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24 Nov, 2015

Speakers in UN General Assembly Sound Alarm as Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Continues to Fester

United Nations, UN media release, 23 November 2015 – The world was just one major provocation in Jerusalem away from a descent into an unprecedented religious war, the General Assembly was told today as it took up the question of Palestine and heard the introduction of four draft resolutions on that matter.

With conflicts in Syria and Yemen, a major refugee crisis, and violent extremism combining to create growing instability across the region, the question of Palestine took on even greater significance, said Mogens Lykketoft, the Assembly President.  Expressing particular concern at the latest escalation of violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, he called for strict compliance with international law.

Also sounding the alarm, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said that the situation was unsustainable and that the international community, particularly the Security Council, must overcome its paralysis before all was completely lost and the two-State solution was destroyed.  The question of Palestine was at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and its lack of resolution had a far-reaching impact in the region and across the globe.

The Israeli delegate said that if the Arab States had accepted the existence of a Jewish State alongside a State of their own, Israelis and Palestinians would have been spared decades of needless conflict.  But instead of saying yes to living side-by-side with Israel in peace, the Palestinians had said no:  no to peace and no to the existence of a Jewish State.  He asked why they launched violent waves of terror every time they had the opportunity for statehood.

“Sadly, no end seems to be in sight” to the suffering, said the representative of Pakistan, who argued that durable peace could only be achieved through political solutions and not by heavy-handed tactics and the use of brute force against unarmed civilians.  While the Council continued to “procrastinate and dither” for political reasons, the prospects of a two-State solution faded.

While several speakers alleged that Israeli settlement construction was to blame for the inaction, the representative of Lebanon commended the European Union’s request for clear marking of products from the settlements.  Economic issues were also spotlighted by the representative of Nicaragua, who asked how it was possible for the Palestinian people to exercise their right to development without the necessary political and economic space, which had been usurped by Israel.

Before taking up the question of Palestine, the Assembly concluded its debate on the global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin, begun on Friday, 20 November.  It heard from a score of speakers on that item, including Iran’s representative who, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that many developing countries had hosted millions of refugees with their scarce resources, which had gone largely unnoticed.

The representative of India, meanwhile, said that Security Council resolution 2240 (2015) seemed to suggest that those risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean were doing so out of greed and not to escape persecution and death.  It seemed that the Council had decreed that people could not flee for their lives unless they used vessels whose sea-worthiness met the standards set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Following the conclusion of the Assembly’s meeting on migrants, the body approved, without a vote, the extension of the work of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) to 7 December.

Also speaking during that debate today were representatives of Brazil, Romania, Portugal, Argentina, Montenegro, Slovenia, Sudan, Canada, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Benin, and Malaysia.  Representatives of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Interpol also spoke.  Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

On the question of Palestine, additional statements were made by representatives of Indonesia, Malta, Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Kuwait on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bahrain and Venezuela.  A European Union representative also spoke.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 24 November to conclude its consideration of the question of Palestine and take up the situation in the Middle East.


The General Assembly met today to conclude its debate on the refugee and migrant crisis in the Mediterranean basin, with specific emphasis on Syrian asylum-seekers (for background information, see Press Release GA/11729 of 20 November), as well as to discuss and take action on resolutions on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.

On the Palestinian issue, the Assembly had before it the report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/70/35); the Secretary-General’s report on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/70/354) and four draft resolutions: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/70/L.10); Division of Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (document A/70/L.11); Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat (document A/70/L.12) and the Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/70/L.13).

On the situation in the Middle East, the Assembly considered the Secretary-General’s eponymous report (document A/70/353) and two draft resolutions: Jerusalem (document A/70/L.14) and the Syrian Golan (document A/70/L.17).

Mediterranean Basin Refugee and Migrant Crisis/Syrian Asylum-Seekers

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said that his country had contributed to the global humanitarian response to the massive displacement crisis.  Since 2013, Brazilian consulates in the Middle East had been issuing special visas under simplified procedures to people affected by the Syrian conflict to travel to Brazil, where they could present an asylum claim.  On that basis, over 2,200 Syrians had been formally recognized as refugees in Brazil.  In October, the Government of Brazil and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) signed an agreement to enhance and formalize cooperation to allow more Syrians to find a new home in Brazil.  To that end, he warned against allowing barbaric acts of terror to turn the refugee crisis into a pretext for restrictive policies and allow terrorism to dictate limits to efforts aimed at providing shelter for people forcibly displaced by war.  It was paramount to preserve the integrity of the asylum system, he stressed.

