SC: Middle East

Statement by Permanent Representative Ambassador Mona Juul in the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, 19 December 2022.

Thank you Special Coordinator Wennesland for your briefing and for the written report.

We are as others concerned about the continued high level of violence and unrest in the West Bank, the deadliest since 2005. The killing of a 16-year-old girl last week during an Israeli military operation in Jenin is another tragic example of the consequences for Palestinian civilians. We once again urge Israeli security forces to exercise the utmost restraint in its use of force.

The current situation is in no-way sustainable. In the long run it is in neither party’s interest to keep this conflict unresolved. The deteriorating situation on the ground is a symptom of the lack of a political solution. It is leading the parties further away from peace, and undermining the two-state solution. We are seeing continued settlement expansion, house demolitions, evictions, and settler violence.

The Israeli settlements are not only illegal under international law – they undermine prospects for an independent and contiguous Palestinian state. They are also fuelling distrust and despair. Furthermore, Israeli security operations in the West Bank have, during the last months, led to many civilian casualties among Palestinians- including children and youth. Provocations and incitement to violence are contributing to increasing tensions. The status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem must be upheld and respected.

Violence against civilians, including terror attacks, are totally unacceptable and cannot be justified. Norway also calls on all parties to always keep schools and children safe. The inviolability of United Nations premises, including at UNWRA schools must be respected by all.

The lack of political progress towards a sustainable solution has led many, both Israelis and Palestinians, to lose faith in the two-state solution. Let me reiterate Norway’s clear position, 75 years since the partition plan was approved by the UN:

We believe that a negotiated two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, relevant UN resolutions, and international parameters is the best way to achieve lasting peace, and ensure the rights, safety, and independence of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Norway supports the UN Special Coordinator’s approach. Direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians must be taken up as soon as possible. At the same time, the situation on the ground must be improved, and a minimum of trust rebuilt. Measures are also needed to reduce tensions in the West Bank, including East-Jerusalem.

In the short term it is also crucial to continue to bolster the ceasefire in Gaza and strengthen the Palestinian Authority, its institutions, and the Palestinian economy. Palestinians must be allowed to generate income from their land and resources, including in area C in the West Bank. The work of the donor group AHLC, and the continued support to Palestinian institution building, remains important in this situation. The political division between Gaza and the West Bank complicates efforts to find a political solution. A strong and unified Palestinian leadership, with renewed democratic legitimacy, is necessary.

Norway urges Israelis and Palestinians to work constructively with the UN Special Coordinator to lay the groundwork for peace. And we call upon all states- including the members of this Council- to contribute to this work.

The stalled peace process is not only negatively impacting the people who live there- and who pay the highest price for the lack of a political solution and fundamental rights- it impacts the whole region. Long-term stability in the region requires achieving a mutually acceptable solution to the Palestine question that will bring freedom, justice, and security to everyone.

The normalization of relations between countries is creating new opportunities and dynamics in the Middle East. Progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would open up many more possibilities.

As this is my last statement during our current term in the Council, allow me for a moment to bring you back 30 years to Oslo. At the time, courageous negotiators from the PLO and the state of Israel, considered by each other as a terrorist organization and an illegitimate state, respectively, came together to agree to disagree on the past - but also, to agree on a way forward towards a two-state solution based on UN resolutions.

This proves that it is possible to bring arch enemies together around the negotiating table if there is political will and brave political leadership. We should never lose hope that this will be possible again, and we as a Council should unite us and redouble our efforts to push for the two-state solution that we all agree upon.