Gaza : the silence of the Security Council is unacceptable [fr]
Emergency meeting on Gaza - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 30 May 2018
I would like to begin by thanking Mr. Nickolay Mladenov for his precise briefing and commitment, which is more necessary than ever. I will be brief. We have had an opportunity to speak several times on the situation in Gaza and the Israeli-Palestinian question over the past few weeks. I will keep to three points, namely, the escalation of the situation over the past few days in Gaza, the ongoing protests in the Gaza Strip during recent weeks, which are part of a structural crisis, and the responsibility of the Security Council in the face of that situation.
1/ First, for several weeks now, we have alerted the Council to the risk of an escalation in the situation in the Gaza Strip, which is not tenable in the long-term. As yesterday showed once again, there is a real risk of a cycle of violence, of which the players in question could quickly lose control. After three conflicts in the past decade, the situation is sadly predictable, and the same causes are still producing the same tragic effects in the Gaza Strip. On 29 May alone, almost 30 rockets were fired into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip — an unprecedented number since the conflict of 2014. Those rocket launches deliberately targeted civilians. They are unacceptable. Regardless of the perpetrators, France condemns them without any ambiguity whatsoever. I would like to recall France’s tireless commitment to Israel’s security. Beyond that, the context is very tense, and we therefore call for restraint. The issue here is to try to avoid a new fatal conflict in Gaza, where once again it would be the civilians paying the price.
2/ Secondly, I would like to underline that the armed escalation comes at the end of two months of violence and repression carried out by the Israeli armed forces against Palestinian protesters in Gaza, and 14 May marked its highpoint. With more than 116 dead thus far, 60 on that day alone, and more than 12,000 people injured, including 4,000 by live ammunition, the figures of the past few weeks are all the more tragic because they could have largely been avoided.
We have said it before, that result is directly linked to an indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army, facilitated by extremely permissive rules of engagement, which we have condemned. Israel is a democracy and should respect the right to peaceably protest. As an occupying Power, it should furthermore respect the obligations for protection that are incumbent upon it. Similarly, we have called for those protests to remain peaceful, and we have warned those, first and foremost Hamas, who have tried to instrumentalize those protests for political or military ends.
An acute crisis exists in Gaza, which we can all see and which serves to highlight the vulnerability of the civilian population against the backdrop of a structural humanitarian and political crisis, anchored in a decade of the Israeli blockade and exacerbated by the impasse in the reconciliation process. The protests over recent weeks cannot be dissociated from the despair of the inhabitants of Gaza. We will not be able to address that crisis without restoring the dignity and renewing a sense of hope for the future of that population, of which more than half is under 18-years-old.In that regard, we commend the essential work done by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip. The Agency is one of the last safety nets to avert the collapse of Gaza’s, two thirds of which is made up of Palestinian refugees. UNRWA requires increased financial support from the international community, given the frozen American contribution. With in mind, the donor conference to be held on 25 June will be crucial. Any good will that is expressed will be important and appreciated. We once again call on our American friends to not turn their backs on their historic role of supporting UNRWA, which is more than ever key to regional stability.
Finally, beyond the immediate de-escalation that is required and the urgent humanitarian response, we need a long-term response to the issues in Gaza. Such response is essential for the population of Gaza and for regional stability, both of which are being addressed by the plan undertaken by Nickolay Mladenov. The Special Coordinator has all of our support in defining priority projects, in particular for infrastructure. Furthermore, we support his proposals to strengthen project management within the United Nations in Gaza and dialogue with Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. As we have said, those proposals should include immediate measures to ease restrictions on the movement of goods and persons. Ultimately, our objective should be to lift the blockade, while respecting Israel’s security concerns. Furthermore, Mr. Mladenov’s proposals should be supported by specific approaches to resuming the reconciliation process. In political terms, our horizon should be the re-establishment of all of the prerogatives of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.
3/ Thirdly, I will conclude by underlining once again the responsibility that is incumbent upon the Council — it bears the principal role of upholding peace and security, which is set forth by the Charter of the United Nations, but it also has a particular role to play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of which it has defined the main parameters over several decades to resolve the conflict, although unilateral action has recently rendered them fragile.
Gaza has been approaching collapse in the past few months, while it has been in the grip of violence for several weeks. It is on the verge of a new conflict, and yet the Council remains silent.
With gravity, I say to those present that such silence weighs more and more heavily, it is increasingly deafening and it is not acceptable. It is unacceptable for the populations of both Palestine and Israel, who were the first ones affected by the conflict. It is unacceptable for the world, which is watching us and sees in that silence not only a sign of impotence but, worse, also a reason for mistrust. That is unacceptable for the credibility of the Council and for our collective action, which is at stake.
The Security Council cannot abdicate its responsibilities on this matter. France has been ready to engage in a constructive discussion on all draft texts that have been presented to Council members over the past few months and up to today, without exception.
We have been given a new opportunity to overcome our silence by engaging in an open, but demanding, way in the discussion on the draft resolution submitted by Kuwait. The text has already been extensively improved. A number of aspects still require clarification and nuance, and we intend to continue to play our part in arriving at a text that is capable of garnering broad support within the Council. I invite everyone to commit to the same approach. Once again, it is a question of our collective responsibility.