Israel/Palestine: we are close to a point of no return [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 29 April 2019
In the wake of our moment of silence, I would once again like to express France’s shock and firm condemnation regarding the attack on the Poway synagogue. Anti-Semitism is the enemy of us all. Anti-Semitism and, more broadly, religious hatred are the complete opposite of all we believe in and constitute an existential threat to us all. We also condemn in the strongest terms the recent terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso. More than ever, the fight against terrorism in that country and throughout the Sahel must be our shared priority. I want to thank Ms. Rosemary DiCarlo for her very informative briefing, as well as Ms. Nada Majdalani and Mr. Gidon Bromberg, of EcoPeace Middle East. Their briefing gave us a valuable perspective on a dimension of the conflict that the Council has not sufficiently addressed. Their joint briefing, like the work they do together on the ground, is also exemplary and send us all a particularly welcome message of hope. I want to thank them warmly, and I am also grateful to the German presidency for taking the happy initiative to invite them. I would like to emphasize once again that it is more important than ever to ensure that the Israeli and Palestinian authorities work to maintain a pluralistic, open space within their respective civil societies. In our view, that is one of the conditions of dialogue and peace.
Today I will focus on the dangers facing the possibility of a two-State solution. We are close to a point of no return, and the solution is threatening to vanish before our eyes like a mirage in the desert. The developments related to the policy of settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem described last month in the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) (see S/2019/251) are particularly worrying and are leading inevitably to the erosion of a two-State solution on the ground. That is my first point.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 4,500 new housing units have been approved in the West Bank. That continues the efforts of 2017 and 2018. Last year was marked by a record level of announcements of nearly 16,000 housing units. The increase is even more serious because it is based to an unprecedented degree on the creation or expansion of colonies located deep in the West Bank. At the same time, in recent months the policy of legalizing so-called wild settlements in Israeli law has continued. Similarly, the practices of demolitions of Palestinian structures and expropriations and forced displacements of their inhabitants is intensifying and increased by more than 50 per cent in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period last year. That trend is particularly alarming in East Jerusalem, especially in the Old City and its surrounding neighbourhoods. It is accompanied by a slow but steady erosion of the status quo in the holy places of Jerusalem, which led to renewed tensions last month around the Esplanade of Mosques. With more than 600,000 settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, we cannot avoid the inexorable reality that we are now close to a point of no return.
That brings me to my second point — the current shift towards de facto annexation of West Bank.
I have just mentioned the settlement policy, which is illegal under international law and fuels a dynamic of de facto annexation. Other trends contribute to this phenomenon, such as the seizure of Palestinian resources, particularly water resources, which was mentioned earlier by our civil society briefers. In addition to the developments on the ground, there have been legal changes that run counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention, including the adoption of several laws in recent years that have extended the prerogatives and powers of the Israeli State, as well as the applicability of Israeli law to residents of West Bank settlements. Palestinians in the West Bank continue to live under Israeli military orders and to appear before military courts. The territorial grouping that is taking shape before our eyes therefore already manifests the unequal coexistence of two populations within the same territory.
One of the consequences is the ongoing risk of violence. We condemn all forms of terrorism and violence, including the launch of rockets from Gaza into Israel. We must also ensure that violence does not become entrenched.
In accordance with its obligations under international law, France does not recognize any Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territories, be it Jerusalem, the Golan, the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. We have reiterated that position on several occasions, including following the American decisions concerning Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which are contrary to international law and applicable Council resolutions.
If the trends I have just described were to be carried through to completion, they would make it impossible for Palestinians to fulfil their national aspirations, which requires the establishment of a State. For Israelis, it would mean a fundamental contradiction of the democratic character of the State of Israel, which is an integral part of its DNA. We must recommit to internationally agreed parameters. That was message sent by France and several of its Arab and European partners at the Dublin meeting in February, and it is the takeaway message of my statement.
In the absence of any political perspective, there may be a temptation to break away from the agreed framework based on international law and the resolutions of the Council, and to turn instead towards unilateral decisions. We must all fully appreciate the danger of the temptation of unilateralism. We must remember that any attempt to deviate from the parameters agreed by the international community would be doomed to failure. Those parameters are neither menu options from which to pick and choose depending on political circumstances, nor old software that must be updated. As a whole, they are the basis for any future agreement. That does not mean that we cannot also consider creative means of achieving them, but let us be clear — those parameters have no viable or realistic alternative.
The fates of the Israelis and the Palestinians are intertwined; neither of the two peoples can achieve its aspirations at the expense of the other. The disappearance of the two-State solution would irreversibly signal that both parties had given up on the national project as each has defined it thus far. France, as a friend to both Israelis and Palestinians, cannot accept that. The Council, which has crafted the parameters and outlines of a future peace agreement, cannot accept it. The increasingly deafening silence of the Council on this conflict since the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) in December 2016 is all the more incomprehensible, both for the sake of the Council’s credibility and for the world, which is watching the Council. France, for its part, does not intend to abandon its efforts to promote a just and lasting peace in the region.