Security Council Open Debate: Middle East including the Palestinian question

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, 18 October 2018

Thank you very much, Madame President.

Let me begin by thanking Mr. Mladenov for his comprehensive briefing. The Kingdom of the Netherlands fully supports the Special Coordinator in his efforts to prevent a catastrophic Gaza. And we thank him for his tireless efforts to bring the parties closer together, despite all obstacles.

Let me also thank Mr. El-Ad for his views on the situation, as a guest of this Council. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a longstanding donor to B’tselem and we are proud of our cooperation with this NGO. The presence of a strong and vibrant civil society, including human rights organizations like B’tselem who speak truth to power, is crucial for a democratic and pluralistic society. 

Madame President, I align myself with the statement to be made later by the European Union. And in my statement today, I will focus on three key issues:

  • The West Bank;
  • Gaza;
  • The importance of a renewal of the peace process.

1. The West Bank

My first point: the West Bank. Listening to Mr. Mladenov and Mr. El-Ad it struck me that your briefings were packed with latest troubling developments on the West Bank. Those developments raise concern that the region is on a slippery slope towards a one state reality.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands reiterates its opposition to Israel's settlement policy and to actions taken in this context. That includes demolitions and confiscations of EU funded projects, evictions, and forced transfers of local communities.

We are concerned about the decision taken Sunday by the Israeli authorities to advance plans of settlement expansion in Hebron. Settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten a two state solution. Israeli settlement policy and the denial of opportunities for Palestinian development in Area C make peace more difficult.

Khan al Ahmar, as others have said, is a case in point. We are concerned that the planned demolition and forced transfer of its inhabitants will undermine confidence in a negotiated two-state solution. It will also clear the way for further settlement expansion. This is illustrated by the announcement of new houses for settlements nearby Khan al Ahmar earlier this year, in May. 

The Kingdom of the Netherlands condemns the recent violent attacks in the West Bank, which led to the loss of both Israeli and Palestinian lives. These attacks illustrate the need for a sustainable solution that provides peace and security for Israel and prevents the resurgence of terrorism. A solution that provides security for Palestinians, respects their rights and demonstrates that the occupation is over. In short, we need a two-state solution.

2. Gaza

Madame President, this brings me to my second point: Gaza. The situation in Gaza is a constant source of concern. People in and around Gaza live a daily reality that no-one should have to endure. These people deserve a life in which peace and security can be taken for granted.

Unfortunately, that is far from the current reality: early Wednesday morning, an Israeli family in Beersheba narrowly escaped when they reached the bomb shelter seconds before a rocket from Gaza hit their home. We condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza. And in response, the IDF struck multiple targets in Gaza, reportedly killing a 25-year old Palestinian man.

We call on all involved actors to exercise restraint in order to prevent a further escalation. Closing border crossings and reducing the fishing zone is not the answer, and will only further deteriorate the humanitarian despair in Gaza.

Madame President, we are concerned by the growing violence during protests at the border and about the continued use of incendiary balloons and kites as well as continued tunnel activity. The Kingdom of the Netherlands calls upon all relevant Palestinian parties to ensure that protests remain peaceful, and especially that children are not put in harm’s way. We also repeat our call upon Israel to ensure that its responses are proportionate and necessary at all times, in line with Israel’s obligations under international law.

Independent and transparent investigation into the events that led to so many victims over the past months is needed. We call upon Israel to finalize its own investigation as soon as possible and provide full transparency on its findings.

We fully support the efforts of Mr. Mladenov to improve the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza. We call upon all parties to create an environment in which these plans can be implemented. We join the calls of others upon concerned parties to continue their co-operation with the Special Coordinator and to make sure no effort is spared to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Implementing his plans will bring relief which is so direly needed in Gaza.

Ultimately, a sustainable solution is needed to alleviate the living conditions in Gaza. That means intra-Palestinian reconciliation leading to a return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza. We welcome the ongoing Egyptian efforts to make that a reality.

Madame President, we continue to support UNRWA. The services by UNRWA provide opportunity, hope and dignity for Palestine refugees. This year with the help of many, old and new donors, from the region and globally, UNRWA managed to broaden its support base.

Together with other donors, we will continue to work with UNRWA to close the remaining gap for this year. We encourage all partners of UNRWA to translate this year’s generous contributions into predictable, multi-annual support.

3. A renewal of the peace process

My third point: the renewal of the peace process. Over the past year, we have noted many threats to the peace process, Madame President. I regret that today we were forced to discuss many negative steps, taken by all parties to the conflict. Again, we are discussing measures needed to manage the conflict. However, conflict management is not what we are here for.

We, this Council, the UN and both sides of the conflict have the same goal: ending the conflict. We remain firmly committed to this goal and we call on all parties to combine efforts, return to the negotiation table and restart a genuine peace process leading to a two-state solution. 

Thank you, Madame President.