Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the UN (29 October 2014)
– Security Council – Middle East: Israel/ Palestine –
I would like to thank United Nations Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman for his presentation.
We met a week ago to assess the extent to which the two-state solution was being threatened. Threatened by the consequences of the war in July and August which notably resulted in a critical humanitarian situation in Gaza, where there was widespread destruction, and an increase in tensions on the ground in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Threatened also by the lack of any political perspective that would make it possible to respond to the aspirations of the Israeli and Palestinian people.
France has been reiterating for several months now that the current situation is untenable. It’s been clear for a week now that the situation is once again dangerous, notably in Jerusalem:
we condemn the criminal act on October 22 which killed two people and injured 7 other civilians;
we also condemn the violence perpetrated by groups of settlers against Palestinians;
lastly, we condemn the planning of more than 1,000 new homes in East Jerusalem, on top of the decision to build more than 2,600 homes in Givat Hamatos, an especially sensitive area – as you know – where a new settlement would be established for the first time in 15 years.
The relentless pursuit of settlement activity, which is illegal under international law, confirms that there is no status quo: the situation is deteriorating every day and takes us further away from the possibility of two states living side by side in peace and security. We must draw the consequences. These gestures are inconsistent with peace and only serve to fuel tensions, while a climate of dialogue is what is really needed.
More specifically, we are very concerned by the recent upsurge in tensions, the increase in provocations by religious nationalists and restrictions on access to the Esplanade of the Mosques, which have prompted a strong response throughout the region. France reaffirms its attachment to the multicultural dimension of Jerusalem and the freedom of access to the Holy Sites for all believers, regardless of their religious affiliation and underscores that any challenges to the status quo would pose a major threat to stability.
At the moment, the possibility of an uncontrolled explosion of violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank cannot be ruled out. It would be in no one’s interest if this violence were to lead to a new intifada: It would mean continued insecurity for Israel and would only cause the living conditions of Palestinians to deteriorate even further.
In this context, France calls on the leaders on both sides to demonstrate a spirit of responsibility. They have a duty to take all the necessary measures to ease – and not exacerbate – tensions among Israeli and Palestinian populations. To that end: a) We commend the efforts of the Palestinian national unity government to promote reconciliation. This is an essential step toward peace. b) We call on the parties to refrain from any rhetoric that could be perceived as incitement to violence. In particular, we call on the Israeli authorities to refrain from implementing their plans to build new homes in Jerusalem, which – and this should be stressed – are illegal under international law and likely to exacerbate tensions between the parties. c) We urge the parties to make the gestures needed to ensure the swift resumption of the peace negotiations, which are the only way to find a political solution to the conflict.
The crisis in Gaza this summer, the violence in Jerusalem and throughout the Palestinian Territories are in fact only the symptom of a deeper problem: the deadlock in the peace process. It’s clear every day that the lack of political perspective for the Palestinians and the many different threats facing the two-state solution create an environment that is conducive to outbursts of violence, the consequences of which are suffered by both parties.
We must therefore start to change our methods in order to achieve peace instead of simply continuing to discuss it. Further negotiations will lead to nothing if they are not based on clear parameters and a timetable of work. The successive failures in the negotiations over the last 20 years remind us of this
What might these new methods consist of?
First of all, it is no longer acceptable for the Security Council to remain a bystander to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of course, if nothing can replace the negotiations between the parties, Security Council action to establish a balanced framework for the negotiations must be seriously considered. France is ready to move in this direction.
Secondly, a clear-sighted view should help us realize that there has never been so much mistrust between the parties. Such is the level of this mistrust that we can no longer be satisfied with religiously calling for the resumption of direct negotiations as if they are a cure-all. More than ever, an agreement will be impossible without renewed and increased international efforts. In order to achieve this, the United States’ commitment will of course be critical. But Europe must also assume its responsibilities and activate the levers available to it, in the same way that the Arab countries, Russia and all members of this Council have. Everyone must urgently mobilize their efforts so that our hopes for peace don’t die, so that the two-state solution is not irretrievably lost. Thank you.