12/01/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/01/2021 19:30
Adopting three resolutions by recorded vote on the questions of Palestine and the Middle East, the General Assembly today called for respect for the historic status quo at the holy places of Jerusalem and stressed the need to urgently exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process.
Through the terms of the text titled "Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine", the Assembly reiterated its call for the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. By further terms, it also called upon Israel to cease all unilateral actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and called upon all States not to recognize any changes to the pre‑1967 borders and not to render aid or assistance to illegal settlement activities.
Also adopted was a resolution titled "Jerusalem", in which the Assembly reiterated its determination that any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal. Recalling the 2015 Security Council press statement on Jerusalem, in which the Council called for upholding unchanged the historic status quo at the Haram al‑Sharif, the Assembly stressed that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of the City of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and Israeli sides.
By the terms of a resolution titled "The Syrian Golan", the Assembly declared that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void and demanded that Israel withdraw from the territory.
Speaking in explanation of positions before and after the adoptions, delegates expressed various reservations. The representative of the United States said that the resolution concerning "Jerusalem" only references Haram al‑Sharif rather than "Haram al‑Sharif/Temple Mount", which recognizes the shared history of the holy site. It is morally, historically and politically wrong for the Assembly to support language that denies both the Jewish and Muslim connections to the Temple Mount and Haram al‑Sharif, he said.
Albania's delegate, who abstained on that vote, explained that despite agreeing with it in substance, "we would have preferred a more balanced terminology" on the sensitive issue of the holy places in Jerusalem. Australia's representative said her country is opposed to one‑sided resolutions that single out Israel and called for further changes in language to the Palestinian package of resolutions.
Prior to action, the representative of Israel said that by voting in favour of these resolutions, the international community is directly contributing to prolonging the conflict. Stressing that the three resolutions have only one purpose, which is to demonize his country, he called it the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East and a beacon of human rights. The Abraham Accords have created real people‑to‑people peace but instead of seizing the opportunity, Palestinian leadership opposed it, he said. The resolution on Jerusalem calls to maintain the status quo in Jerusalem but does the exact opposite by referring to the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, only by its Muslim name, he said. But the bond between the Jewish people and their capital would never be erased, he stressed.
"No one is more exhausted than our people," the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said during the debate. Injustice and loss have defined Palestinian existence across generations, he said, detailing how Palestinian civilians are being killed and injured and their homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes while settler militias act as mercenaries for the occupation. Highlighting the resilience shown by the Palestinian people, including during the conflict in May, he said that Israel, under cover of platitudes, is escalating its violations. That country cannot be allowed to continue its security rhetoric and false accusations, he said, also taking the floor after action to add that the language concerning Jerusalem is in line with the position adopted by the Security Council and voted in favour by all its 15 members.
The representative of Egypt recalled his country's natural historic role in negotiating a ceasefire during the escalation of conflict in the Gaza Strip in May. The problem could explode again at any minute, he cautioned, stressing the need to resuscitate the peace negotiations, including by holding a ministerial meeting of the Quartet and by deploying efforts to re‑establish trust between the two sides.
South Africa's delegate drew attention to Israel's recent designation of six Palestinian civil society organizations as terrorist organizations. That is unjustified, he said, calling on Israel to give human rights organizations access to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and interrogation centres.
Norway's delegate noted positive signs including the resumption of contact between the Palestinian Authority and the new Israeli Government. Both parties participated in the recent ministerial meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Oslo, he said, stressing the importance of strengthening the Palestinian economy.
The Assembly also heard from Abdulla Shahid, President of the Assembly, who reminded delegates that mere words are of no use to Palestinian people as they suffer decades of occupation, arbitrary arrests and illegal settlements. Drawing attention to the shortfall in the funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he added: "At stake is not only the region's peace and security, but our ability to come together as a global community."
Also speaking today were representatives of Namibia, Malaysia, Jordan, Maldives, India, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Oman, China, Japan, Morocco, Qatar, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Argentina, Tunisia, Indonesia, Guyana, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Haiti, Iran, United Kingdom, and Brazil, as well as the European Union.
The representative of Syria also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 2 December, to consider the topics of sport for development and peace as well as implementation of and follow‑up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.
ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, noting that the two items, "the Question of Palestine" and "the Situation in the Middle East" are deeply intertwined, said the spill‑over effects of the Palestinian‑Israeli dispute undermine the stability of the broader region. "At stake is not only the region's peace and security, but our ability to come together as a global community and resolve international disputes, in line with the founding vision of the United Nations," he said. Efforts to resolve the issue should be informed by international human rights law and international humanitarian law, he stressed, adding that mere words are of no use to Palestinian people suffering from decades of occupation, arbitrary arrests and illegal settlements on their land.
