The Middle East, including the Palestinian Question: Closed Consultations*
This afternoon (23 June), following the consultations on Sudan, Security Council members will convene for closed consultations on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. The meeting was requested by China, France, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland is the anticipated briefer.
Today, members are likely to express concern at the increasingly violent situation in the West Bank and may be interested in hearing from Wennesland about possible strategies to promote de-escalation and prevent further violence. On 19 June, five Palestinians, including a 15-year-old boy, were killed during an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raid and ensuing exchanges of fire in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. A 15-year-old girl, reportedly hit by a live bullet while in the front yard of her house, and a Palestinian man, later died of their wounds.
Fighting was particularly severe, with Palestinian gunfire and explosive devices causing significant damage to Israeli armoured vehicles and Israeli helicopter gunships being used in the West Bank for the first time in about 20 years. Over 90 Palestinians, including a journalist, and eight members of the IDF were wounded. The Associated Press reported that one of its journalists at the scene said that he saw the military shoot directly at the Palestinian journalist. A spokesperson for the Palestine Red Crescent Society said that their ambulances were “directly targeted with live ammunition, causing material damage to the structure and the glass of the ambulances themselves”. Today, Wennesland and Council members may emphasise the importance of protecting civilians, including medical personnel and journalists, and adhering to international humanitarian law.
Members are likely to condemn the 20 June shooting attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli during which four Israelis, including a 17-year-old, were killed and another four were wounded by two Palestinians. A Hamas spokesperson reportedly said that the shooting was a response to the 19 June IDF raid in Jenin. The day after the attack (21 June), the Israeli government announced “the immediate advancement of planning for approximately 1,000 new residential units in Eli”.
At today’s meeting, members are also likely to condemn the attacks carried out by large groups of Israeli settlers in the hours after the shooting in Eli. Settlers targeted several nearby Palestinian towns, including Turmus Ayya, hurling stones and setting fire to homes, land and vehicles, causing extensive damage. A Palestinian man was shot and killed during the violence in Turmus Ayya. The Israeli police reportedly said that officers fired at a person suspected of shooting at them; residents’ accounts, however, locate the killing about a half mile away from the location of the Israeli forces.
The recent decisions by Israel on settlement activity in the West Bank are also expected to be a focus of today’s discussions. On 18 June, Israel announced the imminent advancement of plans for building over 4,000 settlement housing units. Later the same day, the Israeli government changed long-standing settlement planning and approval procedures to expedite these processes significantly.
These announcements were met with expressions of concern by key international interlocutors. In a 19 June statement, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq said that the Secretary-General urged the Israeli government to reverse these decisions “and to immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. The statement also stressed that settlement expansion entrenches the occupation and “undermines the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and sovereignty”. In an 18 June statement, Spokesperson of the US Department of State Matthew Miller expressed concern at these developments and said that the US “opposes such unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve and are an obstacle to peace”. The EU and Japan also issued statements expressing concern, with Japan stressing that Israel’s move “clearly goes against efforts by the international community to stabilize the situation and to create a political horizon towards a two-state solution”. Participants at today’s meeting may reiterate these concerns.
The next regular meeting on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” is scheduled for Tuesday (27 June). At that meeting, Wennesland is expected to brief on the latest Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 2334, which covers the period from 14 March to 14 June, as well as on developments after the reporting period. A civil society representative is also expected to brief. Members are likely to reiterate the concerns they have expressed about recent developments in the past few months, including the issues anticipated in today’s consultations. They may again emphasise the need to recreate a political horizon for the peace process to resume.
*Post-script: On 27 June, Security Council members agreed on press elements on the 23 June closed consultations on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. The press elements say that members expressed sorrow for the loss of civilian lives, recalled the Council’s 20 February presidential statement (S/PRST/2023/1), and emphasised “the obligations and commitments of Israeli and Palestinian authorities to fight and condemn terrorism in all its forms”. Members also encouraged additional steps to restore a durable calm.