Palestinians Ready to Resume Direct Talks with Israel, Permanent Observer Says
In the context of a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by COVID‑19, speakers called on Israel to end its illegal practices and enable an environment conducive to a negotiated peace with Palestinians, as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met today to observe the annual International Day of Solidarity.
Opening the meeting, Committee Chair Cheikh Niang (Senegal) expressed condolences on the passing of Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, a sentiment echoed by most other speakers throughout the meeting. In these unprecedent times of pandemic, humanitarian conditions are particularly dire in the occupied Palestinian territories, especially Gaza. Meanwhile, Palestinians are still being deprived of their inalienable rights, with the partition resolution still unfulfilled and no sovereign Palestinian State. A lack of free movement, excessive force, and traumatization of children continue to cause suffering. Settlement expansion persists in defiance of international law and home demolition has increased, with thousands living under threat of expulsion or settler violence, as well the threat of annexation.
He called on Israel to abandon its plans for de jure occupation and its siege of Gaza. He pressed Member States to urgently address the shortfall of the United Nations Works and Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNWRA), to avert serious risks to the region’s stability. He also called for the accomplishment of peace, justice, equality and dignity through the realization of two States living side by side, within the pre‑1967 borders and Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian State. He echoed calls for an international meeting to advance the peace process, along with renewed Palestinian reconciliation efforts. Bilateral agreements in the region must take into account the need to resolve the Palestinian plight. “Palestinian people need more than solidarity,” he stressed. “They need bold action based on the United Nations Charter.”
Volkan Bozkır (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, noted that the rights of the Palestinian people have been on the agenda of the United Nations since its founding 75 years ago. However, Palestinian civilians continue to suffer from illegal settlements and other injustices, with threats of annexation part of a recurring pattern curtailing their fundamental rights, and COVID‑19 worsening their insecurity. A two‑State solution within the pre‑1967 borders, adhering to previous United Nations resolutions, is the only premise for a just and lasting peace for all, he insisted, noting that UNRWA, despite its crucial work, still faces funding gaps and requires predictable, sustained financing to ensure security for Palestinian refugees.
Xolisa Mabhongo (South Africa), on behalf of the Presidency of the Security Council, said the Council has remained seized on the Palestinian situation over the past year, as members harbour deep concerns about the lack of progress — both in the peace process and on the ground. In February, a special meeting was convened in which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the Council. Underscoring the Council’s commitment to helping secure a just and lasting peace, he called for the implementation of all its resolutions and condemned all acts of violence. COVID‑19, which presents an additional concern, also has been addressed during the body’s meetings, particularly on the humanitarian situation, he stated.
António Guterres, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said the question of Palestine remains distressingly unresolved, as the United Nations celebrates its seventy‑fifth anniversary. Moreover, COVID‑19 has decimated the Palestinian economy and undermined the already fragile humanitarian, economic and political situation in Gaza, further entrenched by crippling restrictions on movement and access. Meanwhile, prospects for a viable two‑State solution are growing more distant, as a host of factors continue to cause great misery, including the expansion of illegal settlements, a significant spike in the demolition of Palestinian homes and structures, violence and militant activity.
He recalled that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have a responsibility to explore “every opening” to restore hope and achieve a two‑State solution in line with relevant United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements on the basis of the pre‑1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States. He expressed hope that recent developments will encourage Palestinian and Israeli leaders to re‑engage in meaningful negotiations, with support from the international community, and create opportunities for regional cooperation. He also expressed concern about the financial situation facing UNRWA, which plays an essential role as the main provider of direct and often life‑saving assistance to many of the 5.7 million Palestinian refugees.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, delivering a statement on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas, said that since its establishment 75 years ago, the United Nations has embodied the pledge to maintain international peace and security by upholding international law and delivering people from the shackles of occupation. It is paradoxical that, as this Organization was adopting its Charter, Palestinians were being deprived of the very rights enshrined within it. To this day, they continue to live under occupation. However, this has not altered their faith in the rule of international law as the basis for a just resolution to the conflict.
In the darkest hours, when the injustice of Israeli measures could have pushed Palestine to abandon a political and legal approach, it has remained steadfast in the defence of its rights, he said. International law remains the cornerstone of the multilateral rules‑based order. He expressed gratitude to all States committed to the two‑State solution based on 1967 borders — and to all those offering political support, in line with the United Nations Charter, as well as those offering humanitarian and development support to the Palestinian people. Indeed, it is time for the international community to take the necessary practical measures to translate international consensus into reality and to reject colonialist policies that have only intensified during the pandemic.
Palestine’s hand remains extended for a just peace, based on United Nations resolutions and a two‑State solution along 1967 borders, he said. It is ready to resume direct negotiations with Israel; it has never rejected such talks. He called on the Secretary‑General to undertake preparations early in 2021 to convene an international conference with full authority involving all concerned parties, so as to launch a genuine, meaningful peace process based on international law. This conference would bring about an end to the occupation and achieve the freedom and independence of the Palestinian people. Palestinians will remain on their land and never surrender to injustice, he stressed.
