The texts cited in this Monthly Bulletin have been reproduced in their original form. The Division for Palestinian Rights is consequently not responsible for the views, positions or discrepancies contained in these texts.
We are concerned over recent announcements by the Israeli Government to advance over 5,000 settlement units in the occupied West Bank.
We once again warn against any unilateral actions that can be an obstacle to a negotiated two-State solution and call on both parties to return to meaningful negotiations on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions, and in accordance with international law, in order to address all final-status issues. The United Nations stands ready to support this process.
MANAGUA, 4 February — The Palestinian diaspora was integral to reviving the vision of a State of Palestine living alongside a peaceful and secure neighbour in Israel, speakers said today, as the United Nations Round Table on the Question of Palestine opened in Managua, Nicaragua, amid calls to make 2017 a year of renewed hope for ending 50 years of occupation.
Organized around the theme “Building Bridges with Palestinian Diaspora in Central America”, the day featured two panel discussions with Mayor Vera Baboun of Bethlehem and Maria José Torres Mach, former Deputy Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Participants from the diaspora outlined the ways in which they were coordinating efforts to reconnect with the homeland and educate wider communities.
In opening remarks, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations, said Palestinians had a responsibility — as countries, communities and representatives of regional and political groups — to deny victory to those seeking to defeat their spirit. “This year, we need to redouble our efforts with a view to ending the occupation and allowing Palestinians to enjoy the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he added. “We are determined to do that.”
The Security Council’s recent adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) had arisen from those efforts, he continued, noting that his delegation had fought for a year to legislate that text, which aimed to save the two-State solution. He urged participating diaspora members to visit Palestine more, invest more and lobby the countries in which they lived to become more supportive of the Palestinian cause. “It is your duty to do everything that you can,” he emphasized. “We expect that from you in 2017.”
Denis Ronaldo Moncada Colindres, Nicaragua’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, welcomed participants by recalling that the friendship between his country and Palestine had been forged in a common struggle for independence. Stressing Nicaragua’s support for all efforts to restore Palestine as a sovereign State within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said the Government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the State of Palestine on exploring mutually beneficial actions under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, notably in the areas of health, education and youth dialogue. Denouncing Israel’s settlement policy as illegal, he expressed hope that today’s discussions would help to build the foundations of a lasting peace that would include Palestine’s entry into the United Nations as a full nation.
Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia), Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, welcomed a recent meeting of 14 delegations from the Latin American diaspora in Santiago de Chile, seeking to strengthen relations and promote Palestinian rights. Hopefully today’s deliberations would help in preparations for the diaspora convention later in 2017, he added, noting that a new partnership between the Committee and the diaspora was taking shape from a shared desire to see the emergence of a truly independent and sovereign State of Palestine.
In a keynote address, former Prime Minister Said Musa of Belize urged Central American Governments to use all available means to help their respective peoples understand the plight of Palestinians so that they, in turn, could support efforts to persuade Israel to stop its behaviour. He also advocated support for achieving that objective around the world by participating in the boycott of goods produced in illegal settlements, and by both recognizing and fostering relations with the State of Palestine. He also joined the call for Palestinian leaders to create a unified national strategy for restoring the vision for national liberation.
Rounding out the opening segment, Agshin Mehdiyev, Permanent Observer for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said today’s meeting exemplified the shared spirit needed to promote solidarity and positive change. Encouraging the diaspora to build networks that would support Palestine’s social, political and economic progress, he emphasized the OIC’s unwavering support for that cause, as well as for Palestinian rights, independence and national sovereignty, based on a two-State solution.
I am concerned by the scheduled vote on the so-called “Regularisation Bill” as it would enable the continued use of privately-owned Palestinian land for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
If adopted into law, it will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace. The bill has been deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General of Israel and is in contravention of international law.
I urge Israeli legislators to reconsider this move.
Settlements are illegal under international law and, as outlined in the Middle East Quartet report, present one of the main impediments to peace. All core issues should be resolved between the parties through direct negotiations on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and mutual agreements.