ION JINGA (Romania), associating with the position of the European Union, said that the data UNHCR provided on the migrants and refugees was disturbing and highlighted the seriousness of the humanitarian problem, which was linked to the unstable political situation in the world.  A new approach was necessary and cooperation with UNHCR was at the core of a solution based on equitable responsibility sharing.  The Valletta Summit on migration held in November 2015 between the European Union and African Union was a good example of international cooperation in that regard.  The Emergency Transit Centre in Timisoara, Romania, established in 2008, through which 1,700 had passed since its creation, highlighted his country’s contribution to solving the crisis.  Romania had also contributed to UNHCR’s budget, increased its donations to the World Food Programme (WFP), and provided bilateral assistance to Syrian refugees.  However, a long-term sustainable solution was required that reduced demand for assistance by recipient countries.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was essential in that regard.

BHAGWANT SINGH BISHNOI (India), stressing the importance of saving lives and avoiding the language of racism and xenophobia, stated that while countries of the region had given shelter to more than four million refugees from Syria, their contributions often went unrecognized.  Turning to Security Council resolution 2240 (2015), he added that the text seemed to suggest that those risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean were doing so out of greed and not to escape persecution and death.  It seemed that the Council had decreed that people could not flee for their lives unless they used vessels whose sea worthiness met the standards set by the IMO.  By securitizing migration, the Council had legitimized a morally challenging response.  It was especially ironic because the crisis was created by the Council through its acts of omission.

ÁLVARO MENDONÇA E MOURA (Portugal) said the scale of the migration crisis called for comprehensive, integrated and concerted policies.  Any approach had to be built on respect for international and human rights laws and based on solidarity, ownership and shared responsibility.  Portugal looked forward to the swift implementation of the concrete and operational measures jointly agreed upon by European and African leaders in Valletta.  The promotion of a strong partnership between Europe and Africa was a long-standing priority for Portugal and it also would assume its responsibility towards those seeking protection, particularly Syrian asylum-seekers.  Portugal had supported the initiative of former President Jorge Sampaio, “Global Platform 4 Syrian Students”, and would continue to support its efforts to develop its Rapid Mechanism for Higher Education in Emergencies.  The collective response had to include concerted actions to enhance international stability, security and the adequate management of migration flows as security was provided for migrants, refugees and host communities.

FERNANDO ANDRÉS MARANI (Argentina) said that last year the number of people displaced in the world had reached 60 million, of which half were internally displaced people.  The trend was disturbing.  Since the beginning of Syrian crisis, Argentina had stressed that all parties to the conflict should put an end to violence.  Women accounted for more than half of the refugees and the situation was more difficult for them, as some were forced into marriage and were at a risk of sexual violence.  Argentina reaffirmed that despite current migration flows, refugees should not be confused with migrants.  Although no country was exempt, the reality was that the phenomenon of refugees affected developing countries the hardest, as they were hosting the vast majority.

ŽELJKO PEROVIĆ (Montenegro) said the international community had a moral responsibility to put an end to the migration crisis.  It should join efforts to strengthen the humanitarian response in order to save lives, beat back exploitative criminal gangs and restore hope to those fleeing for their lives.  States should be prepared for the challenges of migration flows by providing needed support, he added, calling for them to provide medical care, food, transport organization, sheltering and special care for vulnerable groups as the minimum standard.  His country welcomed all initiatives aimed at making good use of multilateral frameworks of cooperation to address both the consequences and the root causes of the migration problem.  Though not currently a country that migrants passed through, Montenegro had adopted an action plan to promote and bolster its capacity to shelter, protect and rehabilitate refugees and migrants.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) said that the international community simply could not just observe the human tragedies and suffering at the doorstep of Europe.  Rather it must play an active role in finding solutions to the migration and refugee situation while remembering that fundamental human rights were universal, inalienable and indivisible.  He called for regional and international cooperation and pointed out that in the last few weeks Slovenia had been confronted with an immense refugee and migrant flow along the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans migration route.  Thus far, more than 230,000 people had passed through Slovenia, a country of two million.  The migration crisis could not be the responsibility of only one country or one region.  It required strengthening political dialogue, he said, pledging Slovenia’s cooperation in European Union efforts to fight and disable the smuggling and trafficking routes in the Central Mediterranean.

OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan) said UNHCR’s statistics on the refugee and migrant crisis in the Mediterranean basin showed an unprecedented increase in the number of people who had lost their lives attempting to cross into Europe.  Since the beginning of 2015, 479 had died compared to only 15 for the same period in 2014.  The international community should make sure that that was not repeated.  Sudan was hosting a considerable number of refugees from countries in the region, many of whom had fled their homes due to environmental degradation.  Sudan had provided decent jobs to refugees from South Sudan and had given them citizenship rights.  The root causes of the refugee and migrant crisis, namely armed conflict, natural disasters and political strife, must be addressed.  In that regard the United Nations should take all measures to tackle it through its specialized agencies.

