Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations during the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East including the question of Palestine 20 February 2019

Thank you, Mr. President,

Mr President, at the outset we join others in thanking the Special Coordinator, Mr Mladenov for his comprehensive briefing. Likewise, we welcome the briefing by the Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Ms Ursula Mueller on the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Mr President,
The briefing we heard today clearly indicates one thing. Peace in Palestine remains elusive. As time goes on, we have seen the positions of the Israelis and Palestinians growing further and further apart. Key Final Status issues that ought to be dealt with through negotiations are rapidly being eroded as the issue of Jerusalem is being pre-determined and illegal settlements continue to be built on Palestinian land in flagrant violation of International Humanitarian Law and numerous Security Council resolutions.

Mr President,
The briefing today takes place a few weeks after the Government of Israel decided not to renew the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) after 22 years of dedicated service to both Palestinians and Israelis. It is appropriate that I use this opportunity to express South Africa’s deep regret at the decision by Israel, which clearly undermines one of the few confidence-building mechanisms between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We have no doubt that this decision by the Israeli Government will be yet another step that will have negative implications on the Middle East Peace Process. It is also unfortunate that we were not even able to adopt a press statement to support the mechanism that promoted peace and stability in Hebron. Despite this setback, we appreciate the effort by the President of the Council of consulting with both Palestine and Israel on this matter and we welcome the valuable feedback that he has provided to the Council in that regard.   

Mr President,
This Council began dealing with the issue of Israel and Palestine almost from the beginning of its work, over 70 years ago. Yet as this Council, we have regrettable done very little or more often, nothing at all. On almost any other issue that this Council deals with, if there was a similar magnitude of violations or deterioration of the situation, we would waste no time in taking decisive action.

Mr President,
On 21 December 2018, Belgium, Bolivia, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, France, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, Sweden and my own country South Africa, wrote to the UN Secretary-General and to the President of the Security Council raising concern over the lack of implementation of Security Council Resolution 2334, which included the need for the Secretary-General to provide written reports every three months on its implementation.

Mr President,
We wish to reiterate our call for the submission of timely written reports by the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council on its implementation of resolution 2234, every three months in order for progress to be adequately monitored. This Council receives written reports on other matters that it is seized with, and the situation in Palestine should be no different. We must not allow the decisions made by the Security Council to be undermined and blatantly violated in some cases.

Mr President,
We express deep concern about the dire humanitarian situation of more than 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza of which 50% of them are children. The people of Gaza desperately need humanitarian assistance. In that connection, we wish to call upon the international community to continue to support UNRWA, which continues play a pivotal role in providing the basic services to the people of Palestine.

Mr President,
I wish to reiterate South Africa’s position in support of a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders. We, as part of the international community, support and encourage both parties towards this endeavour. Dialogue and negotiation remains the only way forward to finding a lasting solution.  The guidelines for these negotiations have to be based on the already established international legal framework, which include United Nations General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Plan and the Quartet Roadmap, to name but a few.

Finally, Mr President,
South Africa was elected onto this Council with the aspiration to work, with other member states represented here, for a long-lasting peace in the Middle East. We must, as a Council show consistency and act to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians. During our time in the Council, we will continue to call on the Council to show consistency and act on this matter.

I thank you






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