Noting that half of the region's five million Palestinians are dependent on aid, he added that 80 per cent of the population of Gaza is direly in need of assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and its programme budget operates with a large shortfall, putting services to refugees, including girls' education, vaccination rollouts, and humanitarian assistance in jeopardy. A General Assembly resolution adopted 74 years ago provided the legal foundation for the formation of the State of Israel and a State for the Palestinian people, he recalled. However, the establishment of the latter in line with international law has not yet been achieved. As long as the Palestinian people are deprived of statehood, anger and bitterness will fester, he said.
Question of Palestine
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced its annual report (document A/76/35), noting that it contains developments relating to the question of Palestine between September 2020 and August 2021. While the first two chapters provide a brief overview of the major political developments, the final chapter contains the Committee's conclusions and recommendations. Highlighting some of those, he said the Committee calls on Israel, the occupying Power, to halt the creeping annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which undermines the contiguity of the Palestinian territory and the physical viability of a two‑State solution.
Reaffirming the Committee's support to all relevant stakeholders, he noted the role of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and UNRWA and said the Committee will synergize efforts to uphold the permanent responsibility of the Organization towards the question of Palestine until it is justly resolved in all its aspects. Introducing the draft resolution on "Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine" (document A/76/L.14), he said it calls upon all States to not recognize any changes to the pre‑1967 borders, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations. The text also calls on States to distinguish in their relevant dealings between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967, and to not render aid or assistance to illegal settlement activities, he added.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, underscored that the United Nations has a clear, vital responsibility concerning the question of Palestine, "as the Nakba that befell the Palestinian people following the General Assembly's decision to partition historic Palestine persists seventy‑four years later". Generations have been deprived of their fundamental human rights, endured the misery of exile as refugees and over 50 years of colonial foreign occupation. The consequences of this injustice have defined Palestinian existence in countless ways across generations, one marred by painful hardships, dispossession and loss - "of life and living, of home and homeland, of opportunity and potential, of hope and dreams". He spotlighted, however, the resilience of the Palestinian people, witnessed again in May as Israel pressed on with its war of colonization, aggression and apartheid against that people in Jerusalem, Gaza and across the Palestinian homeland.
"We all know by now," he said, that the absence of a credible political horizon - and failure to enforce accountability for Israel's systematic human‑rights abuses and war crimes - has only prolonged the conflict. As Israel believes that it can violate international law and ignore United Nations resolutions without cost or consequence, it has entrenched its illegal occupation and continued its decades‑long scheme to displace and replace the Palestinian people. While some laud the new Israeli Government, the truth is that Israel - under cover of platitudes about improving the situation - is escalating its violations.
He detailed how Palestinian civilians are being killed and injured; how thousands of homes have been destroyed by Israeli airstrikes; how Israeli soldiers violently raid Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps daily; and how settler militias and extremists, acting as mercenaries on behalf of the occupation, are terrorizing the Palestinian people. Colonial settlements continue to be constructed - with more than 60,000 additional Israeli settlers implanted in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the five years since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) - and Israel continues measures to illegally alter Jerusalem's demography, character, status, history and identity. Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip for 15 years, imprisoning over 2 million people in deprivation, and continues to deny the rights of Palestinian refugees - foremost their right of return. "It is time to end this deplorable situation," he stressed, calling for collective, responsible action to protect human life and uphold the rule of law.
Addressing those who declare that the world is fatigued by this issue, he said that "no one is more exhausted than our people, who are living this grim reality". Israel cannot be allowed to continue distorting and distracting with empty pretexts, security rhetoric and false accusations of terrorism and anti‑Semitism. Concrete action is needed, including lawful countermeasures to halt Israeli violations and collective efforts to revive the prospects for peace. On that, he highlighted the important role of the Council, Middle East Quartet and Assembly, while also urging States to implement United Nations resolutions at both national and international levels. Continued violations must have consequences, and it is time to stop appeasing Israel and rewarding its transgressions. States must not be complicit with Israel's illegal actions and, pursuant to resolution 2334 (2016), they must distinguish between Israel and the territories it has occupied since 1967. He urged the international community to "seize this opportunity to prevent the passing of another year at the expense of more Palestinian suffering" and yet another lost generation.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia) said the Israeli systematic oppression of Palestinians and its discriminatory policies are tantamount to crimes of apartheid and its settlements are illegal under international law. He called on all Member States that believe in the rule of law and human rights not to shy away from denouncing Israeli illegal and inhumane actions, stressing: "Impunity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must end". Only a negotiated political solution - based on internationally agreed parameters, international law and relevant United Nations resolutions - can lead to durable peace. It is more urgent than ever to restart and create the necessary conditions for peace talks between the relevant parties. He called for Member States to grant full membership status to the State of Palestine. Malaysia remains committed to supporting UNRWA and in November pledged $1 million in long‑term contributions to the Agency to support predictable and sustainable funding. He called on other Member States that have not done so to consider providing financial assistance to UNRWA so it can keep providing critical humanitarian and development needs for millions of Palestinian refugees.
