UNITED NATIONS – “The question of Palestine” became “the question of the peace process” on Tuesday at the UN Security Council’s open debate on the Middle East, the same day that was supposed to yield a final-status peace agreement between the Israel and Palestinian Authority governments.
Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour asserted that the Palestinians have continuously appealed to the Security Council to “uphold the law, underscoring the urgency of confronting Israel’s widespread violations and threats to the two-state solution’s physical viability.”
“Despite all the difficulties, the Palestinian leadership has remained committed to negotiations and acted in consummate good faith,” he said.
The Palestinians are committed to peace and the peace process, Mansour said, and he rejected the idea that the new unity government deal between Fatah and Hamas was part of what led to the suspension of talks. This deal and the accession of the Palestinian government on April 1 to 15 UN treaties were important steps, he said, adding that the Palestinian reconciliation was long overdue.
“The evolution of this situation has prompted the Palestinian leadership to undertake actions deemed necessary to assert and protect the rights of the ‘State of Palestine’ and the Palestinian people under international law,” he said. “All actions have been politically legitimate and nonviolent, aimed at realizing the inalienable human rights of our people.
“We reject the occupying Power’s vulgar interference in this internal Palestinian issue,” he said. “We reject its baseless excuses to suspend negotiations and take punitive measures as a result.”
“Despite this proven Palestinian commitment to peace, Israel has maintained its rejectionist stance and persisted with its grave breaches, constantly reaffirming its role as occupier and oppressor, not as peacemaker,” he said. “Once again, Israel has thwarted peace efforts and, if left unchecked, it will continue to sabotage negotiations, upend the situation on the ground and bring a definitive end to the two-state solution.”
Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador, said: “While Israel makes tangible concessions to advance peace, the Palestinian leadership has let every window of opportunity fly out the window.”
“The Palestinians pledge dialogue while fermenting hatred. They promise tolerance while celebrating terrorists.
And they make commitments almost as quickly as they break them... The Palestinians have made a career out of squeezing more and more compromises out of Israel, without granting a single tangible compromise of their own,” he said.
He went on to condemn the unity agreement, and declare that “if Hamas is in the back office, Israel will not be at the negotiating table.”
He added that the financial assistance that foreign governments provide to Abbas’s government will now be available to Hamas.
“I wonder how taxpayers in London, Luxembourg and Paris would feel knowing that they will enable Hamas to launch more rockets into Israel, kidnap more Israelis and send more suicide bombers into our cafes,” he said.
“If the international community is truly committed to advancing peace then it must stop pointing fingers at Israel and demonstrate real resolve – the Palestinians must be held accountable for their actions,” he said. “Targeting civilians must be unacceptable.
And acts of terror should be condemned publicly and unequivocally.”
UN Special Envoy to the Middle East Robert Serry also spoke, saying that efforts in the peace talks had faltered because of the “inability of the parties to bride the gaps in their positions or to accept a US framework.”
“It behooves the parties to recognize that this is another moment of truth: inaction could see this turn into a crisis,” he said.
Serry went on to condemn the various bouts of violence that had been committed by all parties, and said that 2013 was the deadliest year in the West Bank since 2009. “Both sides have to convince each other anew that they are partners for peace,” he concluded.
US representative Samantha Power addressed the peace process briefly in her speech, calling this a difficult moment, and saying the US still supported the two-state solution as a viable solution.
“If the parties are willing to go down this path, we will be there to support them.”
She called the timing of the unity agreement unhelpful, and said that any Palestinian government must commit itself to nonviolence and recognize Israel.
She added that the US will continue to concern itself with issues of violence in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.