Security Council Briefing: Middle East

Statement by H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations in New York

New York, 15 May 2018

Thank you very much, Madame President.   

I join others in thanking Nickolay Mladenov for his sobering briefing. We deplore the loss of lives and the number of people wounded, as he described.

Madame President,

As I said last month in this Council: We cannot afford to put the peace process on the back burner. The gap between both sides is deepening fast, as is illustrated by yesterday’s events. These events underline that the current trajectory leads to loss of lives, confrontation and despair. And it results in growing divisions between Israelis and Palestinians.  

Madame President, I will focus on three points:

  1. The demonstrations in Gaza;
  2. The issue of Jerusalem;
  3. The importance of the peace process and the role of this Council.

1. The demonstrations in Gaza

Madame President, my first point: the demonstrations in Gaza.

We are alarmed by new levels of violence. And as Mr. Mladenov said, 59 people killed, more than 2600 people wounded, out of which 770 by live ammunition.

This is the highest number of people killed in Gaza in one day, since the conflict of 2014. The numbers suggests that almost one in 40 people was hit by live ammunition. And that one in 16 people was wounded by live ammunition.

This raises serious questions regarding the proportionality of the Israeli response. We are particularly worried by the killing of children and minors and the high number of health workers hurt.

It underlines again the need for restraint and the need for an independent, transparent and prompt investigation into all incidents that lead to the casualties. We take note of the Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism established by the Israel Defense Forces to review IDF actions and specific incidents that have taken place on the Israeli-Gaza border since March 30th, 2018.

While recognizing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, we repeat our call upon Israel to ensure that its responses are necessary and proportionate at all times, in line with Israel’s obligations under international law. The use of live ammunition should be a measure of last resort only, as stated in the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. 

We strongly urge all Palestinian parties to maintain the peaceful character of protests and not to resort to violence. Calls to storm Israel and calls for the use of violence are unacceptable. Peaceful demonstrations should not be used as a cover for violence.

The demolition of the Palestinian side of Karm Abusalem crossing only harms the Palestinian interests. We call upon the de-facto authorities in Gaza to ensure the safety of the crossing. It is the only crossing for the entry and exit of food and medical supplies and other goods and should be protected. We call upon the Palestinian Authority and upon the de-facto authorities in Gaza to repair the damage as soon as possible.

We welcome Israel’s decision to resume and ensure the normal function of the crossing today, despite the challenging environment. These developments show that a structural solution for Gaza is needed now more than ever. And at the same time the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has to be addressed.

We would like to ask Mr. Mladenov to present his ideas and proposal on what can be done in this regard.

2. The issue of Jerusalem

Madame President, my second point concerns the issue of Jerusalem. The future status of Jerusalem is perhaps the most sensitive and the most complex of all final status issues.

Jerusalem is a holy city for Jews, Muslims and Christians. The ties of the Jewish people to Jerusalem are irrefutable, and must not be denied. The ties of the Palestinian people to Jerusalem are irrefutable, and must not be denied.

This calls for wisdom. This calls for prudence.

Unilateral steps regarding the future status of Jerusalem are not only unwise and counterproductive, they are above all contradicting international law. But they cannot be used as an excuse for violence.

Madame President, we will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem as embodied in, inter alia, UN Security Council Resolution 478, including on the location of diplomatic representations until the final status of Jerusalem is resolved through negotiations. 

3. The peace process and the role of this Council

Madame President, my third point concerns the peace process and what this Council can and should do. Looking at the whole picture, first of all it is de-escalation that we need in the current situation. This pertains to Jerusalem, to Gaza and also to Israeli-Palestinian-relations at large. All parties should instead focus on defusing tensions, and enable efforts towards a better future for the region.

While wisdom and courage is needed to go back to negotiations for a political solution, both sides are taking steps that are incompatible with Resolution 2334.

The speech Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered on the 30th of April contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel's legitimacy. Such rhetoric will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution.

Israeli political leaders who advocate for annexation of parts of the West Bank only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution.

So we call upon both sides to take steps that create mutual trust and that contribute to the preservation of the possibility of the two-state solution.

The current tensions should not be used as an argument against action. On the contrary, they demonstrate the urgency of more resolute action now. 

Only a two state solution will realistically allow both sides to fulfil their aspirations, to put an end to the conflict, and to achieve the just and lasting peace that Israelis and Palestinians long for and that they deserve.

We call upon the members of the Quartet to convene to address the negative spiral. The situation in Gaza worsens with each passing week. Therefore we believe that a united reaction by this Council is urgently needed, to help de-escalate the situation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Madame President, we are willing to engage with the other Council members to formulate an appropriate public expression that addresses the recent events and that addresses all unhelpful steps by both sides.

We are convinced that this can be done in a balanced manner. This will enable this Council to contribute to de-escalation of the current situation.

Thank you, Madame President.

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