Engaging for peace - the International Year of solidarity with the Palestinian People
Quito, 25 and 26 March 2014
UNITED NATIONS MEETING OF CIVIL SOCIETY
IN SUPPORT OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE
Engaging civil society in Latin America and the Caribbean for the two-State solution
Quito, 27 March 2014
The United Nations “International Meeting on the Question of Palestine” and the “United Nations Meeting of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace” hosted by Ecuador and organized under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, expressed strong support for a peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but identified crucial obstacles. The world was witnessing a weakening of Palestinians at all levels, while Israel on one hand was negotiating and on the other was taking more land. Negotiations had to be part of the solution, despite twenty years of inconclusive talks which, rather than bringing about progress had weakened the position of the Palestinians.
Accountability must be demanded of both Israeli and Palestinian leaderships. The international community should develop and intensify efforts to de-incentivize Israel from any further illegal activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and it should support the Palestinian leadership in its State-building efforts. Participants agreed that the Latin America and the Caribbean region was linked to Israel and Palestine with strong cultural, ethnic, economic, religious, political, and moral ties. It was recalled that most countries of the region had recognized the State of Palestine, and urged countries that had not yet done it, to do so. It was stressed that Governments and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean were against the occupation, but not against Israel and its people. The Meeting expressed its support for the Palestinian State within pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital and denounced the occupation in all its for It was noted that not only the status quo was unsustainable but the situation on the ground was deteriorating. Recent acts of religious incitement and provocation in Jerusalem together with the accelerating settlements’ expansion were worrisome and were identified as obstacles to peace. The Meeting agreed that pressure needed to be exerted on Israel so it abides by international law. The fundamental lack of trust between the Israeli and Palestinian political leaders represented a major stumbling block preventing any progress in the political process. The media in the Latin American and Caribbean region were criticised for the lack of reporting on the occupation in its many faces which left the population of the continent unaware of the real situation on the ground. Through personal testimonies and the screening of the documentary “Five Broken Cameras”, the Meeting witnessed the impact of the occupation on the daily lives of Palestinians. Acknowledging the harmful impact on the Palestinians, but also on the Israeli society, the meeting agreed on the need to connect the people who, on both sides, truly wanted a solution, while recognising and weakening the spoilers. This connection had to take place at various levels and different forms, including within the Israeli society. The Meeting heard about initiatives between Arab and Jewish Diasporas in Latin America and the Caribbean and the use of dialogue and rapprochement as a way of finding common ground and bridging their differences. Track-two, people-to-people diplomacy and the active involvement of civil society were highlighted as necessary tools, complementary to the official peace processes to reach a lasting solution. Finally, as a concrete action to stop Israel’s illegal practices, the Meeting heard a strong call in favour of the boycott of products and private companies profiting from and supporting the occupation.
2. The Committee was represented at the Meeting by a delegation composed of Abdou Salam Diallo (Senegal), Chair of the Committee; Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan), Vice-Chair, Christopher Grima (Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee; and Riyad Mansour (Palestine). The Meeting consisted of an opening session, three plenary sessions and a closing session. The themes of the plenary sessions were: “Advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians-obstacles and opportunities”; “Support by Latin American and Caribbean countries for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine”; “The role of non-governmental actors in Latin America and the Caribbean in promoting a permanent settlement of the conflict”.
3. At the Meeting, presentations were made by 11 speakers, including Palestinian and Israeli experts. Representatives of 28 Governments, including Palestine, 1 intergovernmental organization, 4 United Nations system entities, 12 civil society organizations, and 6 media outlets attended the Meeting.
4. The summary of the Chair of the Committee on the outcomes of the Meeting (see annex I to the present report) was published shortly after the Meeting concluded and has been accessible on the website of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat at www.un.org/depts/dpa/qpal/calendar.htm.
6. The Vice-Minister stressed that Ecuador was fully committed to defend the fraternal people of Palestine and had supported Palestine's admission as a non-member observer State of the United Nations on 27 September 2012. It fully backed the just cause of the Palestinian people to achieve a free and independent Palestine. In that context, Ecuador welcomed the fact that the Committee was meeting in Quito, which should be seen as a sign of Ecuador's commitment to the Palestinian cause. Recalling that the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 68/12 of 26 November 2013, had proclaimed 2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Ecuador wished to demonstrate its support for the Palestinian people by organizing a day of solidarity with their cause, which will include a film festival and a photo exhibition. Hosting all these events, was a way for Ecuador to reiterate its full commitment to the spirit and essence of the General Assembly resolutions that have justly asserted the rights of this long-suffering people. Moreover, Ecuador hoped that Palestine would soon be admitted as a full member of the United Nations. Finally, Vice -Minister Arizaga announced the opening of the Palestinian Embassy in Ecuador in January 2014 and the planned opening of an Ecuadorian Embassy in Palestine within the following few weeks, which represented the start of a new era in relations between the two peoples.
7. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a message to the Meeting, which was read out by Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs. The Secretary-General noted that the United Nations remained committed to a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine resulting in the two-State solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognized, pre-1967 borders. The current renewed round of peace negotiations presented a rare and important opening to advance the two-State solution. He called on both parties to act to reach an agreement, even if it required painful concessions. He was encouraged by the commitment of Arab leaders to uphold the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which held the promise of normalizing relations between the entire Arab region and Israel, in return for a comprehensive and just solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the same time, he remained deeply troubled by Israel’s rapidly expanding settlement activity in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. Recalling international law, the message added that settlements were illegal and risked to render a two-State solution impossible.
8. The Secretary-General noted that the situation in East Jerusalem was of particular concern. Increasing incidents at Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif, as well as the recent Israeli Knesset debate on a bill to impose “Israeli sovereignty” over Temple Mount/ Haram Al Sharif were deeply troubling. Such actions with regard to this highly sensitive issue could be perceived as serious acts of incitement in the wider region. Finally, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern over the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel and the unacceptable rocket firing into civilian areas, which seriously risked undermining the fragile ceasefire with Israel. He called for maximum restraint by all sides to allow the implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access and Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). In closing, he expressed the hope that the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People would help create a favourable environment for fulfilling the collective international responsibility towards the Palestinian people and their free and prosperous future.
9. Abdou Salam Diallo, Chair of the Committee, stated that Ecuador had long been the Committee’s reliable partner, especially since it became a full member of the Committee two years ago. The holding of this meeting in Quito was another outstanding example for the unwavering support of the Government and people of Ecuador to the Palestinian cause and the efforts of the United Nations to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine. The Committee attached great importance to the Latin American and Caribbean region. He recalled that the wave of official recognition of the State of Palestine by Latin American countries had started in December 2010 with Brazil and was immediately followed by Ecuador and others. That step had played an important role in drawing international attention to the decades-long denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination and independence, and it culminated in the submission of Palestine’s application for full membership in the United Nations in 2011. Pending a positive recommendation by the Security Council, the General Assembly had demonstrated its power in solidarity with the Palestinian people by adopting historic resolution 67/19 on 29 November 2012 admitting Palestine as a United Nations Observer State. In another show of support, last November, the United Nations General Assembly had proclaimed 2014 as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The objective of the Year was to raise international awareness of the main issues of the question of Palestine, including raising awareness about the obstacles to the ongoing peace process, particularly settlements, Jerusalem, the blockade of Gaza and the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
10. Diallo said that despite the international community’s repeated calls on Israel to stop its illegal actions, the expansion of settlements continued in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, at an alarming pace, accompanied by the demolition of Palestinian homes and expropriation of Palestinian land. Settlement construction in 2013 had more than doubled compared to 2012. Just the previous week, Israel’s Defence Ministry announced that it would proceed with plans to build 2,269 new homes in settlements in the West Bank. These actions were in clear violation of articles 49 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. He was encouraged, however, by the wave of announcements in the previous months by European banks and pension funds that they were severing ties with Israeli companies involved in illegal settlements. This was an important step towards establishing accountability for those who are breaking international conventions.
11. In closing, he stated that the Committee was calling for effective actions at the local, regional and international levels within the framework of the International Year to make 2014 a decisive year in bringing long-overdue justice to the Palestinian people through realizing the two-State solution based on 1967 borders. In this regard, the Committee was counting on the support of the governments and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, a region where the majority of countries had recognized the State of Palestine, a region where Palestinian and Jewish diaspora communities coexist peacefully, and a region that was becoming a decisive force in the shaping of the world of the 21st century.
