Security Council

The situation in the Middle East - Security Council…

Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East.

Expressing concern over a fragile and deteriorating security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the special coordinator for the region, in his briefing to the Security Council today, stressed that rising levels of violence should be a clear warning to the international community to take action in order to prevent further bloodshed.

Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the 15-nation organ that the rising levels of violence seen in recent weeks “should be a clear warning to us all”, and that — if left unchecked — will lead to yet another destructive, bloody round of violence. Ongoing unilateral steps — such as Israeli settlements advancement and demolition activities of Palestinian homes — was undermining the institutional stability of the Palestinian Authority and the cessation of hostilities that has held since May.

However, he also cited the positive development of recent local council elections in West Bank communities, in which over 25 per cent of candidates were women. Further, the Central Election Commission announced the start of preparations for a second round of municipal elections, to be held in March 2022.

Nonetheless, Israeli settlement expansion remains deeply concerning, he said, calling on the Israeli Government to cease all such activities immediately. The deterioration of the security and socioeconomic situations across the Occupied Palestinian Territory must also be reversed, with all parties avoiding unilateral steps that change the realities on the ground.

Strengthening the Palestinian Authority is critical to maintaining stability on the ground. However, while financial support towards this end is essential, it is not enough. He expressed hope that 2022 will present opportunities to reverse negative trajectories and present ways to restore a political horizon.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates shared the Special Coordinator’s concern over rising tensions and violence and joined his call to Israelis and Palestinians alike to refrain from actions which would undercut advancement of the two-State solution.

The representative of Niger, Council President for December, speaking in his national capacity, noted that as of 6 December, no less than 835 Palestinian structures have been demolished by the Israeli authorities, often based on military regulations whose illegality under international law is well known. These demolitions will have displaced approximately 1,044 people this year alone, the highest number of since 2016.

Viet Nam’s representative noted that no progress has been made in the five years since the adoption of resolution 2334 (2016) on settlement activity. Rather, demolitions, evictions and violence continue, he said, underscoring that it is not the lack of a legal framework but the lack of implementation that is hindering progress. While the security of Israel must be respected, it is in Israel’s security interests to implement the resolution, along with other United Nations relevant resolutions, he said.

France’s delegate concurred that the positive trend of previous months has been jeopardized by unilateral actions. The pause of construction in the Atarot settlement offers a stay, but it must be definitively abandoned, as it would be the first new settlement in Jerusalem in 25 years. With record levels of demolitions and evictions amid increasing settler violence, he welcomed the determination of Israeli authorities to combat extremism.

Tunisia’s representative emphasized that the major issue is that the parties do not feel obliged to respect Council resolutions. “This is why the situation in the Middle East is held hostage to tension and instability,” he pointed out. The root cause — the occupation — must be tackled, he stressed, noting that without global peace, there can be no security and stability.

The representative of the United States spotlighted the important role played by civil society members on the ground — citing a recent visit by Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the United States to Ramallah, where she was inspired by their efforts to advance democracy, human rights and economic opportunity. While the United States has contributed more than $318 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) this year, he stressed that the Agency once again faces a funding shortfall, calling on all States to contribute.

Council members also bade farewell to five outgoing nations — Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Vietnam — whose terms conclude at the end of 2021, with many thanking those delegations for their efforts during their tenure on the Council. Several speakers also affirmed their commitment to work with the incoming members, including Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates.

Also speaking were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Kenya, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, United Kingdom, Ireland, Estonia, Norway, India, China and Mexico.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:04 p.m.