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, Wednesday, 20 November 2019
Madam President. Let me thank Mr Nikolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Ms Tania Hary, Executive Director of Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement for their briefings.
I would like to address the following three issues in my statement; 1) the systematic annexation of Palestinian lands, 2) the situation in Gaza and 3) the power of peaceful resolution of conflict.
Madam President, on the first issue of the systematic annexation of Palestinian lands, South Africa would like to reiterate its steadfast stance with regard to the peace process, and resolving the constant stalemate in the negotiations. In this context, we affirm that the only way to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East is through reaching a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis themselves, and restoring all legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the two-state solution and the relevant UN resolutions and international terms of reference, including the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Plan and the Quartet Peace Plan, amongst others.
The continued disregard for these prevailing and longstanding internationally accepted concepts cannot be allowed, particularly with regard the circumvention of final status issues such as the borders, the status of Jerusalem and the right of return of refugees.
Israel’s continued pronouncements about the Annexation of large parts of the West Bank and the buildings of additional settlements, further undermines the prospects of peace and are glaring examples of violations of international law.
Since 1967, for over half a century, Israel has systematically constructed over 160 settlements and outposts on land seized from the Palestinian people. Over 600, 000 Israeli’s are living in settlements built from the ruins of demolished and destroyed Palestinian property.
This Council, since the adoption of the first resolution on the situation in Palestine, resolution 42 of March 1948, over 70 years ago and all subsequent resolutions, has failed to ensure that these resolutions are implemented or taken any concrete action to address the blatant violations of these resolutions. I ask now, of my fellow Council Members, what will force the Council to act?
I wold like to remind this Council of its adoption, unanimously, of resolution 2334 on 23 December 2016. It clearly states that the Council and I now quote:
Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. End quote.
There is no ambiguity in these words or this resolution, legal or otherwise.
Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations clearly states, and I quote again:
The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decision of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter. End quote.
It must be clear to all, that no Member State is exempt from their obligations under the UN Charter. If we should abandon the principles enshrined in the Charter, it would render this Council and its decisions obsolete.
In this regard, South Africa has and will continued to insist on the full implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) and all other Council resolutions on this matter, including calling for written reports by the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 2334 (2016). We cannot ignore one Security Council resolution while calling for the full implementation of others.
Madam President, on my second issue, South Africa is deeply concerned at the recent activities in Gaza that has led to increased tensions, the killing of over 30 Palestinians and injuries to hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis. These actions have perpetuated the dire security and humanitarian situation in the area and welcome last week’s ceasefire announcement, brokered by the UN and Egypt. In this regard, we call for a cessation of violent attacks on both sides and for all sides to negotiations.
Additionally, South Africa is concerned at the continued human rights violations in the occupied territory and again reiterates that such violations only contribute to the fostering hatred between the people of Palestine and Israel.
Madam President, with regard to my third issue on the power of peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Israel’s security and that of its future generations does not lie in the annexation of all of Palestinian territory, the imprisonment of Palestinian, the erecting of high concrete walls and checkpoints or the continued blockade of Gaza. Rather it lies in a peaceful, stable and happy neighbour, a sovereign and independent Palestinian State, whose children, like Israeli children can go to school, play, attend places of worship and compete in sporting activities in peace and security.
This can be achieved through sustained dialogue, negotiation and mediation, by both sides respecting one another and through compromise and understanding.
As Former President Mandela said, at a banquet in Cape Town for visiting President Yasser Arafat in 1998, I quote
Our own humble experience has shown that negotiated solution can be found event to conflict that the world has come to regard as insoluble. It has taught us that such solutions emerge when former opponents reach out to find common ground. End quote.
In conclusion, Madam President, I wish to state that South Africa is fully committed to ensuring that the two-state solution, and the agreed peace processes aimed at ensuring two viable states with the possibility of coexisting side by side to the mutual benefit of all peoples in the region, become a reality. We are ready to play our part to assist the parties to find durable peace for the sake of future generation.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
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