SUDQI ATALLAH ABD ALKADETR AL OMOUSH (Jordan) emphasized that the international community must achieve a just and comprehensive peace agreement, based on a two‑State solution. Security and stability are also interlinked with the Palestinian economy. Palestinian economic growth must be supported in order to open the door to trade and investment opportunities, he said. Jordan is committed to protecting Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem and will counter any attempts to alter the status of those sites. His country will continue to work with all partners and friends to ensure the provision of the necessary support to sustain the work of UNRWA, he stated.
GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) recalling a recent "act of terror" in Jerusalem that killed a 26‑year-old and wounded four others, said the Palestinian authorities and President Mahmoud Abbas had not even bothered to condemn it simply because they are not interested in reconciliation. The three resolutions on which the Assembly would vote have only one purpose, and that is to demonize Israel, he said, calling it an annual package of distorted anti‑Israel resolutions that attack Israel and promote the Palestinians' false narrative. Year after year, valuable time, effort and resources are wasted, instead of focused on the world's most pressing challenges.
As the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East, he said Israel endures endless attacks, while the Iranian regime, which murders thousands of its citizens, is hardly mentioned. While Syria uses chemical weapons on its citizens and has made millions of them homeless, he said Israel, a beacon of human rights, is the primary focus of the United Nations. "By voting in favor of these resolutions, you are directly contributing to prolonging this conflict," he stressed.
Noting the transformative progress being made across the Middle East, he said that over a year ago Israel signed peace agreements with three Arab countries - the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco - without any resolutions, condemnations or United Nations intervention. The Abraham Accords have created real people‑to‑people peace while deepening ties to partners, both new and old. Since their signing, the region has become a hub for innovation and unity, from recent energy and water deals to green technology ventures. The Abraham Accords are a model for what can be achieved when parties support religious tolerance and co‑existence. Rather than seizing the opportunity, Palestinian leadership opposed the Abraham Accords, yet there was not a single condemnation of their blatant rejection of peace.
On the Assembly resolutions, he said one of the most absurd demands is the call to maintain the status quo in Jerusalem when the resolution does the exact opposite by referring to the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, only by its Muslim name. Stressing that the bond between the Jewish people and their capital would never be erased, he said perhaps it is time to chart a different path. "If you truly want to ensure a future in which the entire region can live in peace and prosperity, the cycle of furthering false narratives and destructive propaganda must end now," he stressed.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said that while the Organization has adopted a number of resolutions which are the basis for the international legitimacy for the State of Palestine, Palestinian suffering continues to be passed down from one generation to the next. Recalling the escalation of conflict in the Gaza Strip in May, he said his country played its natural historic role to negotiate a ceasefire. Voicing concern about the expansion of settlements, demolition of homes, the Judaization of East Jerusalem and the blockade on Gaza, he said that the burden of all this is greater because of the consequences of the COVID‑19 pandemic. The problem could explode again at any minute, he cautioned, stressing the need to resuscitate the peace negotiations, including by holding a ministerial meeting of the Quartet and by deploying efforts to re‑establish trust between the two sides.
LAUZA ALI (Maldives) said for the past seven decades, countless resolutions have been adopted to ensure that the Palestinian people's historic and legal rights are respected. Yet, nothing has changed: the occupation continues; the international community has seen the acceleration of unlawful settlement activities and witnessed excessive use of force against civilians, including women and children. This sustained occupation and continuous aggression has far‑reaching consequences; Palestinian people have lost access to employment opportunities, natural resources, basic legal protections, and essential needs and services such as food, water, health, and education. It is depressing to see that the solution - a sovereign State of Palestine, established on the pre‑1967 borders - seems to move further and further away from becoming a reality. Pointing to countless violations of international law by Israel, with no accountability, she said the impunity with which the Israeli forces operate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is a serious threat to the rules‑based international order and deeply offends one's sense of justice and decency.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) said that the international community in general, and the Quartet in particular, have an important role to play in restarting negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. He urged both sides to refrain from unilateral acts that could threaten peace. Considering it essential to preserve the status quo regarding the holy sites, he welcomed the ongoing cooperation on this issue between Israel, Palestine, and the countries of the region. He explained that India continues to support Palestine through bilateral aid and contributions through the United Nations. During the recent UNRWA ministerial conference in Brussels, India committed to contribute $5 million to the Agency for 2022.
JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela) said that for more than 70 years, the Palestinian people have resisted with courage and dignity the attacks systematically perpetrated by the occupying Power. Despite a "context of international impunity" perpetuated by the United States, and which encourages Israel's crimes, the international community must demand justice and bring an end to impunity. Israel has used the worst pandemic in the last 100 years as leverage to advance its policy of occupation and domination, he said, adding that, according to information recently released by the Israeli Defense Forces, in the last two years, incidents of violence have increased 150 per cent. Palestinians in Gaza have been living in precarious conditions and suffering from a lack of food, water and electricity. The State of Palestine today faces two pandemics: COVID‑19 and the one generated by the brutal, systematic and deliberate Israeli military aggression, which violates daily the United Nations Charter and international law. The General Assembly and the Security Council must, without further delay, take decisions to guarantee international protection for the Palestinian civilian population, and to prevent the commission of crimes that impinge on the dignity and human rights of the Palestinian people.
RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh) reiterating her country's unwavering support for the just cause of the Palestinian people for an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital, said their aspiration for a homeland free of occupation remains elusive despite decades of efforts. The demolitions, expulsions, forced displacement and bloodshed are everyday reminders of Israel's blatant disregard for international humanitarian law, she said, noting that targeted attacks on healthcare structures and workers have further aggravated the COVID‑19 situation. Calling for respect for the sanctity of Palestinian territories as well as sites of worship, she added that the international community must ensure Israel's compliance with all relevant resolutions. Also stressing the need for accountability for human rights violations against Palestinian civilians, she welcomed the relevant developments in the International Criminal Court.
MOHAMED AL HASSAN (Oman) said that despite the adoption of Security Council resolutions calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, it has continued for over half a century. Oman supports strict compliance with international law, which has repeatedly confirmed the legitimacy of the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self‑determination and to a state with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said. He shared the Secretary‑General's concern about the escalation of violence perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians, as the occupying Power is not only failing to make peace but is supplicating the very people it is supposed to administer with respect for their human rights. Israel must take steps towards peace to open a new era of dialogue and prosperity for all the peoples of the Middle East, he stressed.
ZHANG JUN (China) said the heavy clashes in Gaza in May, which resulted in death and injury, is yet another reminder that the settlement of the question of Palestine cannot be delayed indefinitely, the suffering of Palestinian people cannot be ignored and the Middle East peace process must not continue to be derailed. A sincere friend of the Palestinian people and staunch supporter of peace between Palestine and Israel, his country's President has on several occasions put forth initiatives to promote a just settlement. China will continue to always speak up for fairness and justice, actively facilitate talks for peace and continue to provide humanitarian, development and pandemic response assistance to Palestine, as well as support the United Nations in playing a positive and constructive role in that regard. Expressing support for full implementation of a two‑State solution, he said it reflects international consensus, equity and justice, and is the only realistic avenue to address the question of Palestine. The international community must work together to turn this vision into reality and translate consensus to action. The power of the Palestinian Authority must be enhanced, and it should be authorized to exercise sovereign functions in security, finance and other areas to gain effective control over the autonomous Occupied Palestinian Territory.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) urged parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to build trust and refrain from unilateral acts hampering the resumption of direct negotiations. Tensions in Gaza have decreased since the ceasefire was announced leading to smoother delivery of humanitarian goods, movement of people and issuance of Israeli work permits for Palestinians. But the situation remains worrisome, he added, expressing deep concern over Israel's October publication of tenders for housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Moreover, continuing acts of violence in the West Bank must cease as they jeopardize efforts to build trust among parties and could lead to re‑escalated conflict. Calling on parties to halt activities hindering realization of a two‑State solution, he emphasized that progress can only be achieved through negotiations and mutual trust.
