6. The volatile situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the continued stalemate in the political process have remained a cause for serious concern. The Government of Israel has ignored the international community’s repeated calls for a complete cessation of settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, which are illegal under international humanitarian law and constitute a major obstruction to the efforts to resume the peace process towards achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. Soon after the resumption of direct negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides in September 2010, Israel failed to extend its so-called “moratorium” on settlement construction, leading to the suspension of the negotiations. According to the Israeli organization Peace Now, following the expiration of the moratorium in September, construction began on more than 1,700 housing units in 67 settlements, with the Israeli authorities approving thousands of new projects in settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. As before, settlement construction has often been accompanied by the demolition of Palestinian properties. The Palestinian leadership has maintained that it would not resume negotiations with Israel without a complete freeze on all settlement activity. As a result, efforts aimed at restarting direct talks have not been successful thus far.
7. Having monitored the situation closely, the Committee reiterates that all settlement construction, including the so-called “natural growth”, is illegal and must be halted immediately. It is recognized by all, with the exception of Israel, the occupying Power, that settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including in Occupied East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, that they violate numerous relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly, and that they contravene Israel’s obligations under the road map. The Committee’s position is that, in addition to being illegal, settlement construction undermines trust between the two sides and obstructs the prospects for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on all permanent status issues. The objective of these negotiations is to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land since 1967; however, the continued expansion of existing settlements and the construction of new settlements make this goal increasingly unattainable. Moreover, the settlements fuel tension, perpetuate conflict, lead to violence and undermine efforts at establishing a contiguous, viable, independent State of Palestine that will live in peace and security with Israel on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.
8. The Committee has been greatly concerned about the deteriorating situation in and around East Jerusalem. The occupying Power has carried on its illegal actions in the Holy City, including house demolitions, land confiscation, residency rights revocations and deportations of Palestinian residents. The number of Palestinians arrested and interrogated by Israeli authorities, including children, is also on the rise. The international community does not recognize Israel’s unilateral claims to the entire city of Jerusalem and continues to reject and deem illegitimate Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem remains an integral part of the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel since 1967. All actions taken by Israel that alter or purport to alter the demographic composition, character and status of the city are null and void and illegal under international law. The status of the City is clearly and unequivocally outlined in resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly, and the occupying Power must abide by and respect them. Israel’s illegal actions have prevented any tangible improvements of the situation in the entire Occupied Territory, continuing to raise tensions and casting serious doubts on the real intentions of the Israeli leadership with regard to its stated interest in the negotiations on a permanent settlement.
9. In addition to the persistent expansion of settlements, Israeli military raids in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, occur almost daily. Several Palestinians have been killed and hundreds of others have been injured or arrested as a result. House demolitions in Area C in the West Bank continue, displacing large numbers of Palestinians. Settler violence and the destruction of Palestinian properties also remain a cause for serious concern. Actions by settlers, including the uprooting of thousands of olive trees belonging to Palestinians, vandalism, theft, the desecration of cemeteries and the harassment and intimidation of Palestinians, have taken place on an almost daily basis and often seem to be tolerated by the Israeli authorities.
10. The Committee also remains deeply concerned about the critical situation in the Gaza Strip, particularly as a result of Israel’s ongoing imposition of a blockade, which continues to negatively affect social and economic conditions, impede recovery of the economy and obstruct reconstruction. While noting the Israeli Government’s recent easing, albeit vastly inadequate, of the regime regulating imports to and exports from Gaza, the Committee maintains that comprehensive measures need to be taken to restore and revitalize the Gaza economy. It is imperative to embark without delay on the process of recovery and reconstruction of the thousands of homes, schools and hospitals destroyed and damaged during the Israeli military offensive against Gaza of December 2008 to January 2009. The isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the Palestinian Territory and from the international community has to be lifted with the regular and sustained opening of the border crossings for the movement of both persons and goods. Concrete steps must be taken to restore normal economic activity. Israel, the occupying Power, is obliged to create the necessary conditions, including reparations for reconstruction of civil structures destroyed during the war, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). The Committee again emphasizes the critical importance of international donor assistance for the functioning of the Palestinian institutions at this time of crisis. It urges the international donor community to continue providing assistance and to address the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip as a matter of urgency.
11. The Committee condemns extrajudicial killings of Palestinians by the Israeli military, which often cause civilian casualties. It also denounces rocket attacks on Israel and calls for the cessation of these activities by Palestinian armed groups. The Committee is alarmed by the increasing numbers of Palestinian civilians killed and injured by Israeli forces while collecting rubble in the Israeli-imposed restricted areas in Gaza bordering Israel. The Committee reiterates that international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, must be respected by all parties.
12. The Committee welcomes the international investigations into the Israeli military offensive against Gaza of December 2008 to January 2009 and the “Free Gaza” flotilla incident of May 2010. The results of these investigations should help to strengthen the rule and application of international humanitarian and human rights law in conflict situations. In this regard, the Committee appeals to all the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfil their obligations in accordance with common article 1, which obligates them to respect and to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances.
13. The Committee strongly supports and calls for the resumption of the permanent status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet road map. This would require a genuine commitment of the Israeli Government to the two-State solution, buttressed by appreciable improvements in the situation on the ground, first and foremost, by stopping all settlement activities, which are illegal and directly contradict the objective of the peace process. The continued support by the international community is crucial for moving forward the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on all permanent status issues. The Committee will therefore welcome and promote all peace initiatives that have as their main objective the realization of the two-State solution.
14. The Committee remains strongly opposed to the illegal construction of the wall in the West Bank, including in and around East Jerusalem, and finds this activity incompatible with negotiations on the permanent settlement. In this regard, the Committee calls for full respect of the 9 July 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and the relevant United Nations resolutions. The Committee is also of the view that Israel must release, immediately and unconditionally, all Palestinian prisoners, including children, women and imprisoned members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. The Committee also stresses the need for Israel, the occupying Power, to cease all measures of collective punishment of the Palestinian people, which it has been imposing in direct contravention of international law.
15. The Committee maintains its position that the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory. The occupation must end without conditions, which should allow the Palestinian people to achieve the independence of the State of Palestine on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, and to exercise their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination. The Committee is of the view that the two-State solution should be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1850 (2008). It is convinced that only serious and sustained international engagement will bring about a peaceful and negotiated settlement of all outstanding issues and reverse the growing support for radical forces that promote violent and unilateral approaches to ending the conflict, for which there is no military solution. The Committee remains committed to contributing constructively and actively and to promoting, through its mandate, all international efforts aimed at the achievement of a peaceful settlement.
16. The Committee remains concerned that the divisions among Palestinian factions profoundly affect the legitimate Palestinian national interests and aspirations for statehood and peace, and reiterates its call for reinvigorated efforts by all concerned parties to help reconcile their positions on the basis of the prevailing consensus on the need to achieve the two-State solution, which should bring about the end of the Israeli occupation and allow for the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights.
17. The Committee continues to support the Palestinian Authority’s institution- and state-building initiatives and efforts aimed at achieving the independence of the Palestinian State in 2011, and calls on the international community to continue and expand its assistance in that endeavour. The Committee calls on the entire international community, including the Security Council, to be ready to recognize the State of Palestine at an appropriate time and to become part of the historic moment.
18. The Committee reaffirms that the United Nations should maintain its permanent responsibility with respect to all aspects of the question of Palestine until it is resolved in all its aspects, in conformity with relevant United Nations resolutions and norms of international law. As requested by the General Assembly, the Committee will continue to keep the situation under review and to promote a constructive analysis and discussion of these issues by the international community.