Israel-Palestine: France reaffirms its commitment to the two-state solution [fr]
Situation in the Middle East
Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 22 January 2019
I would like to begin my statement by honouring the memory of the 10 Chadian Blue Helmets of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) who lost their lives on Sunday in northern Mali. I offer my condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and the Government of Chad. The heroic sacrifice of those soldiers places on obligation on all of us. It reminds us of how MINUSMA operates in a difficult security environment and of the key role it plays in preserving Mali’s stability and supporting the implementation of the Malian peace process. In the face of the enemies of peace, our resolve must remain strong.
I would like to thank Mr. Nickolay Mladenov for his persuasive and once again alarming briefing, as well as for his daily commitment on the ground. I would like also to welcome the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia here today.
To echo what several of my colleagues — namely, from Germany and the United Kingdom — just stated, the undeniable truth so often observed in the Council remains more relevant than ever: the illusion of a status quo masks the daily deterioration of the situation, which could devolve into a fresh conflict at any given moment.
The violence that marked the end of 2018 — in Gaza in November and the West Bank in December — should serve as a warning. It must also remind us that when peace recedes on the ground, it recedes also in people’s minds and in rhetoric.
Twenty-five years after the Oslo Accords, less than half of Palestinians and Israelis still believe in a two- State solution. Generation after generation, Palestinians and Israelis are losing hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It is therefore more important than ever for the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to seek to preserve an open, pluralist space within their respective civilian populations that fosters the possibility of a true dialogue between them.
The President of the Palestinian Authority addressed the United Nations on 15 January during the start of his chairmanship of the Group of 77. His alarmist comments give us an idea of the gravity of the crisis and situation that we are currently experiencing.
First, I would like to return to the situation in Gaza. In mid-November, the Gaza Strip was on the brink of sliding into another deadly conflict, as has happened in the territory three times over the past decade. That threat remains today; we must take full measure of its seriousness, in a volatile regional context marked by renewed tensions in northern Israel.
The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip remains essentially the same, despite occasional improvements in the area of energy supply. In that catastrophic humanitarian situation, there have been repeated outbreaks of violence in Gaza for almost a year now, at a rate unprecedented since 2014.
The toll of the demonstrations along the separation barrier has been heavy, with more than 180 Palestinians killed and 6,000 shot and injured since 30 March — individuals who gathered in demonstration out of despair. France has condemned the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force and called on Israel to respect the right of Palestinians to demonstrate peacefully. We have also denounced the instrumentalization of the demonstrations by Hamas and other armed groups.
In the political sphere, the stalemate of the inter-Palestinian reconciliation process is worsening the situation for the people of Gaza. The closure of the Rafah crossing point between Gaza and Egypt, which resulted from the withdrawal of Palestinian Authority personnel, intensifies the blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade.
To restore immediate hope to the people of Gaza, we must first respond to the urgent humanitarian needs. The efforts of the Special Coordinator and of all United Nations agencies contribute significantly to that response. The conditions for a swift reopening of the Rafah crossing point must also be met quickly. Ultimately, it is only through lifting the blockade, along with providing the necessary security guarantees for Israel, that it will be possible to meet the needs of the people.
The role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in that context is more crucial than ever, in both Gaza and the region. The Agency is playing a key role at the humanitarian level, in addition to providing stability and security. Let us therefore continue to mobilize to support UNRWA after the American withdrawal; France has done so by doubling its contribution to the Agency this year.
However, there can be no lasting response to the crisis in Gaza without a restoration of Palestinian unity, which should enable the Palestinian Authority to regain all its prerogatives on the territory. We support that objective as part of the efforts undertaken by Egypt, which we once again commend. We call on all parties to resume dialogue so as to relaunch the inter-Palestinian reconciliation process. Beyond Gaza, the process will require the holding of parliamentary elections, as announced by President Mahmoud Abbas following his decision to dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council. Those elections must be held in free and transparent conditions, and all avenues must be explored for them to take place throughout the Palestinian territories.
In the West Bank, the escalation from 9 to 13 December 2018, following the deadly attack on the outskirts of the settlement of Ofra, which France condemned in the strongest terms, also took place against the backdrop of a gravely worsening situation caused by the lack of any political horizon and the consequences of settlement activities. Settlement policy, on which Nickolay Mladenov briefed the Council last month (see S/PV.8429), continued in every aspect throughout 2018 at a sustained pace. In Jerusalem, it approached the depressing 2012 record level in terms of the number of announcements of new housing units. It was also seen in the continued policy of evicting Palestinians from the city’s Arab neighbourhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah. Such developments distance us every day further from the goal of making Jerusalem the capital of the two States — Israel and Palestine — living side by side in peace and security.
In the West Bank, the implementation of the settlement policy has also been pursued systematically, with a succession of announcements concerning new housing units in settlements that culminated in the approval of nearly 2,200 such units on 24 and 25 December 2018. Last year’s increased number of announcements include isolated areas in the heart of the West Bank and particularly sensitive sites such as Hebron. Similarly, the recent decision by the Israeli Government to allocate land for the construction of the new settlement of Givat Eitam, in an area that is important for ensuring the viability of the two- State solution and the continuity of the Palestinian territories to the south of Bethlehem, is a worrisome new development. In addition, at another location critical for ensuring the two-State solution near the E-1 area, we continue to wait for the decision to postpone the demolition of the village of Khan Al-Ahmar to be converted into a permanent one and for the Israeli authorities to definitively abandon its demolition and the forced displacement of its inhabitants. Finally, we call for a halt to legislative initiatives aimed at the normalization of unauthorized settlement outposts, which are illegal even under Israeli law. In that regard, I reiterate our condemnation of settlement activity, which is illegal under international law and runs contrary to the relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 2334 (2016).
Against the backdrop of the situation I just described, the Security Council was never able to speak as one voice last year. With every passing day, that deafening silence is increasingly incomprehensible for the peoples of the region, as well as for the world watching us. We therefore call for restarting and re-energizing our efforts this year.
Moreover, it is urgent that we restore a credible political horizon. Any negotiation must be part of an internationally agreed framework based on international law and the relevant Security Council resolutions. Such parameters are not optional or to be chosen as one likes. They are to be taken together as the indispensable basis for any peace plan and future negotiations. We are close to the point of no return. The fragmented territorial landscape taking shape before our eyes is already resulting in two peoples coexisting on unequal footing on the same territory. Should that trend continue, for the Palestinians it would mean abandoning their national aspirations based on the establishment of a State, and, for the Israelis, giving up the democratic character of the State of Israel.
But as we all know, the destinies of Israelis and Palestinians are intertwined. Neither of the two peoples will lastingly achieve its aspirations if it is to the detriment of the other. France is a friend to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. President Emmanuel Macron will meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during the latter’s visit to France, which began today, and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah last month in Paris. France has only one goal — the implementation, through negotiations, of the two-State solution, with two States living side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem as their capital, as the only solution capable of bringing about a just and lasting peace. Rest assured that we will continue to spare no effort in that regard to foster peace.