MICHAEL DOUGLAS GRANT (Canada) said that the current crisis was attaining proportions not seen since the Second World War.  Close to half of those in forced displacement were children.  The Canadian Government was concerned by the situation in the Mediterranean where refugees were undertaking journeys risking their lives to get to Europe.  Canada had reiterated its commitment to resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees without compromising security, as well as providing $100 million to UNHCR, which came on top of $800 million in humanitarian, development, and security assistance Canada had committed to date in response to the Syria crisis.

Yashar T. Aliyev (Azerbaijan) said that the Syrian crisis was today’s largest humanitarian tragedy.  Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon supported vast numbers of refugees, but as the Secretary-General had underlined last Friday, having such few countries bear the responsibility was not a sustainable solution.  While pursuing migration policies, States had to take an inclusive approach and avoid xenophobia.  It was of deep concern that Armenia was facilitating the resettlement of refugees in an occupied area of Azerbaijan.  The true intention was far from being humanitarian; rather, Armenia was capitalizing on the Syrian tragedy to expand its own agenda, he said, adding that that was a breach of the Geneva Conventions.

ABDULMOHSEN F. A. ALYAS (Saudi Arabia) said the waves of people fleeing Syria presented a paramount challenge to the international community in responding to their needs while preserving their dignity.  Saudi Arabia was ready to cooperate with the United Nations to handle the crisis by creating appropriate protection mechanisms, providing financial aid and assisting host countries.  The Kingdom had hosted 2.5 million Syrian refugees and allowed them free movement within the country.  It had also given them access to free healthcare and education, with 100,000 Syrians receiving free education so far.  Saudi Arabia was also supporting Syrians in neighbouring countries by providing financial and in-kind assistance.  The country’s aid for the Syrian people had reached some $700 million, according to data provided by the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which took place in Kuwait on 31 March 2015.  The Kingdom was concerned by the inhumane discourse on refugees and Muslims in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks.  The international community should rise above that racist dialogue and take practical steps to address the humanitarian crisis.  It should create appropriate international mechanisms for burden sharing and tackle the root causes of the conflict rather than confine itself to slogans.

MUHAMMAD ANSHOR (Indonesia) said no country could solve the migration problem alone and the international community needed to redouble its efforts to end the crisis in Syria without delay.  Counter-terrorism efforts to deal with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), in relation to the Syrian conflict, had to best be carried out in a coordinated manner and aligned with strategies to resolve the Syrian conflict through the political process.  Strengthening international cooperation to ensure sustained support for neighbouring countries hosting refugees was necessary.  Promoting common approaches and policies to deal with the crisis was essential.  Comprehensive approaches should include strengthening law enforcement, prosecuting those responsible for smuggling people and trafficking-in-persons and transnational organized crime, while respecting human rights and humanitarian principles to protect the victims.  Over the long run, conflict prevention and promoting sustainable peace were essential to avoiding humanitarian crises and the irregular migration of people.

JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said the exponential increase in the number of migrants in the Mediterranean basin was linked to the worsening poverty in developing countries, demographic changes, climate change, destabilization due to political crises and religious confrontations fuelled by violent extremism.  The refugee crisis had taken thousands of human lives and broken countless dreams.  The international community should fight those who had exploited migrants.  It had an opportunity to do so at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016 and should seize it.  The terrorist attacks perpetrated by those who came from migratory flows required an urgent exchange of information to distinguish between terrorists and migrants.  Marginal communities should be supported to decrease the risk of their radicalization and their social integration into host communities should be taken seriously.

RAJA REZA RAJA ZAIB SHAH (Malaysia), welcoming the adoption of Council resolution 2240 (2015), added that the text called for actions to stop human smugglers and traffickers within parameters that prioritized the preservation of life and the safety of migrants.  Lauding the commitment of the leaders of the European Union and the African Union to expand efforts to prevent migrant smuggling, he added that the challenge posed by the network of human traffickers was not confined to the Mediterranean.  Other regions, including South-East Asia, were not immune to that.  Further, his country was taking steps to honour its commitment to take in 3,000 Syrian refugees.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that it was crucial to recognize that refugees and asylum-seekers were symptoms of a crisis and not the problem themselves.  The refugees in the Mediterranean were fleeing the horror of war, conflict and violence at home.  There should be “no doubt” that if the international community failed to deal effectively with extremist groups and eradicate them, the refugee crisis would only get worse.  He said that there was now a near consensus that foreign military intervention in several countries in the Middle East contributed largely to the awakening of extremist ideology.  Those who ignored and violated international law should come to terms that they were among the culprits to the critical situation at hand.  He also said that the long suffering of the Palestinian refugees continued to be another major source of instability in the region.  Many developing countries had hosted and supported millions of refugees by means of their own scarce resources and mostly unnoticed by the world.  Iran hosted more than a million refugees with minimal or no international support, he said, urging assistance.

