The Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, H.E. Mr. Samir Bakr, recalled that Jerusalem was the core of the conflict and foremost among the priorities and political actions of the OIC. Israel’s plans to “Judaize” the city had recently seen a major increase and included recurrent attacks against Muslim and Christian holy sites as well as the confiscation of Palestinian lands. Warning against provocations that would take the conflict to a “religious dimension”, he said the continuation of Israeli settlement construction in spite of international condemnation constituted a flagrant violation of international norms. Referring to the outcome of the Fifth Extraordinary Summit of the OIC on Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif, held in Jakarta on 7 March 2016, he said that, among other things, participants had expressed support for the French Initiative to establish an international support group and to hold an international peace conference as a basis for the political process.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, H.E. Mr. Riad Al Malki, observed that Palestine had been a standing item on the United Nations agenda since its inception - a signal of the international community’s inability to take the necessary action to bring about a solution. He added that a humanitarian crisis was unfolding in the Gaza Strip as civilians continued to suffer from a prolonged and unjustified siege. The solution to the Question of Palestine was crystal clear, enjoyed universal support and could be found in numerous Security Council, General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. The Minister insisted that any peace initiative must have as its basis United Nations resolutions, the Madrid Principles and the Arab Peace Initiative; must be based on 1967 borders and aimed at ending the occupation of the State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem. The two-state solution was the hope for peace in the region. Expressing support for the French Initiative, he particularly called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities by addressing the settlements issue. Calling on States to deepen relations with the city and for the creation of an “international coalition for Jerusalem”, he noted that there was no two-state solution possible without East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
The Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Palestinian and the Arab Occupied Territories Sector of the League of Arab States, H.E. Said Abu Ali, said the situation in Jerusalem was becoming more complicated due to Israel’s “Judaization” scheme known as “Jerusalem 2020”. The settlement policy all over the Occupied Territories threatened prospects for peace and represented a violation of relevant international decisions. The League of Arab States was exerting all possible efforts to provide protection to the Palestinian people and their holy sites and to help establish an independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. Meanwhile, the Security Council should carry out its responsibility effectively to put an end to the settlement policy and to provide the necessary security for civilians, while working in earnest to put an end to the occupation itself.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, H.E. Mr. Mankeur Ndiaye, observed that his country was hosting the International Conference against the backdrop of continuing Israeli settlement activity which had increased by 250 per cent in the first quarter of 2016, the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, and the absence of any clear political horizons. He warned that the upsurge in violence could jeopardize the efficacy of a number of new tools adopted by the international community - the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on development financing. He hailed the fact that the themes of the present Conference dealt with resilience and development that could be addressed from the angle of sustainable development. He further welcomed the activities of the Committee’s Working Group on NGOs and invited African civil society to serve the Palestinian cause. Finally, he invited the Committee to continue its watchdog functions and its sensitization work.
In the ensuing sessions, participants discussed the situation in divided Jerusalem and described a reality in which Israel implemented discriminatory policies to weaken the Palestinian presence and identity. It was noted that “Judaization” of the city had begun long before 1967. It was amplified following the occupation as Israel expanded the boundaries of Jerusalem municipality, including through the policy of land confiscations, residency revocations and demolition of Palestinian homes, with few building permits issued to Palestinians compared to those given to Israeli illegal settlements. In today’s Jerusalem, Palestinian residents held only 13 per cent of the land they had access to in 1967. The existence of this “state of acute disequilibrium”, one that denied the right to any significant political expression and permitted collective punishment, was at the root of the current uprising involving the Palestinian youth. There was no greater threat to the Israeli people than occupation, and two-state solution offered the only way to liberate not only Palestine but also Israel from the disaster confronting it.
Exploring concrete opportunities to intensify international support for resilience, protection and development in East Jerusalem, speakers focused on living conditions in East Jerusalem, the subjection of Palestinians to Israeli laws in all areas of their life and the increased rates of poverty and unemployment in Jerusalem as a result of the ‘Israeli siege’. While some participants explored ways that development could be used to reverse the negative impact of the Israeli occupation, others pointed to the absence of the city in the Palestinian Government development plans for 2014-2016 since the prevailing approach took the Israeli occupation as a ‘given’. A strong case was made to rethink the development approach and embed it in the larger Palestinian liberation struggle against Israel’s occupation. The international community had an important role to play in the development of East Jerusalem and in promoting economic and employment opportunities for Palestinians. It should also sever cooperation with Israel, ban settlement products and impose sanctions, given Israel’s human rights record towards Palestinians, a participant stated.
The Conference then considered old and new approaches to end the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian stalemate on the question of Jerusalem within the larger context of preserving the two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as the future capital of the Palestinian State. It was pointed out that Jerusalem was a microcosm of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict and had to be addressed first and not last in negotiations. Furthermore, the holy sites remained at the core of the question of Jerusalem to this day and previous approaches had failed because they had side-lined the issue. Similarly, the ‘Clinton Parameters’ that had proposed Jewish neighbourhoods under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighbourhoods under Palestinian sovereignty, were not viable due to the city’s geographic layout and disputes over what constituted Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods. Any compromise on the question of Jerusalem had to be entertained only within the context of the entire negotiation framework, and not on the basis of a piecemeal approach. Failing to resolve the status of Jerusalem, however, would continue to fuel the despair and violence, particularly among the Palestinian youth.
In closing remarks, the Chairman of the CEIRPP, Ambassador Fodé Seck, said discussions had demonstrated the commitment of the participants to the Palestinian cause. In particular, Senegalese civil society had been well represented at the Conference. He invited the representatives to become accredited with the Committee in order to continue their involvement in the future.
The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, Ambassador Riyad Mansour, recognized the contribution of Senegal in chairing the Committee over the past 40 years and efforts of the participants to highlight the struggle and determination of Palestinians to end the Israeli occupation. Noting that the Occupied Palestinian Territory was worse off than it had been 23 years ago when negotiations began, he said that the Palestinians were fed up with empty promises from the international community and saw the need to ‘shift gears’. He called on the Security Council to put an end to the illegal occupation and to allow the French Initiative to stand on its feet.
The Cabinet Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, H.E. Coly Seck, thanking the organizers as well as participants from civil society, observed that the International Conference had been the first of its kind in Africa. The meeting had illustrated the critical nature of the question of Jerusalem in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He hailed the quality of the presentations and testimonies as well as the subsequent discussions that offered practical proposals to end the occupation and resolve the question of Jerusalem. Reiterating his country’s full support for the Palestinian people, he went on to call on all States to defend the ‘fair’ Palestinian cause and on the Security Council to take action to end the occupation and to allow for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.