Statement of Iceland on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
Open debate of the Security Council
The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
18 April 2016
Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson, Permanent Representative
Statement by Iceland
Allow me to thank the Chinese Presidency of the Security Council for organizing this quarterly debate on the situation in the Middle East, including in Israel and Palestine.
The Middle East region is witnessing an unprecedented series of conflicts and crises, inflicting suffering on millions of civilians. The international community led by this Council is addressing these crises as matters of urgency, from Syria to Libya to Yemen. Iceland praises the countries in the region that are hosting so many refugees. We are contributing new funds to assist countries in the region dealing with the refugee crisis.
As has been observed, we live in an age when wars have no winners, only losers. Broad support has been expressed for the highlighting of prevention and political solutions in the conclusions of the report on Peace Operations and the Secretary-General’s recommendations. We urge the Security Council to refocus its preventative and political powers on the oldest conflict in the Middle East.
The Israel/Palestine conflict is a prime case where decisive action by the Security Council and the international community is needed to prevent further degeneration of the situation. The simmering nature of this conflict is in danger of moving to boil. The spate of violent attacks against Israeli civilians continues, with the death of 30 innocent Israeli civilians in recent months. This is unacceptable as is the targeting of any innocent civilian. Of deep concern also, are the killings by Israeli security forces of a large number of Palestinians in relation to the spate of attacks, raising questions of due process and excessive use of force. Israeli security forces have killed about 180 Palestinians since last September. Al-Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) has remained quiet in recent months. We would encourage all parties involved to make sure this remains so. Action to prevent further conflict is urgent.
Firstly, it is urgent to defend the only clear course to sustainable peace, the two-state solution. Israel continues with illegal settlements, land appropriation and punitive demolitions, despite international condemnation. On 15 March this year Israeli authorities appropriated 579 acres of land in the occupied West Bank. Just this year there have been 468 houses and other structures demolished. Last week saw the punitive sealing of a house in Sur Bahir. These actions are in breach of international law. They also seriously threaten the viability of the two-state solution. Iceland urges the Security Council to go beyond the words of condemnation by individual Council members and to take action as a body to send a clear signal to the Israeli authorities that settlements are unacceptable. If we are all as serious about the two-state solution as we say we are, the Security Council must defend it.
Secondly, the international community needs to do more to give impetus to the search for peace. Iceland welcomes the launch by France of an international support group and the calling of a peace conference. In the search for peace, we should not forget the huge potential that exists in involving women on all sides.
Thirdly, ways need to be found to reestablish trust among the parties. This is principally the responsibility of leaders on both sides who need to be open to creative and innovative solutions. But the international community, led by the Security Council, should search for ways to bring a sense of hope and a vista of security for the Palestinians and for Israel. This should include looking at measures for international protection.
Fourthly, the situation in Gaza needs to be normalized as part of a preventative approach. The firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel is totally unacceptable. The authorities on the ground are responsible for preventing such action. Israeli responses should be proportionate. But if Gaza is not to become a breeding ground for radicalization then reconstruction must be accelerated and isolation lifted.
Iceland condemns all acts of violence against civilians. We believe the Security Council must take firm action to safeguard the path to peace, the two-state solution, in the Israel/Palestine conflict. We also believe that wider international involvement is now necessary to break the impasse and we welcome the French initiative.