10/19/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/19/2021 16:02
Resolving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a package of parallel measures by the two sides and the international community, rather than piecemeal responses, a senior United Nations official for the Middle East peace told the Security Council today, as the 15‑member organ examined recent developments, including Israel's plan to build new settlements in the occupied Palestinian land.
"We can no longer lurch from crisis to crisis", said Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, underlining the need to avoid approaching the current situation incident by incident as stand‑alone issues, during a quarterly debate. A broader package of parallel steps by the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community is needed, he said, adding that such a framework should begin to address key political, security and economic challenges that are preventing progress.
Detailing incidents over the three-month reporting period, he said that Israeli authorities continued to consider new settlement construction in the E1 area. He warned that these units would sever the connection between the northern and southern West Bank and significantly undermine the chances for establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian State as part of a negotiated two‑State solution.
The Special Coordinator was joined by two civil society briefers, Daniel Levy, President of the U.S./Middle East Project, and Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian political and civil society leader.
Mr. Levy, stressing the need for new thinking to disengage from autopilot when taking action, set forth three concepts to open the way to new thinking. First, there is a legitimacy deficit with Palestinian leadership. The Palestine Liberation Organization needed to become far more inclusive and representative to be better able to negotiate. Second is an accountability deficit pertaining to Israel action, that has enabled Israelis to act with impunity. Third is a symmetry deficit, which means that a fundamental asymmetry exists in the defining relationship of power between occupiers and an occupied people. The rights of one group must not come at the expense of the other. Addressing these deficits can open the way forward, he emphasized.
Ms. Ashrawi said the absence of accountability for Israel and of protection for the Palestinian people has enabled Israel to tread over the rights of an entire nation, allowing the perpetuation of a permanent settler colonial occupation. Peace is not achieved by normalizing the occupation, side‑lining the Palestinian question or rewarding Israel by repositioning it as a regional superpower, she said, emphasizing that time has come to reclaim the narrative of justice and invoke the Charter of the United Nations and reaffirm international law.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that the international community determined its desired destination a long time ago and has never deviated from that goal: an international consensus on a two‑State solution based on the pre‑1967 borders. However, Israel's authorities are seeking to turn the international community into a bystander, a silent witness, or a critical commentator. But the global community must be an actor to ensure that no one is allowed to take the car off the road. "We need you to take hold of the steering wheel" now, he said, urging the Security Council to intervene before it becomes too costly to do so. He then called for convening an international conference under the auspices of the Middle East Quartet - the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation.
Israel's representative, meanwhile, said that the 2020 Abraham Accords put his country on the road to a new era, where the Middle East could turn into a centre of solutions for global challenges, including tackling climate change and managing water. Instead, biased debates in the Security Council create a false reality that perpetuates conflict. He also questioned the decision to invite Ms. Ashrawi, a long‑time Palestinian politician, noting that she has condemned the Abraham Accords and has been associated with a platform which published anti-Semitic lies. The Council could instead give a platform to Israelis and Palestine entrepreneurs working to create coexistence, he added.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members spoke out against Israel's illegal settlement activities and demolitions of Palestinian homes as well as attacks waged against each other. Some pointed to the reconstruction of Gaza as an urgent priority, spotlighting the crucial role to be played by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and its funding shortage. Other delegates advocated for direct talks between the parties.
Norway's representative cautioned against Israel's plans to implement the E1 project, saying that such settlements would cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and undermine the viability of a contiguous Palestinian State. Expressing her support for the Abraham Accords, she also underscored the need to include the Palestinians in this broader dialogue and use the new regional dynamic to restart negotiations between the parties.
Mexico's representative, noting that the Council is continuing the cycle of "administering conflict" after seven decades of dealing with the issue, called for direct negotiations to commence "without delay" under the auspices of the Quartet.
China's delegate welcomed the recent high-level contacts between Israeli and Palestinian officials, expressing his country's readiness to host an international peace conference under the auspices of the United Nations.
Macharia Kamau, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kenya and Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity. He called on States to hear more of the young and grassroots leaders from both sides, cautioning against the tendency to prioritize "official channels" which focus on the legal and political frameworks over the civil society organizations and the channels they create.
Viet Nam's delegate urged the international community to heed the Secretary‑General's call for an increase of $6.1 million in contribution, including 43 additional posts, for UNRWA to support education, health care and general assistance to Palestinian refugees.
The representative of the United States said the Security Council spends a great deal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the substance of the discussions often centres around criticism of Israel. Calling for a more balanced approach, she underscored that there are other situations in the region that merit increased attention by the 15-member organ.
