In a day-long Security Council meeting today, 44 speakers raised concerns regarding the security barrier being built by Israel in the West Bank.
Opening the meeting, which had been requested by Syria on behalf of the Arab League, the Permanent Observer for Palestine said Israel was committing a war crime against the Palestinians by building an expansionist wall within occupied Palestinian territory.
Along with settlement activities, the construction of the wall involved the illegal, de facto annexation of expansive areas of occupied land that would effectively transfer large number of Palestinian civilians and would constrict the rest of them in several walled Bantustans. He said Israel’s claim that the wall was a security measure to prevent suicide bombings was incredulous — Israel could build protective walls along the armistice line if that were the case.
The representative of Israel responded that his country had few other options to protect its people, with 870 dead and 6,000 wounded in the past three years due to terrorism. In the past 10 years, it had worked for a bilateral solution, he said, but the Palestinian Authority had refused to fulfil its obligations to dismantle terrorist groups, instead having encouraged them, resulting in the continued murders of innocent civilians.
Having a responsibility to protect its people, Israel was building the security fence with great reluctance, since it was likely to cause hardship to both Palestinians and Israelis and represented a massive expense, he said. It was, in addition, not a perfect solution to terrorism. Yet, an overwhelming majority of Israelis across the political spectrum had come to the conclusion that it was a regrettable necessity. He maintained it would not create facts on the ground, as Israel had shown it would willingly remove such fences if there was a negotiated settlement, which he hoped the fence would help bring about.
Almost all speakers at the meeting expressed strong opposition to the construction of the barrier, particularly regarding the fact that its route incorporated territory east of the Green Line. Most also maintained that it would present a major obstacle to the implementation of the Road Map, agreeing with Italy’s representative, who spoke on behalf of the European Union, declaring continued strong support for that plan. The representative of Brazil said that the construction of a separation wall, as well as the Israeli announcement of new settlement activities, further discouraged the levels of mutual trust and confidence between the parties concerning the Road Map’s implementation.
Syria’s representative, introducing a draft resolution it co-sponsored along with Guinea, Malaysia and Pakistan, said the Security Council must make clear to Israel that the wall, along with settler colonialism and the aggression against Syria and Lebanon, were illegal actions. He called for the resolution to be submitted for a vote at the end of the debate.
Many speakers supported such a resolution throughout the day. However, the Council President, speaking in his national capacity as representative of the United States, said that a Council resolution focused on the fence would not further the goal of peace in the region. On the other hand, while he recognized Israel’s serious security concerns, the wall was not consistent with the United States view of what the Middle East one day should look like. It was important not to intrude on the lives of Palestinian people and not to prejudge the outcome of negotiations. Norway’s representative said that, if the Government of Israel chose to continue construction of the wall, it should be built on the Green Line, and not on the West Bank.
Council members who spoke today also included the United Kingdom, Spain, Bulgaria, Russian Federation, Mexico, Chile, Guinea, France, Germany, China, Angola, Pakistan and Cameroon.
Also speaking today were Malaysia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Iran, Yemen, Egypt, Cuba, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Bahrain, Qatar, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Libya, Tunisia, Indonesia, Turkey, New Zealand, Lebanon, Sudan and Nepal.
The Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States and a representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke.
In addition, the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People made a statement.
The meeting began at 11:06 a.m. and was adjourned at 4:40 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine question, at the request of the Chair of the Arab Group, Syria, on behalf of the League of Arab States.
According to a letter dated 9 October addressed to the President of the Council (document S/2003/973), Syria’s representative asked the Council specifically to address the decision by Israel to proceed with the construction of its “expansionist conquest wall” in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and the continuing “illegal Israeli settlement activities aimed at colonizing the Palestinian land”.
The letter references a 3 October letter (document A/58/41-S/2003/938) from the Permanent Observer for Palestine, which brings to the attention of the Council the fact that Israel had publicized its intention to build another 600 settlement housing units in the occupied Palestinian territory. He called on the international community and the Council, in particular, to take a firm and principled stand against such policies and practices.
The Arab Group also submits a draft resolution for Council consideration, included as an Annex to their letter, which reads, as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling its resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967, 267 (1969) of 3 July 1969, 298 (1971) of 25 September 1971, 446 (1979) of 22 March 1979, 452 (1979) of 20 July 1979, 465 (1980) of 1 March 1980, 476 (1980) of 30 June 1980, 478 (1980) of 20 August 1980, 904 (1994) of 18 March 1994, 1073 (1996) of 28 September 1996 and 1397 (2002) of 12 March 2002,
“Reaffirming the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,
“Reaffirming its vision of a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders,
“Condemning all acts of violence, terror and destruction,
“Stressing the urgency of ending the current violent situation on the ground, the need to end the occupation that began in 1967 and the need to achieve peace based on the vision of two States mentioned above,
“Reiterating its call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to fully and effectively respect the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949,
“Reiterating its opposition to settlement activities in the Occupied Territories and to any activities involving the confiscation of land, disruption of the livelihood of protected persons and the de facto annexation of land,
“1. Decides that the construction by Israel, the occupying Power, of a wall in the Occupied Territories departing from the armistice line of 1949 is illegal under relevant provisions of international law and must be ceased and reversed;
“2. Requests the Secretary-General to report on the compliance with this resolution periodically, with the first report to be submitted within one month;
“3. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”