The Secretary-General deeply regrets the adoption of the so-called “Regularisation bill” on 6 February by the Knesset. This bill is in contravention of international law and will have far-reaching legal consequences for Israel. It reportedly provides immunity to settlements and outposts in the occupied West Bank that were built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
The Secretary-General insists on the need to avoid any actions that would derail the two-State solution. All core issues should be resolved between the parties through direct negotiations on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and mutual agreements. The United Nations stands ready to support this process.
On the night of 8 February, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham and its affiliates in the Sinai launched a series of rockets towards the Israeli coastal resort of Eilat. Thankfully, no one was injured or killed. I begin today’s briefing by unequivocally condemning this act, as well as those who inspired, implemented and celebrated it. I recall this incident because it is a chilling reminder of the need for States to work together and stand firm against terror.
The Middle East continues to be plagued by extremism, bloodshed and displacement, which feed intolerance, violence and religious radicalism far beyond the region. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sadly, is not immune to these sweeping regional threats. Although leaders on both sides agree on the need to continue Israeli-Palestinian security coordination, there is increasing anger in the street, and radical views are hijacking the discourse as moderate voices are increasingly vilified and cast aside.
It is critical that we all understand that we must never allow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to drift into the abyss of the extremism and radicalism sweeping the region. Palestinians, Israelis and the international community have a duty to act responsibly, avoid escalating tensions, refrain from unilateral actions and work together to uphold peace. Today, however, unilateral actions are returning the parties to a high-stakes collision course.
On 6 February, the Israeli Parliament adopted the so-called Regularization Law, which enables the use of privately owned Palestinian land for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank without the owners’ consent. The law has the potential to retroactively “regularize”—under Israeli law—thousands of existing settlement units built on land owned by Palestinian individuals living under occupation, as well as dozens of illegal outposts. Its passage marks a significant shift in Israel’s position concerning the legal status of the West Bank and the applicability of Israeli law therein. It contravenes international law and, according to the Israeli Attorney General, it is also unconstitutional. It is expected that the Supreme Court of Israel will rule on its constitutionality soon. If the law stays in place, it will have far-reaching consequences for Israel, while seriously undermining prospects for the two-State solution and for Arab-Israeli peace.
This period also saw Government statements announcing significant settlement expansion, which were quickly followed by action. Within a three-week period, the Israeli authorities promoted some 4,000 housing units in Area C, including tenders for around 800 units, the advancement of around 3,000 units and the approval of plans for an additional 230 units. These numbers are all the more worrying if compared to the whole of 2016, when 42 units were tendered and some 3,000 were advanced in Area C. Settlements were also advanced in East Jerusalem during the reporting period, with the issuance of building permits for over 900 units.
Settlement activities are illegal under international law and, as stated by the Middle East Quartet, they are one of the main obstacles to peace. All core issues should be resolved between the parties through direct negotiations on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and mutual agreements.
I continue to be concerned by the daily violence. So-called lone wolf attacks against Israeli civilians, though greatly reduced as compared to 2016, continue. On 9 February, in the market of Petah Tikva in central Israel, an 18-year-old Palestinian from Nablus shot and stabbed six Israelis, who were injured in the attack. In the West Bank, three Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli security forces in recent weeks, two allegedly attempting attacks on Israeli soldiers, while a teenager was killed during clashes with Israeli security forces. I once again call for the calibrated use of force and stress that live fire should be used only as a last resort, in situations of imminent threat of death or serious injury, and that any resulting death or injury should be properly investigated by the authorities.
The trend of demolishing Palestinian-owned structures continues. Some 57 structures have been torn down, displacing 108 people. Last year saw over 1,000 demolitions, the largest annual number of demolitions on record and nearly double the figure for 2015. I once again urge Israel to cease this destructive practice.
I welcome the Palestinian decision to hold the postponed local elections on 13 May. However, I also take note with regret of Hamas’ rejection of that decision. Let me urge all factions to work together in good faith to uphold democracy and to overcome the internal divisions that arc undermining Palestinian national institutions and the legitimate aspiration to statehood. Local elections, if held simultaneously in both Gaza and the West Bank, and conducted in line with international standards, could contribute to advancing reconciliation. Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single, legitimate and democratic Palestinian Authority on the basis of the Palestine Liberation Organization principles and the rule of law, in accordance with existing agreements.