12. Riyad Mansour, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, speaking as representative of the State of Palestine, stated that the meeting was taking place at a critical juncture of the peace talks being held under the auspices of the United States and with the involvement of many other countries, including Arab countries, Non-Aligned countries, Islamic Cooperation countries, Quartet representatives, Russia, China as well as many Latin American countries. In the last few months, direct talks had stalled and had been replaced by shuttle diplomacy undertaken by the United States due to Israel’s intransigence and actions contradictory with the objective of peace. The State of Palestine was participating in these negotiations in good faith and was upholding its commitments. It was showing restraint in not pursuing its legal options and refraining from adhering to international instruments and joining UN bodies, as the observer State status at the United Nations entitled the State of Palestine to do. This commitment was agreed to in exchange for the release of 102 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails since before the Oslo Accords. Israel, however, during the nine-month negotiations, continued to act illegally by solidifying the occupation through a 123% increase in settlement construction compared to 2012. At the same time, increasing incidents and incitement at Haram Al Sharif, as well as the recent Israeli Knesset debate on a bill to impose “Israeli sovereignty” over Haram Al Sharif were in contradiction with East-Jerusalem becoming the capital of the State of Palestine. He doubted that, given those illegal actions, Israel was negotiating in good faith with the goal of ending the occupation. Two benchmarks in the peace talks were approaching: the fourth and last batch of Palestinian prisoners was scheduled to be released from Israeli detention on 30 March 2014 and on 30 April 2014 the framework for the six final status issues should be presented by US Secretary of State Kerry. However, Secretary Kerry suggested extending the talks for an additional six months while at the same time, Israel was continuing its illegal actions such as the killing of civilians, extra-judicial executions and the blockade of Gaza. He called on Israel to negotiate in good faith and end the occupation. The international community, including Latin America and the Caribbean, had a collective responsibility to take political, diplomatic and legal steps necessary to hold Israel accountable for its actions, he added. Ambassador Mansour called on all the supporters of the State of Palestine and the two-State solution, such as many countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region, to be partners during the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People to reach a just solution of this conflict.
13. Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, delivered the keynote presentation. At the outset, he stressed that the decision of the General Assembly to proclaim 2014 International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People had shown the commitment of the international community to support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and to find lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. He emphasized that the United Nations strongly believed that Palestinian and Israeli interests were not mutually exclusive, they depended on one another. Neither side would fully benefit from the peace, security and self-determination it deserved if the other side did not do so as well.
14. He affirmed that it was a moment of truth in the Middle East peace process and that a durable solution was in reach and must be seized. The status quo was not only unsustainable, the situation on the ground was deteriorating. Palestinians had the right to realize their legitimate aspirations to self-determination and statehood and for too long, the occupation had deprived Palestinians of dignity and freedom. A peaceful, secure and prosperous society cannot be built without the realization of fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens, he stated. Creating a vibrant, free and independent Palestine where people live with dignity and security necessitated a negotiated comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A two-State solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, encompassing an end to the occupation since 1967 with a just solution to the plight of refugees and a resolution on the question of Jerusalem, will secure Palestinians a viable and sovereign State. Concurrently, he continued, Israelis have the right to live in peace and without threats to its security, within internationally recognized borders. A sovereign State of Palestine living alongside a secure State of Israel will provide the historic opportunity for freedom and stability for the two peoples.
15. Turning to the situation on the ground, he said that the fragile security situation underscored the urgency of finding a solution to the conflict. Lack of tangible progress on the political track could spark further violence and inflict more suffering. The accelerating illegal Israeli settlement activities undermined the prospects for a peace deal. He reiterated the United Nations’ grave concern caused by the previous week’s announcement by Israel of plans to advance over 2,300 settlement units, many of which were located deep inside the West Bank. He reminded that settlements were illegal under international law and cannot be reconciled with Israel’s stated intention to pursue a two-State solution. He added that the rising tensions with respect to the Temple Mount / Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem were also very worrisome. Incitement or provocations from any quarter must cease and the sanctity of holy sites of all faiths must be fully respected.
16. Establishing a free, democratic Palestinian State where people can live with dignity and secured livelihoods was the best guarantee for development and sustainable peace. However, the lessons from the Arab Spring have underlined that gaining freedom and consolidating stability in a society do not take place overnight, he cautioned. A culture of democracy, inclusivity, participation and dialogue must be nurtured and supported, alongside with economic opportunities and jobs necessary for a viable and stable society. The international community was, together with Palestine, actively engaged in strengthening local capacities for stability and development. Earlier that month, an international conference of the Initiative for the Palestinian Economy in Prague, chaired by Tony Blair, the Quartet’s representative to the Middle East Peace Process, brought together around 100 international businesspeople with the goal to incentivize growth in the Palestinian economy. At the same time, he informed, the UN Country Team in Palestine had launched the first United Nations Development Assistance Framework for the State of Palestine for 2014-2016, which summarized the collective vision and response of the UN to prioritize development needs in the occupied Palestinian territories. International support was needed in bolstering democratic governance, civil society and gender equality in a way that aptly addressed the needs of the Palestinian society. He stressed that parliamentarians and civil society organizations played a key role to advance democratic values. With respect to South–South and triangular cooperation, he informed that the State of Rio Grande do Sul of Brazil and the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture had signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the technical exchange and cooperation in the field of agricultural and rural development.
17. Drawing attention to the increasingly worrying security and humanitarian situation in Gaza, he noted that in recent months more rockets had been fired at Israel and Israeli operations were causing death or injury to civilians, undermining the ceasefire understanding of November 2012. He reiterated the call to increase access and movement through the legitimate crossings in Gaza in order to alleviate the humanitarian situation. In this context, he also called on all donors to contribute to UNRWA’s emergency appeal to sustain critical emergency operations.
18. Turning to Palestinian reconciliation, he underscored how progress on reconciliation within the framework of the PLO commitments and under the leadership of President Abbas, was an essential step for achieving the two-State solution and finding a durable peace. The peace process and reconciliation didn’t have to be an either/or proposition; efforts ought to be made on both fronts, in line with the provisions of resolution 1860. He mentioned the United Nations’ full support for prospect ive elections, which were central to continuing state-building efforts in a manner that would anchor the democratic nature and foundations of the Palestinian State. In closing, he reaffirmed how the United Nations, in the Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, hoped to witness a success of direct negotiations which would bring about a comprehensive settlement based on a two-State solution. Such a peace would provide the Palestinian people with the opportunity to be free and live in dignity which they so rightfully deserved.
19. World Food Programme Representative and Country Director for West Bank and Gaza Pablo Recalde briefed on the humanitarian impact of the severe restrictions of the Gaza blockade, the separation Wall, settlements expansion, settlers’ violence and home demolitions affecting the livelihoods and economic activities of all Palestinians. These restrictions threatened the ability of Palestinians to live in freedom and dignity. Outlining the humanitarian impact, he exemplified that 45% (2 million people) had restricted access to primary health care; 34% (1.6 million people) were food insecure, of which 19% in the West Bank and 57% in the Gaza Strip ; 22% ( 0.98 million people) received less than 60 litres of water per day. The last 12 months saw a 25% increase of home demolitions. The unemployment rate was at 28%. In order to address the needs of the 1.9 million Palestinians it was assisting, the UN System launched a Strategic Humanitarian Response Plan for 2014-2016 with a budget of USD 390 million focused on the following areas of intervention: protection, education, health, water and sanitation, and food security. In closing, he stressed how humanitarian assistance was a key factor to maintain the minimal level of support for a population besieged and to maintain peace and security not only in the country, but in the region as well.
20. The Representative of Brazil welcomed the proclamation of 2014 as International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and the holding of the Meeting in that context. While noting with satisfaction the resumption, a few months prior, of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, he warned that a failure of the peace talks would be a dangerous destabilizing factor for the Middle East region as a whole. The solution to this conflict was known to all, he stated, and the final solution was an independent and sovereign State of Palestine based on the pre-1967 borders. However, there was a need to acknowledge that what was missing was the political will to reach that solution, he lamented. The use, by either party, of delaying tactics, demonstrated the lack of incentives to end the conflict. Brazil called on the parties to refrain from taking steps that changed the situation on the ground, hence undermining the prospects for peace. In this regard, Brazil was very concerned by the settlements’ expansion, including in East-Jerusalem, and condemned them as illegal. Brazil called on the international community and the Security Council in particular, to play a critical role in exerting its pressure to reach a solution according to the United Nations mandate. Brazil reiterated its full support to the State of Palestine, as it recognized it within the pre-1967 borders, and recalled that in November 2012 it voted in favour of its admission as Observer State to the United Nations. Brazil, he informed, will continue to support financially the Palestinian population with humanitarian assistance and the reconstruction of Gaza.
21. The Ambassador of Malaysia to Chile and Ecuador reaffirmed Malaysia’s support for a principled solution to the question of Palestine towards achieving a final, just and comprehensive settlement to the conflict. He stressed how Israel’s intransigence proved its lack of political will to reach a solution or to engage in serious negotiations. Turning to efforts taken by the Latin American and Caribbean countries, Malaysia noted how the region had long been demonstrating its solidarity with the Palestinian people. The common position of the Non-Aligned Movement on the question of Palestine was also reflected by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries at the United Nations. Finally, Malaysia recalled that Venezuela hosted a meeting of the Committee in 2012 and that the Plurinational State of Bolivia, as well as Ecuador had recently joined the Committee.
