2012) Open Debate on the Question of Palestine, Focus: Israeli settlements destroying the two-State solution

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, United Nations Security Council, Debate on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, 24 January 2012:

Check against Delivery

 
Mr. President,
 
            On behalf of Palestine, I congratulate you and your friendly country South Africa on assumption of the Security Council Presidency and on your wise stewardship of the Council. We are honored by your presence, Deputy Foreign Minister of South Africa, presiding over this important meeting today. We also express appreciation to the Russian Federation for its very skilled leadership of the Council in December.
 
I thank the Assistant Secretary-General, Mr. Oscar Fernandez Taranco, for his briefing today.
           
Today, I also wish to renew Palestine’s warmest congratulations to the new Security Council members, the friendly countries of Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo, who are also members of the Non-Aligned Movement joining the current members of the NAM Caucus on the Council. We are confident in your commitment to upholding the Charter, international law and the Security Council’s resolutions and we wish you all success in fulfilling your high responsibilities.
 
I also convey Palestine’s deep appreciation to the members whose terms ended in December: the friendly countries of Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Gabon, Nigeria and the Arab representative on the Security Council, Lebanon, who all served with dedication to the pursuit of peace and security, including with regard to the question of Palestine. We are grateful for the efforts exerted during their tenure in support of the rights of the Palestinian people and aimed at reaching a just, lasting and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including their efforts in connection with Palestine’s legitimate and worthy application for United Nations membership, which remains before the Security Council, awaiting recommendation following the rendering of the report by the Committee on Admission of New Members on 11 November 2011. In this regard, I reaffirm our conviction that recognition of the State of Palestine constitutes a genuine investment in the two-State solution for peace. We reiterate deepest gratitude to all States that have recognized Palestine, including those that most recently extended recognition from different corners of the globe.
 
Mr. President,
 
            The start of a new year brings new hopes and renewed commitments. Despite all odds, the resilient Palestinian people remain hopeful that this year will bring long-awaited freedom, justice, peace, dignity and security in their homeland. With international support, they continue striving for their inalienable rights, including to self-determination and return. They remain convinced that justice and the rule of law will prevail and hope this will be the year that brings an end to the Israeli occupation and the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
 
            The Palestinian leadership continues to spare no effort for peace. Despite the many obstacles placed by Israel, the occupying Power, in the path of peace, Palestine has fully cooperated with current efforts by the Quartet aimed at advancing the two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders and has submitted comprehensive proposals on borders and security, as called for by the Quartet. We express appreciation to Jordan for the initiative by His Majesty King Abdullah II to revive the ailing peace process, and affirm that Palestine has engaged in good faith in this effort, based on positions of historic compromise rooted in international law and justice. Moreover, we continue our efforts to promote Palestinian reconciliation based on our legitimate national interests and aspirations and the PLO commitments. We hope to soon restore the unity of our people and land, and are grateful for the support being given in this regard by Egypt, our Arab brethren and other concerned members of the international community.
 
Yet, despite these positive developments, the situation on the ground remains appalling and totally contradictory to all legal norms, undermining any peace efforts. Rather than acting to bring the occupation to an end, Israel is entrenching it, causing more human suffering and prolonging the conflict. Especially destructive has been its settlement campaign, deliberately waged in violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, UN resolutions, the ICJ Advisory Opinion and the Roadmap and in defiance of the global demands for complete cessation.
 
As revealed by the Israeli organization Peace Now, in 2011 Israel actually exceeded all past years of settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, creating thousands of illegal facts on the ground. From expansion of existing settlements, construction of new settlements, construction of the Wall, confiscation of land, demolition of homes, construction of Israeli-only roads, hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks, displacement of Palestinians, to permitting the vile aggression of settlers against Palestinian civilians and properties - none of this has stopped, not for a single day.
 
Recent reports by Peace Now, confirmed by OCHA and highlighted during the important briefing by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ms. Valerie Amos, to the Council last week, attest to the intensity and vastly detrimental impact of Israeli settlement policies on the Palestinian people, the contiguity of the Palestinian land, humanitarian conditions and the prospects for peace. In fact, Israeli settlement activities increased by at least 20% in the past year, with construction initiated on 1,850 units and at least 3,500 units under construction in 2011 in 142 illegal settlements and so-called “outposts” in the West Bank. The settlement drive has been most fierce in and around East Jerusalem as well as in the Jordan Valley deep inside the Territory and other areas also referred to as “Area C”, where the occupying Power prohibits an official Palestinian presence, an area amounting to at least 62% of the land.
 
The occupying Power continues its illegal measures attempting to Judaize East Jerusalem and alter its Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and Christian demography, character, identity and heritage. Settlement activities, home demolitions, revocation of residency rights, closure of Palestinian institutions, the transformation of Palestinian neighborhoods into walled ghettos, excavations and countless other measures are deepening the crisis in East Jerusalem, further isolating it from its natural Palestinian environs to the north and south, impairing its socio-economic and cultural fabric, and fueling tensions and religious sensitivities in the City.
 
In the Jordan Valley, Israel continues to seize vast tracts of Palestinian land, demolish homes, water wells and farms, and displace hundreds of Palestinian families in addition to the hundreds of thousands already displaced. Since 1967, it is estimated that the population has been reduced from more than 300,000 people to only 56,000 people at present. Such displacement is otherwise known around the world as ethnic cleansing. The Palestinian Bedouin community, an indigenous population whose livelihood and sustenance is tied to the land, has been especially hard hit by these illegal actions. It is not by coincidence that much of the land from which the Bedouins are being forcibly removed is linked to planned settlement expansion and other colonization activities aimed at advancing Israel’s illegal de facto annexation of Palestinian land.
 
