On a day in which the United Nation’s Fourth Committee heard many speakers denounce Israel’s policies and activities as “shrinking the window” of opportunity for a two-State solution and describe the Occupied Palestinian Territory as the “largest prison in the world”, the Israeli delegation discredited the discussion, calling it one-sided, inflammatory rhetoric constantly disrupting the Committee’s work.
Describing Monday’s debate as a “theatre of the absurd”, the representative of Israel expressed his disbelief at the myriad accusations that had been launched against Israel during consideration of the annual report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.
That body, he said, “turned a blind eye” to the culpability of Palestinians, who had launched more than 1,000 rockets and mortar shells against Israeli towns and villages in the past year. Israeli citizens must not be denied the right to live in peace and security.
Dismissing repetitive criticism of his country’s human rights record, he defended Israel as a vibrant democracy with a highly respected judiciary system accessible to all – citizens and foreigners alike. Many of the countries that chose to “point fingers at Israel” were the same countries that “kept their human rights activists in prison, had no free press and no independent judiciary”.
Among Israel’s significant policy changes aimed at improving the lives of Palestinians was an easing of the system through which civilian goods entered Gaza, he said, adding that despite complaints, the international community and the private sector were only using 55 per cent of existing capacity. In sum, Israel was committed to a “permanent peace agreement” with the Palestinians, and he urged its Arab neighbours to join it in taking concrete, courageous steps towards that goal.
Prior to that statement, most speakers held that the Special Committee’s report was a “grim reminder” of the obstacles to peace, including the delegate from Indonesia, who said there was “irrefutable proof” that Israel was at cross-purposes with the international community. He urged both parties to do the hard work necessary to advance the two-State solution, warning that it was becoming “too dangerous” not to insist that Israel “do no less and no more” than was expected of other Member States in meeting its international law obligations.
The representative of Venezuela asked the Fourth Committee to imagine a country with nuclear weapons that had illegally annexed the land of another State, repeatedly violated international law and the decisions of the United Nations, and carried out actions described as war crimes and apartheid – that imagined country was real, she said. She condemned the settlements, separation wall, expulsions, and housing demolitions as the “twisted policy” of the Israeli regime.
An unprecedented regime of closures, said Bangladesh’s speaker, aimed at “strangulating” an entire population, and the periodic escalation of violence only led to further despair and destitution, and Israel was purposely generating “fear, fury and distress among Palestinians”. The most serious issue remained settlement construction, which made it impossible to talk about restarting the peace process. The settlements presented an existential threat to the viability of a future Palestinian State, and even the greatest optimists would struggle to see the shape of a viable, contiguous Palestinian State under the circumstances.
In that vein, the representative of Qatar said that promotion of settlements by the Israeli authorities demonstrated their attempt at imposing a fait accompli and the Judaization of the holy city. Algeria’s delegate agreed that Israel’s “illegal” actions were aimed at cleansing the Occupied Palestinian Territory and altering its demographic composition and cultural character, which, he said, was why all serious efforts by international and regional parties to resume direct negotiations had failed. The international community had before it the starkest evidence that Israel was not on the path of peace, he said.
Issues surrounding the protracted blockade of the Gaza Strip also dominated debate, with Yemen’s representative suggesting that Israel was pursuing a policy of “collective punishment” against the Palestinians. The speaker for the United Arab Emirates said Israel was eroding Palestinian socioeconomic and cultural infrastructureand impeding reconstruction, resulting in unprecedented levels of unemployment, disease, malnutrition and psychological problems.