There is urgent need to safeguard the global consensus on the Palestinian question, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said today, expressing hope that forthcoming elections in both Israel and the United States will offer a path towards shifting the political dynamics around the two-State formula.
Addressing the Palestinian Rights Committee, Permanent Observer Riad Mansour said the current situation is characterized by intensified illegal settlement activities on the part of Israel’s extreme‑right Government, in defiance of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016). Besides home demolitions around occupied East Jerusalem, including Area A, he added, such actions prompted his office to send letters encouraging the Security Council to condemn those actions and to shoulder its responsibility. Meanwhile, settler groups escalated their attempts to storm holy sites, disregarding Palestinian worshipers, whether Muslims or Christians, while military operations against the Gaza Strip compounded the situation in that besieged enclave.
He went on to say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, is trying to appease extreme-right elements ahead of Israel’s elections, which are two weeks away, having embarked on offensive visits to settlements near Ramallah and atop a mountain overlooking that city. Today, he was at a settlement in Hebron, trying to gain as many votes as possible. “The situation is extremely volatile,” said Mr. Mansour, emphasizing that competition among right-wing political parties has led to further attacks in East Jerusalem. Recalling the most recent Security Council debate on the question of Palestine, he noted that 14 of its 15 members repeated the common international position that there is no “plan B” other than a two-State solution, that East Jerusalem is occupied and that a just solution to the refugee question must be found on the basis of international law.
While Israel and the United States stand apart from that global consensus, “the international community is refusing to deviate from what we have agreed to over the course of the last 25 years”, he noted. To be sure, the Committee need not react to anything “on the fringe”, he said, while welcoming its defence of the consensus. “If there are ideas in conflict with the global consensus, it is our responsibility — all of us — to defend it,” he asserted. The United States violated international law by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there, he said, adding that the Committee was successful in deterring others except for two countries, one in Central America and the other in the Pacific.
He called for defending the global consensus going forward, and for ensuring that the General Assembly, and its various committees, adopt a package of resolutions relating to Palestine, as in years past. The international position on Palestine must be reflected in such texts, he added. The State of Palestine, for its part, is working with the Arab Group, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as the European Union, the African Group and others to maintain that principled position.
Highlighting the massive political support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he said the Secretary-General is leading that effort, pointing to the $400 million raised in 2018 towards bridging the Agency’s deficit. “We are required to do likewise this year,” he added, encouraging the four Arab countries that previously stepped in to help meet current needs amounting to $200 million.
In other business, Ana Silvia Rodríguez Abascal (Cuba), Committee Vice‑President, provided updates on recent activities, recalling that the United Nations Forum on the Question of Palestine was held on 3 April under the theme “The threat of de-facto annexation — What next for Palestine?”. Participants recommended international pressure to push Israel into compliance with Security Council resolutions and to pursue legislative measures to prevent commercial activities within the settlements. The Forum was preceded by consultations with civil society representatives from Palestine, Israel and the United States.
She went on to describe the Committee’s efforts to raise awareness of the difficult conditions in which Palestinians live, recalling that its fifth annual retreat, on 21 June, focused on the challenges it faces in carrying out its work, priority activities for 2019‑2020 and strategies going forward, given the “unprecedented” lack of international consensus on related issues. The Committee agreed that it must step up its collaboration with the General Assembly and the Security Council, as well as with regional groups and the public at large.
Touching on a visit to Berlin on 24 and 25 June, she recalled that Committee members encouraged German officials to ensure that unilateral measures do not become the new reality. In turn, Committee members heard expressions of support for a two-State solution, opposition to efforts to annex Palestinian territory and pledges of continued financial support for UNRWA.
On 27 and 28 June, she continued, the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem, held in Geneva, focused on the theme “Preserving the cultural and religious character of Jerusalem”. A 13 July visit to Woodbridge, Connecticut, featured a lecture by a renowned scholar at the Palestine Museum, and on 24 July, the Committee held its annual meeting with the Secretary-General, during which they pledged support for the peace process towards a two-State solution. Finally, the Committee completed a three-year project to migrate its database to a modern platform, she said, noting that the new website, www.un.org/unispal, contains updated information.
Committee Chair Cheikh Niang (Senegal) highlighted upcoming activities, saying the first will be the International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, to be held from 11 to 12 September in Ankara, Turkey. In mid-September, staff from Palestinian ministries will take part in a workshop on building capacity in strategic communications, organized at the request of the Palestinian Authority and undertaken in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
On 4 and 5 October, he continued, a closed seminar will focus on the means to prevent annexation of Palestinian territory and “push back” the spread of Israeli settlements. Organized with the Irish Centre for Human Rights in Galway, Ireland, participants will discuss the role of third States in modern international law and recommend ways to end Israel’s settlement activity, as requested in Security Council resolution 2334 (2016). He went on to say that hydrologists will organize a five-day visit to Senegal, where they will study best water management practices. In October, the Committee will hold a six-week training course to introduce two Palestinian diplomats to the rules and regulations of the United Nations, among other topics. Finally, in mid-November, the Committee will convene to approve draft resolutions, and on 26 November, hold a special meeting in the Economic and Social Council from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., which the Secretary-General and the Presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council will attend.
In other business, the Committee approved, by consensus, its draft report to the General Assembly covering its work and relevant developments since 6 September 2018 (document A/AC.183/2019/CRP.2). Outlining various recommendations, Ms. Rodríguez (Cuba) urged the international community to help foster the resumption of talks on a two-State solution based on the 1967 borders. “The Committee believes there is a need to rethink the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” she asserted, expressing support for a broad multilateral framework and an integral solution involving regional organizations playing an active role in promoting the resumption of talks.
Advocating an end to the Gaza blockade, she also described unilateral decisions to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as “null and void” and in violation of Council resolution 476 (1980). She stressed the need to preserve the multireligious nature of Jerusalem, underscoring the Committee’s condemnation of Israel’s indiscriminate use of force against Palestinian protestors. Expressing regret that Israel did not extend the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, he stressed the urgent need for an international protection mechanism to guarantee the well-being of Palestinians, as well as funding for UNRWA.
Also speaking today were representatives of Indonesia, Afghanistan and Malta, as well as an observer for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The Palestinian Rights Committee — formally known as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People — will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.