The promise of two States threatens to fade away before our eyes [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 19 November 2018
I would first like to thank Mr. Nickolay Mladenov for his briefing and his commitment day in and day out, and to reiterate France’s support for him.
Every day that passes reaffirms something that we regularly condemn before the Council: the false status quo that we are witnessing and which in fact masks a daily deterioration of the situation, which may at any time degenerate into an open crisis, as we have once again seen in recent days in Gaza. Today, I will specifically focus on Gaza, which is once again on the brink, by highlighting three main elements.
First, between 11 and 13 November, the Gaza Strip was on the point of toppling into a new deadly conflict, such as the territory has experienced three times over the past decade. Given the potential consequences of a new conflict for the populations concerned, we join the Secretary-General in calling for calm and restraint on all sides. In a particularly tense context, we also stress the need to avoid any initiative and action likely to provoke an escalation.
Between 12 and 13 November, nearly 500 rockets were launched towards Israeli territory in less than 24 hours. The fact that there were several victims is to be condemned. The intensity of those strikes is unprecedented, even during the conflict of 2014. We have condemned in the strongest terms such firing of rockets by Hamas and other armed groups at Israeli territory.
The return to calm that we have now seen for almost a week needs to be perpetuated based on the 2014 security arrangements in order to prevent a new cycle of violence, of which the civilian populations would again be the primary victims. In that regard, we commend the efforts of Egypt and the United Nations Special Coordinator. The restraint seen since 13 November should be noted. It must be preserved regardless of the political cost for each side.
Secondly, the most recent peak in tensions, the third since the summer and the most serious, is part of a context of humanitarian collapse and political stalemate in the Gaza Strip. For more than six months, there has been a succession of violent incidents in Gaza against the backdrop of a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented severity. The number of protests that have taken place and that continue along the separation fence is terrible: 170 Palestinians killed and nearly 6,000 shot since 30 March in the context of rallies fueled by the desperation of the population. France has condemned the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force and called on Israel to respect the right of Palestinians to demonstrate peacefully, as well as its obligation to protect civilians under international humanitarian law. We have also condemned the manipulation of the protests by Hamas and other armed groups.
To give immediate hope to the people of Gaza, we must first address the humanitarian emergency. The efforts of the Special Coordinator and all United Nations agencies to rapidly improve the humanitarian situation contribute significantly to such a response. All actors must coordinate their efforts to that end. Ultimately, only lifting the blockade, accompanied by the necessary security guarantees for Israel, will make it possible to meet the needs of the population.
Lastly, there can be no lasting solution to the crisis in Gaza without a reconciliation agreement, which must enable the Palestinian Authority to regain all its prerogatives in the territory. We support that goal in the framework of the efforts of Egypt and the Special Coordinator. We call on all parties to resume the dialogue to relaunch the process of inter-Palestinian reconciliation, as an extension of the agreement reached in Cairo a year ago.
Let us also remember that Gaza is not a stand-alone territory and cannot be dissociated from the Palestinian question as a whole. There will be no lasting peace in the region without agreement between Israel and Palestine, no viable Israeli-Palestinian agreement without a Palestinian State, and no Palestinian State without an agreement that allows for unity between Gaza and the West Bank under the aegis of the legitimate Palestinian authorities.
Given the situation in Gaza since last March, the Security Council has never been able to speak with one voice. That deafening silence more incomprehensible by the day to the populations of the region, as it is to the world watching us.
I would like to expand on my remarks regarding the Palestinian question as a whole. Twenty-five years after the signing of the Oslo Accords and 30 years after the Algiers Declaration, we are close to the point of no return. The promise of two States threatens to fade away before our eyes, like a desert mirage. That promise is deteriorating on the ground, as a result of settlements and the political and territorial fragmentation of Palestinians. But it is also vanishing from our minds, in the absence of a political horizon. Generation after generation, despair and fatalism are overcoming Palestinians and Israelis, who live in two parallel worlds and do not talk to one another. Accordingly, the dynamics can only be negative.
Therefore this point must be hammered home: there is no viable or realistic alternative to the two-State solution. The unique territorial reality, which is taking shape before our eyes, would ultimately mean that the Palestinians give up their national aspirations and that the Israelis relinquish their democratic project. It is therefore essential to fill the current political vacuum. But I would like to remind our American friends, as the President of the Republic has said to President Trump on several occasions, that a peace plan that fails to recognize the internationally agreed parameters, particularly with regard to Jerusalem, would be condemned to failure. Those parameters are not options or a menu from which we can choose. They are the indispensable foundation of any peace plan and any future negotiations. Throwing off those parameters, in particular where it concerns Jerusalem, is to take the risk of transforming a conflict of a territorial and political nature into an identity and religious conflict, which would make any compromise impossible and open a space into which all radical groups in the region would seek to rush.
Allow me to revisit those parameters. They provide for two States living in peace and security, along safe and recognized borders, drawn on the basis of the 1967 lines, with possible territory swaps as agreed by the parties. In that respect, the decision announced last month to suspend the demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar is a first step, but one that remains tentative and revocable at all times. We therefore ask the Israeli authorities to renounce it definitively. Khan Al-Ahmar is in an area that is essential to the viability of the two-State solution.
Jerusalem would be the future capital of the two States. Nearly 600 housing units in settlements in East Jerusalem — Ramat Shlomo and Ramot — were approved earlier this month. Those advances further weaken the project of a viable, sovereign and contiguous Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. With nearly 5,800 approvals, the year 2018 is close to reaching the record of 2012 in terms of settlements in East Jerusalem.
There must be a fair and realistic solution for Palestinian refugees. In the wait for a negotiated solution, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East plays a key role, which is crucial to preserve. The goal must be to sustain the exemplary mobilization of the international community following the United States decision to suspend its contribution to the Agency.
France is a friend to both Israelis and Palestinians. It has no other interest than peace in the region and the possibility for the populations concerned to live in safety and dignity. The events that occurred a week ago must be a warning: in Gaza as elsewhere, the same causes always produce the same effects. If we do not deal with those causes, we will not succeed indefinitely in avoiding a new conflict. We therefore have a collective responsibility within the Council to act before it is too late. France will continue to spare no effort in that regard.