The United Nations cooperates with regional and international partners in efforts to defuse tensions, encourage improvements on the ground, and advance political negotiations toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
The Secretary-General acts either personally or through his envoys in the interests of preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-building in the region. He also represents the UN in the Middle East Quartet. The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process represents the Secretary-General in all matters related to the peace process.
The General Assembly
The General Assembly, comprised of all the Member States of the United Nations, has been involved in the quest for a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine since 1947. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was established by the Assembly in 1975.
The Security Council
The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Council has addressed the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian question on many occasions.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) by far the biggest UN operation in the Middle East, provides education, health, relief and social services for over 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) was authorised by the Security Council in Palestine in 1948, the first peacekeeping operation established by the UN.
The Human Rights Council has addressed the situation in Palestine during its regular and special sessions. It works closely with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
UNSCO represents the Secretary-General and leads the UN system in all political and diplomatic efforts related to the peace process, including in the Middle East Quartet. UNSCO also coordinates the humanitarian and development work of UN agencies and programmes in the occupied Palestinian territory, in support of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people.
The Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993 deferred certain issues to subsequent permanent status negotiations. Subsequent rounds of such negotiations held in 2000-2001, 2007-2008 and 2013-2014 were inconclusive.
Set out below are the positions of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on permanent status and other key issues.
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (the Committee) has consistently supported all international efforts aimed at pursuing peace negotiations as a way of ending the occupation and resolving the question of Palestine in all its aspects on the basis of international law and United Nations resolutions. The Committee welcomed the 1991 Madrid peace process, as well as the 1993 Declaration of Principles and subsequent agreements reached by Israel and the PLO. In 2002, the Committee welcomed the affirmation of a vision of a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, would live side by side within secure and recognized borders, as set out in Security Council resolution 1397 (2002). The Committee urged the swift realization of that objective, through a concrete step-by-step mechanism covering the political, economic and security fields within a specified time frame. In this respect, the Committee also welcomed the peace initiative adopted by the Arab States at their summit in Beirut on 28 March 2002 and asked Israel to reciprocate in good faith.
The Committee supports the continuing efforts of the diplomatic Quartet, consisting of the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United Nations, particularly for promoting a peace plan entitled “A performance-based road map to a permanent two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, which was endorsed by the Security Council in its resolution 1515 (2003). The Committee urged the Quartet and the international community to help the parties implement their obligations under the plan, relating notably to questions of security and the freezing of settlement activity.
In the view of the Committee, the Road Map offers a way to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2003), and the principle of a permanent two-State solution based on the 1967 borders, the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and the right of all States in the region to live in peace and security. The Committee believes that in order to realize the two-State solution, the parties must respect all previously signed agreements and commitments.
The Committee fully supports the solution to the conflict with two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within mutually recognized borders. The Committee’s position is that the two-State solution can only be achieved on the basis of the pre-1967 borders (the “Green Line”). The Committee is of the view that any changes to the 1949 Armistice Lines can only be made through negotiations and agreements between the parties. The Committee stresses that, until the issue has been resolved through negotiations in a comprehensive and mutually acceptable manner, the parties must desist from introducing any unilateral de facto changes on the ground.
The Committee has come out strongly against the construction by Israel of the separation wall and its accompanying structures and obstacles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, in deviation of the pre-1967 border, which has been accompanied by destruction and confiscation of Palestinian land and property and the displacement of thousands of Palestinian families. The Committee welcomed the 9 July 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which had clearly determined that the construction of the wall was illegal under international law. The Committee also welcomed General Assembly resolution A/RES/ES-10/15 adopted on 20 July 2004, acknowledging the Advisory Opinion and demanding that Israel comply with its legal obligations as mentioned in the Opinion. The Committee is seriously concerned that through the construction of this barrier, allegedly for security reasons, the Government of Israel is in fact aimed at the de facto annexation of more Palestinian land and at unilaterally defining the borders of a future Palestinian State, prejudging the outcome of the permanent status negotiations. The Committee’s position is that Israel has no right to build any such separation structures on Palestinian land. The construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, must cease immediately and the wall and its accompanying structures erected to date must be dismantled, in line with the ICJ Advisory Opinion and the relevant General Assembly resolutions. All legislative and regulatory acts adopted in connection with its construction must be repealed or rendered ineffective. Israel is obliged to make reparation to the Palestinian population for all damage caused by the construction. In this regard, the Committee fully supports the mandate of the United Nations Register of Damage Caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and calls for its full implementation without delay.