22. The Ambassador of Turkey to Ecuador at the outset informed the Meeting that Turkey, in cooperation with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and in the context of the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”, would be hosting a meeting of the Committee on 12-13 May 2014 in Ankara. The status quo in Palestine was simply not sustainable, he stated. While the resumption of talks under the auspices of the United States offered an important opportunity to reach a just, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, signals from the parties indicated that there were still substantial differences on the main issues, which diminished the hopes of a breakthrough. It was high time for the parties to share a unified vision of peace. However, the current situation was in contravention of international law, with expanding illegal settlements, tampering with Islamic religious sites and aggressive intrusion attempts against Al-Asqsa mosque, arbitrary arrests, torture and mistreatment of prisoners and detainees, including children, demolitions of housing and expulsions, as well as settler violence. In Jerusalem, unilateral acts to alter the status of Al Haram Al Sharif, as well as the cultural, religious and demographic fabric of the city risked escalating the situation. The international community must be firm in rejecting these actions, he declared. Turkey, as a member of the Committee, would continue to support the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, as well as to help alleviating the suffering of the population living under difficult circumstances in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
23. The Ambassador of Mexico to Ecuador reaffirmed Mexico’s strong solidarity with the Palestinian people and with the Palestinian cause. Palestinian people were discriminated in their own land and international law was the only mechanism to reach a just and lasting solution to the conflict, he stated. He urged the parties to destroy the walls of ignominy and to build bridges of dialogue and solidarity, as the only way forward.
24. The Ambassador of Cuba to Ecuador stated that Cuba’s solidarity and principled position on the question of Palestine was well known. In particular, 35 years ago at the 6th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Havana in 1979, its leader Fidel Castro said that the just Palestinian cause had gained over the previous 20 years the support of the progressive public opinion and of the NAM. However, all the resolutions passed by the United Nations had been ignored by the occupying Power and its ally. In September 2011, at the UN General Assembly the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba said that the General Assembly had a moral, political and legal obligation to ensure the recognition of an independent Palestinian State, within pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, as a full member of the United Nations. The Minister added that that recognition should occur with or without the Security Council, with or without a veto by the United States, with or without new peace negotiations. If the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, to an independent and sovereign State were recognized, the General Assembly had to act immediately on the illegality of the blockade of Gaza, the economic coercion and the segregation by the separation Wall. At the same time, Cuba recognized Israel’s right to exist and condemned in the strongest terms anti-Semitism, which caused the Holocaust. Finally, he welcomed the holding of the Meeting in the Latin American and Caribbean region as a contribution to the efforts towards the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
25. The Chargé d’Affaires of Indonesia to Ecuador expressed the hope that the ongoing peace negotiations would bring about the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in the form of an independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. However, Israel’s policies and activities, such as the expansion of settlements, which had registered a 123% increase in 2013, jeopardized the negotiations. Indonesia had asserted on many occasions the illegality of settlements under international law. Indonesia also condemned provocative activities, such as military operations in Gaza and in the West Bank, as well as the desecration of religious sites in East Jerusalem. For over 60 years, justice had been denied to the Palestinian people at the hand of a State which claimed to be an “island of stability and democracy”. The continued occupation of Palestine was in utter disregard of the principles of human rights and peaceful settlements of disputes, cherished by peace-loving and truly democratic states. Indonesia called on Israel to immediately and fully withdraw from the territories occupied since 1967 as well as to show good faith in the current negotiations on the six final status issues. Indonesia, along with its unwavering political support, had lent assistance and initiated training projects, in its capacity as co-chair of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership for Palestinian Capacity Building Programme, now extended for 2014- 2019. Finally, Indonesia suggested that the meeting took into consideration two courses of action. First, maintain a vigorous political support by making sure that Israel faced political and economic isolation should it fail to end the occupation, while at the same time encourage more states to recognize Palestine. Second, enlist the support of civil society, youth, private sector, and the media in support of the Palestinian cause.
26. The Ambassador of Venezuela to Ecuador reiterated Venezuela’s unwavering support for the self-determination and independence of the State of Palestine within pre-1967 borders, in accordance with all relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. In this regard, the proclamation by the General Assembly of 2014 as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People held a particular significance in the process of the fulfilment of the rights of the Palestinian people. She recalled the 29 November 2012 as an historic day in the General Assembly, where the State of Palestine was admitted as an Observer State to the Organization, opening a new chapter in the 60-year long struggle. She informed the meeting that Venezuela had strengthened its long-standing support for the rights of the Palestinian people in 2011 by joining the Committee and in 2013 by hosting a meeting of the Committee in Caracas. The Ambassador reiterated Venezuela’s support for the State of Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations and called on the Security Council to assume its responsibilities as enshrined in the Charter. Finally, she demanded that Israel halt the illegal settlement activities and lift the Gaza blockade as means to end the occupation and realize a just peace in the Middle East.
27. The Director of the United Nations System Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, delivered the message of Diego Morejón, Under Secretary of International Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador. Emphasizing that the question of Palestine represented one of the issues of most concern for the international community, Ecuador welcomed the ongoing peace negotiations as an opportunity to rescue the two-State solution and realize the vision of a viable and independent Palestinian State living side by side a secure State of Israel. This vision found its basis in all relevant United Nations resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map and the occupying Power must demonstrate the political will to contribute with the good faith that these peace negotiations required. In this regard, Ecuador recalled the relevant instruments of international law, such as the Geneva Conventions, the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice and General Assembly resolution 68/82 which declared the illegality of the occupation, of settlement activities, transfer of population, and of the separation Wall. Finally, Ecuador reiterated its solidarity with the Palestinian people in view of the exercise of their inalienable rights to self-determination and freedom in an independent State of Palestine within pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. In closing, Ecuador wished to acknowledge the determination of the Palestinian Government, as expressed by its Ambassador to the United Nations, to pursue the peace negotiations and achieve the final solution, despite recognizing the painful sacrifice that the State of Palestine would be established only on 22% of historic Palestine.
A. Plenary session I
Advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians – obstacles and opportunities
29. Ziad Asali, President and founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, explained that his Washington-based non-profit, non-partisan Organization was formed ten years ago to allow Palestinians to discuss their own problems, seek their own solutions and speak on their own behalf. In order to reach a solution of the question of Palestine, it was necessary first of all to get the diagnosis right, he stated. In that sense, the situation had been a zero-sum game for a very long time and the uneven balance of power between the two parties had to be disrupted, at every level. Nowadays and since the Quartet had endorsed this policy, there was a consensus on the two-State solution, but the burning question remained to understand why that consensus had not been implemented. Neither the politics of Palestine nor of Israel would lead to the realization of the two-States solution. The world was witnessing, he explained, a weakening of Palestinians at all levels, while Israel on one hand was negotiating and on the other it was taking more land. In his view, it was necessary to connect the people who, on both sides, truly wanted a solution, while identifying and weakening the spoilers.
30. Turning to the obstacles to the solution, he pointed to the disconnect between the dishonesty of the policy of two-States and the politics of two-States. The fundamental mistrust existing between Israeli and Palestinian leaders was also present within each camp between the leadership and their respective population. Even though on both sides there were people who did not really believe in the two-State solution and were still hoping to expand their presence in the other territory, there would be no military solution, he declared. He stressed however that negotiations had to be part of the solution, despite twenty years of inconclusive talks which, rather than bringing about progress had weakened the position of the Palestinians. In this context, it was necessary to improve the Palestinians’ competitive ability, including to negotiate. At the same time, referring to Emad Burnat’s remarks, he underscored the need to improve the living conditions on the ground for all Palestinians. This was not only the struggle of the Palestinians themselves, but it was part and parcel of the responsibility of the international community, he said. Adding another layer to the complexity, he remarked how for a long time the Palestinian issue had been a priority for the Middle East peace and for the countries of the region, whereas nowadays, while still emotionally supportive, it seemed as if those countries were preoccupied with other dynamics and crisis in the region. That however was a mere excuse, he warned, as the Palestinian issue was a strategic goal for the region and as such must be resolved.
31. Turning to the opportunities for a solution, he lauded the truly active engagement of the United States through Secretary of State John Kerry in the latest cycle of negotiations. It was paramount, he stated, that negotiations be kept alive, even though they seemed inconclusive. The involvement of the European Union through political and legal steps imposing restrictions on products from the settlements, was also a positive development, as it put accountability on the table and helped de-incentivize Israel. Accountability must be demanded of both Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, he stated. In this regard, Palestinian good governance as well as political and institutional reform must be encouraged and reinvigorated. He stressed that settlement expansion and home demolitions were the single most detrimental obstacle to peace and must be stopped, including with support from within Israel, where a political space in favour of this course of action existed. In closing, he stressed that the negotiation process must be preserved while at the same time institutions and State-building programmes must be improved on the ground.