MARWAN JILANI, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the international community needed a coordinated, comprehensive and humane response to the crisis on Europe’s shores and borders, emphasizing safe passage for those needing international protection.  After the terrorist attacks in Paris, the international community had to remember the vulnerable migrants and refuges were fleeing the same terror and trauma, which they had faced on a daily basis, some for the last four or five years.  Some people were exploiting the tragedy to promote hate speech, xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia, which was fed and spread by ignorance.  The thousands of volunteers and citizens providing food, clothing, shelter and comfort throughout Europe and the journey route also deserved support, encouragement and gratitude.  States also had an obligation under international law to grant protection to refugees fleeing conflict and persecution.  Countries hosting large number of refugees deserved the international community’s increased support and solidarity since they faced immense burdens.  The Federation and its 189 national societies were at the frontlines of meeting the needs of displaced people all along the migratory route, in countries of origin, transit and destination.  The Federation provided food, shelter, clothes, blankets, psycho-social support and restored family links.

ELISABETH NEUGEBAUER, a representative of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) said that the mission of INTERPOL was in line with values of the United Nations.  It was the duty of INTERPOL to respect and protect migrants and refugees, including from smuggling networks, which put their lives at great risk.  Migrants could only be protected if there was a distinction between refugees and foreign terrorist fighters.  The use of INTERPOL’s tools and services could make a difference today.  The systematic use of INTERPOL databases on stolen and lost travel documents could effectively disrupt foreign terrorist fighter movements across borders, as could contributing to Interpol’s photo album of foreign terrorist fighters around the world.  By blocking the way of foreign terrorist fighters, Member States would protect refugees.  Previously, she warned, refusing to share information only meant taking a chance.  Today it represented a major risk.

MOGENS LYKKETOFT, President of the General Assembly, made closing remarks, saying that through the debate just held, the international community had learned of the incredible hardships facing refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants, particularly in the Mediterranean region.  Member States had also learned of the challenges facing many countries as well as the legal and moral responsibilities that all had to meet.  The Secretary-General had set forth a road-map to enable the international community to address the crisis.  The Vienna talks had to succeed in ending the Syria conflict.  Noting that a special “Resettlement Plus” conference would be convened in March by UNHCR, he said that in the face of increasing threats from terrorists, all Member States had to bring clear commitments to the table to demonstrate their unity and solidarity.  Having announced his intention to hold a summit in September on managing large-scale movements of migrants and refugees, the Secretary-General was hoping to submit a report to the General Assembly on advance of that event.

Right of Reply

The representative of Syria, speaking in the exercise of the right of reply, said that the representative of Israel represented the occupying Power that had violated human rights and numerous United Nations resolutions.  The occupying Power had killed scores of people and disrupted the sanctity of religious sights.  He could personally attest to the ugly face of the occupying Power as he had spent 47 years under the occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights.  He was born in in the Syrian Golan, separated into two parts – one in Syria and the other under the yoke of the occupying Power.  Both parts were suffering from unprecedented violence which had denied a son and daughter the basic right of burying their parents.  It had denied a daughter from being reunited with her family since 1967 to the present day.  The representative of the occupying Power did not mention children who were suffering daily from Israel’s occupation, which had killed and injured hundreds of children.  Israeli occupiers were fuelling violence in Syria by supporting terrorist groups and facilitating their movement in the Golan Heights.

The representative of Armenia said the representative of the Azerbaijan had used the Assembly plenary for anti-Armenian propaganda.  Azerbaijan had always abused meetings by pursuing that single agenda item.  Azerbaijan financed ISIS/ISIL.

Armenia had hosted 17,000 refugees from Syria, and was making efforts to integrate them into the country.

The representative of Azerbaijan said she categorically rejected allegations made against her country and added that the issue was Armenia’s illegal resettlement policy.  In numerous interviews, Syrian refugees had confirmed that the so-called authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh had provided them with land and resources.  Resettlement policies were not confined to one district and just Syrians, but also were being extended to Iraqis.  It had been confirmed that Armenia recruited mercenaries.  Armenia was in violation of international law in continuing to occupy areas of Azerbaijan while exploiting the tragic situation of Syrian refugees.

The representative of Armenia said the claim by Azerbaijan concerning the mercenaries was a new one.  Regarding Nagorno-Karabakh, he said that the representative was not informed of the appropriate format to address that area, which was not the Assembly.

The representative of Azerbaijan said that denial and inconsistency were predictable patterns of behaviour for the Armenian delegation.  As a self-proclaimed champion of human rights, in practice, Armenia was occupying areas of Azerbaijan for decades, and it had carried out ethnic cleansing.  Illegal occupation and democracy were incompatible.  Using desperate Syrian refugees for political gains was immoral.

Work of Second Committee (Economic and Financial)

Acting without a vote, the Assembly then unanimously decided to extend the work of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial) to 7 December 2015.

