Statement by Ambassador Xolisa Mabhongo, Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, Tuesday, 11 February 2020
South Africa welcomes the President of the State of Palestine, H.E. President Mahmoud Abbas, to the Security Council and thanks him for his impassioned statement as well as the statements of Secretary-General Guterres and his Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Mr Nicolay Mladenov.
South Africa is grateful to you for scheduling this meeting today. This meeting has allowed us an opportunity to hear from President Abbas who has articulated the voice of the people of occupied Palestine. A people, who for decades have struggled for their right to self-determination and for the recognition of their basic human rights in an asymmetrical environment while living under occupation.
The meeting today, rightfully amplifies the voice of the Palestinians who tend to be ignored when their own destiny is being decided upon.
The UN Security Council held its first meeting on the matter of Palestine at its 222nd meeting on 9 December 1947. In the over 72 years since, we have unfortunately not progressed in resolving this matter as the views and aspirations of the Palestinian people have been ignored.
In the face of this existential threat, the Palestinian people have once again sought to come to this Council to set out their substantive legal and political case. It is our responsibility, as the body tasked with international peace and security, to take on this responsibility and assist both the Palestinians and Israelis in this quest.
South Africa notes the recent developments that have brought renewed focus and attention to this decades’ long conflict which arises out of occupation, and which has been lagging in recent years. Unfortunately, this recent initiative, by the Palestinians’ own admission, does not take into account the substantive views and aspirations of the Palestinian people.
It is only initiatives developed with the full participation of all parties, specifically the Palestinians themselves, that lasting peace and stability can be achieved. A genuine, inclusive and open dialogue, where both parties are at the table, can be the only means to resolve this current impasse. Peace cannot be imposed and can only be premised on a mutually accepted and just solution.
It has been universally acknowledged, in this Council and in other international fora that the only way peace can be established between Israel and Palestine, is through direct negotiations between the parties to end the occupation. The Security Council must support the necessary environment for Israel and Palestine to come together, as equals, to resume the peace process.
Peace initiatives aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must conform to internationally endorsed terms of reference and parameters that 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, including resolutions 242, 338 and 2334.
Flagrant violations of international law at the expense of what is deemed political reality or expediency, undermines the rule of just law and the global multilateral system that has developed over the last 75 years since the end of the Second World War.
South Africa’s position on the question of Palestine is clear. We have consistently called for a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the question of Palestine and continue to support international efforts aimed at the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace with Israel within internationally recognised borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in line with all relevant UN resolutions, international law and internationally agreed parameters.
This is in line with the sentiments of the African Union Summit, which has just concluded in Addis Ababa, where AU leaders reaffirmed the Continent’s solidarity with the people of Palestine for their inalienable right to self-determination.
South Africa maintains its principled position that any peace plan should not allow Palestinian statehood to devolve into an entity devoid of sovereignty, territorial contiguity and economic viability. Doing so would severely compound the failure of previous peace-making efforts, accelerate the demise of the two-state option and fatally damage the cause of durable peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Any solution must therefore be premised on a just settlement with just laws that is rights based and that facilitates equality and equity for all who have a right to live in the territories of Israel and Palestine. This includes the sovereign equality between states.
Consequently, all final status issues, including illegal Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem, and the right of refugees to return to their homeland, must be in line with international law.
The 11th of February is a historic day in South Africa’s history and indeed the history of the oppressed globally for it is on this day, 30 years ago that Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years in captivity.
His release and eventual election to the highest office as President of a united and democratic South Africa demonstrated that, what for some had seemed to be intractable and unrealistic, was solvable. May this be a lesson in finding peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
I thank you.
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