Delivered by: Her Excellency Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Thank you, Mr. President.
[In response to remarks made by the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations]: I’d like to say at the outset that there hasn’t been a Council meeting on this subject when the Council hasn’t collectively demanded the urgent release of all hostages held in the Gaza Strip. In fact, the resolution adopted last week by this Council, penned by the United Arab Emirates, demanded their urgent release and for medical access to be made immediately.
I’d like to thank all the briefers here today for their powerful statements underscoring why the UAE called for this urgent meeting on the very viability of the Two-State solution and stability in our region.
In this latest war of this decades-long conflict, it is clear that we are at a crossroads.
Many of the countries represented in this room – mine included – have to make bold, and perhaps uncomfortable, decisions at this moment.
The alternative is the hellscape of Gaza, expanded into the West Bank, Israel, Lebanon, and other parts of the Middle East.
Gaza in 2023 demonstrates the immense capacity of humans to inflict untold horror on other humans. Advanced military systems have intensified beyond imagination the scale and pace of the death and destruction.
This is a war of extremists, radicalizing youth in schools, universities, and streets in the Middle East and beyond.
Since the horrific attacks of October 7th on Israel, and the war that followed, we were told in and outside this chamber that Israel’s defence would decisively achieve a clearly defined endgame while following the rules of war because that is “what democracies do.”
After nearly three months and 21,000 Palestinians killed, those declarations and commitments are a fallacy.
We have all been in frequent contact with humanitarians on the ground in Gaza, and their dystopian accounts, unbearable to hear let alone live through, are known to you all.
Civilians move up and down this strip of land in a desperate futile search for safety, too often killed in the process.
2,000-pound munitions, bombs not used in half a century, are dropped on Gaza risking the lives of more than 2 million Palestinians, and, it must be said, the over 129 hostages that remain in the strip.
In the face of this carnage, we have all rediscovered the urgency of achieving the Two-State solution as a way forward out of this.
But this reawakened sense of historic and moral responsibility must manifest itself in decisive action, with clear guardrails defined to keep this on track.
It must recognise that the violence visited by Israeli settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank is the logical endpoint of a settler enterprise that has been swallowing up Palestinian land for decades.
With over 300 dead in the West Bank, 80 of them children, and escalating Israeli raids across Palestinian towns and cities, it is clear that far more tectonic shifts are underway than Gaza alone.
When leaders proudly claim that their life’s work was the prevention of the Two-State solution; when they openly call for the expulsion of Palestinians from their land; when they routinely threaten other countries with a fate similar to Gaza – we must recognise the need here for a fundamental reset.
This war is already different, and how it ends must be different – there must be an international presence to monitor the ceasefire for it to hold.
And there needs to be a plan towards separation that starts, rather than ends, with a Palestinian state.
Bold steps like this are required, else how would Palestinians, subjected to the unrestrained slaughter of this war, turn around, and over bodies of their kin and rubble of their homes, stretch their hand out to make peace?
The late Yitzhak Rabin explained that sanctifying human life, as the Book of Books commands, requires not “armoured plating, or tanks, or planes, or concrete fortifications,” but peace.
Less than a year later, an extremist killed him after a rally in central Tel Aviv where Israeli and Palestinian flags were flown by thousands yearning to sanctify their lives and the lives of their neighbours.
All of us have learned, some more recently than others, that we cannot make Israelis or Palestinians choose what we want them to.
But we can choose.
We can choose to admit that we all know this to be true: what is happening in Gaza does not meet this, or any other language’s definition of self-defence.
We can choose to make the hard and necessary sacrifices for peace and security to ensure that once the war stops, it never restarts.
We can choose to impose a prohibitive political, legal, and financial cost on the extremist settler expansion and violence that has ravaged the West Bank.
We can choose to recognise that for the Jewish homeland to truly realise its founding aspirations it cannot be built on top of an occupation.
We can choose to deny extremists, and their many enablers – however they sound or look – the legitimacy of leadership and our backing.
We can choose to understand that October 7th evoked moments of visceral fear and vulnerability among Jews in Israel and around the world.
We can choose to finally uphold the promise of “never again” and ensure its universality.
We can choose to learn the lessons of this ancient playbook, and refuse to allow it to unfold once more in generational hatred and grievance.
Nothing about this conflict was inevitable; nothing about where we go from here is inevitable. At every moment, there was and is choice.
But we must make those decisions now, and use the collective courage of the countries in this room, and outside it, to change course.
We must give an alternative vision of hope against the nihilistic extremism raging, that wishes to see our region swallowed whole in this wave.