Statement on "The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question"

25 October 2011

The Arab Spring has prompted the United Nations Security Council to consider decisive actions in a number of cases, yet in the matter of the longest standing issue on its agenda pertaining to the Middle East, it remains paralyzed by inaction. 

There are meetings every month to discuss the situation in the Middle East and for the last few years, statements have followed similar lines.  Yet there is no real movement towards a final settlement to the Israeli/Palestinian question. 

On 23 September 2011 President Abbas submitted an application for Palestine’s full membership of the United Nations. The near universal excitement and support that accompanied this historical event is an indication of how important the issue of Palestinian statehood is, not just for the Palestinians, but in fact for the rest of the world.

In this connection, South Africa believes that the issue of Palestine’s UN membership should be resolved expeditiously and in accordance with the provisions of the Charter; the relevant Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly; and the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council. Above all South Africa believes that we cannot make Palestine’s membership to the UN conditional upon a peace agreement.

South Africa wishes to reaffirm its conviction:
  • that Palestine is a state;
  • that Palestine is a peace-loving state; and
  • that Palestine is willing and able to carry out its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.

Mindful of the political sensitivities inherent in this process, we believe that it is now more important than ever that we act in a manner that befits the stature of this Council and recommend Palestine’s full membership to the United Nations.  In addition, the Council should further fulfill its obligations under the Charter and simultaneously resuscitate the negotiations process with the aim of achieving a two state solution.

While the Quartet proposal for negotiations is welcome and in fact long overdue, we should recall that we have had concrete timeframes for these negotiations before. However, every time the parties have fallen short of an agreement within a given timeframe. We hope that the parties will this time commit themselves to finding a solution even earlier than the envisaged end of 2012. We also call on those countries that have influence on the parties to encourage them to participate in the negotiations in good faith without preconditions or changing the parameters of a final outcome.

The single major obstacle to the negotiations is clearly the incessant building of illegal settlements by Israel. Just last month, after the promulgation of the Quartet blueprint, the Government of Israel defied unanimous calls from this Council and the Quartet and announced its intention to construct 1 100 new units in the settlement of Gilo.  Certainly, this regressive act alters facts on the ground and the parameters of final status issues.  This is an obstacle to peace and not the Palestinian application for membership to the UN.  

South Africa welcomes the recent agreement on prisoner swaps. This agreement, which has been described by the Secretary-General as: “a significant humanitarian breakthrough”, is a positive step towards greater cooperation between Israel and Palestine.  We hope that those released will be allowed to lead normal lives without persecution and that the Israeli Government would fulfill its obligation to facilitate the release, as soon as possible, of all those remaining prisoners.

The Israeli Government must also fulfill its obligations under international humanitarian law with regard to the remainder of Palestinian political prisoners by ensuring their safety; allowing access to them by family members and respecting the basic human rights of the prisoners.

We reiterate our deep concern about the abuse of human rights of Palestinian children and their detention. Needless to say, we are all very aware of the long lasting adverse psychological effects that this will have on this vulnerable group. In this regard, the UNRWA report of 12 June 2011 noted that: “The impact of home demolitions on children can be particularly devastating. Many children affected by demolitions show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.”  A few days ago, in an address to the Third Committee of the General Assembly, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, expressed concern about reports of violence against Palestinian children during arrest and detention by the Israeli military authorities. We regret that there has been an increase in the detentions of minors in recent years.  Again we call on Israel to fulfill its obligations under international human rights- and humanitarian law and to protect the rights of children.

South Africa looks forward, sooner than later, to welcoming Palestine as the 194th member of the United Nations. We also hope that the Quartet process will, as soon as possible, achieve its stated objectives and ultimately bring lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.

We also look forward to meaningful progress that will bring us nearer to the comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. In this connection, South Africa will continue to contribute in any way that could lead to the resolution of the Middle East problem in all its aspects.

For further information, please contact Mr. Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for DIRCO, on 082 884 5974

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

OR Tambo Building
460 Soutspansberg Road
Pretoria

25 October 2011

 

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