Just days away from the inauguration of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States, it is unsure where the future of UN Resolution 2334, concerning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, lies. On Tuesday, January 17th, the UN Security Council held an open debate on “The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question”. Today, with Trump’s looming presence, the Security Council chambers were not a place of decision but rather seemed to be just a sounding board for discussion. If nothing was achieved, the meeting served purely to show the divisiveness of this issue.
Despite the debate being focused on the whole region, the main topics of conversation seemed to be Palestine, Israel, and the two-State Solution. In what was perhaps the only intervention condemning Security Council Resolution 2334, that demanded that Israel stop all illegal settlements in Palestinian territory, Israeli Ambassador Danon said to the SC: “The resolution that you adopted against Israel provided inspiration for terror.” He argued that the recent terror attack in Palestine that killed 4 Israelis and injured dozens more was in direct response to Resolution 2334, as the Palestinian who committed the act “was led to believe that he could use terror and violence to remove the Jewish people from Jerusalem.” Ambassador Danon added, “He will not succeed.” Danon also mentioned that the resolution was supported by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whom he called “murderous terrorist organizations who are openly committed to the destruction of the state of Israel.”
At the end of the debate, Israel once again took the floor to fire back at the countries of Iran, Lebanon, and Bolivia for the sharp remarks against Israeli actions in Palestine made by the representatives of those countries.
In his first briefing of the year, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the Council that tensions flared following the December adoption of resolution 2334 (2016). Passed with14 votes for and one abstention, the resolution condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and reiterated international support for a two-state solution. “In the aftermath of the vote, emotions on the ground have been heightened,” Mladenov said, adding that “divisive positions risk destroying the prospects for peace.”
The President of the Security Council, Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog, said that “the Sweden’s long standing engagement on the Middle East Peace Process is based on international law, including human rights and international humanitarian law. It was our support for the two-state solution and our desire to make the parties less unequal that led us to recognise the State of Palestine in 2014”. Then Skoog stated: “The international community has an important role in moving from words to action by helping to break the current deadlock and finally ending the occupation that started 50 years ago. We welcome the adoption of Security Council resolution 2334, which is a milestone towards resumed efforts to save the two-state solution. We must now encourage the parties to swiftly implement its provisions, as has been said by everyone in this chamber today”.
Skoog remind the Council members that “more than 70 countries met in Paris last Sunday in order to save and promote the two-state solution. We commend France for its initiative, a much needed recommitment to the peace process. We welcome the adoption of the Middle East Conference Joint Declaration, especially the recommendation to refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final status issues, including the future status of Jerusalem, and the stated readiness of interested parties to meet again before the end of the year to review progress”.
Italy’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, also presented the Italian position at the open debate. Cardi addressed the situation in Palestine and Israel, reaffirming Italy’s support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict through the Two-State solution. However, he also expressed fear that the viability of this solution may be in jeopardy. “Settlements,” he said, “as well as increased demolitions and confiscations of Palestinian projects in the occupied territory… are dangerously imperiling the viability of the Two-State solution.” Cardi also underlined that acts of terror, on the side of any party, are huge impediments in the peace process and must be “condemned” and addressed with “active rejection of incitement.” He stressed that Israeli and Palestinian citizens deserve more than a “dangerous ‘One-State Illusion’, plagued by insecurity and continuous tension” that may establish itself if the two-State solution is eroded beyond repair.
Ambassador Cardi also expressed sincere appreciation for the efforts of the outgoing US administration in pursuing peace, and in particular acknowledged the work of John Kerry during his time as US Secretary of State. He added, “We are confident that the next US Administration will invest the same political capital and deploy the same efforts for a resolution of the conflict based on the two State formula.” Cardi then pledged Italy’s committed efforts in helping to resolve the conflict in the most peaceful and just way possible, as well as reiterating the need to fight instability at its root causes. The Ambassador finally mentioned Lebanon as another country that Italy considers key to regional stability and said that Italy “welcomes the election of President Aoun” and remains “strongly committed to upholding stability in Lebanon.”
Following the open debate, the permanent representative of Palestine, Riyad Mansour, spoke to UN correspondents about the meeting. He said that we cannot “mend international law” to accommodate the Israelis, and that Resolution 2334 must be upheld. He received multiple questions from journalists concerning the actions of the next US administration, and mainly of the possibility that the US embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Mansour replied that this may happen, but that it cannot be viewed favorably by Palestine, and that he looks forward to working with the new US representative when she takes her post following Trump’s inauguration.