Security Council Briefing: The situation in the Middle East

Statement by Karel J.G. van Oosterom ,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

New York, 20 February 2018

Thank you very much, Mr. President,

First, let me welcome the earlier presence of president Abbas here in the Council. And let me thank Mr. Mladenov for his detailed briefing and certainly for his efforts for peace.

Mr. President, the facts on the ground speak for themselves and leave little room for optimism: We face a growing humanitarian and economic crisis in Gaza and we see a lack of possibilities for Palestinian development in the West Bank.

I will touch on three points in that context:

  1. The two state solution and the need for tangible steps
  2. The need for commitment and international support
  3. The situation in Gaza

The two state solution and the need for tangible steps

Mr. President, my first point: the two state solution. It is worth recalling the Oslo Accords. They were signed by President Abbas who has always advocated a peaceful road towards a Palestinian state. The Oslo Accords held the promise of two states within five years from the signing in 1993.

We are now in the 25th year since Oslo and the obstacles to peace have grown. Oslo was not just a document; it was a vision.

And we are still firmly convinced that only the two-state solution, based on the borders of 1967, will lead to sustainable peace.

We recall that a lasting solution to the conflict must be achieved on the basis of:

  • the relevant Council Resolutions,
  • the Madrid principles including land for peace,
  • the Roadmap,
  • the agreements previously reached by the parties,  
  • And the Arab Peace Initiative,
  • with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands believes that the clear parameters define the basis for negotiations, including on Jerusalem. These parameters are key elements for a successful outcome.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands calls upon both sides to translate their stated desire for peace into tangible steps. Steps that build trust and contribute to the preservation of the possibility of the two-state solution, in line with Council resolution 2334. This requires a fundamental change in the developments on the ground, which continue to undermine the prospect of a two-state solution.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands reiterates its strong opposition to Israel's settlement policy and actions taken in this context. These include:

  • Continuous demolitions,
  • Plans leading to forced transfer of Bedouin communities in the West Bank,
  • The announcement to legalize the outpost Havat Gilad into a settlement,
  • And legislative proposals that entail nothing less than annexation.

Such actions and proposals are cause for serious concern.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands position has not changed:

  • Settlements are illegal under international law,
  • They undermine the viability of the two-state solution,
  • And they undermine the prospect for a lasting peace.

At the same time, the continued violence, including firing of rockets, as well as incitement needs to stop.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in and around Gaza. Rocket attacks by militants from Gaza are unacceptable and need to stop. The leadership on both sides must work to prevent escalation.

The need for commitment and international support

Mr. President, this brings me to my second point: the need for commitment and the need for international support. The current lack of confidence, between parties but also in tried formats for negotiations, creates a dangerous vacuum. They cause both Israeli and Palestinian populations to lose hope.

Worldwide examples of resolved conflicts show the following: negotiations don’t start with trust, they start with courage. Political commitment to reach out, build bridges, and create trust. Taking people along. Step by step.

The international community can certainly help in providing a political horizon for the two-state solution, in line with relevant Council resolutions.

The international community can support the parties to find a path back to the negotiation table. To this end, cooperation between the Quartet partners as well as regional players, and with both parties is crucial. We fully supports the initiatives for the two-state solution taken by the High Representative of the EU working together with both parties, the other members of the Quartet and regional partners.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands will continue to play a constructive role, building on our good relations with both sides.

The situation in Gaza

Mr. President, this brings me to my third point: Gaza. As others have said, the crisis in Gaza is growing rapidly. Unemployment is rising and the economy is coming to a virtual standstill. Gaza faces a lack of energy supply that affects all aspects of life, including the provision of water and treatment of sewage.

Almost none of the ground water is any longer fit for human consumption. Raw sewage flows into the sea, polluting the water which is needed for desalination. And the people in Gaza suffer from insufficient access to adequate health care.

In the words of the Secretary-General: Gaza will become unlivable by 2020. But for many, it is hardly livable this very day.

A growing number of the people there is dependent on humanitarian aid. And UNRWA, as we all know, is the largest provider of this aid. But the critical financial situation of UNRWA is undermining its ability to provide basic services to the people in Gaza.

We are concerned that this negative forecast will lead to growing despair in Gaza. It will add to the unpredictability of the situation, and to an increased risk of instability in the other areas of operations of UNWRA.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure that UNRWA is able to execute its mandate as given by the UN General Assembly. The Kingdom of the Netherlands calls upon all stakeholders to put the needs of the population at the forefront in future decisions regarding Gaza.

The positive measures suggested at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels can lead to a significant improvement of living conditions. This includes expansion of possibilities for trade and support for essential services like water and energy.

Therefore, we call upon all parties involved to live up to the commitments made. We call on the Palestinian Authority to proceed on the challenging path of intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

We support the efforts to restore unity between the West Bank and Gaza and the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza as the single, legitimate governing authority.

The incidents over the weekend showed again the need for a political solution for Gaza.

In conclusion, Mr. President, I started by saying there was little cause for optimism. However, in the Middle East, optimism is not so much a choice as it is a necessity.

This conflict can be solved, this conflict must be solved.

We should all work diligently and in concert to advance the two state solution: the parties themselves, the region and the international community at large.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.