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31 Dec, 2014

UN vote on Palestine guarantees more Middle East conflict in 2015

United Nations, (UN News Centre) 30 December 2014 – Falling short of the required number of positive votes and faced with a veto from one of its permanent members, the United Nations Security Council today failed to adopt a draft resolution that would have affirmed the “urgent need” to reach within 12 months a peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East and would have paved the way to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The draft also outlined several parameters for the proposed solution – with a one-year deadline for negotiations with Israel and a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli forces” from the West Bank by the end of 2017 – and would have looked forward to welcoming Palestine as a full UN Member State within the 12-month timeframe, urging both parties to build trust and negotiate in good faith.

Eight of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour, one fewer than the nine members needed to pass a resolution in the absence of a veto by any of the Council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom or the United States.

While the resolution failed to receive the required majority among members, the United States also opposed the text, a move that would have seen the draft fail to pass.

Following the vote, Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the US to the UN, stressed her country’s support for new ways to constructively support both parties in achieving a negotiated settlement.

“This resolution is not one of those constructive steps,” she said, adding that the draft set the stage for “more division, not compromise.”

The vote set-up a “staged confrontation” that did not contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian question, especially as the text was “deeply imbalanced”, establishing “unconstructive deadlines.” Five Council members abstained from the vote, including the United Kingdom, whose representative, Mark Lyall Grant, said he supported much of the draft’s content but was disappointed by the lack of negotiation and had therefore abstained.

“The Security Council has once again failed to uphold its Charter duties,” said Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, who said the draft was tabled in the face of a political impasse caused by “Israeli intransigence.”

Israel’s representative said the opposite was true, with the Palestinians having “every chance to negotiate.” Having refused to engage, they had now tabled their “preposterous unilateral proposal,” and he warned his Palestinian counterpart that he could not “agitate and provoke” his way to a State.

The representative of France voted in favour, calling on the Council to be a positive actor, “not a theatre,” and noting his support for a “clear timetable” on peace negotiations. The other remaining permanent members also voted in favour of the draft, with Russia’s representative, Vitaly Churkin, regretting the Council’s failure to adopt, and China’s representative, also stating his deep regret.

María Cristina Perceval, the representative of Argentina, said explanation of her affirmative vote was “unnecessary” and lamented the Council’s failure to adopt the text, while Chad’s representative, Mahamat Zene Cherif, current Council President, said the draft was “balanced and moderate” adding that the Council had “once more missed a date with history”, sending a negative message that encouraged continuation of occupation, injustice and oppression. The Council, he said, had missed an opportunity give the Palestinians “a ray of hope” after direct talks yielded almost nothing.


UN News, 30 December 2014, 7354th Meeting, Security Council

The Security Council today failed to adopt a draft resolution calling for Israel, within three years, to withdraw from Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 and, within one year, for a negotiated solution to the conflict.

The long-anticipated draft drew the support of just eight countries —Argentina, Chad, Chile, China, France, Jordan, Luxembourg, Russian Federation — shy of the 9 required for its adoption. It outlined a solution which fulfilled the vision of two independent, democratic and prosperous States — Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable State of Palestine — living side by side in peace and security in mutually and internationally recognized borders.

The text also envisaged a “just solution” to the status of Jerusalem as the capital of the two States and to the question of Palestinian refugees as well as to all other outstanding issues, including control of water resources and the fate of prisoners in Israeli jails. Security arrangements for the transition would have required a “third-party presence”.

Five Council members had abstained in the vote — United Kingdom, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Rwanda and Lithuania, while two opposed it — the United States and Australia.

Explaining her vote, the delegate from the United States called the text a unilateral action that would not help to bring about resumed direct negotiations, a goal her country had made strenuous efforts to achieve. The text sought to impose a solution put forward by one party alone and set the stage for more division, not compromise. She agreed the status quo was unsustainable and pledged her country’s continued support to the parties, while opposing actions that were detrimental to peace, whether settlement activities or unilateral resolutions.

Jordan’s representative, on the other hand, said that all elements of the resolution were based on previous texts supported by the Council and were acceptable to the international community as a whole. She had submitted the draft on behalf of the Arab Group because it was critical that the Council act on legitimate Palestinian aspirations that had been made less attainable by Israeli practices. Stressing that the status quo was unacceptable, she pledged her country’s continued efforts to help bring about a just and lasting solution. Following those explanations, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine asked why it was so impossible for the Council to act, given the worldwide consensus on the need to bring about self-determination for Palestinians through peaceful means. Given the rejection, the Palestinian leadership would now have to consider its next steps to make peace a reality. He reiterated the need, as part of that effort, to bring Israel to account for its illegal practices.

The representative of Israel said the Palestinians had found every opportunity to avoid direct negotiations with his country, including the “preposterous” unilateral resolution. He said it was time for the Palestinians to end their “folly”.

