Statement by the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations during the Security Council Meeting on the Middle East including the Question of Palestine, 26 March 2019

Mr President,

I would like to join others in thanking the Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Mr Mladenov for his briefing on the developments in the Middle East.

South Africa condemns the rocket attack from Gaza aimed at Israel. These kinds of rocket attacks not only place the lives of innocent civilians in danger but also undermine the legitimate cause of the Palestinian people. While recognising Israel’s legitimate right to security, we condemn Israel’s disproportionate use of force.

These recent incidents do not occur in a vacuum. The people of Gaza have endured serious hardship during the Israeli blockade on Gaza. The escalation of violence will only worsen their already dire situation. The Security Council needs to also act decisively and urgently on the lifting of the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Mr President,

My delegation would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Secretary-General’s written report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 of 2016 and express our hope that this practice will continue with future reports. Written reports on this issue, as we receive reports on other matters on the Council’s agenda, are essential if the Security Council is to effectively exercise its mandate in terms of maintaining international peace and security in the Middle East.

Mr President,

As reported by the Secretary-General, Israel has continued to expand settlements and demolish and seize property in the occupied territories unabated and with impunity. It is important to reiterate that the establishment of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem is a flagrant violation of international law.

The continued expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, undermines the prospects for long-term peace, alters the conditions on the ground putting the two-state solution in jeopardy by eroding the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and contravenes a decision of this Council. Such overt violations of a resolution adopted by the Security Council would usually evoke severe measures against the party responsible; however on this issue this Council remains silent. If the Council does not uphold its own decisions, it loses its effectiveness and undermines its core mandate of maintaining international peace and security. In this regard, we once again call on all Member States of the UN to fully implement the provisions of resolution 2334 (2016).

Mr President,

My delegation wishes to express our grave concern about the continued disregard for the prevailing and long-standing Middle East Peace Process and attempts to prejudge final status issues particularly with regard to the borders, and the status of Jerusalem through unilateral actions.

I wish to reiterate South Africa’s position in support of a two-state solution. We would also like to emphasise that the primary responsibility for peace rests with the Palestinians and Israelis themselves. The guidelines for negotiations should be based on the already established international legal framework, which include UN General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Plan and the Quartet Roadmap, to name a few.

Mr President,

We remain concerned that over 40 years after the adoption of Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, which called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the territories that it occupied after the 1967 war, including the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel continues to illegally occupy the Golan Heights and thereby violate Council resolutions. International law should be upheld in this regard and we therefore call on Israel to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Mr President,

As noted by the Secretary-General, the independent international commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory found reasonable grounds to believe that in almost all of the cases it investigated, the use of live ammunition by the Israeli security forces against protesters was unlawful. During the period under investigation 183 protesters, including 35 children were killed and over 6,100 were injured through the use of live ammunition. South Africa strongly condemns this excessive and disproportionate use of force by the Israeli security forces and calls on Israel to refrain from the unwarranted use of live ammunition in response to protests.

In conclusion, Mr President, the ongoing protests in Gaza are evidence of the dire and untenable situation of the Palestinian people. The upcoming one year anniversary of the start of the “Great March of Return” is expected to see tens of thousands of Palestinians protesting Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine. In this regard, we call for all parties to ensure that the protests remain peaceful and non-violent.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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