Israel-Palestine: we are close to the point of no return [fr]
Middle East Peace Process
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 18 December 2018
At the outset, I should like to thank Nikolay Mladenov for his briefing, which was, as usual, most enlightening, as well as for his commitment day in and day out. I join other members of the Council, on principle, to express our regret that the quarterly report presented to us today pursuant to resolution 2334 (2015) is not a written report. In the absence of any clarification to the contrary in the text of the resolution, the procedure that must be followed by default is that of a written report. Ten members of the Council made this request more than six months ago and it is important that it be taken into account.
Developments over the past few days confirm once again the assessment that we highlight before the Council on a regular basis, namely, that the illusion of the status quo conceals a daily deterioration of the situation that is liable to degenerate at any time and further undermines the foundations of peace every day. I said this last month about Gaza (see S/PV.8405), which, from 11 to 13 November, was on the verge of being plunged into a new conflict. The return to relative calm does not detract from the tragic humanitarian situation of the people of that territory. The situation requires urgent political, humanitarian and development measures to be adopted. Today, however, I would like to focus on the West Bank, where last week’s escalation reminds us of just how volatile the situation is.
First of all, I wish to recall the violence of recent days, which intensified after the 9 December firearms attack on Israeli civilians on the outskirts of the Ofra settlement in the West Bank and — as we are aware — took a tragic death toll. I wish to reiterate with the utmost clarity that France emphatically condemns this attack and the apologia that Hamas has made in its regard. Violence against civilians is unacceptable and unjustifiable. In the wake of the attack, Israeli forces deployed massively in the West Bank, including Zone A, particularly in Ramallah. A new cycle of violence followed, marked by numerous clashes with Palestinian protesters and attacks by Israeli settlers. It peaked during the day of 13 December, with several attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem that killed two Israeli soldiers. While a precarious calm se3ems to have been restored on the ground, we call on all parties to exercise restraint. We regret that the Israeli authorities have chosen to respond to these events with new decisions in favour of settlement activities.
My second point concerns the fact that these developments have unfolded in an environment marked by the absence of any political horizon and an acceleration of settlement activity policies. In this context, I reiterate that France’s position on settlement activity will not change. Settlement activities are illegal under international law; they contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention and paragraphs 1 and 2 of resolution 2334 (2016). They are dangerous, aggravate tensions between populations and exacerbate spiraling violence. Settlement activity is counterproductive; it is progressively destroying prospects both on the ground and at the political level for the two-State solution, which must remain our ultimate goal.
While resolution 2334 (2016) calls for an immediate halt to settlement activity, exactly the opposite has occurred since its adoption almost two years ago. This systematic policy has continued over the course of the year, with a number of announcements of new housing units in Jerusalem, almost reaching the woeful record set in 2012, and a succession of announcements of new housing units in settlements in the West Bank, especially in particularly sensitive areas such as Hebron. I would like to recall here the unique situation of that divided city, where the presence of 800 settlers has become a symbol of settlement activity and its consequences, including the expulsion of the Palestinian population, recurrent tensions between armed settlers and Palestinians, and restrictions on public freedoms, including movement and access to places of worship.
Demolitions and forced displacements have also continued at a steady pace. Almost 200 Palestinian structures were demolished in the first half of 2018, and more than 40 schools in Zone C and East Jerusalem have been subject to an order of demolition. We call on the Israeli authorities to abandon these demolitions and forced displacements. We have taken note of the suspension of the demolition orders in Khan Al-Ahmar and call on the Israeli Government to definitively abandon the demolition of the village and the displacement of its population. I join my British colleague in underscoring the need to support the maintenance of the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem.
Finally, legislative initiatives aimed at regularizing the so-called outposts — which are illegal not only under international law but also under Israeli law — are continuing, with the adoption of a so-called regularization law, covering settlements built on private Palestinian land, that is the subject of an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court. A second law, under review, concerns the regularization of more than 60 settlements. We call on the Israeli authorities to reverse these decisions, which seek to normalize or even intensify a policy that is illegal under international law.
In light of this risk — to introduce my last point — we are obligated under both international humanitarian law and resolution 2334 (2016) to refuse to recognize the 1967 border violations effected by the Israeli settlement policy under paragraph 3 of the resolution; to acknowledge the distinction between Israel and the occupied territories, under paragraph 5; and to address the need to identify practical means to ensure the implementation of relevant Council resolutions by the parties, under paragraph 11.We hope that the decisions taken by the international community that meet these obligations, in particular those under paragraph 5 of resolution 2334 (2016), will be systematically reflected in the reports submitted to the Council pursuant to the resolution, as was the case today. The European Union has adopted, through the 2013 guidelines on European financing and the 2015 Interpretative Notice on products of the settlements, several instruments that must be included among the good practices in this regard.
The reality is that we are close to the point of no return. The fragmented territorial aggregation that is taking shape before our eyes is creating an unequal coexistence of two populations on the same territory. The culmination of this process will spell, for the Palestinians, the abandonment of their national aspirations, which involve the establishment of a State; and for the Israelis, the renunciation of the democratic nature of the State of Israel.
As we all know, the destinies of Israelis and Palestinians are intertwined; neither of the two peoples will realize their aspirations in the long term at the expense of the other. As a friend of the Israelis and the Palestinians, France has only one objective — the implementation through negotiation of a two-State solution, which is the only way to bring about a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. It is against that yardstick and in the light of respect for internationally agreed parameters that France will closely scrutinize, with the resolve to make progress, the forthcoming proposal of the United States that has just been mentioned by my colleague and friend, Ambassador Nikki Haley.