Palestinians eager to welcome UN Security Council mission

Palestinians hope that a UN Security Council visiting mission will make the trip to Gaza and the West Bank to experience their reality firsthand, but the United States might veto any such plans.

al-monitor The UN Security Council, meeting on Israel and Palestine, hears a briefing from Jerusalem by Nikolay Mladenov (on screens), special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, UN headquarters, New York, May 23, 2018.  Photo by REUTERS/Mike Segar.

Oct 19, 2018

Palestinians are awaiting word on whether UN Security Council representatives will soon visit Gaza and the West Bank. Council President Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz announced on Oct. 3 that he plans to arrange a trip in October, but did not specify a date or a possible agenda. Security Council visiting missions have in the past traveled to several regions around the world to assess the situation in conflict zones.

The last time a Security Council delegation sought to organize a visit to the Palestinian territories was in 2012, but the United States opposed the idea before it was even put to a vote. Until now, the council had refrained from proposing another visit, perhaps to avoid another clash with the United States, which as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council can quash such initiatives.

A high-ranking official close to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas who spoke to Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity, remarked, “Palestinian diplomacy has been making persistent efforts to see the visit through for months by contacting our friends at the Security Council. But, we are seriously concerned that the US might play its veto card. In that case, we will resort to Plan B, which is demanding a non-official visit from the countries willing to come to the Palestinian territories.”

Palestinians believe it would be useful for Security Council representatives to see firsthand the suffering caused by Israeli policies and actions toward Gaza, rather than reading about them in reports. The council holds an open discussion on the Palestinian issue and developments surrounding it every three months. The most recent session was in July, when Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, presented his report on the Palestinian territories, addressing Israeli settlements and their illegitimacy, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the ongoing Israeli occupation, administrative arrests and child imprisonment.

Mazen Noureddine, dean of the Department of Law at Ummah Open University in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “The permanent members of the Security Council believe the Gaza Strip is witnessing deep tensions with Israel, which might lead to the breakout of a destructive war. The potential visit aims at moving the members from the UN offices in New York to the conflict zone in the Palestinian territories for a closer look and assessment. [The delegates] should then submit their report to the [entire] council for discussion and take steps to calm the region. However, any fair report for the Palestinians will face a US veto, which might make the visit useless.”

Palestinians are determined about involving the United Nations in their conflict with Israel. In light of the many supportive resolutions introduced by the UN General Assembly since 1948, they view the body as an ally. Key resolutions have called for respecting human rights in the occupied territories and holding Israel responsible for ensuring the safety of residents.

The Security Council has issued numerous resolutions over the years, mainly calling on Israel to respect human rights in the occupied territories and to withdraw from them. The council has also resolved that Israel cancel all measures that would change the status of Jerusalem and halt the building of settlements on Palestinian land. A tally of votes reveals 705 General Assembly and 86 Security Council proposed resolutions in defense of the Palestinians, but most of the measures in the Security Council were vetoed by the United States. 

Palestinians’ hope for an effective UN role through the Security Council might come to naught given that US President Donald Trump and his administration apparently want to abolish all UN oversight of the Palestinian issue and minimize international interest in it. In December, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, accused the body of undermining peace between Palestinians and Israel and of “being one of the world's foremost centers of hostility towards Israel.”

Abdallah Abdallah, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council and chair of the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), told Al-Monitor, “We welcome this visit, [which will allow] for a deeper understanding of the Palestinian situation, but we don’t want it to be limited to the humanitarian issues in Gaza. We would like the Security Council to intervene politically to grant us our right to self-determination. We seek to foil any US inclination to prevent the visit and further isolate us.”

Ahmed Youssef, former undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry in Gaza under Hamas, also approves of a council mission. “The potential visit is a positive step and reflects the UN’s new inclination to examine the humanitarian tragedy in the Palestinian territories,” he told Al-Monitor. “I don’t think Washington will obstruct the visit because that would embarrass it before the international community.” 

The current deadlock in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on the one hand and the radio silence between the Palestinian leadership and Washington on the other have motivated the Palestinians to once again try to draw the attention of the international community to their cause. They hope a Security Council mission will contribute to this effort.

The United States and Israel have yet to comment on a possible mission. It seems likely, however, that they will be resistant to one, as they want the United States to broker the peace process without UN intervention while the Palestinians have rejected the bid by the blatantly pro-Israel Trump administration for continued US control of peace negotiations.

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