Israel/Palestine : to restore the hope of both States [fr]
Debate Middle-East - Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 25 January 2018
I would first like to thank Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov for his briefing, which as always was comprehensive and precise, and for his personal commitment and that of his team.
The scenario we have just heard described recalls a reality that the Council must not be distracted from. While crises have been increasing in the Middle East for several years, the oldest conflict in the region remains unresolved. However, time has not made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict less dangerous. On the contrary, the situation prevailing on the ground is a false status quo, marked by a daily deterioration, linked in particular to settlement activity and more generally the occupation. The situation could degenerate into an open crisis at any time, in Gaza as well as in Jerusalem.
Decade after decade, peace is receding not only on the ground, but also in speeches and in minds, as successive generations Palestinians and Israelis lose hope of a resolution of the conflict. There are two narratives, the bridges between which are increasingly rare and unstable. By promoting ignorance of the other party, this threatens to mechanically fuel antagonism between them.
The deadly crises erupting across the region have not resulted in trivializing or marginalizing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through its symbolic dimension, its regional echo and its place in the collective imagination, the conflict retains its central and mobilizing character. Its reach goes far beyond the borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories. The permanence of the occupation and the tensions it generates offer an unhoped-for argument for recruitment to terrorist groups active in the region. And any escalation on the ground carries the risk of uncontrollable regional consequences.
The paradox lies in the fact that, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now the oldest of those tearing the Middle East apart, it is also the only one whose solution is so well known and shared by the international community. The solution is based on the vision of two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The destinies of Israelis and Palestinians are intimately linked; neither of the two peoples will achieve its national aspirations on a lasting basis at the expense of the other. That is why the clash of narratives that are hermetically irreconcilable to which I referred earlier is so dangerous.
We note the commitment of the United States to seeking a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a final-status agreement. It is now up to the United States to make proposals to that effect, which we hope will be part of the framework agreed by the international community, on which all our peace efforts are built. This was recalled by President Emmanuel Macron during his recent talks with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. It was also recalled by French Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian at the meeting of the European Union Foreign Ministers with Mahmoud Abbas in Brussels on 22 January. On that occasion, the Palestinian President reaffirmed his commitment to a peace based on the principle of two States.
There is no credible alternative to the internationally agreed parameters, which themselves are based on international law. Let me recall these parameters once again:
Two States living in peace and security within secure and recognized borders;
Borders drawn on the basis of the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed exchanges of territories;
Jerusalem as the future capital of those two States;
A concerted, realistic and fair solution for Palestinian refugees.
In that context, a regional approach and economic incentives could be important complements to a peace agreement, but cannot replace it.
Today we are at a crossroads, at a critical moment when each of the parameters I have just listed has been weakened.
1/ With regard to the 1967 lines, the settlement of Palestinian territories and all accompanying legislative and administrative measures are imposing another reality on the ground. There are 600,000 settlers today, 200,000 of them in East Jerusalem. The 2017 year was a record year for settlement activity, and since the beginning of this year announcements of nearly 1,800 housing units have already been made. Many involve settlements deep in West Bank territory, including the approval of the construction of seven structures on private Palestinian land in a so-called outpost, which is illegal even under Israeli law and which the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered to be dismantled. The position of France is clear. We condemn settlement activity in all its forms. It is illegal under international law, as recalled in resolution 2334 (2016). It is counterproductive and even dangerous, since it destroys on the ground the possibility of two States and undermines trust between the parties.
2/ On Jerusalem, our position is well known, as we recently had the opportunity to recall in detail. The status of Jerusalem will have to be determined by the parties within the framework of a peace agreement. Under such a future agreement, the city is destined to become the capital of two States, Israel and Palestine. In the absence of agreement, in accordance with the consensus that has prevailed for 70 years within the international community, France does recognizes no sovereignty over Jerusalem. As French authorities at the highest level have indicated, we disagree with the United States announcements of late last year, which deviate from this international consensus and relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 478 (1980). Similarly, we regret the adoption early this year of an Israeli law on Jerusalem that will make it much more difficult to share Jerusalem as part of a future peace agreement.
3/ Finally, the situation of the Palestinian refugee camps is a time bomb in the Palestinian territories and in particular in Gaza, as well as in the region. Until we have been able to achieve a just and realistic solution to the refugee issue under an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, the provision of basic assistance and services by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to more than 5 millions of Palestinian refugees will be indispensable. This is of course a humanitarian requirement, especially through the provision of health services and food aid. Just as importantly, it is also a question of human development. Through the network of UNRWA schools and the role of the agency in job creation, it represents the very possibility of a preserving a future for a population that, as we know, is particularly young.
Lastly, that assistance is essential for the security and stability of the region. An interruption in UNRWA’s services could lead to an escalation in Gaza as well as to security implications in refugee-hosting countries of the region, in particular in Lebanon, where the financial situation of UNRWA is now critical. The weaker UNRWA is, the more terrorist groups can use Palestinian refugee camps as recruitment grounds. Recent announcements of a partial freeze and a reduced scope of the United States contribution to UNRWA are therefore of great concern to us. The United States is a key contributor to UNRWA, and the role it has played in financing the Agency for decades is decisive. We urge them not to give up that role and not to weaken the regional stabilization tool represented by UNRWA. Apart from the United States role in the peace process, we call on them to maintain an assistance that is as necessary for the Palestinians as it is for security in the region.
In the difficult context I have just described, I want to solemnly reiterate that there is no viable alternative to the two-State solution. The single State that some put forward as a possible answer to the current deadlock would lead to two parallel citizenship regimes in the same territory, thereby creating an unequal situation that would be unacceptable in principle and catastrophic in its consequences. Such a situation would represent a double impasse: for the Palestinians, the abandonment of their aspirations for a State; for the Israelis, the ruin of their national democratic project.
An urgent need today is to provide Israelis and Palestinians with a political horizon by actively working to restore the hope of both States and the possibility of negotiation between the parties. The extraordinary meeting to be held in Brussels on 31 January of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which brings together the main economic supporters of the Palestinians, should be an opportunity to reiterate the commitment of the parties and of the international community, politically and financially, to the two-State solution. We need everyone’s commitment to that end, beginning with the United States as a major partner.
Nevertheless, there will be no lasting political solution without unity between Gaza and the West Bank under the authority of the legitimate Palestinian institutions and within the framework of the principles endorsed by the Palestine Liberation Organization. In that regard, we reiterate our commitment to the implementation of the agreement signed in Cairo on 12 October by Fatah and Hamas, which should enable the Palestinian Authority to fully exercise its prerogatives in the Gaza Strip, including in the area of safety. That process must result in a rapid improvement of the living conditions of the population in Gaza. It must also be accompanied by a lifting of the blockade, as well as credible security guarantees for Israel.
France is a friend to both Palestinians and Israelis. That is why we must speak frankly to them, as real friends would expect, and call on them to take courageous measures to allow for the resumption of negotiations. There is no shortcut in the demanding path to peace, a route requiring negotiation based on the parameters I have recalled here. Whatever the difficulties, France does not intend to give up on that goal and will play its full part in the efforts to achieve it.