32. Yaniv Shacham, Campaigns and New Media manager at Peace Now, an Israeli NGO operating for over 36 years, said he was speaking for all the Israeli who wanted peace and were fighting for it against the Israeli Government. The first issue to underline, he stated, was that peace and the two-State solution were as much an interest and need for Israel as it was for Palestine. He showed with a series of maps the evolution of settlements’ expansion from 1967 to 2012 with 120 settlements, 96 illegal outposts and 341,000 settlers, not including 200,000 settlers living in East-Jerusalem. It was important to note, he added, that 68% of settlers moved to the West Bank after the Oslo Accords of 1993, hence the Israeli Government continued expending settlements, under the pretext that everything would be discussed and determined at the negotiating table.
33. The Oslo Accords, he continued, divided the West Bank in A, B and C control areas, whereby Area C, under full Israeli control, represented 60% of the West Bank, inhabited by 12% of settlers, out of the West Bank population. The jump in settlements’ expansion had reached the dramatic peak of 123% increase during 2013, during the US-led negation process. He pointed to settlements in Ariel, the planned E1 area north of Jerusalem and Efrat as examples of threats to the two-State solution. Despite these figures, he believed that there were positive signs that gave room to optimism for the two-State solution, including the proposed plan put forward by the Geneva Initiative. According to that proposal, the absolute majority of settlers would remain under Israeli sovereignty in well-known settlement blocks and would not have to evacuate from their homes, while Palestinians would get alternative land as land swaps on a 1:1 ratio. Only settlements scarcely inhabited and located deep into the West Bank would have to be evacuated. It was worth noting, he said, that despite all the attention on that issue, settlers represented only 12% of the overall West Bank population and only 4% of the total Israeli population. Settlers who would have to be moved as part of an agreement represented only 1.8% of the Israeli population.
34. Turning to the public opinion, he said that all the polls carried out by Israeli and international research centres confirmed that an absolute majority of Israeli and Palestinians supported a peace agreement. Moreover, the vision of settlers as means for a “greater Israel” was not able to sweep the Israeli public who doesn’t see the West Bank and the settlements as a true part of Israel. As a testimony of that, during the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, the Israeli population did not oppose the withdrawal of 8,000 settlers. In addition, the new social justice movement that broke out in Israel in 2011 protested against the misuse of public funds, including in support of settlements. Moreover, despite the opposite claims by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the last elections in 2013 put in place a majority at the Knesset that would support a peace agreement. In closing, he declared that despite all the difficulties and time working against us, despite years of Israeli right-wing propaganda and lobby, the situation on the ground had not yet blocked the possibility of the two-State solution.
35. Adriana Mabilia, Brazilian journalist, introduced her research on how Palestine was perceived and presented by the Latin American media. Pointing to the phenomenon of “breaking news” becoming part of entertainment rather than information and analysis, she had decided to delve into the issue and research how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was narrated and explained by the media, especially in Brazil. Reading testimonies of some of the Palestinians she interviewed, the bias and one-sidedness became evident. Describing how Palestinians saw themselves reflected in the media, they wished journalists reported the story from both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives, hence providing the reader with a comprehensive picture of the truth. Referring to the use of the internet as a main source of information, Mabilia urged journalists not to be “lazy” and go in person to see for themselves the reality on the ground and form their own opinion before writing their pieces. Unfortunately, she lamented, journalists did not travel to Palestine in order to witness and report the daily situation of the occupation, but only when some tragic “newsworthy” events occurred.
36. Sharing how Palestinians described the occupation, the physical limitations, the lack of access, the confinement, she stressed how the media never used “human” details to explain their painful existence but rather used impartial or political terms that did not allow the reader to connect at the emotional level. Inviting the audience not to consider journalists as “enemies” but rather as a useful part of society, she noted their contribution to advancing important causes such as that of Palestine. While travelling in Palestine, Mabilia collected testimonies of Palestinians who all referred to the three main forms of the occupation: the separation Wall, the check-points and the settlements. They also lamented that Israel did not allow or tolerate any form of resistance, even peaceful resistance, and used physical and psychological intimidation to keep the control of the population and the territory. The sense of exhaustion was also tangible, she said, as testified by a Palestinian woman: “In this place, you'll hear the same stories over and over. I'm 37, [my parents] are 80, my oldest son is 17; we'll all tell you of more or less the same experiences. Since our territory was occupied sixty years ago, we all hurt in the same way. Suffering has been passed from parent to child. Very little has changed.” In closing, she wondered what could be the cause of the apathy of the international community in face that occupation and suffering, if not the military power of Israel and the United States.
37. The ensuing discussion touched upon many issues of the question of Palestine, including water, refugees, support by the international community and the possibility of change stemming from within the Israeli society. Regarding possible action by the international community, labelling of products from settlements was identified as a priority, so to exert pressure on Israel. In this sense, a speaker noted that also in the United States there were bona fide efforts and the international community could be helpful in supporting the US in taking bolder steps. The European Union, in particular, was taking positions on the issue of settlements which were having an impact on the policies of the United States. The Latin American and Caribbean region could play a similar role. Regarding the role of Israeli society and diaspora, several participants noted the need to start a conversation about the value of working with Jewish organizations. Israel needed a Palestinian State if it wanted to remain a democratic Jewish State. 70% of Jewish Americans were in favour of the two-State solution and within the Israeli society, including the security and intelligence apparatus, some understood this solution as strategic for the future of Israel, while others did not. For that reason, a speaker noted, it was important to reach out and connect with those who viewed the two-State solution as the only possible solution. Some participants expressed scepticism at the possibility that change could come from within the Israeli society. However, the representative of Peace Now stressed how his organization believed in the “politics of hope”, and suggested that rather than talking to Israelis about the consequences of a lack of a solution, we should talk to them about the possibilities, the political and economic opportunities. Peace Now had played this role for 36 years, speaking about the two-State solution when nobody was even conceiving it. However, responding to a question regarding the 20% of the Arab- Israeli population (including Bedouins) living in unrecognized villages such as El-Arakiv, which had been demolished more than 150 times by Israeli authorities, Peace Now pointed out to the complexity of the Israeli society where the issue of the Arab minority was a struggle. Other challenges and internal issues of the Israeli society included the religious and orthodox versus non-religious approaches and the wealthy population versus 1 million Israelis living under the poverty-line. Once the issue of the conflict with Palestine has been solved, Israel would have to deal with issues within the its own society. Peace Now was optimistic that a solution will be reached, but it would take time to rebuild trust between Israelis and Palestinians. A participant pointed to the issue of water “apartheid”- as defined by the European Commission ( today a settler in the Jordan Valley used 81 times more water than a Palestinian in the West Bank) and called for accountability for the Israeli water management company “Mekorot”. A speaker recalled that recently an agreement on water was signed between Palestinians, Jordanians and Israeli and much more could be done on the issue. On refugees, Israel would have to agree to find a solution and the Geneva Initiative proposals could serve as a good basis for an agreement. Finally, a speaker noted that the biggest deficit was the lack of confidence that the two-State solution was possible, so people, as well as Governments, needed to believe in it and continue pushing forward.
Support by Latin American and Caribbean countries for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine
39. In particular, during the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People 2014, he called on all the participants to improve the collective level of coordination and effectiveness to gather more resources in support of Palestine. Hoping that the Meeting would produce an agenda for action with a direct impact on the ground, he urged all participants to take the following steps: push for the adoption of legislation in all the respective countries to celebrate 29 November as the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People; denounce the illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territory; denounce settlements activities and the separation Wall as illegal; boycott products from the settlements; introduce in academic programmes curricula and materials explaining the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; create university lectureships on the Middle East and the Question of Palestine. He added that Israeli practises contrary to international law should be denounced, as silence was tantamount to endorsing the occupation.
40. Alzeben stressed that while Palestinians were against the occupation and all its adverse consequences, they were not against Israel and its people. Both peoples shared a glorious past, and were sharing a painful present and they have the right to share a bright future, with two sovereign States living side by side in peace. He was convinced that it was possible, and that goal could be achieved by negotiating on the basis of respect for international law. The refugees awaited justice, the prisoners awaited their freedom, and the State of Palestine awaited its due sovereignty and independence. In that struggle, Palestinians counted on the support of the Latin American and Caribbean region, he concluded.
41. Diego Arria, Political Analyst and former Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the United Nations, stated that Venezuela had always a firm stance on the question of Palestine. During his tenure at the UN, his country had voted in favour of several UN resolutions condemning the occupation and the Gaza blockade. He recalled his participation of such a meeting convened by the Committee in Santiago de Chile in 2008 and noted that since then the situation on the ground had worsened. Before the background of a “crisis fatigue” affecting the attention of the international community on the question, he praised Emad Burnat’s documentary as it put the finger on the “humanity” of the victims and how the conflict touched the personal lives of Palestinians living under occupation. Agreeing with Ziad Azali’s remarks, he stressed that it was crucial for the international community to identify the true partners working in support of the cause and the spoilers who were using the question of Palestine for their own interests. In this regard, he welcomed Peace Now’s remarks and position and recognised that Israeli organization as a genuine partner in the search for a just solution to that cause. Stressing the importance of the issue of solidarity, he urged Latin American and Caribbean countries to show their solidarity with concrete actions and deeds rather than just words. Finally, he encouraged participants to reach out to communities and civil society in their respective countries as their role in support of the Palestinian cause was as important as that of their governments.
