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Source: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP)
19 June 2013


Reviving the collective international engagement towards
a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Beijing, 18 and 19 June 2013


The United Nations International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace hosted by the People’s Republic of China and organized under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, examined the ways in which the collective international engagement towards a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be revived. Representatives of Governments, intergovernmental organizations, including various United Nations bodies, and the civil society, together with expert speakers from China, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, the United States and the United Nations, shared their expertise at the Meeting.

In the opening session, the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, representing the host country, expressed China’s support for the Palestinian State and for the UN to play a bigger role in the peace process. Referring to President Xi Jinping’s Four-point Proposal for the Settlement of the Palestinian Question, he stressed the need to redouble efforts to promote the peace talks and to continue working towards the two-State solution through peaceful negotiations. He pointed out the importance to seek a comprehensive solution encompassing both peace and development tracks, suggesting an incremental approach which would focus first on ending settlement activities, violence against civilians and the Gaza blockade as well as solving the issue of Palestinian prisoners, in order to create an atmosphere conducive to peace talks. The Secretary-General of the United Nations in his message to the Meeting welcomed the renewed United States’ efforts and the recent commitment by Arab leaders to revive the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, inviting the Israeli Government to respond positively to this offer. He expressed alarm at Israel’s continuing settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, home demolitions, displacement of the Palestinian population, and deteriorating conditions of Gaza’s civilian population. The Secretary-General stressed the importance of financial support to the Palestinian Government, called for the complete opening of crossings into Gaza, and expressed support for efforts to promote Palestinian reconciliation. The Chairman of the Committee expressed appreciation for China’s support of the Palestinian cause, drawing attention to its unique position to make a contribution to the peace process, due to its economic and political weight and its friendly relations with both parties. Noting the importance of the efforts deployed by US Secretary of State Kerry and the significance of the Arab League’s Peace Initiative, as well as of Palestinian reconciliation, he called for a collective push by the international community, including the United Nations, a revitalized Quartet, regional organizations, Member States and civil society, towards a resumption of negotiations. The Chairman also called on countries to ensure the respect for international law. The Secretary-General of the Palestinian People’s Party, representing the State of Palestine, reaffirmed the appreciation for China’s longstanding political, developmental and moral support to the Palestinian people as well as for its current efforts to facilitate the revival of the peace process. He welcomed the Chinese vision for peace, its principled position in supporting full Palestinian membership in the United Nations, and the important role played by China as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, as an advocate for Palestinian rights and for a peaceful and just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In his keynote presentation, the United Nations Assistant-Secretary General for Political Affairs welcomed the re-engagement of the United States towards reaching a final status agreement, noting it was a serious effort requiring political will and courage from each side, a meaningful framework, a timeframe, a conducive environment on the ground, as well as concerted action by key regional stakeholders and the international community. He expressed appreciation for China’s efforts and welcomed the reaffirmed Arab Peace initiative which, importantly, held a promise for regional stability. He also expressed the United Nations support for and the importance of the Palestinian reconciliation as well as the elections, and warned of the risks of missing the current window of opportunity.

A number of representatives of Governments and an intergovernmental organization expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people, support for the Palestinian State on pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the need to put pressure on Israel to abide by international law.

The participants then reviewed Israeli actions on the ground that run counter to the realization of the two-State solution, in particular its policies to separate the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the expansion of settlements across the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem; the construction of the separation Wall, in violation of international law; and its policy of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem aimed at achieving a demographic change. It was recalled that the Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2012, pointed to a number of rights of the Palestinian people that were being violated by Israel, such as the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, the right to liberty, security and fair trial. Compared to the settlers, the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory faced arbitrary arrests and detentions, including administrative detention, and discrimination both in daily life as well as in law. Attention was drawn to the precarious situation of the Palestinian refugee population, which had been increasing by over three per cent annually. In Gaza, the figures were striking: 75 per cent of the population were Palestine refugees, and between 60 and 80 per cent of the Gazan youth were unemployed. In the West Bank, restrictions to freedom of movement, settlement expansion and growing settler violence were severely impacting on the refugee population. Faced with deep poverty, marginalized and vulnerable, refugees had continued to rely not only on its resilience, mutual support and kinship, but also on the services of UNRWA. The Agency has been confronted, particularly following the crisis in Syria, with the acute need for more human and financial resources to cope with the emergencies.