Question of Palestine

MORGENS LYKKETOFT (Denmark), General Assembly President, said that with conflicts in Syria and Yemen, a major refugee crisis and violent extremism combining to create growing instability across the region, the question of Palestine took on even greater significance.  In that context, he reaffirmed that the issue was the permanent responsibility of the General Assembly until a satisfactory resolution in accordance with international law was reached.  Expressing particular concern at the latest escalation in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, he called for all involved to end the violence and comply strictly with international law.  He also emphasized the importance of upholding the historic status quo at the Holy Sites, including the Haram al-Sharif.  Ultimately, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders were responsible for avoiding inflammatory actions, preventing escalation and defusing tensions.

He recalled the Assembly’s repeated affirmations that the Israeli settlements in Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 were illegal.  Meanwhile, it was a collective responsibility to ensure that the core mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was delivered in the most efficient manner.  He called on the international community to help both parties return to meaningful negotiations to fulfil the vision of an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, within mutually recognized borders based on the pre-1967 lines.

DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia), speaking as Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that “the shadows of war and terrorism are swirling over the region, and beyond”, adding that sympathies went out to the innocent victims of the barbaric atrocities that persisted around the world.  It was important not to lose sight of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; violent extremists had often used the story of the unacceptable occupation as an effective recruitment tool.  In 2015, the Committee had focused its programme on conferences, including one held in Brussels, which had concentrated on settlements as an obstacle to peace.

Gravely concerned by the latest escalation of violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, he said that the Palestinians were desperate and the Israelis were terrorized.  The international community was one major provocation in Jerusalem away from a descent into an unprecedented religious war.

He then introduced four draft resolutions, approved by the Committee, the first three of which were related to the work of the Committee, the Division for Palestinian Rights, and the Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information.  The fourth draft, entitled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” reiterated the position of the General Assembly with regard to the essential elements of a settlement.

CHRISTOPHER GRIMA (Malta) speaking in his capacity as Rapporteur for the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced that body’s report (documentA/70/35).  Reviewing its contents by chapter, he said that the last contained conclusions and recommendations of the Committee, which held, among other things, that the Committee would welcome a comprehensive regional solution, conceivably with support from a reinvigorated Quartet, which included greater engagement with key Arab States.  The Committee also reiterated in its report that the Department of Public Information’s special information programme had made an important contribution to informing the media and the public of the issues, and requested the continuation of that programme.

RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, appealed urgently for more serious efforts to redress the injustice endured by the Palestinian people, who had been deprived of their freedom, stability, prosperity and hope.  The international community continued to struggle with the question of Palestine, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, with a far-reaching impact in the region and across the globe.  The right to the Palestinians’ self-determination remained unmet, despite countless General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, a landmark advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice in 2004, the global consensus, and the promise to the Palestinian people.

He said the political will and courage to implement the resolutions was lacking in the face of Israel’s total intransigence and disrespect for its legal obligations.  The situation was unsustainable and the international community, particularly the Council, had to overcome its paralysis and confront the situation before all was completely lost and the two-State solution was destroyed.  In the past year the situation had deteriorated on every front, as Israel, the occupying Power, continued its gross systematic breaches of international law, particularly of the Fourth Geneva Convention, with many violations tantamount to war crimes.  Israel continued killing and injuring Palestinian civilians in military raids, air strikes and sniper attacks.  Children and youths were being targeted by the excessive force and malice of the occupying forces and settlers.

Indeed, he said, the occupying Power was imprisoning, detaining and torturing thousands of Palestinians in its jails; destroying homes and infrastructure and forcibly displacing Palestinians, among them, entire Bedouin communities.  It was also collectively punishing civilians through the Gaza blockade.  Israel also continued settlement building, especially in occupied East Jerusalem.  It had constructed its annexation wall and confiscated Palestinian land, demolishing homes and property and imposing hundreds of checkpoints, thereby impairing movement and harming socio-economic life.  The Israeli Government, religious leaders, occupying forces and settlers had continued incursions and incitement in occupied East Jerusalem, particularly against the al-Haram al-Sharif and the al-Aqsa Mosque.  Palestinian people had been dehumanized and characterized as “terrorists” and “animals”, including by Israel’s highest officials.

The international community’s continued appeasement and inaction could not be justified, he said, calling on it to ensure that Israel ceased its violations and complied with the law.  The Council must respond to the situation by addressing the root causes of the conflict and charting a path for a credible political process, including by reaffirming the parameters of a just solution in line with relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab Peace Initiative, and setting a clear timeframe for negotiations and an end to the occupation.  There must be collective action to realize the two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders and a just solution for the Palestine refugee question, whereby the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and the State of Israel lived side by side within secure borders.