42. Juan Raúl Ferreira, President of the Uruguay-Israel Cultural Institute, recalled having participated in the meeting of the Committee held in Montevideo in 2011 and stressed Uruguay’s long tradition in support of the two-State solution. At that meeting, he had said that Uruguay had a “vocation to export peace and tolerance to the Middle East”. In fact, he noted that Uruguay hosted a large Jewish community living harmoniously side by side a large Palestinian community. He informed that soon after the meeting in Montevideo, which had opened the door for many exchanges between the two communities, he was appointed Ombudsman for the People and President of the national Human Rights institution. He mentioned that because, while he was not representing any particular institution per se, he stressed that Uruguayan human rights organizations and civil society in general were working for the benefit of the Israeli and Palestinian people alike. He then mentioned another important development since that conference, which was the recognition by Uruguay of the State of Palestine, whose ceremony took place in the presence of representatives of both Palestinian and Jewish communities, in testimony of the consensus existing in the country around this important political step. Following the Montevideo conference, the self-convened “Montevideo Consensus” was formed, as means of creating a space to discuss ways to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict. It was now up to the Latin American and Caribbean participants of the Meeting in Quito, he said, to take this process forward.
43. Another progress since the Montevideo meeting, he continued, was the more active role Uruguay had taken in the international community as human rights advocate and promoter of peace initiatives. Uruguay had served twice as member of the Security Council and might have a possibility of being elected again as a member of the UN body in charge of peace and security. Finally, he pointed out that in the last few years, civil society had grown in relevance and was playing a much more active role on the international stage, especially in the spheres of peace and democratization. He informed that Uruguay in 2014, after 30 years of democracy, and through the Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council (UPR), had put in place mechanisms that would enable it to become a model country for respect of human rights. As an example of this progress, he explained that at the first UPR in 2010, Uruguay had accepted 185 recommendations put forward by Member States, of which 77 encouraged Uruguay to integrate more and more in the international community and offer its good offices in peace processes. That point was that Uruguay was ready and committed to serve the international community in the interest of peace in the Middle East or anywhere else where peace was a distant goal. In closing, he urged the international community not cooperate with Uruguay, as it was ready and willing to make a contribution to peace, including in regional organizations such as UNASUR, an organization comprised of member States committed to friendship with both Israeli and Palestinian peoples. In this context, he urged UNASUR to play a unifying role in foreign policy of the whole region, with a view towards a negotiated peace of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
44. The ensuing discussion revolved around the issues of accountability, the role of the media and the effects of boycotts. Regarding the latter, participants agreed that the occupation should come at a cost for Israel. At the present moment the occupation was very advantageous as Israel profited from Palestinian resources, including land and water, without any form of accountability. Participants pointed to some examples of boycotts of Israeli companies and called for more concrete steps to be taken in that direction. Nonetheless, several participants stressed that the conflict was not between the two peoples or the two communities; hence it was necessary to denounce and boycott the occupation, not Israelis. On the other hand, the Palestinian economy needed to be stimulated and Latin American and Caribbean countries could contribute by supporting trade and small businesses. Religious tourism was identified as a potential significant source of income for the State of Palestine if managed in a way that both, and not only Israel, could get an economic return from it. Talking about trade, participants discussed the potential to expand it with Latin American and Caribbean countries and it was noted that the agreement on free trade between the State of Palestine and some Latin American counties, such as Brazil, had been signed, but ratification by the Brazilian Parliament was still pending. In a similar vein, cultural and student exchanges were also good practices that could bring about positive change. One participant informed that an agreement between the universities of São Paolo and Al-Quds was imminent. The Israeli programme “Taglit” and the Palestinian programme “Bethlehem ISI” allowing young people to discover Israel and Palestine, respectively, were other examples of ways to bring about change at the grassroots level. Turning to the issue of information, participants discussed the role the media could play in disseminating reliable information about the occupation. It was noted that most people in this part of the world were not aware of the situation on the ground. By the same token, schoolbooks and education were identified as important tools to teach young generations of Israeli and Palestinians the unbiased truth about their common history. The work of Israeli scholar Nurit Peled was put forward as an example in this sense. Finally, discussing examples from the history of the sub-continent, such as “Operation Condor” in the 1970s, participants focused on the issue of Israel’s accountability for war crimes and violations of international and humanitarian law. The Israeli NGO “New Profile” focusing on illustrating the militarization of the Israeli society and supporting Israelis who refused to serve in the IDF was cited as an example of action by civil society. More needed to be done, however, at the international level. The region had a mixed record on the issue and while some countries had put in place mechanisms and legislation to end impunity and develop transitional justice processes, others lagged behind. Overall however, participants felt that the region could contribute to advance on issues of accountability and prosecution of such egregious violations as a way to exert pressure on the occupying Power.
The role of non-governmental actors in Latin America and the Caribbean in promoting a permanent settlement of the conflict
46. While in the 1970s and 1980s, she explained, the Palestinian people were denied the right to resist and the PLO was described as a terrorist organization, today it was the existence of Hamas which was used as the argument to depict the Palestinians as people who do not want peace but rather want the destruction of the State of Israel. In fact, she continued, the system of occupation needed Hamas, as much as Hamas needed Israel, in order to maintain the oppressive and punitive regime in Gaza.
47. In order to break that cycle, harmful for all people wishing to reach peace be they Israelis of Palestinians, one needed to refer back to the ideals of solidarity. Examples were the action of civil society and the involvement of young Israelis and Palestinians working side by side to uphold international law and campaigning to boycott products coming from settlements and businesses linked to settlements. The power of this solidarity-base action proved that it was the only action able to threaten the occupation. In fact, occupation ultimately threatened the position and the legitimacy of Israel in the world. In closing, she stated that only real and effective solidarity could forge the bonds of trust and brotherhood and sisterhood, even among Israelis and Palestinians, necessary to create the paradigm of collective, democratic and non-excluding existence of the State of Palestine and Israel.
48. Edward (Edy) Kaufman, Senior Research Scholar at the Department of Government and Politics, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, University of Maryland, focused his presentation on the role of the Arab and Jewish Diaspora in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In many cases, he said, Diasporas maintained a sustained concern about the situation in their countries of origin, particularly at times of violent disputes. He pointed to the phenomenon called “long-distance nationalism” which refers to the fact that the core of many in the Diasporas had more extreme positions than those still living the conflict on a day-to-day basis in the homeland. Armenian, Kurds, Irish-Catholics, Sri Lankan Tamils were examples of this tendency in the Diasporas. These groups could be defined as “ethno-political” as their stand vis-à-vis the conflict was not ideological, but rather based on a shared ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious identity. In particular in Latin America, he explained that the “Consenso por una Paz Palestina Israeli”, comprised of members of the local Palestinian and Jewish communities, was looking at ways to work together in support the peace process, based on their shared values. The project of “Consenso” was not a theoretical one, but was a field-based approach through “chapters” in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. The “laboratory” existing in this region could be very useful also for Europe and the United States as an example of cooperation between Palestinians and Jews supporting the two-State solution.
49. As way of background, he recalled how both Arabs and Jews converged in significant numbers in their emigration to Latin America and the Caribbean mostly from the early twentieth century. Differentiating between voluntary diaspora as part of economic emigration and violent diaspora or exile, due to conflict, he pointed to the different nature of the Jewish and Palestinian communities living abroad. The Latin American and Caribbean region however had also experienced a growing threat and actual use of violence related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hence, instead of “exporting” their good previous experience of coexistence to the fractured Middle East, Diasporas were now perceived as “importing” this conflict to Latin America. Back in the Holy Land, in spite of the growing impact of the peace spoilers primarily driven by fanatic religious convictions (Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Islamist in Gaza), there were still Israeli and Palestinian NGOs that were investing their energy in support of the current negotiations.
50. Turning to the presence of Jews and Arabs in Latin America and the Caribbean, he informed that in recent years there were about 500,000 Jews in the region of which around 30% had returned to Israel, while the numbers of Arabs were much larger, in the millions, Palestinians being a portion of them. The biggest Palestinian community in Latin America and the Caribbean was based in Chile, followed by El Salvador and Uruguay.
51. In closing, he stressed the need to bridge the two Diasporas through resilience, mutual trust and a people-to-people approach. Back in the shared homeland such efforts needed to be supported not only by governments around the world but also by their Latin American and Caribbean brothers and peace builders.
