Gaza: the silence of the Security Council is disastrous [fr]
Gaza / Vote on the American and Koweiti draft resolutions - Explanation of vote by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 1 June 2018
At the outset, I would like to congratulate Poland on its excellent Security Council presidency in May. I also congratulate Russia on assuming the presidency and wish it every success.
We regret that the Security Council has not been able to achieve consensus on a text. On behalf of realism and pragmatism, and independent of the differences that may exist between us on the content, who could argue that the gravity of the situation in Gaza and the threats to regional stability that result from it do not demand a strong message from the Council?
We are touching on the heart of the Council’s responsibility — both its role as recognized by the Charter of the United Nations with regard to peace and security and its historic role in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It is the Council that, over a number of decades, has defined the main parameters for resolving that conflict, and those same parameters have been rendered fragile by unilateral initiatives. If the Council fails to fulfil its responsibilities today, who will assume them?
After two months in which 120 people have been killed and 4,000 have been left with bullet wounds, and in which the risk of an escalation of the situation in Gaza has never been higher since 2014, as we have seen by the dozens of rockets launched from Gaza into Israeli territory during recent days, the Council is silent. The Council’s heavy silence is increasingly deafening. This silence is neither acceptable nor understandable. It is not acceptable to the Palestinian and Israeli people, who are the first victims of the conflict. It is not understandable to the world, which looks to us and harshly judges our inaction in the face of a new conflict in the Middle East. Lastly, it is disastrous for the very credibility of the Council and, more broadly, of multilateralism, which we believe in more than ever.
We have been ready to commit to a constructive discussion on all draft texts presented to Council members over the past few months without exception. There may be difficulties with certain texts, but we believe precisely in the possibility of overcoming those difficulties through discussion. We believe in the possibility of patiently and pragmatically reaching consensus. After all, that is the very heart of our responsibility under the terms of the Charter of the United Nations.
A new opportunity was given to us to overcome this silence by engaging in a discussion on the draft resolution as presented by Kuwait (S/2018/516). The text that was initially presented did present some difficulties. Alongside other members of the Council, we are committed to a rigorous discussion in order to distinctly improve the text and that was the condition that we set in order to provide our support to the text.The final text is certainly not perfect. We would have liked it to clearly establish Hamas’ responsibility and condemn the rocket launches against Israel, for example, but the in-depth consultations carried out over the past two weeks have led to significant improvements. The text that we support today responds to a situation in which, over the past few weeks and in particular on 14 May, when 60 people lost their lives, we have seen a disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force. The text deplores that situation and calls for the right to respect for peaceful protest. It also calls for protection measures to be taken in the Palestinian territories and in particular in Gaza. It requests that the Secretary-General report on the subject within two months.
But the text does not stop there. It responds, at least in part, to the concerns we have voiced. For example, the text condemns all acts of violence — including terrorist acts — against civilians. It calls on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and human rights. It also condemns any action that could endanger the lives of civilians and calls upon all actors to ensure that protests remain peaceful. It is no longer silent on rocket attacks targeting civilians on Israeli territory. It also recalls that the lifting of the blockade on Gaza, which must take place, should take into account the security concerns of all. As the Council knows, France will never compromise on Israel’s security. Finally, the text encourages initiatives that seek long-term improvements to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, pursuant to the proposals of the Special Coordinator of the United Nations, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, as well as tangible progress in inter-Palestinian reconciliation.
The text ends with a call for relaunching the peace process in order to reach an agreement between the parties within the framework of the two-State solution. All of these elements, like our readiness to allow the Security Council to assume its responsibilities have led us to vote in favour of the draft resolution. The meaning of our work, the very purpose of the Council is to work towards a common understanding and response to threats to peace and security. We once again call on all parties to embark upon this path in good faith and with perseverance. The credibility of the Council and our collective action depend on it.
We regret having had to abstain in the voting on draft resolution S/2018/520, submitted by the United States. That decision was reached after considering the method by which the draft was immediately put to the vote without prior negotiations. It was also reached after considering its substance. The text does not reflect a balanced and impartial view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the framework of internationally agreed parameters of international law and of Council resolutions. The text reflects but one of the many causes of the crisis in the Gaza and does not provide a response or solution to the tragedy afflicting Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations.
That said, we share the concerns expressed in the text, given the activities of Hamas and other armed groups on the Gaza strip. We firmly condemned the firing of rockets into Israeli territory on 29 May and hope that the Security Council also condemns such activity. More generally, France was ready to support several paragraphs of the draft submitted by the United States, starting with those that condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza, which call on Hamas to refrain from committing violent acts, in particular those targeting civilians, and demand that it cease all activities that harm civilian populations close to the separation barrier between Israel and Gaza. I can also list other examples. As we have already underscored with regard to other draft texts, we believe that the Council’s responsibility is to provide a general response to the crisis in Gaza, which is not reflected in the text we have before us.
Despite the discord I just mentioned with regard to the overall imbalance of the amendments presented, once again we stood ready to engage in constructive discussions with a view to sharing our opinions and, if possible, drafting one text on which we could vote. But, as I explained earlier, because of the method by which the text was put to the vote and its substance, we had no other option but to abstain in the voting.
All in all, today’s meeting is another missed opportunity for the Council. It is regrettable, of course, but the Council can count on France, as a friend of Israelis and Palestinians, to never give up.