DANNY DANON (Israel) said it was unfortunate that the seventieth session had joined the pitiful United Nations tradition of passing more than 20 empty anti-Israel resolutions.  Before all the needless documents and declarations, the Assembly had adopted a resolution to partition the British mandate into a Jewish State and an Arab State.  Israel had accepted the partition and established a State for the sake of self-determination, while the Arabs rejected it and launched a war for the sake of annihilation.  Despite all the years of distortion and disinformation, there was one simple truth about the conflict’s root cause:  if the Arab States and the Arabs of mandatory Palestine had accepted the existence of a Jewish State alongside a State of their own, Israelis and Palestinians would have been spared decades of needless conflict.  But instead of saying yes to living side-by-side with Israel in peace, the Palestinians had said no:  no to peace and no to the existence of a Jewish State.

He said that the resolutions before the Assembly deliberately ignored the root cause of the conflict:  the unwillingness of the Palestinians, even today, to accept a Jewish State in any part of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.  Since today’s meeting was debating the question of Palestine, he asked the Assembly why the Palestinians had rejected, three times, peace offers that would have granted them a State.  He also asked why the Palestinians launched violent waves of terror every time they had the opportunity for statehood and why, after Yassir Arafat’s rejection of a Palestinian State at the 2000 Camp David Summit, had the Palestinian leadership ignited a five-year Intifada in which more than 1,000 Israelis were killed.

Looking for answers to those questions in the resolutions now under discussion, he said, was more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack.  “Instead, it is business as usual at the UN – more hollow decisions and more barren gestures”.  The biased resolutions would not bring the change need by the people in the region.  “You can raise a Palestinian flag here in the UN, but as long as the Palestinians fail to raise a generation committed to peace and reconciliation, there will be no end to the violence,” he said.

While the Assembly repealed the disgraceful resolution that equated Zionism with racism, 40 years later, many in this institution still displayed hatred and hostility towards Israel, the home of the Jewish People, he said.  The United Nations’ credibility depended on its integrity.  Its moral worth would be measured by how it viewed Israel, the most successful new democratic State of the last century.  To understand Israel’s uniqueness in the region, he asked each person to ask themselves, if they were a woman or gay, seeking a heart transplant or to practice their Jewish, Muslim or Christian faith openly, where in the Middle East they would go. “We look forward to a time when the Palestinians focus on building their own institutions, instead of attacking Israel in this one,” he said.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said it was regrettable and alarming that the situation in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, had dramatically deteriorated over the past year as a result of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.  The Movement strongly condemned violence and provocations by Israeli occupying forces and extremists at Haram al-Sharif, which threatened to further destabilize an already fragile situation and impact the region and beyond.  The continuation of Israel’s illegal settlement campaign was at the core of that foreign occupation and remained the major obstacle to peace, undermining all efforts to resume credible negotiations and casting serious doubts on Israel’s “alleged commitment” to ending its occupation and achieving the two-State solution.  The Movement called again on the international community to compel Israel to cease its destructive and illegal practices and abide by its obligations under international law. The Security Council in particular had clear responsibilities in that regard.

He also expressed the Movement’s concerns over the critical situation of Palestine refugees, who continued to face serious protection challenges because of the ongoing occupation, armed conflict and displacement and were sinking deeper into poverty and desperation.  UNRWA remained essential for ameliorating their plight, pending a just solution based on resolution 194 (III), and the Movement called upon the international community to support the Agency.  He said that the eight-year blockade of Gaza continued to destroy the economy, impede reconstruction and obstruct humanitarian aid as well as economic and social recovery.  Lebanon also continued to suffer from consecutive Israeli violations of its borders and incursions, as Israel continued to violate Lebanese airspace, in blatant violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and relevant international resolutions.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, of the European Union, stressing that there was no alternative to a two-State solution, said that a one-State reality would not be compatible with the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.  Last summer, hostilities in Gaza and Southern Israel had caused the death or injury of thousands of people and had produced the ongoing catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza.  In past weeks, there had been an increase in tensions, clashes and terror attacks.  The European Union believed that the only way to resolve the conflict was through an agreement that ended the occupation, which began in 1967, and fulfilled the aspirations of both parties.

Expressing concern about the recurring tensions at the Haram al- Sharif/Temple Mount, he acknowledged the special role of Jordan in the Muslim holy shrines of Jerusalem.  Further, settlements were illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.  Reiterating the Union’s strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in that context such as the building of the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, demolitions and confiscations, forced transfers of Bedouins, illegal outposts and settler violence, he added that the Union would closely monitor developments on the ground and remained ready to take further actions to protect the viability of the two-State solution.

MANSOUR ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), speaking on behalf of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that today’s meeting was taking place in a “decisive” historical context, as the Occupied Palestinian Territory — particularly the occupied city of Jerusalem — was witnessing a dramatically deteriorating situation as a result of the escalation of Israeli military aggression.  Israel’s ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people, its flagrant violations of all applicable provisions of international law and its disrespect for agreements with the Palestinian side had brought the situation to a “dangerous juncture”.  Against the backdrop of ongoing Israeli aggressions against Christian and Islamic holy sites, he said, “we have warned, on several occasions, that the crimes and aggressions of Israel, the occupying Power, and its settlers and extremists […] could spark a religious war”, one for which Israel alone would bear responsibility and one that must be averted by all means.

