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, 18 December 2018
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
First of all, let me thank Mr. Mladenov for his frank and sobering briefing on the developments of the past months, including on the implementation of this Council’s resolution 2334.
In this regard, let me refer to the letter that was sent to the Secretary-General in May, signed by 10 Security Council members. In this letter, we requested written reports on the implementation of resolution 2334. We welcomed the written report we received in June. We would have appreciated a continuation of this practice in September and this month. Written reports provide the factual basis that is needed to fruitfully discuss the implementation of the resolution in this Council.
Mr. President, today marks two years since the adoption of resolution 2334. And today, we sadly have to conclude that most parts of the resolution are not implemented. Unfortunately, the situation on the ground is worse than two years ago. Positive steps are urgently needed. The Kingdom of the Netherlands recalls that each side can and must take positive steps to bring peace closer, as the Quartet recommended in 2016.
Mr. President, in that context, I will focus on three issues:
- The undermining of the prospects of peace;
- Settlement activities;
1. The undermining of the prospects of peace
On my first point, on the undermining the prospects for peace by the continuation of terror attacks, violent incidents and incitement. We condemn the recent terrorist attacks by Palestinians against Israelis in the West Bank. There is no excuse for terrorism. These recent attacks have further increased tensions in the West Bank.
We condemn statements by Hamas and other terrorist groups, welcoming these cowardly attacks. These statements only serve to increase tensions. We regret that the proposed resolution in the General Assembly, condemning Hamas, did not pass, as we need to speak out as UN against terrorism. In all cases.
At the same time, the attacks in the West Bank are no justification for the ensuing violent response by some settlers against Palestinian civilians. We call upon the Palestinian and Israeli leadership to observe calm and restraint and to refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric that can further increase tensions. We call upon parties to make every effort to find the perpetrators of these acts and bring them to justice.
2. Settlement activities
This brings me to my second point, on settlements. Calls for the annexation, expansion or legalization of settlements, and all actions in this regard, only serve the purposes of the extremists, and will only create more tension between both sides.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands strongly opposes Israel's settlement policy, which we consider to be illegal under international law. A policy that includes actions such as forced transfers, evictions and demolitions.
Settlement activities have increased since the adoption of the resolution. If we look at the past two years, we see that in 2017 construction has started on almost 1700 units. And in the first six months of 2018, construction has started on more than 1000 units. In addition, the numbers of planned and tendered units are a multiple of that. This shows a substantial increase if compared to the numbers of 2015 and 2016.
It is not only about the numbers: new expansion of settlements has been announced for sensitive areas like Hebron and like East-Jerusalem. These are areas that are of crucial importance for the viability of a future Palestinian state.
In addition, over the past two years, Israel has continued with the demolishment of Palestinian houses and structures and with the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes. We are deeply concerned by the developments in East Jerusalem, where an unprecedented high number of families face eviction. Although we welcome the fact that the planned demolishment of Khan-al-Ahmar has not taken place, we reiterate our call upon Israel to withdraw these plans all together.
Mr. President, on my next point: the situation in Gaza, which remains extremely fragile. The tragic results of resorting to the use of violence we have seen all too much in Gaza over the past year.
We condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets. We expressed grave concern about the use of force by Israel that has led to the loss of life of over 200 Palestinian civilians. We have called for a thorough investigation into all cases where lives have been lost. And we concluded several times that a sustainable solution for the situation in Gaza is needed.
This solution would include the urgent need to improve the humanitarian and economic situation. Thanks to regional and international efforts, the situation in Gaza has improved marginally.
We thank Mr. Mladenov and his team for the unabated efforts to find solutions to alleviate the humanitarian and economic crisis, including through the AHLC-projects.
Another positive development I want to highlight is that UNRWA was able, after the combined efforts of UNRWA and many donors, to continue to provide basic services and to close the financing gap. Continued support to UNRWA, also next year, is needed.
We will continue to work together with the UN, the international community as well as Israel and the Palestinian Authority, to find solutions that bring tangible relief. These solutions must also include the return of the Palestinian Authorities to Gaza as legitimate government. And they must include the full opening of the crossings, taking into account Israel’s security needs
Finally, on the need to restart a genuine peace process. We thank Nikki Haley for the first glimpse of the US plan for peace in the Middle East. We look forward to further information and consultations on it.
As we just said in a press statement of the former, current and incoming members from the European Union on this Council: “We see an urgent need for a political horizon to be restored.”
It is unfortunate to have to sum up the many developments since the adoption of resolution 2334 that have undermined the prospects for peace and the prospects of a two-state solution.
In addition to the developments mentioned so far, I also want to express our concern about the shrinking space for civil society in both Israel, and the Palestinian territories. We are, for example, concerned by the threats and hostile reaction to the Israeli NGO B’tselem. This is an organization that rightly won international praise for its work. Also, the findings by Human Rights Watch, about suppression of dissenting opinions by both the PA and Hamas, even by the use torture, are deeply concerning. A vibrant civil society is essential for long-term sustainable peace and stability.
In conclusion, Mr. President, two years after the adoption of resolution 2334, we have to recognize that we continue to reaffirm our collective commitment to a two-state solution, while the situation on the ground is developing towards a one-state reality. This development must be reversed.
Positive steps are urgently needed to restart a genuine peace process, leading to a two-state solution, based on internationally agreed parameters. We should all remain united in our efforts towards this goal.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
Image: ©UN Photo/Mark Garten