ODD INGE KVALHEIM (Norway) said only a negotiated two‑State solution along the lines of accepted parameters can lead to an endurable peace. Norway takes this position as chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee and as a member of the Security Council. Encouraged by the resumption of contact between the Palestinian Authority and the new Israeli Government, he said the latter is sending positive messages of change. The Palestinian economy must be strengthened in order to prevent further instability and violence. Both parties participated in the recent ministerial meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Oslo. It is crucial to improve economic relations between Palestine and Israel, he said, noting there is not much external aide for the Palestinians. Palestinian fiscal reform that provides a sustainable and inclusive recovery is vital. Norway has provided core support to UNRWA and it encourages other Member States to do the same. The plight of children must be improved and all actors must end violations of human rights. A strong Palestinian Authority is needed and Palestinians deserve democracy and a rule of law with equal rights for all. He hoped that the negative trends over the last year would subside. Israel's expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal and an impediment to a two‑State solution. All supporters of a two‑State solution should encourage the parties to work towards a viable solution.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) stressed that the stability and prosperity of the region depends on a fair and sustainable solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, based on the framework of various international resolutions. Reaffirming support for the rights of Palestinians to establish a viable independent State, he also underscored the role of Jerusalem as a city of peace. Noting the appeal made by the King of Morocco for safeguarding that city, he noted that it has also been signed by Pope Francis and reaffirms the international heritage of Jerusalem. Highlighting his country's support for Palestinian institutions, he said that Morocco has launched an initiative to finance various programmes in the social sector.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) stated that there are no alternatives to a just solution to the question of Palestine, in accordance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions and the Organization's Charter. Israeli violations in occupied East Jerusalem are part of the policies aiming to Judaize and expand settlements. The continued escalatory measures by the occupying Power are incompatible with and do not convey the decisions of the United Nations aimed at the peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question, including the resolution adopted by the General Assembly annually under the question of Palestine. The effects of these Israeli measures on the Palestinians are multifaceted, she said. The economic hardship endured by the Palestinian people due to the Israeli occupation and Israel's closure policy explain the long‑term negative impact on the Palestinian economy for the past 20 years, including high unemployment and poverty. Her country recently launched a $40 million assistance programme for about 100,000 families in need in Gaza, which is under a suffocating siege.
VILAYLUCK SENEDUANGDETH (Lao People's Democratic Republic) expressed deep concern over the ongoing conflict and violence in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as the continued illegal settlement activities and destruction of property and economic institutions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Calling on the parties concerned to avoid further exacerbating the already fragile situation, she voiced her country's support for the pursuit of a just and peaceful solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, while respecting the inalienable rights of the Palestinians, including their right to self‑determination. Welcoming possible new multilateral initiatives to revive the peace process, she reaffirmed her country's consistent support for the independence and sovereignty of the State of Palestine, and commended the continued efforts by the United Nations and relevant agencies amid the ongoing challenges posed by COVID‑19.
TALAL S.S.S. ALFASSAM (Kuwait) said the occupying Power continues to defy United Nations resolutions and forms agreements to build thousands of housing units in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Those activities and agreements, which have been condemned by the international community, torpedo a two‑State solution and are a flagrant violation of international law, he said, calling on the international community to bring an end to these illegal Israeli practices. While the international community was busy tackling the pandemic, Israel tirelessly continued its policy of aggression against the Palestinian people. Settlers have attacked unarmed civilians, including children and elderly women, destroyed their houses and seized their properties. More than ever, international legal and economic mechanisms must be bolstered so that Israel is held accountable for its violations and Palestinians are protected under international law. Also, action must be taken urgently to protect holy sites and ensure the end of the Israeli occupation. Reiterating his country's support for the Palestinian people, he stressed the need for the resumption of negotiations according to a two‑State solution. Noting the importance of UNRWA, he said Kuwait contributed $21.5 million to ensure continuation of the Agency's vital education and health care services for Palestinian refugees.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said that in order to achieve a fair and holistic solution to the Palestinian issue, direct negotiations between the parties concerned must be resumed. In that context, it is essential to create a peaceful atmosphere by preventing illegal practices such as the expansion of settlements and the confiscation of Palestinian property. It is also vital to preserve the status quo in Jerusalem in line with relevant United Nations resolutions, he said, noting the city's importance in historical and religious terms for those who follow the monotheistic religions. The United Arab Emirates has sent 340,000 COVID‑19 vaccine doses to families in the Gaza Strip and is currently completing work on a hospital that will have 200 beds for COVID‑19 patients. He expressed his hope that new relations in the region will create prospects for development and that the signing of the Abraham Accords will enable the achievement of peace and prosperity for all.