In Gaza, we have consistently warned that the situation is not sustainable and that another escalation is likely unless the pressing needs of the population are more systematically addressed. I also note that Hamas in Gaza has elected a new leadership. It is for that leadership to ensure that Gaza remains calm and avoid the risk of spiraling into another conflict. Rocket attacks, tunnel construction and smuggling only heighten that risk. After over three months of relative calm, the launching of a rocket from Gaza towards Israel on 5 February — which landed without injury — reminded us all of the risk of further destabilizing an already combustible environment. In that environment, all sides should exercise maximum restraint.
The volatile situation in Gaza continues to be exacerbated by the persistence of a major humanitarian and development crisis, related in large part to the crippling closures of the Strip and the continuing political divide. This winter has borne witness to a serious electricity crisis, which in December left Palestinians in Gaza with only two hours of electricity per day. Tens of thousands of people came out in the streets in mass protests; many, including journalists, were detained. The crisis was temporarily resolved with a generous contribution of $12 million from the State of Qatar. As we speak, the United Nations is working actively with the Palestinian Authority, all stakeholders and key donors on a road map to ensure that Gaza’s massive electricity problems are addressed in a sustainable manner.
Returning to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, recent developments should be of concern to all of us. Some may hold the illusion that the conflict can be managed indefinitely and that the absence of a clear strategy to advance peace is a strategy in itself. The Middle East Quartet report and Security Council resolutions have clearly outlined what is needed to advance a sustainable and just peace. The two-State solution remains the only way to achieve the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples. Israel can take the necessary steps to stop settlement expansion and construction in order to preserve that prospect, while the Palestinian leadership can demonstrate its commitment to tackling the challenges of violence and incitement on its side. That would create an environment that would facilitate bilateral final status negotiations that the international community can support.
As Palestinians and Israelis face another period of uncertainty and concern for what lies ahead. I urge leaders on both sides to carefully contemplate the future they envision for their people. Will it be a future built on perpetual conflict, rising extremism and occupation? Or will it be a future built on mutual respect and an appreciation for the unimaginable wealth of opportunities that would come with peace? The answer seems obvious but, as history has painfully demonstrated, the path to peace is riddled with hazards. The United Nations remains resolute in its commitment to helping Palestinians and Israelis strive to overcome these challenges.
With prospects for a Two-State solution slipping away, a return to meaningful negotiations was more vital than ever, Secretary-General António Guterres told the Palestinian Rights Committee today, as it opened its session for 2017, a year marking 50 years of occupation.
Delivering the Secretary-General’s statement on his behalf, Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti said that, although the Committee was instrumental in moving forward issues relating to the cause, the Palestinian people continued to be subjected to stifling closures and blockades. The Palestinian Authority’s recent announcement on municipal elections should present an opportunity to renew its democratic principles and institutions, she added. Recalling that Member States had adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development two years ago, pledging to leave no one behind, she urged both Palestinians and Israelis to be part of the process of achieving peace and prosperity for all.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, called for independence and for an established State with East Jerusalem as its capital, noting that 2017 marked a unique opportunity to move forward, with the world commemorating 50 years of occupation. Expressing gratitude for the Committee’s intensified activities, in collaboration with States, agencies and non-governmental organizations, he said 2017 should be the international year to end Israel’s occupation.
Reiterating the “principled position” of the Secretary-General, he said there could be no alternative to the two-State solution. “We cannot change the course on which we built upon and invested in so much,” he emphasized, reiterating his commitment to the Secretary-General’s approach and that of all States “still willing and honouring” the cause of a two-State solution. “We will not relent in our pursuit,” he stressed, adding that it was vital to respect the will of the United Nations to help save the two-State solution and realize peace in the Middle East.
Fodé Seck (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noted that the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process had briefed the Security Council earlier, saying “there are significant challenges before us in searching for a just and sustainable solution.” Indeed, there were various risks that could lead to violent extremism and terrorism against both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, he warned.
He invited all parties to be “firm in their commitment” to the goal of building a sovereign, viable Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and living alongside Israel in peace and security. “We need to find the spirit of a shared resolution” that would accompany both parties in their negotiations, he said.
Outlining the Committee’s activities since its last meeting, he said they included attending a Security Council briefing on 23 December 2016, a Council open debate on the Middle East on 17 January, and the United Nations Round Table on “Building Bridges with the Palestinian Diaspora in Central America”, held in Managua, Nicaragua, on 4 February.
