United Nations Position on Jerusalem Unchanged Special Coordinator Stresses, as Security Council Debates United States Recognition of City

UN Press Release: 8/12/17 

Permanent Representative Defends Decision, as Delegations Endorse Two-State Solution, Determination of Final Status Issues

The abiding position of the United Nations on Jerusalem was that the city remained a final status issue to be determined through a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to be negotiated between the two sides concerned on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions and other agreements, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today. 

Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov was briefing Council members during a special meeting called in the wake of President Donald Trump’s 6 December announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy to that city from Tel Aviv.  He reported that although the announcement had been widely welcomed in Israel, it had caused much anger among Palestinians and anxiety across the Middle East.

He expressed particular concern about the potential for an escalation of violence, noting that widespread demonstrations and clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli security forces had occurred throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the decision.  There had also been protests in Arab areas within Israel, and in cities around the region and beyond, he noted.

Urging all political, religious and community leaders to refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and instead engage in dialogue, he declared:  “It is now more important than ever that we preserve the prospects for peace.”  He cautioned that it was ordinary Israelis and Palestinians who would suffer from further violence, reiterating that the legitimate national aspirations of both sides could only be achieved through a negotiated two‑State solution.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine denounced the decision, saying the United States had essentially disqualified itself from its leadership role in the quest for Middle East peace.  He underlined Jerusalem’s great significance for the Palestinian people, describing the city’s status as a priority and a “red line” for them.  There could be no just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine without a just solution to the question of Jerusalem, he reiterated.  Pointing out that no country had ever recognized Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, he said the city’s status remained unresolved and was a final status issue in the Middle East peace process.  Actions contravening Council resolutions lacked legal effect and could not change the applicability of international law to the situation, he said.  One side could not continue to monopolize the peace process, especially one that acted in biased favour of the occupying Power at the expense of the law and the rights of the occupied people.

Israel’s representative, on the other hand, applauded the courage and sound moral judgment of the United States in righting historical wrongs and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  From the moment of the country’s founding, the Government had vowed to create a State that would honour a democracy that respected and valued the traditions of all peoples, he said.  Wednesday’s announcement had revealed a sad truth about people who threatened to ignite violence against Israel and Jews everywhere, he added, emphasizing that such people may claim to want peace, but their actions spoke louder than words.  The Palestinians could choose violence, as they had always done, or they could join Israel at the negotiating table, with respect and an eye to the future, he said.

Egypt’s representative recalled the legal parameters in place concerning Jerusalem, emphasizing that following international law was the only way to address the issue.  Invoking binding Security Council resolutions relating to Jerusalem’s status, he recalled that they requested that States differentiate Israel’s territory from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem.  In light of that city’s spiritual and historic significance for Muslims, Egypt was seriously concerned about the potential repercussions of the decision by the United States for regional stability, he said.

The United Kingdom’s representative said his delegation disagreed with the decision, and affirmed that Jerusalem’s status should not be determined before a final status agreement had been reached.  He expressed deep concern about developments on the ground, including the expansion of settlements, and particularly in East Jerusalem, saying they constituted a barrier to a lasting solution, alongside terrorism and incitement.

Defending her country’s decision, the representative of the United States reminded Council members that the United States had not taken a position on boundaries or borders, saying questions would be decided by Israel and the Palestinians.  Emphasizing Israel’s right to determine its own capital city, she said it was simple common sense to locate foreign embassies there, noting that United States embassies around the world were hosted in capital cities, and Israel should be no different.  The United States would not be lectured by countries that had not treated both sides fairly, she stressed, affirming that her country enjoyed credibility with both Israel and the Palestinians.  Israel should not be bullied into an agreement by the United States or any other country, she added.

The Russian Federation’s representative stressed, however, that as a member of the Quartet for Middle East Peace, his country supported the active involvement of regional players, particularly Egypt and Jordan.  Moreover, the Russian Federation could hold a summit between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders, he said, adding that Moscow was still awaiting the long‑promised proposal from the United States in that regard.  It was as important as ever to relaunch a sensible peace process based on a two‑State solution, he said, adding that the Quartet remained unique as a mediation mechanism.

Senegal’s representative urged strict respect for the status quo in Jerusalem, in accordance with internationally established parameters.  For Senegal, the question of Jerusalem should depend on the determination of final status issues.  He called for peace at sacred sites, describing the violence around them as an unfortunate result of the decision by the United States.  Senegal called for a return to the spirit of sharing that had prevailed 70 years ago, amid prospects for the creation of two States, Israel and Palestine, he said.

Representatives of Sweden, France, Bolivia, Uruguay, Italy, China, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Japan and Jordan also spoke.

The meeting began at 11:12 a.m. and ended at 1:17 p.m.

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