Israel’s Representative Denounces Failure to Recognize Hamas as Terror Organization, While State of Palestine Observer Cites 75 Years of Apartheid Policy
In a Security Council meeting on the Middle East peace process today, delegates urged Israel to scrap its plan to evict Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem, arguing that it would undercut prospects for a two-State solution.
Norway’s delegate was among those who urged Israel to halt evictions in East Jerusalem and respect the rights of Palestinians living there. She condemned the eviction of the Salihiya family from their home in January, warning that pursuing such practices can escalate the conflict. Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal under international law. China’s delegate joined calls to stop the expulsions, urging Israel to end unlawful settlement activities and instead create conditions for development in the West Bank.
In turn, some Council members highlighted positive developments, including a recent visit by Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to Bahrain and the visit of the Emirati Federal National Council to the Knesset. The representative of the United States welcomed those steps taken to widen the circle of peace and build on the Abraham Accords, noting that such good faith engagement can build a path towards security.
Ghana’s delegate commended mediation efforts by the Middle East Quartet and the newly formed Munich Group of foreign ministers from Egypt, France, Germany and Jordan, emphasizing that the time has come for the international community to build synergies among different political processes.
Speakers from the direct parties to the conflict traded barbs. The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, wearing a black mask printed with phrase “End Apartheid”, detailed how the rights of Palestinians have been denied for 75 years, one generation after another, by Israel. While Israelis have the right to self-determination, they deny that right of Palestinians, he said, describing Israeli policy as apartheid. “Everyone was against apartheid once it was defeated in South Africa”, he said, stressing that history will, however, remember that Israel was the ally of South Africa’s apartheid regime.
Israel’s delegate denounced the 15-member Council for failing to recognize Hamas as a terror organization, despite its aim of destroying the State of Israel. He took the United Nations to task for demonizing the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East. Israel refuses to cooperate with the “distorted investigations” by the Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council to investigate the conflict in Gaza last May, criticizing the “overbudgeted” body for spending double what was spent on investigations into “the worst human rights violators in the world, Syria and Venezuela”. Iran is the real source of terror and chaos in the Middle East, he warned, which should be the focus of today’s debate.
Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, gave detailed updates on the situation on the ground and the political process, calling for a package of incremental — but significant and durable — steps that reflect a more coherent strategy to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and chart the way towards a two-State reality.
“Getting there requires political leadership,” he said, urging Israelis, Palestinians, regional States and the broader international community to take firm action that enables the parties to re-engage on the path towards meaningful negotiations.
Also speaking were representatives of Albania, Kenya, Brazil, France, Ireland, United Kingdom, Gabon, United Arab Emirates, India, Mexico and the Russian Federation.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 11:58 a.m.
TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said daily violence continued throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory during the reporting period. In the occupied West Bank, six Palestinians, including two children, were killed by Israel’s security forces during demonstrations, clashes, search-and-arrest operations, attacks and alleged attacks against Israelis, and other incidents, and 205 Palestinians, including 25 children, were injured. Israeli settlers or other civilians perpetrated 55 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in 18 injuries and damage to Palestinian property. In all, nine Israeli civilians, including at least one woman and two children, and eight Israeli security personnel were injured by Palestinians in clashes, shooting, stabbing and ramming attacks, the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, attacks and alleged attacks against Palestinians, and other incidents. In total, Palestinians perpetrated 108 attacks against Israeli civilians resulting in injuries and damage to Israeli property.
Turning to settlement activity, he reported that on 24 January, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee advanced plans for some 400 new housing units in place of an existing 80 units in the settlement of Gilo in occupied East Jerusalem. All settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace, he emphasized, noting that Israel demolished, seized or forced owners to demolish 72 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and seven in East Jerusalem, displacing 73 Palestinians, including 32 children. The demolitions were carried out due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. He also expressed concern about the potential eviction of many Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for decades in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, calling on Israel to end the displacement and eviction of Palestinians and to approve additional plans that would enable Palestinians to build legally and address their development needs.
On the Gaza Strip, he said the further easing of access restrictions on materials into Gaza remains a priority. With funding from Qatar, the gradual reconstruction has begun of housing units that were demolished during the May 2021 escalation, thus far reaching some 115 households. Rebuilding destroyed homes remains a priority and must be scaled up. Similarly, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has completed the repair of nearly 7,000 housing units and is currently working with 700 families whose homes were demolished. He reiterated the Secretary-General’s call to provide UNRWA with predictable, sustained and sufficient funding.
He called for a package of incremental — but significant and durable — steps that reflect a more coherent strategy to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and chart the way towards a two-State reality. “Getting there requires political leadership,” he said, urging Israelis, Palestinians, regional States and the broader international community to take firm action that enables the parties to re-engage on the path towards meaningful negotiations.
