NEW YORK, Thursday, January 5, 2023 (WAFA) – The UN Security Council convened today for an emergency discussion in the aftermath of Israeli Jewish supremacist Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.
The 15-member Council convened at 10:00 pm (Palestine time) (20:00 GMT) at the United Nations headquarters in New York following a joint request by the missions of Palestine and Jordan to the United Nations (UN). The request was submitted by the United Arab Emirates and China.
Speaking to the emergency UNSC session, Khaled Khiari, the Assistant Secretary General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said “while the visit was not accompanied or followed by violence, it is seen as particularly inflammatory, given Mr Ben-Gvir’s past advocacy for changes to the status quo.”
“As we have seen numerous times in the past, the situation at Jerusalem’s holy sites is deeply fragile, and any incident or tension there can spill over and cause violence throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, in Israel and elsewhere in the region.”
Palestine's Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour, said, "Al-Haram Al-Sharif will not fall. It will stand for generations to come. It has outlasted Begin, Shamir and Sharon and will outlast Netanyahu, Ben Gvir and Erdan".
Mansour said Israel has no claim and no right to sovereignty over the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and therefore no rightful claim over Al-Haram Al-Sharif.
He added, in reference to the Israeli far-right, "Listen carefully to me. The Security Council should stop you. It is their responsibility. It's the responsibility of this Council and of all States to uphold international law and the historic status quo. The SC should stop you, but make no mistake, if they don't, our people will".
Mansour affirmed that "Israel's actions have nothing to do with religious freedom, and everything to do with the unlawful attempt to alter the character, status and identity of the City".
"There is no peace without Jerusalem. The future of conflict and peace in our region will be determined in Jerusalem, not any other capital around the world. Anybody who says otherwise is either delusional or lying", he stressed.
"The historic and legal status quo, the rights of the Palestinian people and the sovereignty of the State of Palestine must be upheld."
Mohamed Abushahab, the UAE's Deputy Ambassador to the UN, said Ben-Gvir's visit reflects a lack of commitment to the existing historic and legal status of Jerusalem's holy sites.
“It also constitutes a serious development that moves the region further away from the desired path of peace and contribute to perpetuating the negative trends of the conflict,” Abushahab said.
US Ambassador to the UN Robert A. Wood told the Security Council that Washington is concerned about climbing tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians, saying the administration was “concerned by any unilateral acts that exacerbate tensions or undermine the viability of a two-state solution”.
“The US firmly supports the preservation of the historical status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem, especially on the Haram al Sharif,” Wood told the council.
He added that US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken both firmly support the status quo and that the US appreciates Jordan’s role overseeing the holy site.
“In this spirit, we oppose any and all unilateral actions that depart from the historical status quo that are unacceptable,” Wood said.
“We note that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s platform calls for the preservation” of the status quo... “We expect the government of Israel to follow through on that commitment.”
China's UN Ambassador Zhang Jun called on all parties concerned to exercise restraint to prevent escalation of tensions in Jerusalem, adding that “Israel, in particular, should stop provocation and unilateral actions vis-a-vis the historic status quo of the holy sites”.
UK's Ambassador Barbara Woodward said the United Kingdom strongly supports the historic Status Quo governing Jerusalem’s holy sites, which protects the sites and those who worship there, and preserves peace.
“The UK also recognises and values Jordan’s important role as custodian of the holy sites and urges the importance of cooperation with the Jordanian authorities in this regard,” she added.
“The UK is committed to working with all parties to uphold this Status Quo in Jerusalem. All parties must avoid actions which inflame tensions, undermine the cause of peace, or unilaterally seek to alter the Status Quo.”
Woodward affirmed her country’s position on the status of Jerusalem, which “should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, ensuring that Jerusalem is the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states, with access and religious rights of all peoples fully respected.”
“Third, the UK reaffirms its support for a Two State Solution, based on 1967 lines and Jerusalem as the shared capital, as the only way to ensure a lasting peace between the parties. We are concerned by levels of violence in the OPTs and Israel. I encourage all parties to avoid actions that undermine the prospects of peace.”
Nicolas de Rivière, France's Ambassador to the UN, expressed his country's deep concern about the Ben-Gvir’s storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque, saying “we should do everything we can to prevent an escalation that will have dire consequences on the ground. France calls for respect for the historical Status Quo”.
He added that the storming of Al-Aqsa “does not serve peace. The settlement policy that puts Israel at stake must stop. We reaffirm our commitment to the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, living side by side with Jerusalem as the capital of two states.”
Vasily Alekseyevich Nebenzya, the Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, stressed that Ben-Gvir’s storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque is an outrageous incident that cannot be viewed in isolation from the events that took place in the year 2000 after Ariel Sharon, Israel’s then opposition leader, stormed Al-Aqsa, sparked the Second Palestinian Intifada, which claimed thousands of lives.
Nebenzya reiterated his country's refusal of any changes to current status quo of Jerusalem as the motherland of the three monotheistic religions, and to the role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as guardian of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
"We find that any tension in Jerusalem is truly a source of destabilization, not only in the Palestinian territories, but in the region as a whole. In this regard, we call on the two parties to show restraint and refrain from provocative and unilateral steps," he added.
Nebenzya expressed his hope that the new cabinet in Israel would stop confiscating Palestinian property and stop the displacement of Palestinians.
Meantime, the Permeant Representative of Japan to the UN expressed his country's deep concern over Israeli far-right minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, given the already tense situation in the region.
"It is important that all relevant parties exercise restraint and refrain from any actions that inflame sentiments or rhetoric that raises tensions, including attempts to change the historical status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem," he said.
He also expressed concern about the new Israeli government's announcement of measures and policies that would expand settlements, in violation of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions.
He added, "Japan urges Israel to immediately stop all unilateral measures that would undermine the two-state solution."