Israel’s settlement policy is illegal under international law [fr]
Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 20November 2019
I would first like to thank Mr. Mladenov and Ms. Hary for their briefings.
Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories is illegal under international law, particularly international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and contravenes Security Council resolutions. Colonization also helps to heighten tensions on the ground and undermine the possibility of a two-State solution. It erodes the prospects for lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as was recalled in resolution 2334 (2016). With almost 650,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, we are near the point of no return.
For that reason, France has condemned the decision to build 2,342 housing units in the West Bank and the infrastructure works near Bethlehem, which undermine the territorial continuity of a future Palestinian State. Such decisions are in addition to the ongoing construction of 3,000 housing units in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem from mid-June to mid-September and the expansion with another 6,000 units in the previous quarter. In total, the number of decisions on settlement housing construction since the beginning of this year is already higher than in 2018. France therefore calls on the Israeli authorities to halt such initiatives as well as all those that would jeopardize the two-State solution. In that regard, we will pay particular attention to the information contained in the Secretary-General’s next report of 2019 on the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016).We regret any decision that may encourage further settlements. Respect for international law is not negotiable. It is binding on everyone. Undermining that principle weakens the entire international system. It is not up to one country to decide what is legal. The issue of the legality of settlements cannot be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
I would also like to return to the latest developments on the ground, in particular the dangerous escalation in Gaza last week. France strongly condemns the firing of more than 450 rockets into populated areas of Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. I would recall in that regard that France believes that Israel’s security is not, and never will be, negotiable. Any attack deliberately targeting civilian populations and infrastructure is also contrary to international humanitarian law. In addition, we have taken note of the Israeli army’s announcement of an internal investigation into the deaths of eight Palestinian civilians, including five children, in an air strike on Deir el-Balah on 14 November. We call for that investigation, like those announced by Israel in April 2018, to be completed in a transparent manner and followed by measures that are commensurate with the gravity of the situation.
We call on all parties to exercise the utmost restraint and to respect the ceasefire agreed under the auspices of the Special Coordinator. In addition to the immediate need for a cessation of hostilities, there will be no lasting stability in Gaza without the lifting of the blockade, along with credible security guarantees for Israel, and without the return of the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian Authority will be able to fully exercise its authority in Gaza only if there is a resumption of the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process, which must involve credible elections held throughout the Palestinian territories, including Gaza and East Jerusalem. We noted with interest the commitment of President Abbas to holding elections in the near future as well as the preparatory work undertaken to that end. We encourage the Palestinian leadership to ensure that the elections take place, and we stand ready to support it on that path.
In a context where the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem remains worrying, I reiterate France’s commitment to respect for freedom of expression and the protection of journalists. We also call on the Israeli authorities to reconsider their decision to revoke the residence permit of the Director of Human Rights Watch for Israel and Palestine following the confirmation by the Israeli Supreme Court of that decision.
In conclusion, I would like to recall France’s unwavering support for the two-State solution. At a time when the prospect of such a solution is being questioned, it is more necessary than ever to recall that only a solution based on the internationally agreed parameters will make it possible to meet the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians and to bring lasting peace to the region. It must allow the establishment of a Palestinian State living in peace and security alongside Israel, within secure and internationally recognized borders drawn on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of the two States. Any peace plan that deviates from the internationally agreed parameters would be doomed to failure. As France is a friend of both Israel and the Palestinians, it stands ready to encourage them to resume dialogue on that basis.
Pending a lasting peace that provides a just, realistic and sustainable solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees, the role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East will remain crucial. At the General Assembly, a very large majority of Member States called for the renewal of its mandate for three years, which France welcomes. We will remain vigilant as to the Agency’s ability to implement its mandate and to continue its operations, in particular in East Jerusalem.
Together with our European partners, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and to advocate for an order based on international law. It is also the responsibility of the Council to ensure compliance with international law and the parameters agreed by the international community. France will ensure that.