The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question- Security Council, 8804th meeting

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24-Jun-2021 01:24:03
One month into ‘fragile’ ceasefire in Gaza, maximum restraint remains crucial, Special Coordinator tells Security Council, citing new Israeli Government.

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Delegates Say They Look Forward to Working with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to Advance Two-State Solution

The new Israeli Government must cease its settlement activity and all sides must exercise maximum restraint to preserve the fragile ceasefire which ended 11 days of bloodshed in May, a senior official told the Security Council today, as members called for the cessation of all measures designed to alter the demographic composition, character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the 15-member Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) (document S/2021/584), while emphasizing that the cessation of hostilities reached in May between Israel and Hamas remains fragile. He provided an overview of recent developments, including the swearing in of a new Israeli coalition Government on 13 June, recent threats of eviction facing Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, settlement-related clashes in the West Bank, violent rallies held by both sides and the launching of incendiary balloons and subsequent retaliatory airstrikes between 15 and 17 June.

Recent months, he reported, have witnessed hostilities between Israel and factions in Gaza “at a scale and intensity not seen in years”. Spotlighting concerning attempts to exploit the sensitive status of Jerusalem to justify a broader armed conflict, he called on Hamas and other Palestinian militants to immediately cease the indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian populations, and on Israel to take all precautions necessary to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure in the conduct of military activity. He also emphasized that Israel must cease its settlement activity in accordance with resolution 2334 (2016) and end the demolition and displacement of Palestinian property and people.

Turning to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, he detailed United Nations efforts to coordinate the delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance to the 2 million people living in the area, despite the ongoing closure of the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Calling on Member States to ensure the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has the resources it needs to conduct its operations, he also highlighted “the urgent need to re-establish a political horizon and restore hope to Palestinians and Israelis”.

As Council members took the floor, many expressed hope for constructive engagement with the new Israeli Government while calling on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and refrain from inflaming tensions. Many speakers also condemned Israeli settlement activities, noting that they are undermining the peace process. Delegates also underscored the need for all concerned parties — especially Israel — to adhere to their obligations under resolution 2334 (2016) and work towards a two-State solution to end the conflict and restore hope to the region.

The representative of Niger, voicing regret that the Secretary-General’s latest report brought with it “the usual news of death, destruction and despair”, recalled that the goal of resolution 2334 (2016) was to preserve the two-State formula after years of gridlock by calling on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Five years on, Israel continues to contravene those terms and a range of related resolutions, as its practice of expropriation and colonization of Palestinian land enters a new, alarming stage. “The despair of those thrown onto the street can only fuel future conflict,” he stressed, calling on the global community to pressure Israel to end its practices.

China’s representative also stressed the need for Israel to adhere to resolution 2334 (2016), as continued, illegal settlement activities compromise peace in the region in total disregard of the international community’s objections. Further, less than a month after the Council welcomed the ceasefire on 22 May, Israeli authorities approved an incendiary parade in the holy city of Jerusalem and, once again, conducted airstrikes against Gaza. Noting that the May conflict worsened the humanitarian situation in Gaza, he urged Israel to facilitate humanitarian access, rather than creating obstacles and setting preconditions.

The representative of the United States said that, for its part, her country announced in May $38 million in new humanitarian aid to the West Bank and Gaza, while also extending $75 million in additional development and economic assistance for their recovery. She emphasized, however, that Council members must coordinate to prevent Hamas from diverting those resources and ensuring that relief aid reaches its designated beneficiaries. Stressing that the situation requires more than emergency assistance, she underscored her expectation that the new Israeli leadership make serious headway on pending issues.

Vikas Swarup, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of India, echoed calls for immediate, monitored aid delivery complemented by a revitalized peace process. Stressing that urgently needed humanitarian assistance must reach the Palestinian people through verified channels, he encouraged increased cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian authorities towards that end, including in the delivery of food and medicine and the movement of patients in and out of Gaza. He emphasized, however, that “the peace process can no longer be kept on the back burner”, and called for the immediate resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

Also speaking were representatives of Tunisia, Viet Nam, Kenya, Ireland, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Russian Federation and Mexico.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:12 a.m.
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