Also speaking today were the representatives of France, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ireland, Estonia, Niger, United Kingdom, Tunisia, India, and the Russian Federation. In addition, several delegations which are not members of the Security Council submitted written statements.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:45 p.m.
TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, welcomed the ongoing engagement between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, strongly encouraging a further expansion of such efforts which can pave the way towards reinvigorating the peace process. "But we should have no illusions about the current state of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict," he stressed, noting that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continues to deteriorate and no progress has been seen towards realizing a two‑State solution. This political stagnation is fuelling tensions, instability and a deepening sense of hopelessness. The security situation in Gaza remains fragile and the security dynamics in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are deteriorating, including growing tensions in and around the Holy Sites.
Israel's settlement activity, evictions, demolitions and seizures of Palestinian property, military operations, particularly in Area A, and movement and access restrictions, including the severe closures on Gaza, further feed the cycle of violence, he continued. A large number of Palestinians, including children, continue to be killed and injured by Israeli security forces. Settler-related attacks against Palestinians and their property - including in the presence of Israeli security forces - also continue. Israeli civilians continue to be subjected to attacks by Palestinians that have caused deaths, injuries and damages. Both Israeli and Palestinian civilians are suffering and paying a steep price for the persistence of the conflict, including the protracted occupation.
On 4 and 18 October, the Israeli Civil Administration held discussions on objections to two settlement housing plans for a total of nearly 3,500 units in the strategic E1 area in the West Bank, he said, expressing concern that Israeli authorities continue to consider construction in the E1 area. If constructed, these units would sever the connection between the northern and southern West Bank, significantly undermining the chances for establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian State as part of a negotiated two‑State solution.
He went on to underscore that all settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace. Israeli demolitions and confiscations of Palestinian homes and other structures continued during the reporting period. Overall, Israeli authorities demolished, seized, or forced owners to demolish 18 Palestinian‑owned structures in Area C and seven in the occupied East Jerusalem, displacing five Palestinians. In a welcomed development earlier today, he said, Israeli and Palestinian officials announced that some 4,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank without proper documentation would be registered in the Palestinian population registry and receive identity documents.
Turning to the situation in Gaza, including the support recovery and reconstruction following the May escalation, he said that the United Nations has launched reconstruction efforts for severely damaged housing units. Voicing concern about the continued budget shortfall of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he welcomed the recently announced contributions from key donors. However, UNRWA, which remains indispensable for regional stability and must have the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate, still lacks the necessary funds to sustain its critical programmes for the rest of the year.
"We can no longer lurch from crisis to crisis", he said, underlining the need to avoid approaching the current situation piecemeal - incident by incident, on a short-term day-to-day basis as stand-alone issues. A broader package of parallel steps by the Government of Israel, the Palestine Authority and the international community is needed. Such a framework should begin to address key political, security and economic challenges that are preventing progress, he said, also welcoming the efforts of the envoys of the Middle East Quartet, including the call held on 14 October.
On the Golan, he noted that, while the ceasefire between Israel and Syria has been generally maintained, violations of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement by the parties continue, increasing tensions. Both parties' adherence to the terms of the Disengagement Agreement is important for preserving stability. In Lebanon, a new Government was formed on 10 September by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, ending a 13‑month caretaker period. The 24‑member Government, which includes one woman Minister, vowed to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, tackle the energy crisis and hold 2022 elections on time. The investigation into the Beirut port explosion faced setbacks as a result of reported intimidation of the judge in charge of the investigation. On 14 October, deadly clashes erupted in Beirut during a protest calling for his removal.
DANIEL LEVY, President of the U.S./Middle East Project, citing a report he co‑authored, "Breaking the Israel-Palestine Status Quo" (published by Carnegie Endowment), said it sets out a rights-based approach on the intractable issue. Pursuing the same process as before guarantees failure and reinforces the negative trends described by Mr. Wennesland. Moreover, the recent acknowledgement by many, including Human Rights Watch, that Israel's actions meet the legal definition of apartheid constitutes a "wake‑up call", he said, adding that it also demonstrates that the "endless incantation of worn‑out slogans get us nowhere".