Elsewhere in the region, he said that while the ceasefire between Israel and Syria has been generally maintained, violations of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement persist, including firing by the Israel Defense Forces into the area of separation and the continued presence of Syrian armed forces in that area. It is important that the parties respect their obligations under the Agreement and support the liaison with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) to de-escalate the situation during heightened tensions.
In Lebanon, following a three-month stalemate, he said the Cabinet reconvened on 24 January and shortly thereafter passed the 2022 State budget, now with Parliament for approval. Preparations are ongoing for 15 May parliamentary elections, although resources have not yet been fully allocated. The situation in the area of operation of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) remained relatively calm, despite several incidents, he added, noting that the Mission is engaged with the parties to contain incidents and defuse tensions, including through a tripartite meeting on 11 February.
RICHARD M. MILLS JR. (United States) welcomed recent steps taken to widen the circle of peace, and build on the Abraham Accords, including the recent encouraging visit to Bahrain by Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the visit of the Emirati Federal National Council to the Knesset. While such good faith engagement can build a path towards security, the situation on the ground in Gaza and elsewhere remains fragile, he said, expressing concern about the violence in Sheikh Jarrah and beyond. All parties must refrain from unilateral actions that undercut prospects for a two-State solution, and all perpetrators must be held accountable. Turning to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where the need for relief, reconstruction and recovery is acute, he expressed support for regular access for life-saving aid, in which civil society organizations play an important role. He went on to underscore the need for regular funding for UNRWA, observing that supportive statements in this regard are often “not accompanied by financial contributions”.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), expressing support for a two-State solution, towards which the Council has laid down a framework over the years, said his delegation opposes the use of unilateral actions, which slow efforts to resolve the conflict. Welcoming recent positive diplomatic steps, which work towards building a horizon for peace, he called for more engagement to foster a climate of trust, adding that there is “no alternative to a path of dialogue and negotiation”. However, continued settlement activity and the resulting violence endangers the prospect of peace, and of a viable Palestinian State, he said, before condemning rocket attacks by Hamas and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Welcoming the easing of some restrictions on Gaza, he said the current status quo is nonetheless “unsustainable” and underlined the need for a meaningful negotiated settlement, in accordance with international law to resolve the crisis.
ZHANG JUN (China) expressed concern over Israel’s settlement activities, noting that an estimated 280 families face threats of eviction from their homes where they have lived for a long time. Israel’s settlements violate international law, he declared, urging an end to the demolition of Palestinian structures and expansion of settlements. Instead, Israel should create conditions for development in West Bank. Israel’s authorities must guarantee the safety of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Improving the Palestinian economy is also a matter of urgency, he said, calling for accelerated reconstruction and the lifting of the blockade against Gaza.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) urged the Council to fulfil its mandate and help achieve the establishment of two States based on the pre-1967 borders. She said the aspirations of people in the region can only be achieved through dialogue, calling for the resumption of direct negotiations. In that regard, she welcomed mediation efforts by the Middle East Quartet and the Munich Group [Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan], emphasizing that it is “high time” for the international community to build synergies among different political processes. The parties must take immediate steps to defuse tensions. She cautioned against new settlements by Israel and called for intra-Palestinian unity.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) condemned the activities of extremist militia groups such as Hamas, which pursue ideological aims outside the United Nations Charter, creating a “damaging domino-like effect” around the world, including Kenya. He called on all parties to refrain from provocative acts, citing the recent construction of a makeshift office in Sheikh Jarrah. Clashes such as those occurring last week risk leading to wider escalation, he said, underscoring the urgent need for the Council to focus on a peaceful settlement, and for confidence-building measures to pave the way for a two-State solution based on 1967 borders. Welcoming regional diplomatic efforts, he expressed hope for cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority towards operationalizing the outcomes of the 28 December meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “The implementation of these proposals will be an important step to actualization of peace,” he said, calling for a cessation of settlement activity in East Jerusalem as an important peacebuilding measure. Further, support to UNRWA must be reinforced to facilitate an equitable recovery from the pandemic.