At the outset, the Committee unanimously re-elected Mr. Seck (Senegal) as Chair and the following Vice-Chairs: Mahmoud Saikal (Afghanistan), Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo (Cuba); Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia); Neville Melvin Gertze (Namibia); and María Rubiales de Chamorro (Nicaragua). Carmelo Inguanez (Malta) was elected Rapporteur.
Also today, the Committee approved its draft programme of work for the 2017 session (document A/AC.183/2017/L.2), which outlined such planned activities as a capacity-building seminar on South-South and triangular cooperation, organized in cooperation with the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to be held in Beirut, Lebanon; the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem, organized with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan; and a high-level event of the United Nations and the Civil Society Forum to mark 50 years of occupation, to be held at Headquarters.
Nicaragua’s representative said his country had recently hosted a round table on the Palestinian diaspora in Central America, and expressed hope that the Managua Declaration issued at its conclusion would foster an end to Israel’s occupation.
Venezuela’s representative reaffirmed his country’s full commitment to the Palestinian cause, recalling that, during its tenure on the Security Council, Venezuela had promoted transparent discussion of the issue and fought against double standards. The Council had examined the humanitarian consequences of the Gaza blockade and investigated mechanisms for protecting Palestinians and stopping illegal settlements. “We must be clear in coming up with solutions based on the two-State proposal,” he emphasized.
Cuba’s representative stressed the need to redouble efforts for a just, comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would enable Palestinians to exercise their inalienable rights. She expressed particular concern over the announcements that 5,500 new settlement units would be built in the West Bank, and that a new law would retroactively legalize settlements that were in violation of international law. Cuba would continue, in the Human Rights Council and elsewhere, to promote the Palestinian cause, she said. She emphasized the importance of cooperation between the Committee and national, as well as regional efforts, including those of civil society, in order to help Palestinians exercise their rights in full. The work programme should offer a road map to that end, she added.
Taking to the floor once again, Mr. Mansour said it was important to stabilize funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which was vital in helping the Palestinian people’s sustainable development efforts.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ecuador, Malaysia and Turkey.
They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. Palestine took its first steps to independence and statehood a very long time ago and you have traveled many, many miles on the journey to achieve your legitimate national aspirations of statehood. It’s been a road that has been very thorny and difficult, a road marred by occupation, by crisis, by conflict. Sometimes we in the international community have helped you, but sometimes maybe not. Today it is appropriate for all of us to say to you, Mr. Prime Minister, to President Abbas, and to everyone at the Government, to the people of Palestine: Congratulations for the road well-traveled! Moreover, ‘Mabrouk’, particularly, for mapping out the next miles on the journey to statehood.
It is no small achievement to articulate a National Policy Agenda with a very clear and strong vision in the times of uncertainty we live. Particularly as there is the iron lid of occupation on Palestine’s ambitions. You work under uniquely difficult conditions and face remarkable political, security and developmental challenges. This is something that we in the international community should never forget. It is for us to adapt to the circumstances that you face, not for you to adapt to our templates and matrices. That is why the National Policy Adenda that you have developed is so important for all of us. It will serve as a compass heading for international support to the Palestinian Authority. For us in the United Nations, it will help us design our priorities under the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the years 2018-2022, which we are close to finalizing in cooperation with the Government. The UNDAF will outline how the UN will support the implementation of the NPA. The first two strategic priorities will be clearly the path to statehood and to governance reform, the third and the fourth priorities that we will set out will look at the economic and social development. I want to assure all of you, and I want to assure all Palestinians, that the United Nations remains committed and will always support you on the road to statehood. I want to welcome the fact that you have put ‘citizens first’ at the core of the NPA. I also note that in many of the priorities that the Government has outlined in the agenda are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals to ‘leave no one behind’. Over the years Palestine has had very impressive social achievements: 97% primary school enrollment rate; 95% adult literacy; a 100% vaccination rates for children; relatively low maternal and infant mortality rates; and declining trends in early marriage – you should be proud of these achievements.
It is in the next miles of your journey to statehood that the biggest difficulties will emerge. How to maintain these standards? How to ensure that your people are treated equally and fairly? How to make sure that no one is left behind, that citizens come first?
