Let me begin by thanking Special Coordinator, Mladenov, for his useful and frank briefing on the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Mr President, during the recently held General Debate of the 75th Session of the General Assembly, we have heard many Member States reflect on the birth of the United Nations and its shared values of peace, justice, equality and dignity for all and to save successive generations from the scourge of war.
However, despite these august ideals, Palestine and its people remain under illegal occupation and continue to be deprived of these shared values and ideals.
Palestine is one of the world’s most longstanding and unresolved international conflicts that have been firmly entrenched in both the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council agendas for almost as long as the United Nations has been in existence.
However, 72 years later, the status quo remains, and little progress has been made towards Palestine’s right to self-determination, independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Mr President, despite numerous agreements and newly forged partnerships, it is shameful that Palestinians continue to live under occupation and are denied their very basic civil and human rights. We should ask ourselves – do these agreements that some of us welcome, change the day to day lives of those living under occupation?
In this regard, South Africa reiterates its position that no peace plan or peace initiative can have any merit or succeed if all parties to the conflict are not included in such talks as equal partners from the start.
Any initiative aimed at a solution to the Israeli occupation must take into account the needs and aspirations of the Palestinian people. Additionally, any peace plan must ensure that Palestinian statehood is not reduced to an entity without the basic tenants of sovereignty, territorial contiguity and economic viability.
A realistic and credible peace plan will result in a genuine two-State solution; not one viable State and a Bantustan.
South Africa will continue to work with like-minded countries to support international efforts aimed at the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace with Israel within international recognised borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in line with all relevant UN resolutions, international law and internationally agreed parameters.
Therefore, Mr President, we support President Abbas’ call, in his statement during the General Debate of the UN General Assembly, for the Secretary-General to begin preparations, together with the Middle East Quartet and the Security Council, for an international conference with the participation of all concerned parties, for discussions on a genuine peace process, including to resolve all final status issues.
Turning to the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2334, South Africa once again calls for the full implementation of this and previous resolutions on the question of Palestine. The Council has heard today that while settlement activity may have slowed slightly due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this illegal practice by the Israeli authorities continue, in contravention of international law.
With regard to the demolition and seizure of Palestinian property, the recent statement by Mr Jaime McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process, is deeply disturbing. From March to August 2020, we have seen the demolition or seizure of three hundred and eighty-nine Palestinian-owned structures, the highest average destruction rate in four years. This took place despite the Israeli authorities’ indication that they would refrain from such actions during the global pandemic. These demolitions and seizure have left four hundred and forty-two Palestinians homeless, at a time when Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory are under lockdown. Where are these Palestinians, deprived of their rightful homes, meant to go?
Of additional concern, is the destruction of critical infrastructure, such as water, hygiene and sanitation facilities during a pandemic where universal guidance leans towards the need for regular hand-washing and social distancing.
All resolutions adopted by the Council, be they unanimous or not, must be uniformly implemented. We cannot pick and choose which Security Council resolutions should be implemented. In a similar vein, overt violations of Council resolutions, as is the case with the continued settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, usually evoke stricter measures on the party responsible for the infringement.
In conclusion, South Africa reiterates its position that direct dialogue and negotiation between the relevant parties, on an equal footing, is the only credible and sustainable path to peace in the Middle East. We must all do our part to bring the parties together, instead of driving them further apart.
I thank you.