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Jakarta Post

The future state of Palestine

New York   /   Mon, May 27, 2019   /   11:41 am
The future state of Palestine Palestinians, whose houses were destroyed during the 2014 war, sit at a United Nations-run school to protest against the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) decision to stop paying rents in the northern Gaza Strip. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

The early May circle of violence in Gaza was a stark reminder to the world that delivering lasting peace in Palestine is still an enormous task for the global community of nations.

Last January, in the Chamber of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), I reminded everyone that the Palestinian question defined the credibility of the council. For more than five decades, this issue of Palestine has been on the council’s radar. It is, in fact, the longest item on the Security Council’s agenda.

Unfortunately, nothing has improved since then. In fact, it has even deteriorated. Early this month, we have seen yet another wave of violence in Gaza, resulting in at least 29 casualties from both sides.

While the role of the UN Secretariat and Egypt to deescalate the situation is commendable, it requires much more from the council and beyond.

The illegal settlements on Palestinian lands are at the heart of the problem. The construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank continues to persist. Presiding over the Security Council’s briefing on the situation in the Middle East, on May 22, I did not stutter when I called this spade a spade: It has become a de facto annexation.

This is why, two weeks ago, Indonesia, together with Kuwait and South Africa, organized an Arria Formula meeting in the UNSC on the issue of the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Recently, we have also witnessed the closure of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron as well as the increasingly limited resources and capacity for humanitarian assistance. Those have only exacerbated the humanitarian situation, subjecting the Palestinians to even more suffering.

Talks, meetings, statements and resolutions produced by the council are evidence that the world does not only care about the issue at hand, but also wants a lasting and peaceful solution. However, resolutions cannot produce results on the ground. But political will and commitment can.

Thus, there is an urgent need to revive the political will of all parties to work toward a credible peace plan and improve the humanitarian conditions on the ground. To that end, there are a number of points the international community should seriously consider.

First, on the protection of Palestinian civilians. For far too long, the Palestinian people have suffered grave violations of human rights. Earlier this year, the Independent Commission of Inquiry validated this outrage by detailing widespread use of extreme violence against the civilian population, including against Palestinian journalists, medical personnel and the differently abled.

As we lack a viable alternative, we have no option but to provide international protection for Palestinian civilians. The international community, especially the UN, must provide oversight and protection to ensure the protection of human rights in Palestine.

My second point is on the need to address the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Palestine. Access to basic services in Palestine has reached new levels of difficulty, exacerbated by the recent spike of hostilities. Currently, over 29 percent of Palestinian families live below the poverty line, including over 50 percent in Gaza. Barriers imposed by the occupying power have further limited the movement of goods and services, increasing the burden of humanitarian actors to provide effective relief for the Palestinian people.

The United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is again confronted with another year of crisis. The spike in the number of Palestinian refugees continues to outpace the UNRWA’s financial capacity to deliver essential services. In March of this year, Indonesia announced its increase in contributions for Palestinian refugees, and has consistently encouraged other states to do the same.

Lastly, I believe that the peace process must resume by any means. The cycle of violence must end. For this to happen, all sides must be willing to show maximum restraint in exercising violence and engage in a meaningful dialogue.

There is an urgent need for a credible peace process that allows all relevant parties to work on equal footing toward an acceptable peace plan.

A fresh perspective should not mean abandoning internationally agreed parameters on this issue. For Indonesia and the majority of countries in the world, there is no alternative to the two-state solution.

Any peace plan must fulfill the criteria of inclusivity (involving all parties of the conflict); comprehensiveness (offer not only an economic deal) and align with internationally agreed parameters.

We have witnessed enough evidence of how protracted conflicts in the Middle East impact peace and stability in many other parts of the world. Difficult as it may be, as a member of the UNSC, Indonesia remains committed to investing in peace, to supporting the Palestinian struggle for independence and, most importantly, to upholding the mandate of its Constitution.

***

The writer is Indonesian foreign minister. The article was transcribed from her speech at the Security Council Briefing on the Middle East on May 22.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.