How you address these and many other challenges, how you protect and advance these achievements, that will be the real test for the Government and for Palestinian leaders.
Half a century of occupation has marked everything in this troubled land. Certainly it has affected the national dignity of Palestinians. That is why it is important for the Palestinian people to see that their Government is there to serve them and to provide them with the best services that it can, and to address the huge problems of the reality of today. In Gaza we have chronic energy, water and humanitarian problems; massive difficulties stemming from the closures; challenges emanating from a decade of separation and four bloody conflicts. Life however is not easy in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory. Just a couple of days ago, in the early morning hours of the 19th of February, the Israeli Civil Administration served yet another round of stop-order and demolition orders to the Bedouin community of Abu Al Helu. This is a community, among many others, that are at risk of being moved, their houses and a school that has been built with international assistance demolished. Later today, the UN Resident Coordinator Robert Piper will be visiting the community to personally take stock of developments there. I assure you we will speak out very clearly in support of the legitimate rights of people under such circumstances.
Palestinians across the West Bank face major problems, particularly in Area C, where limitations on their development have been imposed, where they cannot access natural resources, or work the land for their benefit. Land that is quickly disappearing as settlements expand, despite international statements that they are illegal under international law and present one of the main obstacles to peace. The economic situation in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority is also difficult. The economy lags behind the social achievements of Palestine. Unemployment remains high, budget deficits are recurring, and there are major constraints to private sector development. We can certainly list a whole litany of technical recommendations on how to change this. There is one political message that needs to resound very clearly — unless the occupation is lifted, unless the iron lid on Palestinian development is lifted, all our efforts can only be partially successful. The economic situation in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority is also difficult. The economy lags behind the social achievements of Palestine. Unemployment remains high, budget deficits are recurring, and there are major constraints to private sector development. We can certainly list a whole litany of technical recommendations on how to change this. There is one political message that needs to resound very clearly — unless the occupation is lifted, unless the iron lid on Palestinian development is lifted, all our efforts can only be partially successful.
That is why we, in the international community, need to help Israelis and Palestinians return back to a meaningful process of negotiations that provides hope to people. In that process we must stand firmly in support of the statehood of Palestine and in assisting you, the Palestinian people, in achieving independence, in getting ‘a good deal’ on independence. ‘A good deal’ can only be based on sovereignty and statehood.
We also need to ensure that the Palestinian case is not lost in the ever-increasing crowd priorities in the Middle East. We need to make sure that we, the international community, have our common set of priorities firmly aligned to yours. Finally, we need to make sure that the two-state solution remains at the core of addressing the final status issues. It is the only way to legitimately meet the national aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis, who both have a link to this land.
I want to assure you that the United Nations will stand with you throughout this process and continue our support for your institution building efforts. We will work tirelessly to help rebuild hope and achieve as soon as we can what generations have worked and struggled for — an independent State of Palestine living next to the State of Israel in peace and security and mutual recognition.
We are deeply disturbed at the lenient sentence given by the Tel Aviv Military Court earlier this week to an Israeli soldier convicted of unlawfully killing a wounded Palestinian in an apparent extrajudicial execution of an unarmed man who clearly posed no imminent threat.
Sergeant Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter in January 2017 for shooting dead Abdelfattah al-Sharif in Hebron in March 2016. At the time, Mr. Al-Sharif was unarmed and lying wounded on the ground after having been shot for stabbing and wounding an Israeli soldier. Although manslaughter carries a maximum punishment of 20 years, Sergeant Azaria was sentenced only to 18 months in prison and a demotion.
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli security forces since the most recent upsurge in violence began in the West Bank in September 2015. Sergeant Azaria is the only member of the Israeli security forces to have been brought to trial for such a killing.
While the prosecution and conviction are very welcome steps towards accountability, the punishment — which is excessively lenient — is difficult to reconcile with the intentional killing of an unarmed and prone individual. It also stands in contrast to the sentences handed down by other Israeli courts for other less serious offences, notably the sentencing of Palestinian children to more than three years’ imprisonment for throwing stones at cars. This case risks undermining confidence in the justice system and reinforcing the culture of impunity.