Statements and Speeches
Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations, at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate in Connection with the Agenda Item “The Situation in the Middle East, Including the Palestinian Question”
17 January 2017
We join other Member States in expressing our appreciation to Sweden for convening this open debate on the situation in the Middle East including the Palestinian question. South Africa aligns itself with a statement made by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuelan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
It is our belief that these periodic open debates are necessary to mobilize the international community, specifically the Security Council, to assist both Israel and Palestine find a lasting solution to the conflict that continues to prevail in both these countries.
As we engage in this important open debate we need to reflect on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted in late December 2016.
The Security Council’s decision is welcome and is long overdue bearing in mind that this is the first time that the Council has, since January 2009, been able to adopt a decision on the Middle East peace process.
What is of specific relevance regarding the Resolution is the fact that it emphasizes the illegal nature of activities undertaken by the Government of Israel that include the building of settlement, the confiscation of land, the demolition of Palestinian property and the displacement of Palestinians. The resolution conveys the resolve of the Security Council that it will not recognize any changes to the internationally agreed lines of 4 June 1967 as the basis of a negotiated settlement.
My delegation wishes to highlight the fact that Israel, as a Member State of the United Nations is obliged, under Article 25 of the Charter, to comply with the decisions of the Security Council. In this regard South Africa urges Israel to adhere to all its obligations under international law.
The reality is that illegal Israeli settlements continue unabated and have led to a fragmentation of the West Bank and continue to threaten the feasibility of a contiguous Palestinian state, including the viability and territorial contiguity of the future Palestinian state. The illegal and unilateral Israeli policies, practices and activities are contrary to the peace process. We are also of the strong opinion that continued settlement activities will undermine Israel’s own immediate and long-term security prospects, and strongly contribute to the radicalization of the entire region.
Negotiations and dialogue are the only way forward to finding a lasting solution. Guidelines on these negotiations are based on already established international legal frameworks, which include United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Plan, and the Quartet Roadmap, to mention but a few.
South Africa supports all international efforts aimed at brokering a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. In this regard, we welcome the international peace conference that took place in Paris over the past weekend and align ourselves with the Declaration issued at the conference. We regard the international peace conference as a vehicle to relaunch effective and serious peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians that should lead to the creation of an independent, free and sovereign Palestinian state co-existing side-by-side in peace and security with the state of Israel, based on the 4 June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Mr President, in conclusion,
South Africa is of the opinion negotiations between Palestine and Israel should take place within a clear, mutually-agreed framework containing a reasonable timetable and with clear sanctions to be applied to the party that does not live up to its commitments. An open-ended approach and process are a luxury the international community cannot afford given the changing reality on the ground in Palestine that is posing an immense risk to the achievement of a viable, contiguous and independent Palestinian state as well as the risk of an escalation in violence.
South Africa would like to again emphasize that the prime responsibility for peace at the end of the day falls squarely in the hands of both Palestinians and Israelis.
As the international community, we can only support, encourage, advise and reward.
I thank you.