Following his statement, Mr. Mansour opened the virtual exhibition “The Writing is On the Wall: Annexation Past and Present,” which he said illuminates the resilience and creativity of the Palestinian people.
Syed Mohamad Hasrin Aidid, Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, joined other speakers in calling for a just and lasting solution to the plight of the Palestinians. Noting that his report will be submitted to the General Assembly on 2 December, he said it outlines how every aspect of Palestinian life is impacted by the occupation. He highlighted settlement expansion, administrative detention, housing demolitions, settler violence and numerous other causes of Palestinian suffering documented in the report. He urged Israel to end all such practices and to fulfil its obligations to ensure that Palestinians are protected from the COVID‑19 outbreak. He also called for an end to the blockade of Gaza.
Fatima Kyari Mohammed, Permanent Observer for the African Union reading out a message from Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the African Union Commission, said today’s celebration is a reminder that Palestinians continue to face mounting difficulties. Affirming the Commission’s solidarity, she called on international and regional organizations to demand that Israel respect all international resolutions for resolving the conflict. Speaking in her capacity as Permanent Observer, she condemned Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians and their essential resources, saying they resemble apartheid. She also called attention to the violation of basic rights of Palestinian prisoners who have fallen victim to administrative detention. Affirming the consistent desire of Palestinian President Abbas for a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the conflict, she asked the Middle East Quartet [United Nations, United States, European Union, Russian Federation] and the Security Council to demand that Israel respect relevant Council resolutions and the two‑State solution. Rejecting Israel’s confiscation of land and the constraints imposed on Palestinian families that cause them to leave their land, she said the situation demands urgent resolution, given Israel’s unilateral actions in Gaza. She prayed, she said, for peace, liberty and justice for Palestine.
Maged A. Abdelaziz, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, denounced that Palestinians are still deprived of their rights, with the impact of the brutal occupation exacerbated by a pandemic raging through their communities. The Palestinian question is central to the Arab world, he stressed, affirming the League’s focus on ending the occupation. The United Nations has an obligation to ensure the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State, based on the land‑for‑peace principle and the vision of a two‑State solution. The entire international community, in turn, must take up its responsibilities to ensure that Israel allows the Palestinian people to achieve their rights and halts its violations of international law. Calling for aid to UNWRA, he urged action to revive peace negotiations, including through an international meeting in 2021.
Agshin Mehdiyev, Permanent Observer for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, speaking on behalf of Secretary General Yousef bin Ahmad Al‑Othaimeen, said celebrating the International Day of Solidarity allows the international community to express its commitment to the inalienable rights of Palestinians. It is taking place, however, against the backdrop of disturbing challenges in the Territory, which is still subject to Israel’s occupation, the separation wall, property damage, more than 12,000 illegal settlements and violations of international law as well as United Nations resolutions. The international community must work to end Israel’s settlement policy and recognize a two‑State solution based on the 1967 borders. He also emphasized the need to respond to the humanitarian needs of UNRWA, ensuring that refugees receive adequate attention until a lasting resolution is achieved.
Yashar Aliyev (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the Movement’s unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people and support for their inalienable rights. A just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the question of Palestine remains a permanent responsibility of the United Nations until the issue is justly and satisfactorily resolved in all its aspects. He endorsed the call by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the timely convening of an international peace conference to advance a just and lasting solution, including a sovereign Palestinian State, based on international law and all relevant resolutions. He expressed deep regret that the plight of Palestinians has worsened and been exacerbated by COVID‑19, reiterating the Movement’s demands for lifting the Gaza blockade and ending Israel’s illegal practices on the ground.
Erica N. Williams, speaking for Black Christians for Palestine, recounted her experience travelling on a public bus from Bethlehem to East Jerusalem in 2018. The bus came to a checkpoint where all Palestinians had to exit and be searched before they could “enter Israel”, even though the bus was in fact travelling from one Palestinian destination to another: from occupied Bethlehem to occupied East Jerusalem. A mother with two small children was rushed off the bus by an Israeli officer carrying a large gun pointed towards her. “There was fear and terror in the woman’s eyes”, she said, noting that the woman was searched before she was permitted back on the bus.
More broadly, she said the fight to liberate Palestinians is not only being waged by Christians, but people of all faith traditions who believe that all people are born free and deserve dignity. Commemorating international solidarity is not enough. Palestinians are being denied their rights, and the United Nations must move beyond words to a new priority of action. Restoring human rights to those who are being illegally denied them is its obligation; the defence of those unable to protect themselves is its burden, she stressed.
Closing the event, the Chair thanked the numerous delegations and organizations that submitted statements of solidarity with the Palestinian people, in addition to those presented at the meeting.