Statement by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Committee on Palestine Sharm El Sheikh 13 July 2009

I wish to thank the Foreign Minister of Palestine for his briefing to this committee.

I also wish to express the support of the Government and people of South Africa for the ongoing activities of the Committee on Palestine of the Non-Aligned Movement, which has steadfastly stood in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people for the achievement of their independence and statehood.

The South African Government and people have consistently demonstrated their support for the rights of the Palestinian people, to a state of their own. Our Government has repeatedly called for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in line with the will of the international community, such as expressed by United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 465, 681, 1397 and 1515.

The Government’s clear position of support for the establishment of a viable Palestinian State is based on its firm belief that only a realistic two-state solution can bring lasting peace to the Middle East.  The aim is to stop the deterioration of the situation in the region, salvage the political process and realise the vision of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, based on the creation of a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace with Israel, within secure and internationally recognised borders. We remain convinced that negotiations are the only way to end the conflict and to bring about an end to the occupation of the Palestinian and Syrian territories.

We therefore call on Israel to abandon all settlement activities. A two state solution to the conflict is under increasing threat as Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank continues to make the separation of both peoples into two states increasingly difficult. The intensified home demolition programmes on the part of Israel that we are currently witnessing in East Jerusalem, constitute serious violations of international law, as definitively clarified in the 9 July 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice.

South Africa has also consistently expressed its concern at Israel’s construction of the Separation Wall in the West Bank.  The Israeli government has pursued the construction of the Separation Wall, which cuts through the West Bank, confiscating large chunks of Palestinian farm land, residences and commercial property for this purpose.  Israel’s building of the Separation Wall runs contrary to the will of the international community. It is also not in the long term security interests of Israel that such a barrier should be in place.

South Africa reiterates calls for an end to the collective punishment being meted out on Palestinians in Gaza, as the humanitarian situation deteriorates daily. During Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in Gaza during December 2008 and January 2009, it was reported by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that 1,455 Palestinians were killed and around 5,000 were injured and that most of the victims were innocent civilians, including women and 431 children. An entire civilian population was traumatized and impoverished and most of the Gaza infrastructure was destroyed, including a large number of schools, clinics and hospitals.

The South African Government had unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms condemned the escalation of violence on the part of Israel, brought about by the launching of a ground invasion into Gaza on 3 January 2009, in response to the rocket attacks launched from that territory into Israel. At the time, the South African Government called on the Israeli government to stop military activities in Gaza and to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from Gaza. South Africa also called upon the United Nations, specifically the Security Council, to stand together in condemning the escalation of violence on the part of Israel. We also appealed to all parties to resume negotiations as soon as possible. We maintained that Israel’s response to rocket fire from Gaza was disproportionate and in violation of international law, as Israel has specific obligations under international law as an occupying power.

The South African Government believes that we have the right to expect the United Nations and the Quartet to act in bringing full influence to bear on both Israelis and Palestinians, but very specifically and most emphatically on Israel, to cease all acts that will further erode any progress towards a resumption of the Middle East peace process.

At the same time, we call on all factions in Palestine to set aside their differences and to work towards the re-establishment of Palestinian unity, in order to ensure a unified approach to engagement with Israel, aimed at establishing a viable Palestinian state. In this context, we commend the Egyptian Government for its ongoing efforts to assist in bringing about such unity and confirm the readiness of the South African Government to assist in whatever way possible to achieve this goal.

I thank you.

Issued by Nomfanelo Kota on 082 459 3787

Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Private Bag x152
Pretoria
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