Security Council Urge Palestinians, Israelis De-escalate Situation, Respect Status Quo around Holy Sites

16 October 2015

SC/12083 7536th Meeting (AM) Security Council Meetings Coverage

The crisis sparked by fresh violence in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza could not be stopped by security measures alone, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs told the Security Council today, urging Palestinians and Israelis to respect decades-old status quo arrangements around holy sites, and for political leaders on all sides to calm their language in a joint effort to de-escalate the situation.

Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, describing recent events in a special meeting called to address the situation, said a fire set today by a group of Palestinians at the holy site of Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus was “particularly troubling”, in light of its religious dimension.

He welcomed President Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation of the attack and announcement that a committee had been formed to investigate the crime.  All sides had to respect all holy sites and reject the extremist elements pushing a political agenda that sought to transform the current situation from a national to a religious struggle.

The incident followed a deadly week in the West Bank, he said, citing 11 reported attacks against Israelis and Israeli security forces leaving four Israelis and nine Palestinians dead, and 16 Israelis and four Palestinians wounded.  In Gaza, seven Israelis and 32 Palestinians had been killed, while 124 Israelis and more than 1,118 Palestinians had been injured since 1 October.

Since then, he said, Israeli Defence Forces had “significantly” bolstered their presence in Israeli cities, while many Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem had been surrounded, with access roads blocked and checkpoints established.  Movement restrictions in the West Bank had been reinstated and adhoc checkpoints erected at more than 100 sites in the area.

He said the United Nations had maintained a consistent position on those issues.  Collective punishments, including house demolitions, contravened international law and he urged Israel to immediately desist.  The occupation and diminishing prospects for achieving Palestinian Statehood had transformed Palestinian anger into outright rage.

“Such loss of political perspective is the single most damaging factor which contributes to the anger and frustration driving the violence,” he said.  Tensions at holy sites in Jerusalem, the main cause of the crisis, were compounded by “reckless” statements by Palestinian and Israeli extremists that Israel aimed to change the status quo at the holy sites, and a “heavy-handed” approach by Israeli security services.

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said he had asked the Council to urgently intervene to end aggression by settlers and extremists towards Palestinian people and shrines.  The Holy Shrine and the Al-Aqsa mosque had been subjected to continued aggression by extremists, who wanted to impose a change from the present situation, threatening to turn the conflict into a religious one.

He pressed the Council to force Israel to withdraw its armed formations immediately, especially in occupied East Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque.  It also must provide protection for the Palestinian people until occupation was over.  In that context, he urged that resolution 904 (1994) be implemented, which among other things called for disarming settlers.

Taking issue with that perspective, Israel’s representative said his country was facing an onslaught of terrorism.  Men, women and children were stabbed daily, but there had been no call from the Council for the Palestinian leadership to end incitement.  Israel was taking all steps necessary to defend its people.  The violence had begun with lies about the Temple Mount.

He said Palestinian leaders had repeated the baseless lie that Israel wanted to change the status quo of the Temple Mount, despite contrary statements by the Prime Minister.  Israel would not agree to an international presence of the Temple as it would change the status quo.  The Prime Minister was willing to meet with Palestinian leadership to bring calm to the region.  The Council must insist that Mr. Abbas comes to the table, as only direct negotiations could lead to peace.

The representative of Jordan said her Government had called for today’s meeting, as recent developments in the Palestinian territory had “crossed all possible lines”.  Israeli authorities must immediately respect the historic status quo of Jerusalem and stop measures aimed at dividing Al-Aqsa mosque.  She rejected any attempt to infringe on heritage and religious sites.

The representative of the Russian Federation requested the Secretary-General to convey to the Council the results of a study prepared by the Secretariat in response to a July 2014 letter from President Abbas requesting that the Palestinian State be placed under United Nations protection.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, France, China, New Zealand, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Chile, Venezuela, Nigeria, Angola, Lithuania and Spain.

The meeting began at 11:11 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m.

Source: UN Security Council

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