"The Situation in the Middle East, Including the Palestinian Question.”
October 19, 2016
The October 19 debate on "the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question,” reflected a growing sense of concern among member states regarding increased destabilisation in Israel/Palestine. Though a number of the delivered statements spoke to the gravity of situations in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, the primary focus of the day was the July Middle East Quartet warning that the two-state solution will no longer be possible, should current trends continue. The debate resulted in majority condemnations of Israeli settlements and demolitions in occupied territories, commitment to the two-state solution and political solutions to the conflict, and the need to facilitate Palestinian development. Many states also expressed concerns for the humanitarian situation in Syria and Yemen, and support for the Mosul Offensive in Iraq. Women Peace and Security issues were all but absent from the debate, with only a handful of general references to women presented.
The debate was convened by the Security Council’s current president, Russia, before the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov briefed the Council on the situation in Israel and Palestine. The Special Representative identified expanding Israeli settlements and internal disputes among Palestinian legislators as the major causes of the current breakdown in reconciliations.
The representative of Palestine, Riyad Mansour, stated that the threat Israel’s settlements and demolitions pose to the two-state solution were not issues of Palestinian opinion, but violations of international law. His statement was echoed throughout the debate in almost every briefing, as one speaker after the other condemned the settlements and delineated the damage caused by demolitions, forced transfers, unlawful detentions, restricted water supplies, and blockades. Many states, including the UK, Japan, Sri Lanka, and Senegal further discussed the humanitarian impact of these policies. Conversely, Israel’s Danny Danon posed that the Jewish state was a victim of slander and constant threats. Danon called the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council a “hall of shame” and a primary perpetrator of Israel’s persecution. He focused further on demonstrating the ways in which Israel was a “vibrant democracy” making far greater contributions to the world than States like Tunisia and Venezuela.
The only trend as consistent throughout the delivered statements as the condemnation of Israel’s illegal settlements was the commitment expressed for the two-state solution. Numerous states qualified that such a solution should be engineered based on the 1967 borders and allow Palestine to retain East Jerusalem as a capital, however others simply remarked that the ideal outcome would be the result of addressing both Israeli security concerns and Palestinian rights to self-determination. Following these major themes were calls to address the root causes of radicalisation, reject violence, and combat terrorism, though specific dialogue regarding how to accomplish these goals remained absent. A number of speakers highlighted the Security Council’s failure to utilise its full influence to broker peace in this conflict, among them, Representatives of Costa Rica and Nicaragua leveled direct blame on the use of vetoes by the Permanent Members. Finally, Uruguay and the European Union identified illicit transfers and arms buildups as a contributing factor to the conflict.
Of the 44 member states and five UN speakers to deliver statements at the debate, 91.84 percent of the speakers made zero references to WPS-related themes. Only the speakers from Iran, Israel, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Costa Rica integrated gender-related language into their statements. However, none of these states progressed beyond general references, thereby rendering the debate devoid of any meaningful dialogue on gender. The representative from Israel, Danny Danon, discussed the 2015 report from Commission on the Status of Women condemning only Israel as a violator of women’s rights. As such, Dannon proceeded to verbally indict states such as Iran and Sudan, claiming that the widespread practices of honour killings, forced child marriage, and female genital cutting within their borders as far graver atrocities than any that occur in Israel. The representative of Iran, Gholamali Khoshroo reported that the escalating violence in Yemen has taken a toll on civilian life, including those of women and children. In a similar vein, the representative of Costa Rica, Juan Carlos Mendoza-Garcia, remarked that women and children bear the brunt of the Syrian conflict. Finally, OCHA’s Stephen O’Brien expressed concern for increased SGBV in Israel and Palestine, and noted the need to “protect pregnant women” in the midst of the ongoing Mosul Offensive in Iraq.
The Meeting Record is available here.
States Represented at this meeting included:
Venezuela (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), France, Senegal, Uruguay, Egypt, New Zealand, Ukraine, United States, Angola, Malaysia, China, United Kingdom, Japan, Russian Federation, Lebanon, Indonesia, Iran, Norway, Pakistan, Brazil, Syria, Nicaragua, Kazakhstan, Argentina, Costa Rica, Jordan, Guatemala, South Africa, Turkey, Namibia, Qatar, Kuwait (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Maldives, Morocco and Cuba, Holy See, Israel, Palestine.
OCHA, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the European Union, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.