Also explaining their votes were the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, as well as representatives of Luxembourg, United Kingdom, France, Russian Federation, Australia, Chile, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, China, Rwanda, Lithuania, Argentina and Chad.

The meeting began at 5:15 p.m. and ended at 6:30 p.m.


DINA KAWAR (Jordan) said she had submitted the draft on behalf of the Arab Group and based on the belief that the Council must act on legitimate Palestinian aspirations in accordance with its resolutions. Her country was and would remain in the forefront of those who defended the rights of Palestinians. The Council bore both the legal and moral responsibilities to help resolve the conflict; all elements of the text were acceptable to the international community as a whole. The fact that it was not adopted would not stop Jordan from its assiduous work to bring about negotiations within a reasonable timeframe and resolve all outstanding issues in line with Jordanian interests. The draft must not be interpreted in any way as a change of Jordan’s position or a unilateral step. Rather, it was an attempt to end the blockages placed by Israel and all actions on the ground that every day made the two-State solution less achievable. The status quo could not continue; all efforts to achieve a just and lasting solution must be made until there was a viable Palestinian State.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States), stressing the magnitude of the efforts of her country to support the Palestinian and Israeli parties in reaching a negotiated settlement, said that the draft today was not a constructive step towards that end as it addressed the concerns of only one side and included deadlines that did not take into account Israel’s security needs. In addition, there had been little consultation on the draft, which was highly unusual. “Peace will come from hard choices and compromises that must come at the negotiating table,” she said. The resolution, however, set the stage for more division, not compromise. Her country remained committed to achieving two States for two peoples, with a viable Palestine living side-by-side with Israel. Concurring that the status quo was unsustainable, she said that her country would continue to support the parties and oppose actions that were detrimental to the cause of peace, whether settlement action or unilateral resolutions. The vote today should serve as a wake-up call for redoubled efforts to find a path forward to provide a horizon of hope for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

JEAN ASSELBORN, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Luxembourg, said that after a volatile summer and a bleak political horizon, it was now time for bold and concrete measures. The two-State solution was the only solution politically and morally, a notion reflected in his country’s vote in favour of the draft resolution. To save the two-State solution, it was imperative to learn from lessons of the past, and the Security Council must, towards that end, play a more active role. Today’s vote was an expression of a conviction that the two-State solution did not have an indefinite timeframe, he said, appealing to all parties to choose a path of reconciliation and negotiation. Regretting the Council’s failure to adopt the resolution, he voiced hoped that discussions and work would resume on establishing a just and durable peace and that 2015 would not be a wasted year for peace in the Middle East.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said the view about the unsustainability of the status quo as a lasting solution was long overdue. Direct negotiations needed to be on the basis of clear international parameters and the idea of a Council resolution that set out such measures was welcomed. Yet, agreeing on such a text required proper timing and he voiced his disappointment that the normal and necessary negotiations had failed to take place concerning the draft resolution. He also expressed his deep regret at having to abstain on the text. Regarding the current situation, he underscored all settlement activities should cease immediately. Given that the draft had not been adopted, he said he would like to work with partners on drafting parameters on a resolution that would command full Security Council support.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said threats were currently looming, including the illegal pursuit of settlements. The heart of the problem was the absence of a political solution that reflected the needs of both Israelis and Palestinians. He said he believed in the possibility of a definitive and fair solution for both parties and that a method was needed to complement the major role played by Washington, D.C., the Arab League and the permanent Council members. His delegation had called upon the Council numerous times to pursue efforts towards peace so the body could become an actor and not a forum to veto efforts. There was urgency to act, he stressed, noting that his country had voted in favour of the resolution for those and other reasons. The text was not perfect, but the Council could and must set a clear timetable for negotiations, as that was essential to credible discussions. Although it was regrettable that it was not possible to reach consensus, he said he would continue to hope that efforts would continue towards progress in that area.

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said he regretted that the Council was unable to adopt the draft resolution, which would strengthen the legal basis for negotiations. Recent events had demonstrated that the 70-year-old unresolved conflict was central to the destabilization of the whole region. In order to reinvigorate collective efforts, a greater profile of the Quartet was needed and the Security Council needed to be involved in the process, which would give negotiations an impetus to reach a just and final peaceful solution. Last year, the peace process had veered into a “blind alley”. Options in the future could include sending a Council mission to the region. Pointing out that illegal settlement construction had continued and was undermining negotiations on the two-State solution, he stressed that the inaction of the Council on that matter had doomed the “status quo” into a reality.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said that, regrettably, he had had to vote against the draft resolution because it would not help the process of encouraging the parties to return to direct negotiations towards the two-State solution, to which his country remained committed. The text lacked balance and sought to impose a solution put forward by one party alone, he explained, stressing that final status issues could only be resolved by the two sides. He urged all parties to refrain from provocative actions and for leaders from both sides to show real courage in returning to the difficult path of peace negotiations.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said the Council resolution was a vehicle that could have contributed to a resumption of dialogue on peace and security. Assuming his country’s international responsibility, he had voted in favour of the text, he said, as the last few months, including the conflict in Gaza, had demonstrated that the status quo was “unsustainable”. Within the Council, there were views that the moment had not yet arrived to take action. He voiced support for the process in the Council; it was his conviction that a solution to the conflict required inclusive and realistic efforts by multiple actors that, directly or indirectly, could together facilitate a path to dialogue and peace.

