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Global leaders address UN Security Council, condemn Israel's 'disregard for international law'

July 13, 2016 10:06 P.M. (Updated: July 14, 2016 9:58 A.M.)
UN Security Council members vote at the UN headquarters in New York on July 20, 2015. (AFP/Jewel Samad, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Global leaders expressed concern over the viability of renewed peace efforts to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict during a United Nations Security Council meeting held in New York on Tuesday, with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemning Israel’s recent policies in the occupied Palestinian territory as a “flagrant disregard of international law.”

Ban warned the Security Council that the continued failure of peace negotiations had created an opening for extremism to prevail in both Israeli and Palestinian society, while urging political leaders to begin practically implementing the recommendations put forth by the Middle East Quartet.

While political figures in both Israel and Palestine strongly criticized the report, the secretary-general emphasized that the report’s message was “irrefutable” and served to highlight the reality of negative political trends undermining prospects of a two-state solution.

Ban also slammed Israel’s punitive policies against Palestinians, labeling them as “collective punishment,” while condemning Israel’s recent approval of 800 additional housing units in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem just days after the Quartet cited Israel’s settlement expansions as one of the major obstacles to peace.

“This is in flagrant disregard of international law,” Ban said. “These actions constitute an undeniable contradiction to Israel’s official support for a negotiated two-state solution. I urge Israel to immediately cease and reverse these plans.”

“We must ask: How can the systematic expansion of settlements, the taking of land for exclusive Israeli use, and the denial of Palestinian development be a response to violence?”

However, Ban also condemned the actions of Palestinians “who celebrate and encourage attacks against innocents,” adding that “such acts must be universally condemned and more must be done to counter the incitement that fuels and justifies terror.”

Ban also took the time to voice his concern over the recent passing of Israel’s controversial “NGO bill,” which critics have claimed amounts to an attack on left-wing groups working on human rights issues in the occupied Palestinian territory, saying the bill “contributes to a climate in which the activities of human rights organizations are increasingly delegitimized.”

Ban concluded his speech with an emphasis on the importance of lifting the crippling Israeli-imposed siege on the Gaza Strip and re-establishing a single governing authority in the Palestinian territory.

Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine at the United Nations Riyad Mansour also addressed the council, strongly condemning the lack of a political will among Israeli leaders to enter honest negotiations with Palestinians for a two-state solution.

“The political will to act responsibly and boldly -- in line with international law and relevant UN resolutions in the interest of justice and human rights for the sake of peace and security -- remains perilously absent,” Mansour said.

Mansour slammed Israel’s announcement in May purporting to support the Arab Peace Initiative (API), saying Israeli leaders were “belittling” the initiative and “failing to reciprocate time and time again and obstructing the revival of a political horizon.”

Mansour split from Ban’s sentiment on the Middle East Quartet report, instead stating that the long-awaited report had failed to “rise to the urgent needs of this critical juncture and regrettably failing to acknowledge the gravity of the nearly half-century Israeli foreign occupation of our land and its existence as the primary source of instability, violence, and violations.”

Palestinian leaders have long condemned the international community’s propensity to equate Palestinian and Israeli violations when discussing the conflict, and have claimed that the Quartet report also failed to reflect the power dynamics of Palestinians living under an Israeli-imposed military occupation, and Israel being the occupying power.

“We are witnessing [the Israeli occupation]’s impact on every single aspect of Palestinian life -- scarring and depriving one generation after another for decades, forcing them to live in a perpetual state of oppression and misery in which they are being denied every human right, and its total incompatibility with any peace effort predicated on international law and justice and the two-state solution,” Mansour added.

He concluded his statement by reading a letter from Rafat Badran, the father of Mahmoud Badran -- a 15-year-old Palestinian boy killed by Israeli forces in June.

“An extremist climate prevails in today’s Israel, and never before has the value of Palestinian life been so cheap,” the letter read. “Our bodies, our minds, our passions, our very lives and by extension our deaths are all considered lesser, and nothing makes this clearer than our repeated slaying at the hands of the Israeli military and the subsequent refusal to bring us justice.”

“We Palestinians want a life of peace, freedom, justice, and equality. We want the basic human dignity of not having our lives arbitrarily ended. We want to be able to know that if our children leave the house -- to do the things children do, like go to school, play soccer, and go swimming -- that their lives are not at risk.”

More than 40 other representatives from countries around the world made statements to the Security Council, most of whom expressed concern over the viability of renewed peace talks in the face of increasing frustrations among Palestinians disillusioned by decades of failed peace negotiations and recent actions of the Israeli government, while emphasizing the importance of finding a solution to the conflict amid a deepening humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.
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