52. Mariela Volcovich, a representative of the Argentine Consensus for Palestinian Israeli Peace and a psychologist by formation, outlined the purpose of her Organization as a group of self-convened citizens from different Latin American and Caribbean countries who, in their personal capacities, strived to contribute to peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. A national of Argentina, Volcovich stressed that in her country in particular, the goal of “Consenso” was to create a space for dialogue, as well as to enable education and training allowing Israeli and Palestinians to recognize their common heritage and identity. This was particularly important to combat prejudice and ignorance present in the communities.
53. Arabs and Jews had settled in Latin America and the Caribbean since the last century and found ways to live harmoniously together. Often times however, as illustrated by Edward Kaufman, Diasporas had the tendency to recreate the polarized and sometimes violent dynamics of the conflict in the homeland, in what was referred to as “long-distance nationalism”. This animosity influenced negatively relations between the two communities, resulting in hostility. The idea behind “Consenso”, she explained, was to create an opportunity for dialogue, taking advantage of the physical distance from the actual conflict. Moreover, members of “Consenso” were convinced that Latin America and the Caribbean could play a positive and active role in conflict transformation, complementary to the efforts undertaken at the inter-governmental level. Volcovich presented some regional examples, such as “Lado a lado” the initiative convened by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs gathering Arab and Jewish leaders of South American institutions to work together at a multitrack diplomacy; the request by Argentinian civil society that President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner take an active role in support of the mediation efforts vis-à-vis the conflict in Gaza; and similar calls to the governments of the region by the “Foro de ONGs Palestinas e Israelies por la Paz”. Despite the number of regional initiatives, she admitted, few had resulted in conflict transformation at the people-to-people level that would go beyond the usual inter-governmental processes. While saluting the commitment and the initiatives of Latin America and the Caribbean in this sense, she encouraged the region to pursue these efforts in a more systematic manner and with specific and concrete actions.
54. Omar Al Kaddour, a representative of the Argentine chapter of “Consenso por la Paz Palestina e Israel”, at the outset stressed that he, as all the fellow members of “Consenso’, fully supported the two-State solution including a just solution to all the final status issues of the question of Palestine. He recalled his Arab origins and and said he was a peace activist focusing on efforts to build a culture of meeting, of rapprochement. He explained that members of “Consenso” in Argentina met regularly to discuss ideas. A recent example of that engagement was a workshop on multi track diplomacy held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Buenos Aries with some of the members of “Consenso” present at the Meeting in Quito. “Consenso” viewed “people diplomacy” as complementary to the traditional inter-governmental track. Another initiative, he continued, took place in December 2012 and January 2013 when “Consenso” linked its work with the executive and legislative branches of the State and even brought to the attention of the Presidency a plan of action on possible concrete ways of achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Among the ideas put forward was a high-level conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace among the members of UNASUR combined with a grass root conference. Unfortunately at that time, due to political constraints in the region, the idea could not take shape, he informed. He then outlined another initiative organized by “Consenso” focusing on discussions with Parliamentarians, such as the planned visit to the Knesset of members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Argentinian Senate to hold a meeting with the two-State solution caucus and have an exchange on the Arab Peace Initiative. Some weeks prior, he continued, the Institute of Inter-religious Dialogue in Buenos Aries had coordinated a trip with a rabbi, a priest and members of the Muslim community and “Consenso” members were able to travel with them to the Holy Land. They had the unique opportunity of meeting with Palestinian civil servants, parliamentarians, the Orthodox Patriarch and completed the initiative in Rome at a meeting with the Pope. Al Kaddour emphasized how “Consenso’s” approach was to strike a political, ethnic and religious balance between the two sides and due to its unbiased position devoted an equal amount of time and attention to both, providing “Consenso” with greater legitimacy. He then highlighted some of the most recent initiatives by Pope Francis who called on world leaders to avoid military action or to join him for a day of prayer. He stressed how the Pope’s stance combined spirituality with political action. Admitting of being an optimist, Al Kaddour stressed the importance of focusing on the “humanism” equally present in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Emphasizing the human side of all of us would allow the cultures to meet and invite a shared vision of a world where love for the other, dignity, human rights and peace were at the core of our existence. These principles were the basis of the document “South-American commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace” drafted by the members of “Consenso” present at the Meeting in Quito.
55. In the discussion that followed speakers focused on the issue of boycott, including of Israeli universities, and divestment. In particular, the example of the Brazilian Government being the biggest contractor in South America, and the second in the world, of Israeli military industries was flagged, in contradiction to its verbal denouncement of the occupation. It was remarked that South-South cooperation was a long tradition of fighting against colonization and oppression and the paradox regarding the case of Brazil was blatant and needed to be highlighted. Support for boycotts was also discussed. Regarding the issue of apartheid practices by Israel, it was noted how 60% of Palestinians living in the West Bank had never visited Jerusalem and 20% never saw the Mediterranean sea. The network of check-points, segregation, amounting to collective punishment, the discriminatory laws passed by the Knesset de facto degrading Israeli Arabs to second-class citizens, laws regarding inter-marriages and family reunification and residence permits for East-Jerusalem were all mentioned as part and parcel of an apartheid regime. One speaker stressed how the rhetoric of accusation and pointing fingers based on historical events was counterproductive and harmful to Palestinian and Israeli reconciliation efforts. Likewise, it was noted that while the efforts aimed at creating a space for dialogue were not enough to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was nonetheless the contribution of many willing to walk the path of understanding and openness in view of finding a lasting peace.
57. Hani A. Remawi, Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Ecuador stated that the struggle and sacrifices endured by the Palestinian people could not be diminished to less than what represented a just peace and no compromises could be made on the pre-1967 borders, the Jordan Valley, East-Jerusalem or the solution of the issue of refugees, pursuant to United Nations resolutions, including resolution 194. While recognizing that the State of Israel was based, at its inception, on the values of democracy, pluralism and equality as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, he wondered if those values were still valid today, as the Government of Israel seemed to disavow them. Peace was justice, he declared, not murder, not walls or settlements. There was no other road ahead than a two-State solution and it was time that Israel prepared its people for peace.
58. Abdou Salam Diallo, Chair of the Committee, in his closing statement commended the Ecuadorian authorities for their hospitality and the full support of Ecuador for the Palestinian cause. During the three days of deliberations, he continued, many useful ideas were submitted about what could be done during the 2014 International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. In particular, participants noted that more serious and concrete action must be taken against Israel’s illegal settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The Committee had never questioned the legitimate existence of the State of Israel, he stated, but its continued illegal settlement policies as the occupying Power needed to be addressed by the international community. He noted with encouragement the recent wave of announcements by major European banks and pension funds severing ties with Israeli companies involved in illegal settlements. The Committee also supported calls by various Governments for labelling merchandise produced in settlements, so to give consumers a choice. In closing, he said that the Committee counted on the initiative and resourcefulness of all its partners in designing and undertaking advocacy and mobilization initiatives in the Latin American and Caribbean region and all over the world during the 2014 International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
60. Abdou Salam Diallo, Chair of the Committee, opened the meeting recalling and commending the many initiatives spearheaded by civil society organizations and activists all over the world in mobilizing public opinion and influencing decision makers regionally and internationally on the question of Palestine. The voice of civil society organizations was fundamental to advocacy and the advancement of the Palestinian cause in all of its aspects, he stated. He stressed that in particular in 2014, proclaimed Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People by the General Assembly, the Committee decided to dedicate the Meeting to the discussion on ways to bring the international and regional civil society organizations together to advance Israeli - Palestinian peace. The role and contribution of civil society was indispensable, he concluded, to the success of the peace process and to reach a just and permanent solution to the conflict.
61. Pedro Chabrel, member of the São Paulo Palestinian Front, stated at the outset that he actively supported the boycott of Israeli products linked to the occupation. He called for a change of the structure of incentives. Specific actions were needed to support the boycott and exert pressure on Israel to fulfil its obligations. Wide support for the boycoll was necessary. According to Charbel, civil society was demanding a boycott and divestment of companies that collaborate with the Israeli occupation. Those companies should be held accountable. In that regard, he mentioned initiatives such as the divestment of some churches from the Company Caterpillar because of it being instrumental for the destruction of Palestinian homes. He also called on civil society to take action to help Palestinians, who were subject to daily assault and violence. Chabrel emphasized the crucial role of youth as he believed that young people have a responsibility to act. He noted that there were many movements in civil society in favor of international law. Recalling the illegality of the separation Wall, as per the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, Charbel underscored that the reason to urge Israel to comply with its obligations was to uphold international law. He urged all State Parties to the Geneva Convention to ensure that Israel respect international humanitarian law. Charbel concluded by stating that neither the occupation nor the apartheid practices were normal situations. He stressed that working toward justice and peace does not neglect supporting co - existence and dialogue. He called upon the Meeting to support three concrete actions: ending of the occupation and colonization; dismantling the separation Wall while recognizing Israel's rights; and respect, protect and defend the rights of the Palestine refugees so they could return home.
