NEW YORK CITY: The member states of the UN Security Council on Tuesday called for the Israeli occupation and the building of illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land to end, as they reiterated their support for a two-state solution to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
It came during the council’s quarterly meeting and debate on the situation in Palestine and the status of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. It was chaired by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, as Russia holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month and chose to convene it at a ministerial level.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki opened his remarks by commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, or “Catastrophe,” the destruction of the Palestinian homeland in 1948 as a result of the formation of the state of Israel, and the permanent displacement of a majority of Palestinian Arabs. More than 700,000 were forced to flee their homes and became refugees. Then, in 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.
Al-Maliki called on the international community to do more to hold Israeli authorities accountable for their repeated violations of international law resulting from the continuing occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the building of illegal settlements for Jewish citizens in occupied territories.
He said that while the international community has been vocal in condemning Israel for failing to adhere to the principles of international law, and for the mistreatment of Palestinians, it has failed back this up with “decisive action on the ground” that might deter such behavior and end the occupation.
Israeli authorities continue to act with “impunity” and total disregard for the norms of international law and diplomacy, Al-Maliki added, and they behave this way because the international community has refused to hold them to account.
“As long as Israel reaps the benefits of its occupation, while we pay the cost, annexation and apartheid are the only reality we are left with” he told council members.
“Make the occupation costly and I can assure you it will come to an end.”
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s permanent representative to the UN, did not respond to Al-Maliki’s comments. Instead, he accused the Security Council of “bias” because it had refused to postpone the meeting to accommodate Israel’s Memorial Day holiday on Tuesday. He then read out the names of Israeli soldiers who died in wars, before promptly leaving the meeting.
Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said that both Israelis and Palestinians should refrain from any actions that might escalate the conflict, and called for an end to any provocations or incitements that could prevent a resolution and an end to the occupation.
He highlighted the killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces and the demolition of Palestinian homes, and urged Israel to adhere to the principles of international law, preserve the status quo in occupied Jerusalem, and respect Jordan’s Hashemite custodianship of Muslim holy sites in the city.
Lavrov said that Russia supports a two-state solution and is intent on engaging with all powers in the region to help achieve stability and peace in the Middle East.
He said “unilateral steps on the ground” by the Israelis, such as the construction of illegal settlements, the demolition of Palestinian homes, and random arrests of Palestinian civilians, were the main driver of instability in the region.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US permanent representative to the UN, expressed Washington’s continuing support for Israel as she called on “all parties to exercise restraint in action and in rhetoric to prevent further escalation.”
She also condemned recent rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip and from Lebanon against Israeli targets in response to violence against Muslim worshippers in Jerusalem.
Thomas-Greenfield reiterated US support for a two-state solution as she called for an end to violence and the start of “confidence-building measures” between Israel and the Palestinians.
She also stressed Washington’s support for the UN Relief and Works Agency, the UN body responsible for supporting and aiding Palestinian Refugees. She said Washington has provided the agency with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding but warned that the agency might face financial problems soon that could put Palestinian refugees at risk and cause instability in the region.
Council members from France, Ecuador, Ghana and the UAE expressed concern about the recent increase in violence in Jerusalem and urged a “deescalation of tensions.”
They expressed support for Palestinian rights and called for an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people. They also welcomed efforts by authorities in Egypt and Jordan to ease the rising tensions.