Briefing Palestinian Rights Committee, Key Negotiator in Peace Talks Says 2012 on Track to Becoming ‘Year of Political Vacuum’
Committee on the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
342nd Meeting (PM)
Palestinian Development and Reconstruction Minister Says Israel Engaged In ‘Confidence-Destroying Measures’, Leading to Erosion of Two-State Solution
The lack of confidence-building measures on the ground, as well as the absence of a time frame in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, were among the challenges making the possibility of a two-State solution “slimmer every day”,a key member of the Palestinian delegation to those negotiations told the Palestinian Rights Committee this afternoon.
Instead of actions intended to build confidence between the two parties, said Mohammad Shtayyeh — who is also Minister in Charge of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction — Israel was engaged in “confidence-destroying measures”, including daily arrests, the construction of “colonies” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the siege in the Gaza Strip.
Indeed, those activities were leading to the “total erosion of the two-state solution” and increasingly dimming the prospects of such an outcome, he said as he addressed the Committee — formally known as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Israel had made evident no intentions to end occupation, he said, and had instead expanded its colonization process on the ground. That trend was a major concern, as a “one-State solution” — under which the Palestinians were currently living — was not a sustainable option.
The year 2012, unfortunately, was on track to be a “year of political vacuum”, he said. Washington was busy with elections, Europe was busy with the financial crisis, and many Arab countries were engaged with their own internal affairs. It was critical that Israel freeze and end all construction and settlement activities, in particular in East Jerusalem. Its occupation of areas such as the Jordan Valley was not truly based on security concerns but on economic benefits. Such occupation of land and resources continued unabated, and Israelis swam in modern swimming pools “even as Palestinians have no water to drink”.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had recently sent a letter to President Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, with the main message that the situation on the ground was unsustainable. “We cannot live with the status quo that Israel is trying to impose every day,” he said. The letter was a warning against the “South Africanization” of the Palestinian question. There was already a de facto apartheid system in place in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Moreover, he said, the Palestinian Authority had been created as a temporary interim measure, and its interim status should have ended long ago. Today, the Authority’s domain was extremely limited. “For how long can we continue to live with an Authority without any authority?” he asked.
President Netanyahu’s reply three days ago to President Abbas’ letter was not encouraging, he said. The question now was one of which course to take going forward. The application for Palestinian membership in the United Nations — submitted last September — was still in play. That move was intended to break the status quo. However, it was also necessary for the international community to change its approach, from asking Israel to end the occupation to pressuring it to do so. “It is time that the Quartet has to change direction on the way of handling this problem”, or risk letting the crisis linger for years to come, he said.
He noted a recent report of the United Nations, which, echoing the view of the World Bank, indicated that Palestinian intuitions were ready for independence. The new State would continue to engage with Israel and its citizens. The aim was to have a relationship that was mutually fruitful, and not one-sided. What was essential now was for the international community to help the Palestinians conduct elections. Indeed, at a time when many were calling for democracy in the Arab world, it was a pity that many “skipped the line” when it came to Palestine.
The Committee was also seriously concerned about the situation on the ground, said its Vice-Chairman, Pedro Núñez Mosquera of Cuba, as he took the floor following Mr. Shtayyeh’s briefing. The body was especially alarmed by Israel’s recent decision to legalize three settlement outposts, and had issued a statement denouncing that decision. He agreed that, by continuing to alter the demographic status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Israeli Government was “rapidly eroding the prospects for the two-State solution” based on the pre-1967 borders.
He said the Committee would continue to call on the Security Council, as well as the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to take concrete action to hold Israel accountable for its grave violations of international law, namely article 49 of that Convention. The Committee was also worried about the slow pace of reconciliation, the lack of movement regarding the United Nations application and the Palestinian Authority’s challenging financial situation, among other key issues.
During the discussion that followed, many delegates, including the representative of Turkey, expressed their concern about the situation on the ground in the Occupied Territory. Both the representatives of Indonesia and Senegal asked about the future course of action with regard to rejuvenating the peace process. The Senegalese representative noted the Palestinian people had borne their situation with “patience and perseverance”. However, those characteristics had their limits, he warned.
The representative of Iraq, also addressing the erosion of the two-State solution and the call for the international community to “change its course”, wondered how the Palestinians themselves could change their course of action. Would the Palestinian Authority apply for membership in the General Assembly? he asked.
Responding, Mr. Shtayyeh said that the Palestinian Authority had indeed changed direction by approaching the United Nations for membership last September. However, some “super-Powers” had blocked its application in the Security Council. Many countries had applied several times, and the Palestinian application was “still there”. The Authority was also in consultation with the Arab leadership, and the issue would be put in front of them, as well as in front of Europe, before any application to the General Assembly was made. “Passive resistance” was another important course of action, which was being pursued.
The Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, noted that the Committee had been active in educating people around the globe about the just cause of his people. It had also launched a programme intended to share the experiences of Palestinian leaders in New York.
For information media • not an official record