What's In Blue

Posted Mon 26 Jun 2023

The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (27 June), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland and a civil society representative will brief. Closed consultations are scheduled to follow the open briefing.

Tomorrow will be the twelfth time in six months that Council members have met on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. Ordinarily, the Council meets once a month under this agenda item. Despite the increased frequency of these meetings, which mirrors the progressive deterioration of the situation on the ground, the Council has been unable to put forward a shared strategy to prevent the further worsening of the situation or to agree on a product since the 20 February presidential statement expressing “deep concern and dismay” with Israel’s announcements expanding settlement activity. Council members last discussed this file on Friday (23 June) in closed consultations requested by China, France, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), during which Wennesland briefed. While the possibility of issuing press elements was apparently discussed during the consultations, members could not reach consensus on the matter.

At tomorrow’s 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. In resolution 2334, the Security Council stated that the establishment of settlements by Israel “constitutes a flagrant violation under international law” and stressed that the cessation of settlement activities is “essential for salvaging the two-state solution”.

Council members are likely to refer to recent decisions by Israel advancing settlement activity in the West Bank, such as the 18 June announcement of the imminent advancement of plans to build over 4,000 settlement housing units. Later the same day, the Israeli government also changed long-standing settlement planning and approval procedures to expedite these processes significantly. Key international interlocutors—including UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the EU, Japan, and the US—expressed concern at these developments. Nevertheless, following through on its recent announcements, the Israeli government today (26 June) approved plans advancing over 5,000 settlement units across the West Bank.

Tomorrow, Wennesland and many Council members are likely to underscore that settlements are illegal under international law and are an obstacle to peace. Members may urge Israel to cease all settlement activity and reverse its recent decisions. Some may recall the 20 February presidential statement which reiterated that continued Israeli settlement activity is imperilling the viability of the two-state solution. Members may also call on Israel to halt evictions and demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures.

Resolution 2334 also called for immediate steps to prevent violence against civilians, including acts of terror, and called on both parties to refrain from provocative actions, incitement, and inflammatory rhetoric. Tomorrow, Council members are expected to express concern at the mounting levels of violence in the West Bank. They are likely to condemn all acts of terror against civilians and may refer to the 20 June shooting attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli in which four Israelis were killed and another four were wounded by two Palestinians.

The 20 June shooting attack followed a raid by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on 19 June and ensuing exchanges of fire in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank during which five Palestinians were killed and two more later died of their wounds. During the raid, which also resulted in the wounding of 91 Palestinians and eight members of the IDF, Israel deployed helicopter gunships in the West Bank for the first time in about 20 years. On 21 June, three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli drone strike on a car that the IDF said was carrying “a terrorist cell” that had carried out shooting attacks in the West Bank. According to media reports citing a statement by the IDF, this was the first such strike in the West Bank since 2006.

In a 23 June statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said that he had issued “a reminder to Israeli authorities of their obligations under international law with respect to the use of lethal force”. The statement notes that the airstrikes conducted by the IDF during the 19 June raid in Jenin were “a major intensification of the use of weaponry more generally associated with the conduct of armed hostilities rather than a law enforcement operation”. In a message that participants at tomorrow’s meeting may reiterate, Türk’s statement also stressed that Israeli authorities are required “to ensure that all operations are planned and implemented to minimize the use of lethal force”.

Members are also expected to condemn the attacks carried out by large groups of Israeli settlers in Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank in the days following the shooting attack in Eli. On 23 June, a delegation of diplomatic missions—including Council members France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, and the UK—visited Turmus Ayya, one of the towns which were targeted by settlers. The joint press release following the visit says that “[s]ettler violence across the West Bank in recent days has led to the death of one Palestinian, over 12 Palestinians being wounded and extensive damage to property and vehicles”, adding that Israel must ensure that “those responsible are brought to justice, and that proactive steps are taken to ensure the protection of Palestinian communities”. Tomorrow, these and other Council members may echo such messages. Members may also call on all sides to refrain from provocations, incitement, and inflammatory rhetoric.

Noting that levels of violence are skyrocketing and the prospects for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians are plummeting, participants at tomorrow’s meeting may reiterate previous calls for the restoration of a political horizon to allow negotiations between the parties to restart.

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