YUSNIER ROMERO PUENTES (Cuba) said that despite the negative effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic, Israel continues its annexation policies and settlement activities. The blockade in Gaza not only exacerbates the humanitarian situation, but also makes it more difficult to fight the pandemic. Noting that the Council remains silent, he condemned the obstruction by the United States, which is complicit in the occupation of Israel. Calling on the Council to discharge its obligation to uphold peace and international security, he added that the international community must not remain passive. Voicing support for a broad and just resolution to this issue, he condemned the unilateral actions of the United States in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the occupied Syrian Golan as the territory of Israel.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) said that the only solution to the conflict is the resumption of negotiations between the two parties, within the framework of the Oslo Accords. She expressed her support for a two‑State solution, based on the 1967 borders and in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions. She reiterated her concern over the persistent and continued growth of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, demanding that their expansion be halted. In the same vein, she condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza against civilians in Israel, as well as all violent actions by Hamas and other armed groups. Regarding the situation in East Jerusalem, she rejected any unilateral attempt to change the status of the city, which should be a place of meeting and peace, with free access for Jews, Muslims and Christians.
ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) said that while there has been large‑scale international support for the Palestinian cause, attempts to establish the right to self‑determination of the Palestinian people and an independent sovereign State have not been successful. The occupying Power has continued its actions throughout decades despite the will of the international community. The Secretary‑General's reports outline the suffering of Palestinians, discriminatory practices and systemic oppression, as well as the scale of Israel's violations of international law, he said, stressing that this cannot be allowed to continue or escalate. Reaffirming his country's support to the Palestinian cause, he called on the international community to bring the occupying Power to respect United Nations resolutions and to end the occupation. He expressed support for an international peace conference with the participation of all relevant parties, and for UNRWA's work in alleviating the suffering of Palestinian refugees.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia) said that decades of occupation have led to the tragic suffering of the Palestinian people. Violations by the occupying Power, including violence and forced displacement, continue to be a daily reality. Against that backdrop, the international community must remain committed to holding Israel accountable and to supporting a just and inclusive resolution through a two‑State solution. He called on Israel to respect its obligations under international law and end its violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, stressing that a lack of accountability fuels a culture of impunity and must be stopped. It is essential to provide material assistance to the Palestinian people, he said, urging the international community to commit to predicable funding for UNRWA in order for it to fulfil its mandate.
CAROLYN RODRIGUES-BIRKETT (Guyana) noted the escalation of violence in May 2021 in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. Elections were postponed, preventing the people from exercising their democratic rights, and the pandemic did not make circumstances easier, especially for women and girls. She expressed concern over the decades-long conflict that has affected the rights of Palestinians in the most inhumane way, reaffirming recognition of a free, independent and sovereign Palestinian State based on pre‑1967 borders and the Palestinian peoples' right to a dignified life in their homeland. Calling for constructive dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian authorities to advance the peace process, she recognized the work of UNRWA, assisting 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, and of the United Nations Department of Global Communications, instrumental in creating a special informational programme on the question. She concurred with international consensus on a two‑State solution and implementation of recommendations in the Committee's report, urging the international community to uphold international law and obligations on the matter.
TIYANI RAYMOND SITHOLE (South Africa), voicing support for the draft resolution under consideration, noted that it has been 54 years since the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel. Stressing that a viable peace plan should not allow Palestinian statehood to devolve into an entity devoid of sovereignty, territorial contiguity and economic viability, he called for a solution premised on a just, rights‑based settlement which ensures sovereign equality between both States. Israel's recent designation of six Palestinian civil society organizations as terrorist organizations is unjustified, he said calling on Israel to give human rights organizations access to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and interrogation centres.
MOHAMMED ABDULAZIZ H. ALATEEK (Saudi Arabia) said the international community must fulfil its responsibilities by calling on Israel to end its policy of occupation and by ensuring the protection of the Palestinian people. Constant settlement expansion in the occupied territories undermine the prospect of peaceful coexistence. Furthermore, these measures undermine security in the Middle East in general, he said. Therefore, it is important to support the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, based on pre‑1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Recalling that this is the goal that all Saudi monarchs have always supported, he concluded by calling for increased support for UNRWA.
The Situation in the Middle East
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), introducing the draft resolutions titled "The Syrian Golan" (A/76/L.15) and "Jerusalem" (A/76/L.16), said the first step to stopping the downward spiral in the Middle East is to put an end to the occupation of all Arab territories occupied on 5 June 1967, specifically the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan. The international community must take a decisive position towards respect of international law and international resolutions, most important of which are the United Nations resolutions that reaffirm the inadmissibility of annexation of territories by force and the rejection of any unilateral measures or demographic changes in territories under occupation.
Turning to "L.15", he said Egypt has been submitting resolutions on the Syrian Golan to the General Assembly annually. The 2021 draft contains the same language as the 2020 draft with some technical updates. It reaffirms that the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War applies to the occupied Syrian Golan. Further, it reaffirms that settlement construction and any other Israeli activities constitute a change in the demographic nature of the occupied Syrian Golan. The resolution calls on Israel to resume peace talks and withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan in accordance with the border lines of 4 June 1967.