The Committee’s position is that the presence and construction of Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is illegal under international law, contravenes Israel’s obligations under the Road Map and constitutes a serious obstacle to the peace process. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention strictly prohibits such colonization, stipulating that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. This position was reaffirmed in Security Council resolution 465 (1980), which determined that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, constituted a flagrant violation of the Convention. The Committee has called for an immediate and complete freeze of settlement activity based on Israel’s obligations under international law and in accordance with the Road Map as well as the Annapolis Joint Understanding, which unequivocally called for an end to settlement expansion, including the so-called “natural growth”. Implementation by the Government of Israel of this requirement is a crucial indicator of its political will to resume serious negotiations on all permanent status issues leading to a two-State solution of the conflict.
The Committee does not recognize Israel’s claim that the entire city of Jerusalem is its capital. In this regard, East Jerusalem is recognized as an integral part of the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel since 1967. The Committee considers that a negotiated solution on the status of Jerusalem that takes account of the political and religious concerns of all sides is a prerequisite for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and lasting peace in the entire region. It should include internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by the Palestinian people and peoples of all religions and nationalities. Any agreement that does not include East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian State will not lead to sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Committee reiterates that East Jerusalem is part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and that Israel, the occupying Power, is fully bound by the provisions of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem has not been and will not be recognized by the international community. The position of the Committee is that government-sanctioned settlement construction, transfer of settlers, house demolitions, evictions of Palestinian residents and other action aimed at altering or purporting to alter the legal status and physical and demographic character of the city constitute violations of international law and must be ceased and rescinded.
The question of Palestine refugees is a critical element of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its fair and just resolution on the basis of General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948 will be an essential prerequisite for Palestinian-Israeli as well as regional peace. The Committee considers that a durable solution to the Palestine refugee problem can only be achieved in the context of the inalienable right of return to the homes and property from which the Palestinians have been displaced over the past decades. The Committee is of the view that justice for Palestine refugees and the Palestinian people as a whole also encompasses fair recompense and recourse for the wrongs inflicted upon them under occupation. The inherent vulnerability of the refugees and the dire conditions of their exile call for a just and lasting solution anchored in the principles of international law and the lessons drawn from successful examples of conflict resolution in other parts of the world. The various refugee resettlement and compensation schemes advanced over the years, as well as the hard work undertaken by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in providing assistance and care for the refugees were always meant as interim measures, not as substitutes for the right of return.
The Committee supports all efforts to achieve a two-State solution to the conflict, whereby an independent, viable and contiguous State of Palestine will live side by side with Israel in peace and security on the basis of the pre-1967 borders. It emphasizes the importance of the safety, protection and well-being of all civilians in the region in accordance with international humanitarian law. The Committee denounces all acts of violence, be it Israeli military incursions and arrest activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory or indiscriminate Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. It demands an immediate and complete cessation of all violent acts, including military attacks, destruction and acts of terror. The Committee is concerned about the dangerous security-related incidents that continue to occur in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, leading to deaths and injuries, mostly among Palestinian civilians. The Committee has been increasingly troubled by acts of brutality committed by Israeli settlers, the widespread destruction of public and private Palestinian property and infrastructure, irreparable damage caused to the heritage and cultural sites, the internal displacement of civilians, continued arrest campaigns against Palestinians, the collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population, and the serious deterioration of the socio-economic and humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people, in particular in Gaza as a result of the blockade. The Committee has commended the efforts undertaken by the Palestinian Authority to reform and strengthen its security apparatus. It calls upon the parties to continue cooperation in the security sector that builds confidence for the benefit of both sides.
The Committee emphasizes the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty over their natural resources, as reaffirmed by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/71/247 of 21 December 2016. In this regard, the Committee fully supports the demand of the Assembly that Israel, the occupying Power, must cease the exploitation, damage, cause of loss or depletion of, or endangerment of the natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The Committee is opposed to Israel’s discriminative policy of restricting the Palestinian population from access to water resources in their own land, while making an abundant amount of water from those resources readily available to its own citizens, including settlers in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Any permanent status agreement should honour international law with respect to the sharing and allocation of ground and surface water resources through equitable and reasonable allocation on a per capita basis, avoidance of significant harm, and respect for the obligation of prior notification before undertaking major projects that may affect the neighbour’s water allocation.
The United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) was established and is being developed by the Division for Palestinian Rights in response to successive General Assembly mandates. The main collection contains the texts of current and historical United Nations material concerning the question of Palestine and other issues related to the Middle East situation and the search for peace. UNISPAL contains the English texts with a growing number in the other official UN languages.