62. Leonel Groisman, representative of Consenso Uruguayo por la Paz Palestino/Israel, spoke about the work done in Uruguay over the previous three years by his Organization within the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas and stressed its important role in the construction of a dialogue for peace. “Consenso” believed that peace was possible and, given that the traditional method of settling that conflict had not worked, decided to try another one. They believed in a civil society actively engaged for peace. Track-two diplomacy, in which civil society expresses itself freely, was another path to peace, playing a pivotal role in relation to both the frustration of the people and the credibility of organizations, he said. Diasporas were an example of civil society ready to overcome prejudices, find common ground and bringing the two communities closer, rather than thinking of one another as enemies. He stressed that such Diasporas were not only made up of Jews and Palestinians, they comprised Uruguayan, neighbours, friends, partners and compatriots. They were a part of the national community and in this sense, the action of Diasporas was building links within the society. Civil society should take charge of the process to consolidate peace in the Middle East, he said. Groisman cited the Oslo accords as an example that the most creative solutions originated from civil society, hence this track-two, or people- diplomacy did not replace the official track but rather was complementary and a useful tool to prepare people for peace.
63. Rafael Guendelman Hales, a Videographer and member of the Chilean Chapter of “Consenso”, showed his 6-minutes video he described as “a trip from Jerusalem to the Jordan River”. Guendelman recalled situations of inequality between social classes in Chile, the discrimination vis-à-vis the indigenous population and unequal access to education. Having witnessed such injustice in his own country, he felt close to the situation in Palestine. He said that as a professional videographer he was interested in observing the surroundings and in his view, the scenery influenced people. During one semester in 2012 in the West Bank, he created “Intermediate Diaries”, several reports of specific situations explanatory of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. He felt that the media could push the boundaries of the discourse and show evidence that would generate awareness about the plight of the Palestinian people. In conclusion he stated that art invited reflection and it triggered something inside that would make people take concrete action.
64. Maia Guiskin, a founding member of “Consenso” in Santiago del Chile, presented her group as diverse in age and professional background and illustrated the work done during its year of existence. She pointed out that Chile hosted the largest Palestinian community in Latin America with between 300,000 to 500,000 people who had great influence in the society through media and politics, with a solid representation in Parliament (around 8%). On the contrary, the Jewish population was only around 15,000 to 20,000. An anthropologist who authored a research on Latin American Jewish communities and their relations with Israel, she recalled that most of the Jewish and Palestinian communities had arrived to Chile at the same time, in the early twentieth century. While initially they had enjoyed good relations, Guiskin believed that relations had worsened over the years and both communities had become polarized and quite radical, due to the phenomenon of “long distance nationalism”. She believed that while the recipe of dialogue and working together promoted by “Consenso” was not enough, it had a real impact on the rest of the Chilean society and was needed to create a core of mutual trust among the two communities.
65. Abder Rahim Jbara Husein, Member of the Uruguayan Chapter of “Consenso”, contributed to the conference with touching and compelling episodes from his personal life story. He took the audience on a journey from when he was born in Palestine, the British Mandate, and his childhood memories when the two communities shared a peaceful coexistence, the first clashes between Palestinians and Israelis and finally when after the start of full hostilities, as a refugee, his family emigrated to Chile. Now a Member of the Uruguayan “Consenso” he strongly condemned the occupation and underlined that the many years of peace talks were held to no avail, due to unwillingness of Israel to negotiate in good faith. He concluded stressing that Palestinians had a right to their citizenship and it was about time they lived in peace and enjoyed justice in the Palestinian Territory.
66. During the discussion participants stressed that peace was possible. Representatives of civil society organizations expressed readiness to work with other organizations present to reach this goal, while others shared their activities on Palestine, including disseminating information on human rights violations by Israeli authorities. While a participant lamented that Resolution 194 on the right of return of Palestine refugees had not been implemented, it was noted that like all other final status issues, a final arrangement allowing Palestinians to settle in portions of land would have to be the result of negotiations. When a participant shared the news that Portugal had just broken its contract with Israeli water company Mekorot, a call was launched for the boycott of Israeli companies involved in the occupation, such as Mekorot, Caterpiller, Gforst and Alstom. Participants said that such action would represent a concrete outcome of the Meeting in Quito, lest being left out of this historical movement. Finally, participants wished to create a network and keep exchanging information on respective activities and initiatives.
Summary of the Chair
2. Representatives of Governments, intergovernmental organizations, including various United Nations bodies, and the civil society, together with expert speakers from Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Israel, Palestine and the United States shared their expertise at the Meeting.
3. In the opening session, the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Political Integration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, representing the host Government, expressed his country’s support for the Palestinian people and for solidarity activities in the framework of the 2014 International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. He stressed that Ecuador, as Brazil, was one of the first in Latin America, in 2010, to recognize the Palestinian State within 1967 borders. The opening of the Palestinian Embassy in Ecuador in January 2014 and the planned opening of an Ecuadorian Embassy in Palestine in the next few weeks would strengthen the ties between our peoples, he said. The question of Palestine was of constant concern for Ecuador, especially when Israel stepped up actions that contributed to mistrust and undermined the current renewed round of negotiations. Recalling that the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 68/12 of 26 November 2013, proclaimed 2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Vice-Minister said that Ecuador hoped that Palestine would soon be admitted as a full member of the United Nations, and reiterated its unconditional support for the cause of Palestine, which must result in the exercise of its inalienable right to self-determination and freedom, in an independent Palestinian State.
4. The Secretary-General of the United Nations in his message to the Meeting stressed that the UN remained committed to a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine resulting in the two-State solution. The current renewed round of peace negotiations has presented a rare and important opening to advance the two-State solution. He called on both parties to act to reach an agreement, even if it required painful concessions. He said he was encouraged by the commitment of the Arab leaders to uphold the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. He remained deeply troubled by Israel’s rapidly expanding settlement activity in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. Increasing incidents at Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif were deeply troubling, as they could be perceived as serious acts of incitement in the wider region. The Secretary-General expressed concern by the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel and the unacceptable rocket firing into civilian areas. He called for maximum restraint by all sides to allow the implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access and the Security Council Resolution 1860 (2009). Concluding, the Secretary-General expressed his hope that the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People would create an environment favorable for fulfilling the collective responsibility towards the Palestinians.
5. The Chairman of the Committee expressed appreciation for the opportunity to be back in the Latin American and Caribbean region after the meeting in Montevideo in 2011. Recalling the wave of announcements of recognition of the State of Palestine by Latin American countries which started in December 2010, he underscored that Latin America was a region where Palestinian and Jewish diasporas coexisted peacefully. Moving on, the Chairman drew attention to the fact that settlement construction in 2013 more than doubled compared to 2012, and that a week before this Meeting, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced it would proceed with plans to build 2,269 new homes in settlements in the West Bank. Settlements were a clear violation of Art 49, Fourth Geneva Convention, he reiterated, and recalled the wave of announcements by European banks and pension funds severing ties with Israeli companies involved in illegal settlements. Speaking of the UN General Assembly proclaiming last November the year 2014 as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, he pointed out that the objective of the Year was to raise international awareness of the main issues of the question of Palestine, and to promote peace. The Committee counted on the support of the Governments and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean in undertaking various initiatives of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
6. The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, representing the President Mahmoud Abbas, thanked the people of Ecuador and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for their continued efforts in support of the Palestinian cause. He said this was a critical moment in the struggle of the Palestinian people, since the ongoing round of negotiations stalled despite the Palestinian side having acted in good faith and upholding its commitments. He pointed out that the change in its legal status by General Assembly Resolution 67/19 of 29 November 2012 also entitled Palestine to access international legal instruments and join UN bodies. He stressed that Israel continued its illegal actions, resulting to a 123-percent increase in settlement construction in 2013 as compared to the year before. He called for Israel to negotiate in good faith, be willing to cross the bridge and desist in its occupation. The international community, including Latin America and the Caribbean, had a collective responsibility to take political, diplomatic and legal steps necessary to hold Israel accountable for its actions, he concluded.
7. In his keynote presentation, the United Nations Assistant-Secretary General for Political Affairs pointed out that Palestinian and Israeli interests were not mutually exclusive, indeed they depended one on another. Neither side would fully benefit from the peace, security and self-determination it deserves if the other side did not do so as well. He said that the parties were now at a moment of truth; a solution to the conflict was in reach and had to be seized. The status quo was not only unsustainable, it was continually deteriorating. The fragile security situation on the ground underscored the urgency of finding a solution to the conflict. He said that the sanctity of holy sites of all faiths must be fully respected and incitement or provocations from any quarter must cease. Drawing attention to the increasingly worrying security and humanitarian situation in Gaza, he stressed that the only way to sustainably solve the Gaza predicament was by reintegrating it into one Palestinian polity in the context of serious progress towards the two-State solution. Concluding, he reiterated that in this Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the UN hoped to witness a success of direct negotiations which would bring about a comprehensive settlement based on a two-State solution. Such a peace would provide the Palestinian people with the opportunity to be free and live in dignity which they so rightfully deserved.
