Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the UN Security Council Briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the Question of Palestine, Thursday, 20 June 2019

Mr President,

I would like to thank Mr Mladenov for his briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine.

We are all aware of the expression, that the Emperor of Rome, Nero, is reputed to have fiddled while Rome burned.

If this Council and indeed the international community continues to deal with the question of Palestine in the manner in which we are currently doing, history will no doubt judge us as the abominable Nero.

We are fiddling, while the reality of an independent, safe, secure and self-sufficient Palestinian State is slowly dwindling.

Compounding the effects of the illegal Israeli occupation, earlier this week, the governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA), Mr. Azzam Shawwa, highlighted the dire financial constraints of the Palestinian Authority that makes it very difficult to deliver basic services to its people.

Mr President,

On 22 November 1967 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 244 which called on all parties to end territorial claims, respect sovereignty and for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories. In 2019, fifty-two years later, this has still not happened. In reality, Israel has illegally expanded its occupation with no consequences.

These historical injustices against Palestine and its people must be addressed. This Council must uphold its UN Charter-mandated responsibilities and act.

It is long overdue for the Security Council to reassume its responsibility and act decisively to assist Israel and Palestine in finding a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Over the years, established legal frameworks have been agreed upon, including the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Plan, the Quartet Peace Plan and resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council. It is now time to put action to these guidelines.

Mr President,

A vital aspect of ensuring lasting peace, security and stability in the Middle East is for the parties to talk to each other, in direct negotiations, towards finding a credible path to peace that is acceptable to both Israel and Palestine. These direct discussions must include final status issues particularly with regard to borders, the status of Jerusalem, and the return of Palestinian refugees.

Eroding these core issues through detrimental unilateral action severely undermines previous peace-making efforts and damages the prospects for durable peace for both Palestinians and Israelis alike.

The Security Council and its partners in peace must exert every effort to bring all sides to the negotiating table, to allow them to find a long-term, peaceful solution.

Mr President,

With regard to the humanitarian and human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, here too we have failed. Palestinians continue to live in unacceptable environments where their movement is restricted, their land and property is seized and they have very little control over their own futures. In Gaza, Israel’s illegal blockade has harshly and negatively impacted on the economic and social development of the area.

This has been further exacerbated by Israel’s illegal withholding of tax and customs revenue that rightfully belongs to the Palestinian Authority to dispense as they see fit. In this regard, South Africa calls for the immediate lifting of the illegal blockade and the release of all tax and customs revenue collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

In the West Bank, we see continued expansion of illegal settlements, the confiscation or destruction of Palestinian property and land, in direct violation of international law, including Security Council resolution 2334. Again the Council has not acted to rectify this injustice.

As we heard last month and acknowledged by many Members of the Council, UNWRA plays a vital role in the lives of most Palestinians through the provision of health and education services and employment opportunities in these fields. Their important work must be fully supported and encouraged at the upcoming UNWRA conference later this month.

Mr President,

On a positive note, we congratulate the State of Palestine for successfully joining the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as an observer on 18 June. This is a further step towards full acceptance by the international community of the reality that Palestine is indeed a State.

In conclusion Mr President, the international community has acknowledged that the only credible solution is one that is based on the two-State solution, with the 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine. Any proposed peace plan must acknowledge these facts and must ensure a Palestinian State that has sovereignty, territorial contiguity and economic prosperity.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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