He said the OIC condemned, in the strongest terms, the continuation of such aggression by Israel, especially the policy of execution and deliberate murder carried out by the Israeli occupation forces and extremists settlers against defenceless Palestinian civilians.  It also condemned Israel’s settlement policy and its continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip.  Those acts of aggression constituted war crimes, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.  It was no longer morally acceptable for the international community, particularly the Security Council, to remain silent or to only express concern about the “horrendous” Israeli war crimes and atrocities.  Further, failure to find a just solution would only exacerbate the already unstable regional situation.  The OIC urged the international community to work towards peace in accordance with the two-State solution on the basis of pre-1967 borders and the resolutions of international legitimacy and the Arab Peace Initiative, and the Security Council must act immediately to set up a well-defined timeframe for ending the Israeli occupation, with international guarantees and binding implementation mechanisms.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said that accepting Palestine as an observer must not divert the international community’s attention from its plight for full membership in the Organization.  He commended the European Union’s request for clear marking of products from Israeli settlements.  He also urged an end to settlement activities, saying those not only violated the Charter, but also the reason why attempts to revive the peace process had failed.  Israel was continuing its provocative practices in occupied Jerusalem as part of a wider policy of aggression to change the character of the holy city.  The situation was not only dangerous in occupied Palestine, but posed dangers all over the world.  Member States needed to step up international efforts to confront the challenges posed by terrorists and eradicate terrorism by addressing its diverse root causes.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had contributed significantly to the anger and frustration among the people of the Arab and Muslim world, and thus, resolution was essential for peace and stability throughout the Middle East.  It was also essential to addressing the drivers of extremism and terrorism.  The Palestinian people deserved the full solidarity and support of the international community, she said, adding that “sadly, no end seems to be in sight to their suffering”.  Durable peace could only be achieved through political solutions, not by heavy-handed tactics and the use of brute force against unarmed civilians.  While the Security Council continued to “procrastinate and dither” for political reasons, the prospects of a two-State solution continued to fade.  The Council had an obligation to act on that most potent threat to international peace and security.  She expressed her support for the Palestinian demand for international protection, and insisted that pressure be mounted on Israel to immediately lift the blockade on Gaza; irrevocably end all illegal settlement construction; release all Palestinian detainees; and end the demolition of Palestinian houses and the expulsion of Palestinians from their properties.

ASOKE KUMAR MUKERJI (India), citing a message of support and solidarity from his country’s Prime Minister, said India had always stood by the Palestinian people in pursuit of their legitimate goals, as well as their economic and social development.  In addition to its ongoing political and diplomatic support, it also supported Palestine’s nation-building efforts through technical and financial assistance.  In October 2015, the President of India had inaugurated the India-Palestine Centre for Excellence in Information and Communications Technology in the Al-Quds University.  India had also contributed over $5 million in budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority and contributed $1 million annually to UNRWA.  It also had provided $4 million to the National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza.

CHAYAPAN BAMRUNGPHONG (Thailand), expressing alarm at the escalating violence at holy sites in the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as other violent incidents in several cities, said such confrontations were fuelled by incitement and hate speech.  Irresponsible rhetoric and distorted facts in social media had worsened and inflamed the violence and created profound mistrust, which eroded the possibility of a political solution.  His delegation joined the international call on all sides to respect the sanctity of all holy sites and to cease any attempt to change their status quo.  He echoed the call to end the inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions that exacerbated the tensions.  The current crisis could not be resolved through security measures alone, and violence could not be solved by more violence.  It was important to promote meaningful dialogue and negotiations; however, in the absence of a peace process, it was a “must” to rebuild trust and confidence and to create an atmosphere conducive to future talks.  His country had responded swiftly to the Gaza flash appeal, contributing $100,000 to UNRWA and an additional $100,000 to the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

AMR A. ABOULATTA (Egypt) said it was a time of confusion in principles as some tried to equate the aggressed with the aggressor. Justice and truth were not being upheld in the international community.  After decades of occupation, the world continued to wait for a solution, which ran counter to the most basic principles of the United Nations Charter. The inhumane and cruel tendencies of settlers to demolish homes and confiscate land continued with impunity, and violations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque would remain anchored in the memory of all Arab countries. “Wrong are those who believe that other conflicts in the Middle East would divert attention” from the change in status quo at Muslim Holy Sites. The international community must offer protection to the Palestinians people. That was not a vague concept, but was adequately defined by international law. The Palestinian question would remain of utmost importance to Arab countries, and other conflicts in the Middle East would not divert from that. He supported the Arab Peace Initiative, and urged the international community to redouble efforts for peace before it was too late.