Terror and crimes by Israeli settlers are also on the rise, with a recorded 40% increase in attacks in the last year and a 165% increase since 2009. In the recent period, willful attacks and provocations have included the beating, killing and injury of Palestinian civilians, including children and elderly shepherds, destruction and vandalism of homes, vehicles, farmlands and olive orchards, and vandalism and burning of numerous mosques and churches. All of this is being perpetrated under the watch and protection of the Israeli occupying forces, with nearly zero accountability for such crimes. These deplorable attacks are also not isolated incidents, but rather part of a deliberate agenda by extremist settlers and their supporters in the Government to terrorize the Palestinian people, make their living conditions unbearable, and remove them from their land.
 
Mr. President,
 
In the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian civilian population continues to suffer from the occupying Power’s illegal policies, particularly the grave effects of the Israeli blockade by land, air and sea. Humanitarian conditions remain critical with the most vulnerable plagued by poverty, high unemployment and food insecurity. Moreover, it has now been three years since the military aggression against Gaza and Israel continues to evade responsibility for the massive crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people and to obstruct the reconstruction and rehabilitation needed to rebuild the communities, infrastructure, economy and lives destroyed by that aggression. We reiterate our call for Israel to be held accountable for these crimes against the Palestinian people, and we call again for the full lifting of the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.
 
In this regard, while Israel, as occupying Power, is obliged by international humanitarian law to protect the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it seems clear that it is forfeiting this responsibility. In addition to the above-mentioned colonization and collective punishment measures, this is reflected in the occupying Power’s violent military raids and continuing arrest of Palestinian civilians, including children, whereby thousands of Palestinians remain unjustly imprisoned in Israeli jails, including several elected officials, some recently rearrested, and its use of excessive force against peaceful protesters, killing and injuring innocent Palestinians defending their land and people’s rights, including 28-year old Mustafa Tamimi on 9 December 2011.
 
We thus call on the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention, to protect the Palestinian people, consistent with the obligation to ensure the protection of all civilians in armed conflict. In this regard, I wish to inform that the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has mandated its Chair to request Switzerland, in its capacity as Depositary, to undertake the necessary measures, in line with relevant resolutions, to convene a Conference of High Contracting Parties to ensure respect of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. We stress the value of such a Conference for determining measures to uphold the law and pressuring Israel to cease its illegal practices and comply with its obligations.
 
Mr. President,
 
The two-State solution is withering with every inch of Palestinian land seized by the occupying Power, every settlement unit constructed, every Israeli settler transferred, every wall erected, every home demolished and every Palestinian family displaced. Israel’s colonization and oppressive collective punishment of the Palestinian people are rapidly eroding hopes and beliefs that peace is possible based on the two-State solution, to which not only the Palestinian side has committed, but to which the international community has committed and greatly invested in.
 
And, yet, the Israeli Government wildly insists that its settlement enterprise is not the main obstacle to peace, as reiterated days ago by the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, who illogically and insensitively insists that it is the Palestinian call for freedom, justice and their human rights - mainly the right to return - that is the main obstacle. This begs the question: How is the illegal colonization of the Palestinian land conducive to the realization of the two-State solution by which an independent, sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, is to coexist with Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders? What kind of “two-State solution” for peace does Israel envision as it continues its settlement and theft of Palestinian land beyond the Green Line? It is surely not the same vision of peace articulated and pursued by this Council, the Quartet and international community as a whole and not the vision that brought us to table in Amman.
 
If not ceased, what Israel is doing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory will ensure that the two-State solution never comes to be and will give further validity to alternative options.  The urgency of stopping this illegal campaign thus cannot be overstated. This would not only be an act of good faith giving credibility to peace efforts, but is obligatory for Israel under the law and Roadmap, which it cannot remain selective about complying with and to which it must be held accountable.
 
The truth of Israel’s commitment to peace cannot be measured by empty lip service to peace or the mere presence of its negotiators at the table. It must be measured by Israel’s deeds. When negotiators come to the table absent good faith and genuine peace proposals and when the Israeli Government continues its deceitful, belligerent conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, we must truly question whether or not Israel is interested in the just and lasting peace we aim to achieve: a peace based on UN resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Roadmap.
 
Mr. President,
 
For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has invoked the Security Council’s responsibility under the Charter. And, yet, the Council remains paralyzed, failing to uphold its duties and allowing the conflict to fester, with broad political, security and humanitarian consequences. We remain convinced that holding Israel responsible for its crimes will be the only way to bring a halt to these illegal actions, prevent the further deterioration of the situation, and salvage the prospects for peace. We thus call again on the Council to undertake serious measures that would send a clear message to compel Israel, the occupying Power, to immediately cease all of its illegal actions and to commit to the long-held parameters of the peace process. 
 
The Palestinian people and their leadership remain committed to a peaceful solution and to peace negotiations. Moreover, we have not given up our conviction in international law and the UN system as central pillars in our effort to achieve a just solution to the question of Palestine in all its aspects, including for Palestine refugee problem, to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to achieve our freedom and rights. We will thus continue our efforts to mobilize the Security Council as well as our efforts in the General Assembly and all other relevant UN organs to make this a reality and appeal for the strong and valuable support of all Member States.
 
I thank you, Mr. President.