No alternative to a two-State solution [fr]
Middle East Peace Process - Speech by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 18 October 2017
"Time has not made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict less dangerous. Far from being an acceptable status quo, the situation on the ground has been deteriorating every day", François Delattre, 18 October 2017.
I would like to begin by thanking Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenča for his very informative briefing.
The perspective he has presented reminds us of a reality to which France has always tried to draw the Security Council’s attention: in a region that has been shaken by major crises for years, the oldest conflict in the Middle East has still not been resolved. Time has not made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict less dangerous. Far from being an acceptable status quo, the situation on the ground has been deteriorating every day, particularly thanks to the Israeli settlements, which create circumstances capable of degenerating into a genuine crisis at any time. That has been a regular occurrence in the past few years, including recently in relation to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Year after year, the notion of peace has faded in people’s words and minds as successive generations of Palestinians and Israelis have lost all hope of peaceful coexistence.
Nor have the increasing numbers of regional crises marginalized or trivialized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They have increased its potential for destabilization and made its resolution more necessary than ever. Because of its gravity, its central position in the Middle East, its symbolic dimension and its place in the collective imagination, the conflict has a profoundly destabilizing influence whose scope goes far beyond the borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories. Any escalation of the conflict carries with it the risk of uncontrollable consequences in the region, and its persistence creates a platform for recruitment to the terrorist groups that are active in the region, which we should be specially wary of.
We must come to grips with the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not resolve itself on its own. It will not be settled through the inertia of its principal actors or by way of illusory shortcuts. The only avenue is the difficult path towards peace based on mutual respect and negotiation. For while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the oldest of those that have torn the Middle East apart, it is also the only one whose solution is fully understood and agreed upon within the international community. Despite the constant deterioration of the situation on the ground, the parameters of a future agreement have not changed. They still require two States living in peace and security within secure and recognized frontiers, drawn on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with a mutually agreed-on exchange of land, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States and including an agreed, realistic, just and lasting solution for Palestinian refugees.
There is no alternative to a two-State solution and the vision of a region with two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side. The destinies of the two peoples are intertwined. Neither State can sustainably satisfy its national aspirations by denying those of the other. But the colonization of the Palestinian territories is imposing a different reality on the ground. It is expanding at a pace unequalled since 1967, and ultimately threatens to create a one-State reality in which two citizenship regimes coexist, an unequal situation that would therefore be both unacceptable on principle and produce disastrous consequences.
Violence is already recurring on the ground, as was shown by the attack that left three dead at the entrance of a West Bank settlement towards the end of September. To be clear, we firmly condemn violence and every kind of incitement to violence, which is also required under resolution 2334 (2016). In an already volatile environment, further settlement risks increasing tension.
With nearly 600,000 settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, we are approaching the point of no return. In this year alone, Israeli authorities have approved the construction of 12,000 new housing units — three times more than last year. In the past few days, the construction of new housing in the centre of Hebron was approved for the first time in 15 years. Yesterday, 1,300 new housing units were approved in the West Bank, the majority of those in settlements deep into the West Bank, which is far from compatible with a future peace agreement. Just today, the approval of more than 1,300 additional units was announced.
Faced with such developments, France’s position is clear. We condemn the construction of settlements, which is not only illegal under international law, as recalled in resolution 2334 (2016), but is also dangerous, because it destroys the possibility of a two-State solution, both politically and on the ground. Moreover, from a practical point of view, we are implementing a differentiation policy between Israel, with which we hope to continue and deepen our discussions, and the occupied territories. Within the framework of the European Union, that approach is reflected in provisions that exclude Israeli settlements from the benefits of the agreements that we have signed with Israel, as well as in specific recommendations on identifying the origin of goods from those settlements. Let us be clear, however, that distinction, which is also called for under resolution 2334 (2016), is in no way related, either directly or indirectly, to any kind of boycott. I reiterate once again that France will remain extremely firm in its refusal and condemnation of appeals to boycott Israel.
Beyond the violence that we are already seeing on the ground, which we condemn, settlement activity presents a double impasse — for the Palestinians that constitutes the failure of their aspirations to become a State, and for the Israelis the ruin of their national democratic project.
Finally, while preserving the continuity of the Palestinian territories is essential for a future agreement on their final status, Palestinian political and territorial unity is equally as important for such an agreement to be viable. For the past decade, we have called on the Palestinians to end the division between Gaza and the West Bank and once again become unified, under the authority of President Mahmoud Abbas and within the framework of the principles endorsed by the Palestine Liberation Organization: non-violence, the recognition of Israel and respect for signed agreements.
The agreement signed in Cairo on 12 October by Fatah and Hamas, preceded by a visit by the Palestinian Authority Government to Gaza 10 days earlier, is an encouraging development in that direction. That result could not have been reaached without the considerable and continuing efforts made by Egypt, which we would like to commend. The discussions under way should enable the Palestinian Authority to fully exercise its prerogatives in the Gaza Strip, including in the area of security. It must also put an end to the energy crisis as quickly as possible, of which the population of Gaza is the only victim. Finally, through appropriate security arrangements, it must facilitate the lifting of the blockade imposed on the people of Gaza.
France is a friend to both Palestinians and Israelis. That is why we must speak plainly with them and tirelessly call on them to return to the negotiating table. In that regard, we want to continue to work with our main partners.
With our partners in the European Union, we remain engaged to help resume negotiations by using all of our collective tools. France associates itself with the statement to be delivered shortly on behalf of the European Union.
As for the region, the Arab Peace Initiative remains an essential framework for making peace with the Palestinians the first step towards Israel’s regional integration, which will benefit all.
We hope that the commitment of the United States Administration in its new diplomatic effort will help to reignite a dynamic of negotiation between the parties, within the framework of international law and with the objective of the two-State solution.
As a friend of the Palestinians and the Israelis, France cannot resign itself to a situation that leaves either party at an impasse. It is high time to put an end to that.