IBRAHIM O.A. DABBASHI (Libya) said that 67 years had elapsed since the tragedy of the Palestinian people had started. Their suffering began when the “migrant Jews” invaded their territories in 1948, forcing them to leave their homeland.  Israelis continued to expand the more power they gained. That never waned because it was supported unconditionally even when it involved the commission of crimes against innocent Palestinians. The Israeli entity was established on a policy of terrorism and it continued to terrorize the Palestinian people, demolish their homes, forcefully displace them to make room for extremist Jewish Israelis “coming from all four corners of the world”. Terrorism had become a paramount pillar of Israel’s existence, which was evident in its war crimes, crimes against humanity and the excessive violence and force it used even against women and children.

He called on the international community to stand by the Palestinian Authority so that Israeli officials guilty of such crimes could be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court. Israeli offensives against civilians and infrastructure continued to escalate the plight of civilians living under the yoke of occupation, who suffered gross deteriorations of employment opportunities and a lack of food and medicine. He called on the international community to take all necessary measures to end the occupation and establish an independent State.

DINA KAWAR (Jordan) said that over the past decades, Jordan had spared no efforts at all levels to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people in establishing its State along the 1967 borders.  That was the only solution to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the division and hatred that threatened the future of coming generations.  The situation was getting more dangerous, and Jordan called on all Member States to translate their support to the Palestinian people into providing them with legal protection, and prompting Israel to end the occupation.  Israel also had to match its statements with measures on the ground by taking steps to build trust with the Palestinian Authority, so as to work on creating more favourable conditions.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) welcomed the raising of the flag of the Observer State of Palestine at Headquarters in September as well as countries that had recognized that, and hoped that others would do so.  Deeply concerned at the ongoing conflict and violence in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, he called on all parties concerned to do their utmost to avoid exacerbating the already fragile situation, and to take all possible steps to create conditions conducive to the resumption of peace negotiations.  He also called on the parties to resume direct peace negotiations towards a final settlement in keeping with relevant United Nations resolutions and other major initiatives of the past decades, which envisaged a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.  He urged the international community to redouble efforts to help Palestine return to normalcy as soon as possible.

RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the human rights violations of Israel had worsened over the years as it had continued with its illegal practices in a deliberate and systematic manner.  That posed the greatest obstacle to peace.  In the Gaza strip, 1.8 million Palestinians lived under an Israeli embargo creating an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.  Some 20 per cent of the population of Gaza required immediate psychosocial support.  He reiterated his unequivocal solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemned Israel’s illegal policies, occupation and settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem.  Only an end to the settlement policy and recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people would make a political solution possible.  The international community had a responsibility to promote the well-being of all peoples including their right to development and should never permit the Palestinian people to be excluded from that. He rejected the use of force and strongly condemned all acts of terrorism.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country wondered how it was possible for the Palestinian people to exercise their right to development unless they were given political and economic space, which had been usurped by Israel.  The international community remained passive and did not provide a convincing response to the suffering of the Palestinian people.  Reiterating the total unity of Nicaragua with the Palestinian people in their fight for self-determination, he stressed that it was not possible to continue the vicious cycle of aggression, destruction and reconstruction.  Appealing for the international community to respect the rights of Palestinian refugees and to lift the blockade against Gaza, he said that his country condemned the illegal construction of even more settlements of occupied Palestinian territories.

JAMAL F. ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said that everyone should recall the responsibility of United Nations Member States towards the Palestinian people.  The suffering had reached unprecedented levels, and the international community must shoulder its responsibilities.  The Israeli occupation of Arab land and settlements must be ended, and the independent State of Palestine should be established.  Bahrain would work in cooperation with other international community members to reach the objectives that responded to the aspirations of all.

RAFAEL RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said he feared that statements in the General Assembly Hall were merely transformed into vain rhetoric as, too often, Member States debated while Israeli planes bombed the Gaza Strip.  The international community must call “a spade a spade”; Israel, an Occupying power, had taken advantage of the inaction of the United Nations and committed atrocities with impunity.  He expressed concern over the current cycle of violence, saying that they could be a result of the long occupation.  “We will continue to see the cycle of violence and increasing bitterness of the Palestinian youth,” he said, strongly condemning the systematic policy of repression and brutal and cowardly attacks of innocent people including women and children.  The perpetrators of such acts must be brought to justice, he said, denouncing the Israeli policy of attacking Palestinian children.  He rejected any attempts to change the status quo of Muslim Holy Sites and urged an end to the inhumane blockade of Gaza.  He called for action in support of the Palestinian people.  The Security Council, in particular, must act with the urgency and foster peace negotiations as the outcome affected Middle East stability of the Middle East.