MONA JUUL (Norway), addressing the situation in Sheikh Jarrah, recalled that she condemned in January the eviction of the Salihiya family from their home, and added that tensions had risen in recent weeks. Calling such evictions “unacceptable”, she said attempts to carry them out can escalate the conflict, as witnessed last May. She urged Israel to halt all evictions in East Jerusalem indefinitely and to respect the rights of Palestinians living there. She reiterated that Israeli settlements in occupied territory, including in East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, and called for an end to settlement building, demolitions and evictions. Moreover, she said room for civil society actors must be protected, and human rights defenders respected. Turning to Palestinian leadership, she said steps must be taken to enhance democratic legitimacy. While welcoming talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to follow up on the recommendations from the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for the Coordination of the International Assistance to Palestinians meeting last November, she said talks must extend beyond economic issues. “The aim should be to discuss a political horizon and a return to negotiations for a two-State solution,” she said. She went on to highlight the need to step up donor support for UNRWA, pointing out that funding shortfalls are undermining its ability to carry out its work, thereby threatening regional stability.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), citing the General Assembly resolution on 20 January, which calls for measures to prevent antisemitism, stated that news from Palestine, particularly the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, is concerning. Such an escalation of tensions endangers the already fragile ceasefire. Provocative acts will incite more violence, he said, calling for all parties to restore calm in Jerusalem and the West Bank. He underscored the need for cooperation to meet the economic needs of Palestine, adding that free, fair and credible elections are needed to restore the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority. Further, humanitarian assistance should continue to flow in a predictable way. He expressed hope that the Abraham Accords have a positive impact on the peace process, and that a political solution can be reaffirmed through mediation efforts, to bring about sustainable peace through a two-State solution.
SHERAZ GASRI (France) stressed that the Council is responsible for preserving the prospect of peace for the Middle East, which requires an end to unilateral actions, such as the eviction of Palestinian families, particularly in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. “This must stop”, she stressed. France, with its European partners, will continue to support Palestinian civil society and work to consolidate the rule of law. She voiced particular concern about Israel’s designation of six Palestinian non-governmental organizations as terrorist groups, emphasizing that France will continue to provide them with support. It is “a pipe dream” to think that peace can only be bought with economic measures. France will continue to work alongside its main partners in the search for a just and lasting solution to the conflict that allows Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace and security.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) expressed a shock at the killing of a Palestinian teenager by live ammunition on 13 February, noting that it sadly is not an isolated case. She also drew attention to the killing of a 14-year-old boy on 22 February south of Bethlehem and called on Israel to release his body to his family without delay. Israel, as the occupying Power, is responsible to ensure that all incidents of disproportionate use of force are thoroughly investigated, and to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. She expressed concern at the disparity in conviction rates between Israeli settlers and Palestinians who have committed acts of violence, as well as about threatened evictions and demolitions in Sheikh Jarrah. The Lower Aqueduct plan and other settlement plans threaten the contiguity of a future Palestinian State and should not proceed, she cautioned.
FERGUS ECKERSLEY (United Kingdom) welcomed the recent visit by Israel’s Prime Minister to Bahrain, expressing support for the pursuit of regional stability through normalized relations. Condemning the firing of missiles by Palestinian militants in Gaza in February, he called on Hamas and other terrorist groups to permanently end their inflammatory actions against Israel. Turning to tensions in Sheikh Jarrah, where scheduled evictions of Palestinians have led to violent clashes, he called for an end to forced evictions and demolitions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Such practices fuel tensions on the ground, he warned, calling for a permanent end to settlement activity, which threatens a two-State solution. The United Kingdom opposes the authorization to legalize the Evyatar outpost in the West Bank, he added, noting that such outposts are illegal under Israeli and international humanitarian law.
JEAN-PIERRE-HEMERY DOUMBENENY NDZIGNA (Gabon) expressed concern about recent terror attacks and human rights violations in the Middle East, including in Afghanistan, which paint a “deeply alarming picture”. According to the Special Envoy’s briefing, daily life in the Palestinian region remains marked by violence, due to new settlement activities. He underscored the need to improve detention conditions, halt mass arrests, end attacks on schools and places of worship and protect civilian property, such as livestock and agricultural products. He called for inter-community initiatives to foster coexistence and pave the way towards a two-State solution. All parties must focus on de-escalation, he said, underscoring the need for dialogue.