U JOY OGWU (Nigeria) said that her country’s policy on the Middle East was based on international law and the need for a negotiated solution; it had consistently called on both sides to demonstrate greater flexibility for the purpose of negotiating a two-State solution, which was not replaceable. The only route to that goal was negotiation, and the time was ripe for both sides to return to the peace talks.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea), stressing his country’s support for the two-State solution and the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a State of their own, said that direct negotiations were needed to achieve those goals. Unilateral actions by either party would be counterproductive, and in that light his country had abstained from today’s vote. He urged both parties to return to the negotiating table, stressing that time was of the essence.

LIU JIEYI (China) said that today’s draft was consistent with previous texts supported by the Council as well as with his country’s consistent position on the Palestinian-Israeli question. Supporting the cause of the Palestinian people for realizing their legitimate rights, he hoped that the parties would resume negotiations as soon as possible, ending the current “deep stalemate”. He called on the parties to end the cycle of violence and on the Council to intensify its efforts to bring about resumed talks and a just and lasting solution.

OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE (Rwanda) said his country regretted that despite efforts of regional actors there had yet to be a breakthrough. Any final statement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be through negotiation, with the Council and other stakeholders stepping up their efforts towards finding a just and lasting solution. Unilateral initiatives could jeopardize an already fragile situation. A Security Council resolution, provided it was consensual, should help in that effort. The current text could not help parties to achieve their goals, he said, noting that a lack of a consensual process in the region and the current process in New York had led Rwanda to abstain from voting on the draft. The status quo was no longer an option. There was a unique window for parties to act, he said, pledging his country’s utmost contribution towards a lasting solution.

NIDA JAKUBONĖ (Lithuania) expressed regret that she had had to abstain from voting on the resolution as most elements were a good basis for further collective work in establishing parameters for Middle East peace negotiations. However, she stressed, any unilateral action was detrimental to the resumption of such negotiations. She called for an immediate return to direct talks as a matter of urgency because of heightened tensions and the need to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties, including those of Israel for security and those of Palestinians for statehood. Leaders of both sides must show real leadership for that to happen.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said the history of the Palestinian people and United Nations resolutions were a reflection of the position taken by her country in today’s vote. Regretting the Council’s failure to adopt the draft resolution, she said “each of us must be responsible for the consequences of what just happened in this room.”

Council President MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad), speaking in his national capacity, said that his country had voted in favour of the draft resolution. He was deeply disappointed and regretted the rejection of that balanced and moderate text, which would have allowed the Council to finally put an end to interminable negotiations and to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The text had clearly defined the parameters for a solution while respecting the sovereignty of the State of Palestine. In rejecting it, the Council had once more “missed a date with history” and had disappointed all of those who had been living without dignity and without a solution to the conflict. An opportunity had been given to the Council today, he said, to act and to give Palestinians a ray of hope, but the international public opinion today was witnessing a sad reality. In closing, he said there was no alternative to a two-State solution.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said the Security Council had once again failed to uphold its Charter duties to address the current crisis. As the Council looked on, Palestinians had in the last year suffered under brutal conditions, including aggression and blockades against Gaza, which had deepened the decades-long injustice and taken them farther away from the realization of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace on the basis of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. Today’s resolution had been meant to mobilize the Council to act to defuse the volatile situation and, among other things, to provide a political horizon forward that could restore hope to his people for the end of the 47-year-old Israeli military occupation.

While thanking Member States for their support, he deeply regretted that the Council had been unable to adopt the text despite four months of efforts, patience and flexibility. The draft reflected the longstanding international consensus on a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it supported two States living side-by-side in peace and security, yet the voting results today showed that the Council as a whole was clearly not ready and willing to shoulder its responsibilities in a way that would allow the adoption of a comprehensive settlement and open the doors for peace based on international law. It also had shown that the Council was out of step with the overwhelming global consensus and calls for an end to Israeli occupation.

He asked why it was so difficult for the Security Council to act on a global consensus and demand an end to Israel’s illegal actions and occupation, and the implementation of the two-State solution. Given the current unsustainable and precarious situation, the Palestinian leadership must now consider its next steps. It was imperative that Israel be held accountable for its violations of international law and United Nations resolutions. “The Palestinian people and the world can no longer wait,” he said, adding, “that message, despite the regrettable outcome today, is especially clear”.

ISRAEL NITZAN (Israel) said the Palestinians had found every opportunity to avoid direct negotiations with his country, including the “preposterous” unilateral resolution. He said it was time for the Palestinians to end their “folly”.