8. A number of representatives of Governments and intergovernmental organization expressed their solidarity with the Palestinian people, support for the ongoing renewed round of peace negotiations spearheaded by the US Secretary of State Kerry, the hope for the creation of the Palestinian State on pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the need for Israel to abide by international law.
9. The participants then reviewed the obstacles and opportunities to advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians; the support by Latin American and Caribbean countries for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine; and the role of non-governmental actors in Latin America and the Caribbean in promoting a permanent settlement of the conflict.
10. It was recalled that a solid majority of both Israelis and Palestinians have expressed a preference for a two-State solution to the conflict in virtually every poll and survey over more than two past decades. Despite the enormous frustrations resulting from a lack of peace, these majorities remained committed to this goal. The Arab League, through its Arab Peace Initiative, had unanimously expressed the Arab consensus in favor of this as well. It was pointed out that with the exception of a few outliers internationally and in any given society, the whole world essentially agreed on both the two-State solution and its fundamental outlines: a Palestinian State alongside Israel based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps and its capital in East Jerusalem; a fair and just resolution of the refugee issue; and full regional acceptance, recognition and integration of Israel in the Middle Eastern family of nations; and guarantees for Israel’s security.
11. The first, and perhaps most far-reaching, of the obstacles to peace was a fundamental lack of trust that political leaders on both sides confront, a number of participants believed. The agreed-upon final status issues themselves presented another serious set of challenges to advancing peace, because – despite significant progress in bridging the gaps over the past quarter century – the distance between the parties on these specific issues, borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, water and security, remained real and substantive. Participants agreed that there were difficult choices to be made, but the prevailing political conditions rendered them far more difficult. Finally, participants also brought up the issue of regional dynamics, which have also proven to be an impediment given the repeated interference in Israeli-Palestinian dynamics, and internal Palestinian politics, by various regional actors, some of whom were not committed to a two-State solution. Adding to that was the ongoing period of protracted instability and change in the Middle East and North Africa, due to which the Israeli-Palestinian issue had receded as an immediate priority for much of the international community.
12. Nevertheless, participants were unanimous in that the prospect for a real engagement by significant regional players in the Israeli-Palestinian political process in a positive manner was foreseeable, and in that the international community as a whole should continue to develop and intensify efforts to de-incentivize Israel from any further illegal activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
13. A participant representing the WFP drew attention to the humanitarian and economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza as a result of Israeli policies and practices. 1.57 million People in Palestine were food insecure - 19 percent in the West Bank, 57 percent in the Gaza Strip. 45 percent (or 2 million people) had restricted access to primary health care, 28 percent (1.25 million people) were unemployed, 22 percent (0.98 million people) received less than 60 liters of water per day. There was a 25-percent increase in home demolitions and there were 12,000 outstanding demolition orders, he stressed. Humanitarian needs in Palestine were a result of severe restrictions on livelihoods and economic activity on the part of Israel, he said, calling on Israel to stop its illegal policies and practices.
14. Assessing the viability of the two-State solution, a speaker from Israel’s largest peace movement “Peace Now” first gave an overview of the Israeli settlement activity from 1977 to 2013, and then outlined the major threats to the two-State solution such as the construction in “Ariel”, in E1 (planned), and “Efrat” settlements. Relying on the results of a poll conducted by the University of Maryland in December 2013, he illustrated the support of both the Israeli and Palestinian public for a peace agreement. He pointed out that in the current Knesset 72 members were in favor of a peace deal, 41 against, and 7 abstain, and called on Prime-Minister Netanyahu to use this majority support of the Israeli public and of the majority of the Knesset to make a peace agreement. He stressed that only 1.8 percent of the total Israeli population would be affected by an evacuation (according to the Geneva Initiative Plan), and believed that the Israeli public should be told more often of the benefits a peace agreement would bring to the Israeli economic and diplomatic standing internationally.
15. Moving on to the role of the Latin American and Caribbean countries in the peaceful resolution of the conflict, participants astutely observed that through its Arab and Jewish diasporas, Latin America was linked to Israel and Palestine with strong ties - cultural, ethnic, economic, religious, political, and moral. Participants thanked all Latin American and Caribbean countries that have recognized the State of Palestine, and called on countries that have not done it so far to do so. It was stressed that Latin America and the Caribbean were against the occupation and its dire consequences, but not against Israel and its people, and that this should be clear. Participants praised that among the Latin American countries Brazil had been exemplary in its solidarity with the Palestinian people and played an important role since the very beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reflecting on the complexity of the relationship between Brazil and the Middle East region however, a participant raised a question of Brazil’s arms trade deals with Israel, which made the country Israel’s biggest partner in Latin America, and the second biggest in the world.
16. Another discussion ensued on whether the Arab and Jewish diasporas in Latin America were part of the problem or part of the solution. It was observed that diasporas maintained a sustained concern about the situation in their countries of origin, and sometimes, instead of “exporting” good experience of coexistence to the Middle East, diasporas were perceived as “importing” conflict to Latin America, by virtue of a so-called “long-distance nationalism”. However, by and large, there was a tradition of coexistence between the Arab and Jewish diasporas in Latin America through shared neighborhoods, clubs, banks, joint businesses. Jews and Palestinians who lived in Latin America created mechanisms for peaceful co-existence and were an example of the possibility of such co-existence. Moreover, members of the Jewish and Arab communities established chapters of “Consenso por una Paz Palestina Israeli” in Latin America – an initiative that seeks to mobilize the Arab and Jewish diasporas in Latin America to address the conflict through dialogue, and through creating learning opportunities within and between Arab and Jewish communities of Latin America to promote recognition of a common Abrahamic origin. A representative of this organization briefed the participants on the results of cooperation between the two diasporas in Latin America.
17. Recognizing the importance of the civil society and the academia in the promotion of the peaceful settlement of the conflict, the participants reviewed the concrete civil society activities and academic initiatives and events geared towards a better understanding of the origins and complexity of the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflict among the general public and university students in Latin America. A number of important academic collaborations between Latin American, US and Palestinian universities and colleges were highlighted, that were aimed at promoting dialogue between the Jewish and Arab youth. Participants were unanimous in acknowledging the importance of education in order to change the situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and expressed regret that far too often Palestinians were portrayed as militants that threaten the State of Israel, while no context was given in regard to the decades-long occupation and violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people.
18. The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations expressed his appreciation for the dedicated role Latin American countries in general, and Ecuador in particular, played in promoting the two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was impressed by the level of awareness and engagement of the Latin American civil society and academia in advancing the cause of the Palestinian people. He said more was needed to be done for these joint efforts to be effective in persuading Israel to discontinue its illegal policies and the occupation as a whole, and referred to the European Union trade and funding guidelines, and to the recent steps taken by some Western banks and pension funds, all in response to Israeli illegal settlement activity.
19. In the closing session, the representative of Ecuador said that the hosting of that important Meeting in the capital Quito was an evidence of the commitment of the Government of Ecuador to a just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine. Ecuador was in the forefront of solidarity with the Palestinian people by supporting their cause of creating an independent State within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital at the United Nations, in the Non-Aligned Movement, and by supporting the mandate and work of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. In the future, Ecuador intended to continue such support and suggested hosting a meeting of young Israelis and Palestinians with the aim of promoting their mutual understanding and their knowledge of the co-existence of the Arab and Jewish diasporas in Latin America.
20. The Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Ecuador reminded that the President of the State of Palestine Abbas, with the support of the Palestinian people, was resolute not to compromise on a single square meter of the Palestinian land. There must be an independent Palestinian State created on the basis of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the adoption of the UN General Assembly Resolution 67/19 was the first step in that direction, he said. The current status quo was unacceptable, he stressed, and recalled the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and the Arab Peace Initiative as some of the existing tools to advance the Palestinian cause. He called on the Government of Israel to live up to the principles of a democratic and non-discriminating State that Israel claims to be. Peace was justice, he said, not the settlements, the wall, the violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people. In conclusion, he thanked the Government and the people of Ecuador for their hospitality and unwavering support of the Palestinian people, and expressed the hope for further fruitful cooperation between the two States.
21. The Chairman of the Committee expressed his gratitude to the representative of Ecuador for outlining concrete commitments and offering personal support in the organization of regional initiatives in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Latin America. The Chairman also noted Ecuador’s support for the convening by the Committee, later in 2014, of an international meeting of parliamentarians in New York in support of the Palestinian people. Summing up the results of discussions during the Meeting, the Chairman welcomed the multitude of ideas put forward by the participants for the 2014 International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. He also reiterated his appreciation of the concrete actions such as the measures taken by some European banks severing their ties with companies having business activity in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, or measures requiring to label Israeli goods produced in settlements as such. The Chairman concluded by calling for the cooperation and support of the intergovernmental, non-governmental and academic entities present at the Meeting to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.