MOHAMMAD YOUSUF ABDULLA MOHAMMAD BASTAKI (United Arab Emirates) said fragile conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory underscore the need to relaunch a credible peace process that leads to a two-State solution. Welcoming the recent increase in cooperation and coordination between the United States and the two parties, and recent meetings of the Quartet on the Middle East, he said a political context must be provided to ensure that such positive engagement is not squandered. Stressing the need to preserve the ceasefire, he said that bringing about an environment conducive to peace requires protecting the prospects for a two-State solution and stopping the illegal expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In this regard, he noted the recent construction of new settlement units in the West Bank, as well as the continued displacement of Palestinians, especially in Sheikh Jarrah, also pointing out that more than 905 Palestinian homes and structures were confiscated or demolished in 2021. Israel should assume its responsibilities in accordance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. Noting that two out of five Palestinians will require some form of humanitarian assistance in 2022, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, he said the United Arab Emirates is providing aid, particularly in the Gaza Strip, including through support extended to hospitals in the area.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) recalled resolution 2334 (2016), saying that it was adopted to reaffirm the international community’s firm commitment to preventing the erosion of a two-State solution. It calls upon parties to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, to refrain from incitement and inflammatory rhetoric and stresses that all settlement activities must cease. Any action that unduly alters the status-quo on the ground and undercuts the viability of the two-State formula must be eschewed in the larger interests of securing peace and stability. The absence of direct talks on key political issues has asymmetric costs for both Israelis and Palestinians and does not augur well for long-term peace, he said, calling upon the international community and the Middle East Quartet to prioritize the revival of these negotiations.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) expressed concern about the recent announcement by the Palestinian Central Council endorsing the pronouncement to suspend recognition of Israel until it recognizes the Palestinian State. However, the absence of some political factions at that meeting points to an impasse in intra-Palestinian reconciliation. She similarly expressed concern that 130 Palestinian structures were demolished in the first six weeks of 2022, urging Israel to suspend eviction orders and settlement activities, which contravene international law. She appealed for an immediate end to unilateral actions, which undermine the prospect of viable, lasting peace.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said the stagnation and de facto deadlock in resolving the issue have led to a spike in violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, citing the settlement activities, forced evictions, home demolitions, confiscation of land and changing of the status quo of the Aqsa Mosque compound. He expressed concern about the sharp rise in attacks on civilians, noting that the high-profile eviction in Sheikh Jarrah in January led to a wave of protests. He also expressed concern about Tel Aviv’s plan to expand settlement activities in the Golan Heights, adding that the Russian Federation does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over that area, which forms an integral part of Syria. He called on all parties to refrain from provocation and unilateral steps, and for direct negotiations between the sides to pave the way towards a new political horizon on a widely accepted international basis. The Russian Federation will support another intra-Palestine meeting in Moscow as soon as the key players are ready, he said, also expressing support for another ministerial meeting of the Middle East Quartet. He went on to urge support for UNRWA, so it can continue the uninterrupted provisioning of vital humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, wearing a mask printed with phrase “End Apartheid”, described how the rights of Palestinians have been denied for 75 years, one generation after another, by Israel. Jewish people can return to their land, but Palestinians are uprooted from their homes, displaced and unable to return. “This is apartheid,” he said, pointing out that Israelis are entitled to reclaim land, but Palestinians are not. While Israelis have the right to self-determination, they deny that right of Palestinians. Israel also applies different laws to their citizens and Palestinians, he said, citing further examples of “settler colonialism” and apartheid. Palestinians are confined to only 13 per cent of total land in Bethlehem. They see their houses demolished and Israeli settlements expand. Israel builds “national parks” to seize land from Palestinians, while in Gaza, 2 million Palestinians have faced 15 years of blockade.
While Israel proclaims the right to security, it denies that very right of Palestinians, he continued. Israel’s authorities are withholding hundreds of bodies of killed Palestinians and have designated human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as terrorists, while they commit terrorist acts. They arrested countless Palestinians “for who they are, not for what they did”, he said, whereas if the occupying Power commits crimes, it is found innocent. Apartheid is real. Everyone was against apartheid once it was defeated in South Africa. But history will remember that Israel was the ally of South Africa’s apartheid regime. Stressing the need for support from the United Nations, he appealed to Council members to translate words into action in efforts to end Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid.
GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel), describing the final moments of an Israeli child who was huddled in a room during a Hamas rocket attack, during which he was killed by a stray piece of shrapnel, stated that the Council has failed to recognize Hamas as a terror organization despite its deliberate targeting of civilians “to advance the destruction of the State of Israel”. Despite such acts, he stressed, the “United Nations continues to do what it does best: demonize the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East, the State of Israel.” Noting that the Human Rights Council established an impartial Commission of Inquiry into the larger context of the incident, surrounding the conflict in Gaza last May, he expressed doubt that such a body can be impartial, as it would defeat the purpose of delegitimizing Israel, which he said is “the most discriminated State in the United Nations”. Israel, therefore, refuses to cooperate with the “distorted investigations” of an “overbudgeted commission”, he said, noting that its budget was double those of investigations into “the worst human rights violators in the world, Syria and Venezuela”.
He went on to add that “so-called human rights organizations” like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are waging “a jihad war” against Israel, tarring it with heinous and unfounded accusations — a country where Arab doctors and ministers serve alongside their Jewish counterparts, and where, just this week, a Muslim judge was elected to Israel’s Supreme Court. He said such “delusional reports” ignore these facts, instead echoing the “narrative of lies promoted by terror organizations and the corrupt Palestinian Authority”. While 2 million Arabs are free citizens in Israel, Israeli drivers going into places like Nablus are lynched by “bloodthirsty Palestinian mobs”, he said, calling such incidents “worthy of human rights investigations”. Stating that 500 attacks have been carried out on Israeli citizens over the past two months, and are not the focus of today’s debate, he warned that Iran is the real source of terror and chaos in the Middle East.