Middle East

The situation in the Middle East, including the…

19 October 2021

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The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question - Security Council, 8883rd Meeting

Production Date: 
19 Oct 2021

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03:05:42

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Summary: 
‘We can no longer lurch from crisis to crisis’ in Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Special Coordinator warns Security Council, urges parallel steps by all parties.
Description: 
Resolving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a package of parallel measures by the two sides and the international community, rather than piecemeal responses, a senior United Nations official for the Middle East peace told the Security Council today, as the 15‑member organ examined recent developments, including Israel’s plan to build new settlements in the occupied Palestinian land. “We can no longer lurch from crisis to crisis”, said Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, underlining the need to avoid approaching the current situation incident by incident as stand‑alone issues, during a quarterly debate. A broader package of parallel steps by the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community is needed, he said, adding that such a framework should begin to address key political, security and economic challenges that are preventing progress. Detailing incidents over the three-month reporting period, he said that Israeli authorities continued to consider new settlement construction in the E1 area. He warned that these units would sever the connection between the northern and southern West Bank and significantly undermine the chances for establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian State as part of a negotiated two‑State solution. The Special Coordinator was joined by two civil society briefers, Daniel Levy, President of the U.S./Middle East Project, and Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian political and civil society leader. Mr. Levy, stressing the need to disengage from autopilot when taking action, set forth three concepts to open the way to new thinking. First, there is a legitimacy deficit with Palestinian leadership. The Palestine Liberation Organization needed to become far more inclusive and representative to be better able to negotiate. Second is an accountability deficit pertaining to Israel action, that has enabled Israelis to act with impunity. Third is a symmetry deficit, which means that a fundamental asymmetry exists in the defining relationship of power between occupiers and an occupied people. The rights of one group must not come at the expense of the other. Addressing these deficits can open the way forward, he emphasized. Ms. Ashrawi said the absence of accountability for Israel and of protection for the Palestinian people has enabled Israel to tread over the rights of an entire nation, allowing the perpetuation of a permanent settler colonial occupation. Peace is not achieved by normalizing the occupation, side‑lining the Palestinian question or rewarding Israel by repositioning it as a regional superpower, she said, emphasizing that time has come to reclaim the narrative of justice and invoke the Charter of the United Nations and reaffirm international law. The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that the international community determined its desired destination a long time ago and has never deviated from that goal: an international consensus on a two‑State solution based on the pre‑1967 borders. However, Israel’s authorities are seeking to turn the international community into a bystander, a silent witness, or a critical commentator. But the global community must be an actor to ensure that no one is allowed to take the car off the road. “We need you to take hold of the steering wheel” now, he said, urging the Security Council to intervene before it becomes too costly to do so. He then called for convening an international conference under the auspices of the Middle East Quartet — the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation. Israel’s representative, meanwhile, said that the 2020 Abraham Accords put his country on the road to a new era, where the Middle East could turn into a centre of solutions for global challenges, including tackling climate change and managing water. Instead, biased debates in the Security Council create a false reality that perpetuates conflict. He also questioned the decision to invite Ms. Ashrawi, a long‑time Palestinian politician, noting that she has condemned the Abraham Accords and has been associated with a platform which published anti-Semitic lies. The Council could instead give a platform to Israelis and Palestine entrepreneurs working to create coexistence, he added. In the ensuing discussion, Council members spoke out against Israel’s illegal settlement activities and demolitions of Palestinian homes as well as attacks waged against each other. Some pointed to the reconstruction of Gaza as an urgent priority, spotlighting the crucial role to be played by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and its funding shortage. Other delegates advocated for direct talks between the parties. Norway’s representative cautioned against Israel’s plans to implement the E1 project, saying that such settlements would cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and undermine the viability of a contiguous Palestinian State. Expressing her support for the Abraham Accords, she also underscored the need to include the Palestinians in this broader dialogue and use the new regional dynamic to restart negotiations between the parties. Mexico’s representative, noting that the Council is continuing the cycle of “administering conflict” after seven decades of dealing with the issue, called for direct negotiations to commence “without delay” under the auspices of the Quartet. China’s delegate welcomed the recent high-level contacts between Israeli and Palestinian officials, expressing his country’s readiness to host an international peace conference under the auspices of the United Nations. Macharia Kamau, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kenya and Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity. He called on States to hear more of the young and grassroots leaders from both sides, cautioning against the tendency to prioritize “official channels” which focus on the legal and political frameworks over the civil society organizations and the channels they create. Viet Nam’s delegate urged the international community to heed the Secretary‑General’s call for an increase of $6.1 million in contribution, including 43 additional posts, for UNRWA to support education, health care and general assistance to Palestinian refugees. The representative of the United States said the Security Council spends a great deal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the substance of the discussions often centres around criticism of Israel. Calling for a more balanced approach, she underscored that there are other situations in the region that merit increased attention by the 15-member organ. Also speaking today were the representatives of France, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ireland, Estonia, Niger, United Kingdom, Tunisia, India, and the Russian Federation. In addition, several delegations which are not members of the Security Council submitted written statements. The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:45 p.m.
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