Experts from Israel reviewed a number of Israeli measures implemented against the Arab minority in Israel, noting that for Israel, its “Jewishness” was more important than its democracy; in other words, democracy worked only for the Jewish population of Israel. A participant called on the international community to pay attention to the Arab minority in Israel which was part of the Palestinian people, referring specifically to Israeli plans to confiscate land in the Negev and displace the Arabs residing there. In terms of the prospects for the resumption of the peace process, the current mood in Israel, as reflected in the press and parliamentary debates, seemed to favour the status quo. In particular, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been a non-issue in the recent Israeli elections, with social equality and military service for ultra-orthodox Jewish community figuring as the two top concerns. The visits by US Secretary of State Kerry made no headlines in Israel. The status quo basically meant the institutionalization of the occupation, a sort of one-State solution. At the same time, it was noted the Israelis feared a bi-national State in both economic and demographic terms. A speaker proposed that the group of Mizrahi Jews in Israel which were of Arab/Muslim descent should embrace the “Arab” component of their identity, thereby creating a “third space” for both the Palestinians and the Mizrahis, in which they could collaborate and contest shared oppression. This, the expert argued, would create a new bridge for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

A debate on the two-State versus one-State solution unfolded. The Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations, a country currently serving as a member of the Security Council, compared both options. He stressed that the fulfillment of the two-State vision would be the culmination of decades of efforts and the realization of the “land for peace” principle. It would lead to the end of the occupation and full normalization of relations between the Arabs and the Israelis. This was the vision sponsored by the United States, the United Nations, and most importantly, it was also what the Palestinians wanted. However, Israeli actions that were not conducive to the achievement of the two-State solution gave rise to consideration of other options, namely the one-State solution. It was not clear what configuration it would take, in particular whether the Palestinians would have the same rights as the Jewish population. While intellectually appealing due to many commonalities between the two peoples and their economic interest to co-exist and cooperate, it was felt that this option was politically not viable, especially as none of the two peoples was willing to accept it. The Palestinians wanted their own State, and the Israelis were not prepared to lose the State with the Jewish character. In addition, the separation wall, expropriation, resentment, absence of culture of mutual tolerance and respect, was not a good foundation for a democratic State in which two peoples could live together. Giving up the hope that an independent Palestinian State could be realized would mean that the United Nations and the international community as a whole had failed to deliver on the promise made to the Palestinians; that the painful compromises made by the Palestinians would not be rewarded. The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations reinforced the above message, explaining that both the popular feeling among the Palestinian people as well as its official representation favoured the two-State solution. The road leading to one-State based on total equality, inevitably was leading through the two-State solution. Other participants agreed, clarifying that once there was an independent Palestinian State, such State would be on equal footing with Israel and would be able to develop political, economic and other ways of cooperation.

The participants agreed on the paramount need to create conditions conducive to negotiations that would lead to the realization of the two-State solution. In line with the recommendations of the Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements, the participants pointed to the need for Israel to comply with the Fourth Geneva Convention and cease all settlement activities without preconditions, ensure full accountability for all violations including for all acts of settler violence, put an end to arbitrary arrest and detention of the Palestinian people, and observe the prohibition of transfer of prisoners from the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the territory of Israel. They furthermore called upon Members States to comply with their obligations under international law in their relations with a State breaching peremptory norms of international law. The participants also agreed that measures should be taken for Israel to start feeling the cost of the status quo; that was the only way to push it towards ending the occupation. Several speakers thought putting pressure on Israel was imperative in order to move toward a solution.

The participants recognized the need for Palestinian reconciliation as a necessary requirement for the progress and the success of the peace process. A member of the Palestinian Legislative Council called for a “more realistic approach” to the issue of reconciliation which would take into account external factors that impeded the progress in implementing the reconciliation accords. The latter provided for a transitional national consensus government to be made up of independent figures and has as its main function the holding of general elections within three months of its inauguration. It was noted that Israel, backed by the United States, was rejecting the practical implementation of the accords, threatening with retaliatory measures. It was suggested that the United Nations should encourage this process by urging Member States which hosted communities of Palestinian refugees to facilitate the conduct of the Palestinian elections in their territory and possibly oversee the process. Without doubt, the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people, in the Gaza Strip as in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in the diaspora, fully supported the reconciliation accords and expected their leadership to implement them.

