Statement of Iceland on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question
Open meeting of the Security Council
22 October 2015
The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
Nikulás Hannigan, Deputy Permanent Representative
I would like to thank the Spanish Presidency for calling this meeting. Iceland joins others in expressing grave concern at the present spike in violence in the occupied state of Palestine, including East Jerusalem and in Israel. Acts of terror are unacceptable in all circumstance.
As has been stated, these acts of violence do not occur in a vacuum. ASG Taye-Brook Zerihoun highlighted a number of key elements of the context in his report to this Council last week. Among them he identified demolitions of Palestinian dwellings, ongoing settlements, heavy-handed Israeli military action against civilians and the blockade of Gaza. Collective punishment of the Palestinian population is not only a breach of international law, it is also demonstrably counter-productive.
These ongoing developments on the ground have a key significance for the wider context of this conflict. They add up to the dangerous undermining of the only viable course to peace – a two-state solution.
Yes there is incitement – on both sides through the social media, according to ASG Zerihoun. But incitement also has a context. Incitement is a part of the violence and is facilitated and given credibility by the wider context of loss of political perspective and a growing despair among the Palestinian population and fear among Israeli civilians. Political leaders on both sides bear a heavy responsibility to encourage restraint.
It is vital that this Council responds urgently and effectively to this crisis. There must be de-escalation and a cessation of all violence from both sides. But the deep distrust which exists between the two parties puts a large question mark over whether de-escalation is possible without external assistance. One Security Council member has commented on the tendency for each side to highlight the provocations and acts of violence by the other side, while seeking to minimize its own actions. There is little chance in the present situation that Palestinians can see Israeli forces as even handed.
This Council should look at ways to assist in starting on the long road back to some kind of mutual confidence between the parties. In this regard, we should not forget the huge potential that exists in involving women on all sides. The importance of getting women involved in peace processes was proclaimed by this Council earlier this month, on marking the 15th anniversary of resolution 1325.
In the short term, Palestinians need a sense of security for their own people. The Security Council should look at ways of bringing this about. Palestinians also need confidence that there is a political route to the two state solution within a finite time period. Israelis must have confidence that their security is not compromised.
The urgency is redoubled by the religious dimension, which has become more present since the violence at the Holy places in Jerusalem. It is vital that the status quo be maintained, not only in word but also in deed. And the Security Council must ensure that the parties are in no doubt as to the importance of this.