Against this backdrop of a chronic and intractable impasse, he stressed the need to disengage from autopilot when taking action, and set forth three core concepts to open the way to new thinking. First, he said, there is a legitimacy deficit with Palestinian leadership. The Palestine Liberation Organization needed to become far more inclusive and representative in order to be better able to negotiate. Moreover, leadership and the international community needed to recognize Palestinians' right to elect leaders to their national institutions. Second, there is an accountability deficit pertaining to Israel action. They are able to act with impunity because they can and because there is no expectation of the possibility of change. Third, there is a symmetry deficit, which means that, despite the tendency of some towards "both‑sides‑ism", there is a fundamental asymmetry in the defining relationship of power between occupiers and an occupied people. Attempts to redress Israeli actions must also address the rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, refugee camps or inside Israel, he said, adding that the rights of one group must not come at the expense of the other.
Turning to Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), he stressed: "Implement it; really implement it." This resolution is violated every time Israeli illegal settlements benefit from bilateral cooperation. The Human Rights Council maintains a database of all those who are complicit in such violations while doing business. Further, a durable ceasefire must be brought about to end the blockade of Gaza, for which all conditionalities must be set aside. Such actions do not entail a policy of "maximum pressure"; it just means using leverage to ensure Palestinian rights are better protected. "Giving space to rights-respecting ideas can take us beyond the current impasse," he pointed out. However, he cautioned that a "one‑State reality" was being entrenched, pointing out that, as the Council attempts to salvage a two‑State outcome, it might perhaps consider that "maybe there is no off‑the‑shelf solution at this stage". Paraphrasing the Ugandan academic Mahmood Mamdani, he noted that political identities can be thought of as "mutable" and as "products of history" that were created by political processes and may be dismantled by them.
HANAN ASHRAWI, political and civil society leader, said it is imperative for the Security Council to consider where it has gone wrong and what it can do to correct course and serve justice and peace, particularly by addressing the core issues and thinking "outside the box." The absence of accountability for Israel and of protection for the Palestinian people has enabled Israel to tread over the rights of an entire nation, allowing the perpetuation of a permanent settler colonial occupation. Prevailing political discourse overlooks reality and is subsumed by distractions propped by Israel and allies under such banners as economic peace, improving quality of life, managing the conflict, containing the conflict or even shrinking the conflict.
Volatile situations of injustice and oppression do not shrink; they expand and explode with disastrous consequences, she stressed. The disillusion of imposing calm under siege and systematic aggression particularly as in Gaza is an oxymoron for calm or security and occupation or captivity on the other are antithetical and irreconcilable. The oppressed cannot be brought to trust or accept handouts from their oppressor as an alternative to their right to freedom and justice. Israel's impunity is further enhanced by using excuses such as being the so‑called only democracy in the Middle East, a strategic ally or having shared values. Maligning or even labelling all Palestinians as terrorists or a demographic threat is dehumanizing and denies the rights of millions of refugees to return.
Palestinians do not shirk their responsibilities with respect to human rights violations or other practices rejected by their own people, she said, affirming their responsibility to carry out democratic reform. Noting Israel's lawless system of control, she asked the Council to empower her people to amplify their voice both in governance and in liberation. Peace is not achieved by normalizing the occupation, side-lining the Palestinian question or rewarding Israel by repositioning it as a regional superpower. Generation after generation the Palestinians have remained committed to the justice of their cause and their inviolable right to live in freedom and dignity as equal among nations. It is time to reclaim the narrative of justice and invoke and activate the Charter of the United Nations and reaffirm international law. Time has come for courageous and determined action not just to undo the injustice of the past but to chart a future of hope and redemption, she stated.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that the international community determined its desired destination a long time ago and has never deviated from that goal: an international consensus on a two‑State solution based on the pre‑1967 borders. However, it is obvious that this is not the designation Israel has in mind, according to their colonial policy, actions on the ground and the statements of its officials. It does not make sense to wait until both parties are ready, when one party is actively violating agreements. Israel's vision is guided by a colonial appetite. Israel wants Palestinians to lose hope and eventually surrender. However, Palestinians have deep‑seated faith that humans cannot surrender to their chains. The United Nations represents tales of valiant struggles for liberation and justice, he said, urging the Council to act. The Council had expressed clear positions in opposition to illegal unilateral actions and in support of Palestinian statehood.
"We need you to take hold of the steering wheel" now, he said, urging the Security Council to intervene before it becomes too costly to do so. The Council has determined the way forward clearly. It has created the Quartet, which is better placed to have their hands on the steering wheel. Stressing the need for a collective approach that relies on the positions adopted by the Council, including through resolution 2334 (2016), he called for convening an international conference under the auspices of the Quartet. Those who are leading colonial policies are hoping to turn the international community into a bystander, a silent witness, or at worst a critical commentator. But the international community must be an actor and ensure that no one is allowed to take the car off the road. Action cannot be delayed; it speaks much louder than any articulation.
GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel), cited former Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir at the Madrid Peace Conference 30 years ago, who said "the blessing of peace can turn the Middle East into a paradise; a centre of cultural, scientific, medical and technological creativity." The 2020 Abraham Accords put Israel on the road to a new era, where the Middle East could turn into a centre of solutions for global challenges, including tackling climate change and managing water. Instead, biased debates in the Security Council create an alternate false reality that perpetuates conflict. This gives Palestinians the impression that their radical demands can be realized. He also questioned whether the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine can claim to represent Palestinians when 80 per cent of the population is said to be fed up with President Mahmood Abbas. Further, international law should not be invoked when two Palestinians were sentenced to jail for the supposed crime of trying to sell land to a Jew.
The Palestinian Authority is paying hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorists, he continued, adding that Council proceedings not just stopped the train of peace, they "knocked it off the tracks". The Council has failed to address the reality on the ground, instead treating the terror and destruction wrought by Iran as "an afterthought". He also questioned the decision to invite a long-time Palestinian politician as a civil society representative, noting that that person has condemned the Abraham Accords and has been associated with a platform which published anti-Semitic lies. The Council could instead give a platform to Israelis and Palestine entrepreneurs working to create coexistence. Turning to Iran, he expressed concern that it is aiming to become a "nuclear threshold State", which obstructs the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and violates international agreements. The country is a centre of Shiite hegemony that exports terror around the world. If the Council does not take strong action, that country will command forces such as Hamas and Hezbollah and, protected by its nuclear umbrella, turn its "reign of terror into a hurricane of violence".
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that the Security Council spends a great deal on the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict but the substance of the discussions often centres around criticism of Israel, calling for a more balanced approach as there are other situations in the region that merit increased attention by the 15‑member organ. The first step towards resolving any conflict is frank and direct dialogue. The United States supports the resumed, direct contact between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and to that end, welcomed the re‑engagement between Israeli and Jordanian leaders, as well as the progress from the Abraham Accords. The United States provided more than $318 million to UNRWA in 2021 and wishes to see the agency undertake the necessary reforms to ensure its financial sustainability and strengthen its accountability, transparency and consistency with humanitarian principles, including neutrality. Calling on Hamas to cease its cruel detention of two Israeli civilians, she also expressed concern over the violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers in the West Bank against Palestinians and their property. Urging the Israeli authorities to investigate these incidents fully, including the response by Israeli security forces, she said that this kind of violence diminishes the freedom, dignity, security, and prosperity of Palestinians and Israelis alike. It stands in the way of peace, she stressed.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said his country welcomes the Council's renewed unity in support of the two‑State solution, noting that this is the only solution that meets to date the legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security, while upholding the rights of each. Calling on the parties to abstain from any unilateral measures, he urged Israel to roll back its plans for settlement expansion, particularly in zone E1 and Givat Hamatos, which directly jeopardize the viability and contiguity of a future Palestinian State and call into question the two‑State solution on the ground. He reiterated concern about the record increase in violence and demolitions, as well as about the ongoing eviction procedures in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. All parties must unambiguously reaffirm their commitment to respect the status quo on the holy sites in Jerusalem, he said, adding that any questioning of that could lead to escalation and a flare‑up in the region. He said his country is determined to support all initiatives that will contribute to restoring the re‑establishment of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and are working actively to that end, alongside its German, Egyptian and Jordanian partners. As well, it will also play an active part in the conference in support of UNRWA in November, whose work is essential to the stability of the region and to meeting the needs of Palestinian refugees.
INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said that for decades, the international community has been witness to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, expressing concern over the recent developments regarding Israeli settlements, including the announcement on 13 October of approvals for advancing the construction of thousands of homes in Givat Hamatos. This is a flagrant violation of international law and further undermines the peace process and a two‑State solution. The situation in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, which remains under threat of forced eviction of Palestinian families from their homes, is also troubling. Israel's blockade of Gaza must end to facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for Palestinians in need. Her delegation welcomes the United States plans for the re‑establishment of its Consulate in Jerusalem.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON(Ireland), voicing deep concern over the rise in violence across the West Bank - particularly the increase in settler violence and use of live fire by Israeli forces - called on Israel to hold those responsible to account, end the culture of impunity and ensure that any response by security forces is proportional and in compliance with international law. Condemning all acts of violence, including rocket attacks from Gaza, she urged Israel to end all illegal settlement activity, demolitions and seizures and called for the status quo at holy sites to be upheld in both word and practice. Recalling a meeting on the Middle East during Ireland's Council presidency in September, during which briefers underscored the occupation's disproportionate impact on women and girls, she said it is imperative that the Council, the parties to the conflict and the international community listen to their voices. She also expressed support for UNRWA and for efforts to advance a two‑State solution.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) welcomed the recent engagement between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and encouraged them to expand their dialogue further. The parties should also engage in more practical cooperation in those areas that would build confidence and be in the interests of the people of both sides. He called upon Hamas and other terrorist groups to refrain from firing rockets and incendiary devices into Israel from Gaza and urged Israel to use its right to defend itself proportionally. In the West Bank, all parties must refrain from violence, incitement and acts of provocation. Israel must not go forward with any settlement plans and the status quo of the Holy Sites must be respected. He went on to say that the upcoming conference hosted by Sweden and Jordan is an important opportunity to find ways towards more sustainable funding of UNRWA.
MONA JUUL (Norway) cautioned against Israel's plans to implement the E1 project, saying that such settlements would cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and undermine the viability of a contiguous Palestinian State. Israeli settlements on occupied territory constitute a violation of international law, she stressed, urging Israel to halt settlement activities, house demolitions, and evictions. Welcoming the renewed high‑level dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, she drew attention to an Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting on 16 and 17 November that Norway will host in Oslo in order to address the deteriorating fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority and consider how to strengthen it. This autumn marks the one‑year anniversary of Israel's normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. Expressing her support for these agreements, she added that it is critical to include the Palestinians in this broader dialogue and to use the new regional dynamic to restart negotiations between the parties.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said that as conflict persists and human rights violations continue, no progress has been made towards a goal to what was hoped would be a "definitive" solution: "the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State, which lives in peace with Israel and within safe internationally recognized borders". In light of this, he said, he wished to highlight three points. First, he called for an end to the settlements and violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, which run counter to international law and impede peace. He said that as many as 682 structures were demolished so far in 2021, including some which were financed by the international community, and were essential for health and drinking water. Noting with concern an increase in tension in the old city in Jerusalem, particularly around the Holy Esplanade, he urged parties to refrain from any actions that changed the status quo in a way that affected the city's historic and demographic character. He urged Palestinian authorities to organize municipal and Parliamentary elections, underscoring the importance of guaranteeing the participation of women and young people. Further, he reiterated that the blockade in Gaza must be lifted, allowing for the consistent entry of commodities and reconstruction materials into the Strip. Noting that the Council is continuing the cycle of "administering conflict" after seven decades of dealing with the issue, he called for direct negotiations to commence "without delay", with the Middle East Quartet.
ZHANG JUN (China) expressed deep concern over the grim security and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. A further delay in reconstruction of Gaza will cause more suffering of the population there. He urged Israel to stop illegal activities and, as the occupying Power, to guarantee the safety of Palestinians living in the occupied areas. Israel's new settlement plans violate the international law and undermine the prospect of a two‑State solution. The international community must not replace implementation of the two‑State formula with crisis management. The Security Council must take effective action and avoid double standards. China is ready to host an international peace conference under the auspices of the United Nations.
NIANDOU AOUGI (Niger) said that, with instability and violence still looming, the prospect of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians continues to be undermined. Noting the resurgence of attacks and persecutions by Israeli settlers targeting Palestinians, he said violations targeting Muslim holy sites, including the Al‑Aqsa Mosque, and recent attacks on Muslim shrines, shock and offend Muslims in Palestine and the rest of the world. Those practices will only increase hatred, fanaticism, radicalization and violence, and obstruct the path towards a peaceful coexistence between the Palestinians and Israelis. It is the responsibility of the Israeli authorities to ensure the protection of worshippers, respect for the holy sites, and the historical and legal status of Jerusalem - a holy city for the three monotheistic religions. To achieve peace, he said the Palestinian cause cannot endlessly be circumvented and United Nations resolutions cannot go on ad infinitum. He called on the international community, the Middle East Quartet, the members of the Council, as well as regional actors with influence to bear on the parties, to continue to exert the necessary pressure to avoid further escalation and to strive for the revitalization of the peace process. Noting the impact of the pandemic on the Palestinians, he urged the international community to be more compassionate and generous by supporting financing for the Gaza reconstruction plan and for the vital programmes provided by UNWRA.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) noted that the number of demolitions and evictions of Palestinians from their homes in the Occupied Territories has continued to rise, urging Israel's Government to ensure that families living there remain in their homes. Adding that violence in the West Bank, including settler attacks against Palestinian people and property, is also rising, she called on Israel to protect the Palestinian civilian population, ensure all such incidents are investigated and bring those responsible to justice. She also expressed concern about the Israeli security forces' use of excessive force, calling on Israel to uphold the principles of necessity and proportionality when defending its security interests. Turning to the Palestinian Authority's dire fiscal situation, she said it may be unable to pay salaries or suppliers in full from next month onwards, stressing that rapid action is needed to improve the situation.
TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) said that despite support for a two‑State solution, and for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State along the lines of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, the occupying Power flouts international law and resolution 2334 (2016) through its de facto policy on the ground, which furthers its expansionist settlement plans. Expressing concern about the continued forcible displacement of Palestinians, and the confiscation of their homes, as well as attacks by settlers in the West Bank, he reiterated his country's rejection of attempts to change the status quo in the holy sites and renewed his support for their Hashemite guardianship. The Council must ensure its resolutions are implemented, end the settlement and break the deadlock in the peace process, he said, adding that he looks forward to the resumption of negotiations by the Middle East Quartet. On UNRWA, he called on donors to address its budget deficit, and for more predictable and sustainable funding to be ensured.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) emphasized that consolidating the ceasefire and expediting reconstruction in Gaza should remain a priority for the United Nations and the international community, calling on parties to the conflict to take concrete steps that would improve the economic and humanitarian situations of the civilians living there. He also stressed the urgent need to address the underlying causes that have resulted in the deterioration of the situation in Gaza, calling for the regular, predictable transfer of aid and other essential items thereto. Expressing concern over the Palestinian Authority's precarious fiscal situation - which has been further exacerbated by the pandemic - he called on the international community to support Palestinian socioeconomic recovery, with a focus on social protection. UNRWA plays an important role in providing humanitarian and development assistance, he added, and India has continued to support the Agency's core budget through annual voluntary contributions.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said the achievement of lasting peace and security in the Middle East and North Africa remains high on the agenda of the Security Council. Noting with regret that progress in resolving the myriad regional crises has not been forthcoming, he expressed concern that most of the conflicts are not only compounded by external intervention but exacerbated by actors stepping in to impose one-sided solutions that ignore the opinions of local, tribal, ethnic, religious and sectarian groups. Unfortunately, tensions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continue unabated, exacerbating the problems of maintaining the ceasefire, providing humanitarian assistance to affected Palestinians and reviving the peace process. Against that backdrop, unilateral acts fraught with dangerous consequences continue: the expropriation and destruction of Palestinian property, settlement construction, including construction plans in the occupied Syrian Golan, and arbitrary arrests, as well as violations of the status of holy sites, and violence. Noting the importance of considering Israel's security concerns, he reiterated the call for an eschewal of unilateral actions and unilateral steps. The current objective should be the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance to all those in need in the Gaza Strip, he said. In that regard, the work of UNRWA and the support of the international community for the Agency are needed more than ever. His country strives for a solution on an internationally recognized basis - the United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative - which stipulate the creation of an independent, sovereign and contiguous Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
DINH QUY DANG (Viet Nam) described the recent engagement between senior officials from Israel and the Palestinian Authority as "an important positive step" to strengthen cooperation in the areas of security and economic policies, calling on both sides to work together to facilitate the reconstruction of Gaza and boost the Palestinian economy. Concrete steps towards this end will contribute to creating an atmosphere of trust between the parties and paving the way towards broad and significant dialogues and negotiations. He then urged the international community to heed the Secretary‑General's call for an increase of $6.1 million, including 43 additional posts, for UNRWA to support education, health care and general assistance to Palestinian refugees.
MACHARIA KAMAU, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kenya and Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, recalling the efforts made by the 15‑member organ to address the situation in the Middle East, reiterated his country's condemnation of terrorist attacks and acts conducive to terrorism by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militant groups against Israeli civilians and infrastructure. Cautioning the damaging "domino‑like" effect of this conflict on other parts of the world, he said that the answer to the Palestinian question lies with the Israeli and Palestinian people and leadership, to "chart the course for peace and harmonious coexistence through genuine and truly inclusive dialogue". Stressing the tendency to prioritize "official channels" which focus on the legal and political frameworks over the grassroot‑based organizations and the channels they create, he noted that the sociopolitical‑theological tensions continue to exist underneath, calling on States to hear more of the young and grassroots leaders from both sides.