8466th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East; Palestinian Question

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20-Feb-2019 01:10:18
Rising extremism risks eroding viability of two-state solution, top official warns Security Council, stressing need for leadership and political will, at 8466th meeting.

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Seek Political Solution to ‘Protection Crisis’ in Occupied Palestinian Territory, Deputy Relief Coordinator Urges Member States

The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process called today for leadership and political will among both Israelis and Palestinians, warning that rising extremism and the risk of war are eroding the viability of a two-State solution to the conflict.

Briefing the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov said that unilateral measures, ongoing violence, financial pressures and the lack of progress towards peace have combined to exact a heavy toll. “What is needed, first and foremost, is the necessary leadership and political will for change,” he emphasized. “Until that will can be found, Palestinians and Israelis will continue to slide into increasingly hazardous territory.”

Mr. Mladenov, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the Middle East, reviewed the latest developments, citing the Palestinian Authority’s growing budget deficit, Israel’s decision to withhold the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues and the suspension of United States assistance to Palestinians, in addition to violence perpetrated by settlers against Palestinians on the West Bank and protests in the Gaza Strip. He also expressed regret over Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), established in 1995 under the Oslo II Accords in response to the massacre of Palestinian worshippers at a mosque in that city the previous year.

He went on to emphasize that elections across the occupied Palestinian territory may be the only way to break the impasse between Palestinian factions, while calling upon both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to recommit to the principles and vision enshrined in United Nations resolutions as well as bilateral agreements.

Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that, at its core, the situation remains a “protection crisis”, with violations of international humanitarian and human rights law being key drivers of acute vulnerability among Palestinians. “It is for stakeholders to continue to work towards a viable political solution,” she stressed. With the humanitarian situation deteriorating, Member States should intensify support for the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, which requires $350 million to provide basic food and services for 1.4 million Palestinians, a drop from the 1.9 million targeted in 2018, she noted, cautioning, however, that considerable funding gaps exist and urging Member States to increase their support.

She went on to state that funding cuts forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to suspend assistance to 27,000 people and reduce rations to another 166,000 beneficiaries. “In order to reduce vulnerability, it is also critical that all parties uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” she stressed. “And, ultimately, the solution is not humanitarian,” she added. “It is for stakeholders to continue to work towards a viable political solution.”

In addition, there is mounting pressure on human rights defenders as well as attempts to delegitimize humanitarian action in the occupied territory, she warned. Medical personnel must be protected and emergency fuel supplies secured so that hospitals can carry out essential services, she stressed. Noting that Palestinian families face growing pressures, she expressed concern for the safety of nearly 7,000 Palestinians in the H2 section of Hebron, adding that many families also live under the threat of eviction orders.

Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for Israel to ensure compliance with international law when its forces respond to public demonstrations, she also called upon Hamas, as well as protest organizers and demonstrators themselves, to ensure that their activities are non-violent.

During the ensuing discussion, Kuwait’s delegate said Israel is taking advantage of the Council’s inaction, adding that hate speech and inflammatory rhetoric by Israeli officials and members of the Knesset are undermining hopes for peace. Emphasizing that UNRWA’s funding is an international responsibility, not one for specific Member States, he rejected attempts to limit the Agency’s role and called upon the international community to fund it in a sustainable manner.

Several speakers addressed Israel’s decision on the TIPH, with Indonesia’s delegate describing it as the latest in a series of polices “that defy common sense and logic”. Voicing concern about Gaza’s humanitarian situation, the growing number of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and the shift towards a “one-State solution”, he declared: “The lives and freedom of the Palestinians are at stake because of our inaction.”

South Africa’s representative lamented the lack of real progress in the 70 years that the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been on the Council’s agenda. “On almost any other issue that this Council deals with, if there was a similar magnitude of violations or deterioration of the situation, we would waste no time in taking decisive action,” he noted.

Also speaking today were representatives of Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:15 a.m.

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