8517th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East Part 2

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29-Apr-2019 02:30:40
Civil society speakers paint grim picture of deepening crisis in occupied Palestinian territory, as Security Council takes Up Middle East situation at 8517th meeting.

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Civil society leaders briefing the Security Council today described a deepening crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory characterized by political mistrust, economic challenges and environmental degradation while calling upon authorities in the Middle East to harness new green technologies as a tool for peace.

Speaking at the outset, Nada Majdalani, Palestinian Co-Director of EcoPeace Middle East, said 97 per cent of ground water in the Gaza Strip is not suitable for human consumption, adding that wastewater facilities cannot operate with an average daily power supply of just four hours. After more than 12 years of the blockade imposed by Israel, several wars and loss of life — as well as the failure of internal Palestinian reconciliation efforts — Gaza is now suffering a humanitarian catastrophe, she said, emphasizing that although politicians speak of disengagement, it is not possible to disengage from a shared environment.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Co-Director of EcoPeace Middle East, agreed, declaring: “Good water, and not necessarily good fences, make good neighbours.” Describing the group’s “Good Water Neighbours” programme — designed to raise awareness of the River Jordan’s pollution among civilians — he said everyday people from Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territory all pushed their mayors to cooperate and rehabilitate the waterway. While Israelis and Palestinians used to fight for every drop of water, today desalination — fuelled by solar power — has eased such constraints, he said, adding that cooperation on new technologies is a “potential geopolitical game-changer”. He added: “Let us set water free to give life and hope to our region.”

Also briefing members, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs warned that the prospects for peace are dwindling under the pressure of violence, settlement expansion, unilateral measures, intra-Palestinian division and deepening mistrust. In Gaza, 70 per cent of women are unemployed, increasing their chances of suffering poverty and violence. Although the United Nations is making progress on urgent humanitarian and economic interventions to stabilize the situation, prevent further escalation, lift closures and support Egypt-led reconciliation efforts tensions are nevertheless escalating because of the prolonged absence of a political solution and because Israel’s settlement construction continues unabated, among other factors.

Following the briefings, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine warned that the situation has declined even further since the recent Israeli elections, which further entrenched “the extreme right that has come to rule Israel as a racist, apartheid State” under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Emphasizing that the absolute support given to Israel by a permanent member of the Council has only emboldened its flouting of the law, he stressed the need to end all illegal settlements, home demolitions, evictions and forced transfers. Meanwhile, no proposed initiative detached from international law and relevant United Nations resolutions – including a pending “peace plan” by the United States – can be considered viable or just.

Israel’s representative outlined the biblical, historical and legal pillars providing the evidence of Jewish ownership of the land of Israel. Emphasizing that Israel’s right to exist is a critical component of international peace and security, he said Arabs through the decades have repeatedly rejected opportunities for peace. “There should be no reward for rejectionism,” he stressed, adding that the Council’s mandate is weakened when it continues to blame the side that offers solutions. Real peace will only be possible when the Palestinian people accept the Jewish State and end their campaign of incitement, he said, underlining that Israel will never do or agree to anything that compromises its security.

As Council members and others took the floor, many speakers welcomed EcoPeace’s grassroots advocacy as well as the crucial dynamism of civil society more broadly. Noting that environmental innovations stand to benefit everyone in the region, many speakers nevertheless expressed concern that no cooperation on green technology will be possible until restrictive economic policies are reversed. Others focused on the region’s political realities — including the ongoing conflicts in Yemen and Syria — or stressed that the time has come to set a timetable for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State.

The Dominican Republic’s representative was among the speakers who described water — a crucial cross-border resource — as an important component of the region’s various peace negotiations. Welcoming Israel’s recent election as an opportunity to reinvigorate stalled peace talks, he said the security and well-being of civilians in the region should override all political considerations and obstacles. With water shortages compounding an already severe humanitarian situation and jeopardizing the region’s attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said over-cropping, urbanization and the long conflict have all contributed to the current alarming situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The representative of the United States agreed with the EcoPeace directors that the road to peace in the Middle East will be paved with many forms of cooperation, including on crucial water and energy resources. The sustainability of such projects demonstrates that Palestinians and Israelis cooperate on a daily basis, he said, noting that although Israel is often blamed for the difficult situation on the ground, the real culprit is Hamas, which places its own interests above those of the Palestinian people. Indeed, the latter’s humanitarian situation cannot improve until Hamas “is no longer in the picture” or commits to peace, he added.

Japan’s representative, calling for the resumption of direct dialogue between the parties, welcomed the continued engagement of the United States, expressing hope that its proposed peace plan will serve as a constructive basis for negotiations. He urged the Government of Israel to freeze its settlement activities — including the construction plan approved in April — saying they are undermining the viability of a two‑State solution.

Turkey’s representative, meanwhile, joined others in expressing concern over the Council’s own efforts — or lack thereof — on the question of Palestine. “Inaction in the face of persistent non‑compliance with international law and United Nations resolutions further encourages Israel,” he said, stressing that the organ cannot turn a blind eye. Calling for a time frame within which to realize a two‑State solution, including an independent State of Palestine, he said that until that goal is realized, the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) — currently undergoing a serious funding shortfall — remains vital to the refugees, the region and beyond.

Namibia’s representative echoed concerns that the prospect of a two‑State solution is increasingly drifting further away as new hurdles arise. He also welcomed the delivery of assistance to Gaza, while warning about increased settler‑related violence as Israel continues to expand its settlement activity. If carried out, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent pledge to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank would represent the gravest threat to the two‑State solution, he added.

The Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States echoed other speakers in expressing support for a two-State solution as the only viable way to resolve the conflict, emphasizing the need to respect the international consensus on the matter. Concerning the recognition by the United States of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan, he insisted that such a decision does not alter that territory’s legal status under international law.

Reinforcing that point, Syria’s representative condemned the decision on the Golan Heights as illegitimate, unethical and a blatant violation of international law. It reveals the truth behind a criminal scheme to promote occupation as well as a violation by the United States of its commitment as a member of the Security Council, he stressed, adding that the country has chosen to become an enemy to the nations of the world.

At the meeting’s outset, the Council observed a moment of silence in honour of the victims of recent attacks against a church in Burkina Faso and a synagogue in the United States.

Also speaking were representatives of Kuwait, Belgium, China, Equatorial Guinea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Poland, France, South Africa, Peru, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Germany, Lebanon, Jordan, Norway, Pakistan, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Qatar, Venezuela (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Uruguay, United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation), Liechtenstein, Finland (on behalf of like-minded States), Botswana, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Maldives, Iran, Hungary, Viet Nam, Bahrain, Egypt and Brazil.

The Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Permanent Observer of the Holy See also participated.

The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 4:20 p.m.

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