Stressing that the status quo was unsustainable, the participants called for the United Nations to be at the forefront of the peace efforts, based on the Organisation’s values and principles that were expressed in its many resolutions that have, up to this day, remained unimplemented. Chinese officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs outlined the areas in which the United Nations should play an increasingly important role: First, the Security Council should be more active and more realistically involved in efforts to promote the resumption of peace negotiations, including sending a delegation, at the Palestinian request, to the Palestinian Territory. China also supported the approval by the Council of the Palestinian application for full UN membership. Second, the work of the United Nations in humanitarian and development areas should be strengthened, and the donors should fulfill their pledges soonest. Finally, the United Nations should work with the League of Arab States, in view of the latter’s special position and the regional and political closeness to the conflict, to promote negotiations, mediation and good offices. The Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations, a country that chaired the Security Council when Palestine introduced its application for full United Nations membership on 23 November 2011, explained that the question of Palestinian statehood, debated by the Council’s Committee for admission of new members at the time of the Palestinian application, was no longer an issue following the General Assembly’s granting to Palestine of non-Member observer State status. The application for full membership, however, remained with the Council. The participants urged the Council to decide favorably on the request, noting that its examination should not be linked to political considerations, such as the Quartet activity, or subordinated to the negotiation process or its outcome.

The participants called for a new approach, with a stronger, more effective and more creative engagement by the international community, including efforts by China, Russia and the EU. While some were hopeful as regards the renewed US efforts led by the Secretary of State Kerry, the speaker from the Carter Center gave a rather sobering view of the prospects of the current US engagement towards a revival of negotiations and a final status agreement. He noted that the US ability to effectively utilize its leverage vis-à-vis Israel had gradually decreased, due to various factors, namely the rise of the pro-Israel lobby in the US; the September 11 attacks and the consequent fight against a common terrorist enemy; and a shift in perception of some US political elites who seemed to perceive US and Israeli national interests as one and the same. This, combined with the unwillingness of President Obama to expend the necessary political capital to push Israel towards territorial concessions, did not augur well for the success of Mr. Kerry’s mission. On a positive note, however, it was pointed out that considerable shifts were underway within the US Jewish community, in particular the new generation which was more likely to question Israeli policy that was not in line with their liberal values. A more significant Jewish pro-peace constituency might develop in the future, creating the hope that it could eventually influence the US policy.

The participants thought that the Palestinians should remain open to negotiations without relying on the US to “deliver” Israel; rather they should challenge the status quo, through measures intended to nonviolently shift the balance of power, which should include: reconciliation, accompanied by a transitional justice process that would address the needs of families of victims of internal violence; joining, as a State, international instruments and conventions, international agencies, and judicial bodies like the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice; insisting on international law, including UN Security Council resolutions, as the reference point for the resolution of the conflict, and holding Israel to account for its violations; and developing a coordinated strategy for popular mobilization and nonviolent resistance that would involve major Palestinian factions as well as the civil society/activist groups. NGOs had much to contribute towards creating such an environment, fostering dialogue between the two peoples, especially the youth. Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council pointed to the need to strengthen the popular resistance to the occupation and the economic and social development of the Palestinian people, calling on donors to accelerate the provision of assistance to stabilize the finances of the Palestinian Authority.

In the closing session, the representative of China stressed the need for stronger political will, more practical action and greater support by the international community towards promoting the peace process. China favoured a greater role by the United Nations, including the Security Council, and was ready to play a constructive role, in line with its Four-point Proposal. The Quartet also had to take action in order to push for a resumption of negotiations. The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations expressed appreciation for the energetic role China had demonstrated involving itself in efforts to find a solution. He noted that the Palestinians, following the admission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, demonstrated much responsibility and flexibility to foster an environment conducive to negotiations. However, Israel did not reciprocate, and continued with its illegal activities. Stressing the fact that the Palestinian right to self-determination was not negotiable, he pointed to their right to join international instruments and conventions, including the International Criminal Court, and called on the international community to adopt resolutions that contain concrete measures to stop illegal Israeli behaviour. The Chairman of the Committee pointed to the new reality created by the General Assembly resolution 67/19 and new opportunities which the Palestinians were ready to take advantage of. He called on the international community to curb illegal Israeli practices, and on the Palestinians to finalize their reconciliation. Finally, he called on the international community to salvage the two-State solution, by supporting the Palestinian institutions and through practical steps to enforce international law.

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***Note: This Summary attempts to provide an overall picture of the deliberations of the Meeting. A detailed report summarizing each statement and presentation will be published by the Division for Palestinian Rights in due course.

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