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If UNSC won’t stop you, our people will, Palestinian envoy tells Israeli counterpart

Ambassador Riyad Mansour speaks during an emergency meeting of the UN security council regarding the situation in Palestine, at UN headquarters in New York City on January 5, 2023. (AFP)
Ambassador Riyad Mansour speaks during an emergency meeting of the UN security council regarding the situation in Palestine, at UN headquarters in New York City on January 5, 2023. (AFP)
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06 Jan 2023 01:01:43 GMT9
06 Jan 2023 01:01:43 GMT9
  • UAE envoy condemns Ben-G’vir’s visit and warns against actions that could inflame the situation
  • Israel’s ambassador said the visit was in line with the status quo and “whoever claims otherwise is only inflaming the situation”
  • US ambassador said his country opposed any and all unilateral actions that departed from the historic status quo
Ephrem Kossaify

NEW YORK: “Listen carefully to me,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador said to his Israeli counterpart sitting across from him in the UN Security Council chamber.

“This council should stop you,” Mansour continued. “It is their responsibility. It is the responsibility of all states to uphold international law and the historic status quo (of Haram Al-Sharif.) They should stop you. But make no mistake: If they don’t, our Palestinian people will.”

Mansour’s remarks came at an emergency Security Council meeting convened by the UAE and China to discuss the surprise visit of newly appointed Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The Palestinian envoy asked the security council to take concrete action against what he called Israel’s “absolute contempt for us, for you, and the entire international community.” Mansour described Ben-Gvir’s visit as displaying “utter disregard for the sanctity of Palestinian life, the sanctity of international law and the sanctity of Al-Haram Al-Sharif.

“And yet, the council remains on the sidelines. You say nice things, but you are still on the sidelines.”

Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has enraged Palestinians and caused worldwide condemnation amid warnings about Israeli plans to change the status quo of the holy sites.

“Our people are running out of patience,” Mansour said, adding that “the moderation and sense of responsibility we display should never be construed as weakness. The record show shows that Israel’s persistence on this path does not lead to surrender, but to uprising.”

He called on nations who were committed to international law and peace to act now and “not lament once the fire spreads beyond control.”

Ben-Gvir, a far-right politician convicted of anti-Arab incitement in 2007, was appointed national security minister in Benyamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government, with expanded powers over Israel’s police. He has long called for Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa, which has been the site of several conflagrations in the past between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mansour said that Ben-Gvir was known “for his racist views” and that he did not come to Al-Haram Sharif to visit but was “pursuing the same extremist agenda he has pursued all his life: Ending the historic and legal status quo. That is his objective regardless of the consequences,” Mansour said.

“Al-Haram Al-Sharif will not fall. (It) will never fall. It will stand for generations to come. It has outlasted Begin, Shamir and Sharon and will outlast Netanyahu, G’vir and Erdan. Those who pursue the temporal and spatial division of Al-Haram or plan to overtake it do not comprehend what it represents for all Palestinians, for Arabs and Muslims around the world.

“They do not comprehend the sensitivity of this holy site for billions of people in all corners of the globe.”

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s permanent representative to the UN, called the emergency meeting a “non-event” at a time when the Security Council should be convening over other “countless security situations,” including “the murderous Ayatollah regime in Tehran.”

He called Ben-Gvir’s visit brief, peaceful and legitimate and “not an incursion into Al-Aqsa or any other fabrication that the Palestinians branded his visit.”

Erdan said that the visit was in line with the status quo and “whoever claims otherwise is only inflaming the situation.”

“Israel has not harmed the status quo and has no plans to do so,” Erdan said, accusing the Palestinian Authority of changing the status quo “by turning the site into a battleground, storing weapons, spreading incitement and promoting violence through false claims that the Al-Aqsa was in danger.

“The Palestinian Authority is making it clear that not only is Jewish prayer intolerable on the Temple Mount, but so is any Jewish presence. This is what changing the status quo looks like. And this is pure anti-Semitism.

“This institution, and the Security Council in particular, must stop legitimizing Palestinian lies and promoting their false and dangerous narrative.”

UAE deputy permanent representative, Mohamed Abushahab, strongly condemned “the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard” by Ben-Gvir under the protection of Israeli forces.

“Such provocative actions reflect a lack of commitment to the existing historical and legal status of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and they further destabilize the fragile situation in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Abushahab said, adding that these actions threatened to further stoke extremism and hatred in the region.

The Emirati official also condemned the recent vandalization of a Christian cemetery on Mount Zion and called for those responsible for trampling and desecrating the graves of the historic and religious landmark to be held accountable.

Abushahab reiterated the importance of protecting the Al-Aqsa mosque and halting all violations taking place there.

“We emphasize the need to respect the custodial role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan over the holy sites and endowments in accordance with international law and the historical status quo, and not to compromise the authority of the Administration of Jerusalem’s Awqaf and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs and its mandate to manage all the affairs of Haram Al-Sharif, including its entry procedures.”

Abushahab called on the Security Council to adopt a unified position against “any actions that could inflame tensions or escalate the situation in the region.” He also reiterated the importance of reviving the Middle East peace process with a view to achieving a two-state solution, and establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, “living side by side with Israel in peace and security.”

China, who with the UAE had requested the emergency meeting, said that Ben-G’vir’s visit had resulted in “a grave situation on the ground” and called for the preservation of peace and tranquillity at the holy sites.

Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the UN, called on Israel to “stop all incitements and provocations and refrain from any unilateral action that may lead to the deterioration of the situation.”

Robert Wood, the Alternate Representative of the US for Special Political Affairs in the UN, said that his country opposed “any and all unilateral actions that depart from the historic status quo, which are unacceptable.”

He underscored Washington’s support for the preservation of the status quo and expressed appreciation for “the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites.”

Wood reiterated the Biden’s administration call “for all sides to exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, at the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount and other holy sites in Jerusalem, both in word and in practice.”

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