Turning to "L.16", he emphasized that Jerusalem enjoys special status in the Arab and Islamic world. All United Nations resolutions since 1947 have included provisions on the status of the city, however they remain unimplemented in violation of international law. Egypt is tabling that resolution as it seeks to achieve the highest level of consensus among Member States. The current draft retains language in the 2018 draft with limited amendments, reflecting developments on the ground since that time. The resolution rejects the expansion of Israeli settlements, demolition of Palestinian buildings and homes, and eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem. The draft reaffirms that any measures taken to change the character of the city are null and void and must be stopped. He expressed hope that all Member States will vote in favour of those two draft resolutions so that peace and stability will be achieved in the Middle East.
HASSAN ADAM (Maldives) noted that after more than five decades of Assembly discussions, the situation in the Middle East continues to be marred by ongoing violence, with various conflicts still causing devastation and destruction. The Palestinian people are yet to fully enjoy basic rights, he said, pointing to the further deterioration of the security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Also voicing concern about the conflicts and their humanitarian toll in Syria and Yemen, he noted the displacement crisis in the region with millions of people fleeing their homes. Neighbouring countries are not in a position to accommodate the large number of refugees without support from the international community, he said, calling for more political will because "talk is not enough."
SUDQI ATALLAH ABD ALKADETR AL OMOUSH (Jordan) pointed out that Israel's repeated aggressions against Al-Aqsa Mosque are a flagrant violation of international law. He warned against committing such acts on holy places as they could have incalculable repercussions, given the special sensitivity of all Muslims in the world. He reiterated that the Al‑Aqsa Mosque is the sole responsibility of Jordan. He stressed that there can be no peace without the complete decolonization of the occupied Syrian Golan. The acts of Israel are null and void, he stated.
MOHAMED AL HASSAN (Oman), recalling the Secretary‑General's call on Israel to withdraw entirely from the occupied Syrian Golan, said his country supports the international community's rejection of that occupation. All measures taken by the occupying Power are illegal, null and void, and violate international law, the United Nations Charter and international resolutions. In that regard, it is important to respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial unity of Syria, he said, rejecting any interference that undermines the sovereignty of that country.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) thanking all Member States who co‑sponsored the draft resolutions under this agenda item, including the one concerning the Syrian Golan, noted that the Assembly has many times called on the occupying Power to end its occupation. The occupying Power's refusal to respect the relevant Assembly and Council resolutions has led to an unacceptable paralysis at the United Nations, he said. The protection provided to Israel by the United States and others at the United Nations and beyond is a major obstacle to the achievement of a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East. Stealing resources, confiscating territories, killings, arbitrary detention and other violations are a systemic policy employed by the occupying Power. Reaffirming his country's right to recover the entirety of the Syrian Golan, he added that this cannot be negotiated and reiterated that all decisions taken by Israel to change the nature and demographics of that territory are null and void. Also stressing that Palestine must have full status as a member of the United Nations, he recalled that most States in the Organization have at some point in their history fought for their right to self‑determination and called on delegates to vote in favour of the draft resolutions.
WISLYNE PIERRE (Haiti) stressed her country's commitment to the founding principles of the United Nations, in particular Article 1, paragraph 2 of the Charter, which guarantees the right of peoples to self‑determination. She reaffirmed her full support for a holistic approach leading to a two-State solution and encouraged Israel and the State of Palestine to overcome their differences to build a better future for successive generations. She also called on the international community, regional actors, politicians, and civil societies in both States to join efforts to achieve a just, lasting, pragmatic, and realistic solution to this long‑standing regional crisis.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The representative of the United States said Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal measures of freedom, dignity, security and prosperity both as an end and a means to advance toward a negotiated two‑State solution. Stressing that the practice of voting year after year on the same resolutions does nothing to bring the international community closer to that goal, he said most of those texts are unbalanced and undermine the prospect of dialogue and cooperation.
Highlighting an issue regarding the reference to holy sites, he said that "L.16" on Jerusalem only references Haram al-Sharif rather than "Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount", which is agreed terminology and recognizes the shared and diverse history of the holy site. It is morally, historically and politically wrong for members of the General Assembly to support language that denies both the Jewish and Muslim connections to the Temple Mount and Haram al-Sharif. As such, he said his country votes against those three resolutions and encourages others to join them in supporting constructive measures to help achieve peace.
The representative of Iran said that despite calls by the international community, the Israeli regime continues to violate the human rights and dignity of the Palestinian people. As a result, Palestinians are not only deprived of their land and property, but also subject to terror and intimidation. Despite the numerous initiatives taken by concerned countries and regional organizations, as well as the adoption of various resolutions and the establishment of fact‑finding commissions, Israel's non‑compliance with international law has prevented the international community from finding a just solution to the crisis. Expressing support for the Palestinian people and the realization of their right to self‑determination, he said Iran will vote in favour of the resolutions.
By a recorded vote of 148 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 14 abstentions, the Assembly then adopted "L.14" on the "Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine".
Australia's representative said terrorism or support for terrorism is never justified and should be condemned. Her country is opposed to one‑sided resolutions that single out Israel and encourages further changes in language to the Palestinian package of resolutions.
Next, the Assembly adopted "L.15" titled "The Syrian Golan" by a recorded vote of 94 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United Kingdom, United States), with 69 abstentions.
The Assembly then adopted "L.16" by a recorded vote of 129 in favour to 11 against, with 31 abstentions.
In explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said his Government's position on the status of Jerusalem is clear and long‑standing. Its status should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the two parties. It should include a shared capital with religious rights for all who call the city dear. The United Kingdom opposes unilateral action. The holy sites hold special attention for many groups around the world, he said, welcoming language that demonstrates respect for the sites' historic significance. Yet the resolution included language in purely Islamic terms. If the unbalanced reference had been removed, his delegation would not have changed its vote from "yes" to an "abstention". He wanted to be clear that the abstention did not mean the United Kingdom had a change in policy towards Jerusalem.
The representative of Brazil, explaining her position on "L.14", reiterated support for a just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. Regarding "L.16" on Jerusalem, she stated that her country is committed to the related resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council and to the United Nations Charter. She added that the resolution just adopted should reflect the historical importance of the three monotheistic religions and consider the sensitivities of each in terms of the holy sites.
Also speaking in explanation of position, the representative of Norway expressed concern about the recurrent violent clashes at the Temple Mount/al‑Haram al‑Sharif and recalled the special significance of that holy site. Voicing support for upholding its historic status, in line with previous understandings and with respect to Jordan's special role, he welcomed the resolution calling for respect for the historic status quo of the holy places of Jerusalem. "We understand the language concerning the holy sites of Jerusalem to reflect the importance and historical significance of both the city of Jerusalem and the holy sites," he said, also noting his country's expectation that the resolutions refer to the Temple Mount/al‑Haram al‑Sharif in line with this understanding.
The representative of Albania noted that her delegation voted to abstain on "L.16" concerning Jerusalem, stating that despite agreeing with it in substance, "we would have preferred a more balanced terminology" on the sensitive issue of the holy places in Jerusalem.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, welcomed the Palestinian Mission's decision to bi‑annualize several resolutions under the agenda item "Question of Palestine", encouraging the Mission to further streamline the resolutions and use balanced language. Regarding resolutions adopted during the current session, the bloc considers that whenever "Palestinian government" is mentioned this refers to the Palestinian Authority. The use of the term "Palestine" in any of these resolutions cannot be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue. Expressing concern about the repeated and severe violent incidents at and around the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif, he called for upholding the status quo put in place in 1967 for Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif in line with previous understandings and with respect to Jordan's special role. Reiterating the need to use both terms - Temple Mount and Haram al-Sharif - to refer to the Temple Mount/al Haram al Sharif in the "Jerusalem" resolution and in other texts, he called on all sides not to deny the historical ties of other religions to the city of Jerusalem and its holy places.
The representative of Argentina, explaining his delegation's vote on paragraph 6 of "L.15" after the vote, said it was urgent to resume negotiations to end the occupation of the Golan Heights.
Also speaking in explanation of position after the adoption, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine voiced the hope that soon "we will become a full member in the United Nations system because this is our right." Thanking all those who voted in favour of the two resolutions related to the question of Palestine and Jerusalem, he called on the international community to move from reiterating principled positions reaffirming the rights of the Palestinian people towards the process of implementation. No country in the United Nations should be above international law, he stressed, also adding that the resolution concerning Jerusalem is very much needed to give hope to Palestinian people in the holy city. Also noting that the resolution's language is in line with the position adopted by the Security Council and voted in favour by all its 15 members, he added that Palestine is committed to peace.
Right of Reply
The representative of Syria, exercising his right of reply, thanked the Member States for their support and the resolutions on the Syrian Golan and wanted to respond to the lies of the Israeli representative. This representative of Israel has no shame. Israel is the occupier of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Syrian Golan and has accused other States, including Syria, with lies. The Israeli authorities are violating international law. This representative is the last person who can talk about wasting resources, he said.