UN chief says Israel's rejection of two-state solution 'unacceptable'

Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn global condemnation in recent days by rejecting calls for a Palestinian state

Israeli tanks stand along the southern part of the border with the Gaza Strip near Khan Younis. EPA
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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday described Israel's “clear and repeated rejection” of a two-state solution with the Palestinians as “unacceptable”.

“This refusal and the denial of the right to statehood to the Palestinian people would indefinitely prolong a conflict that has become a major threat to global peace and security,” Mr Guterres told a UN Security Council meeting.

Such an outcome “would exacerbate polarisation and embolden extremists everywhere”, he added.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn global condemnation in recent days by rejecting calls for a Palestinian state.

Last week, he stated that Israel “must retain security control over Gaza” even after “Hamas is destroyed”, underscoring his country's need to have “security control over all the territory west of the [River] Jordan”.

France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, who was presiding over the Security Council meeting, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders, with Jerusalem serving as the capital for both states.

“This is the framework set out in international law,” he noted.

Mr Sejourne stressed that it is not for Israel to decide the fate of the Palestinian population in Gaza, “nor where they should live on their land”.

“It falls to the Palestinian Authority that we support, to be able to fully exercise its full authority and in order to ensure that this becomes a reality,” he said.

Palestine’s Foreign Minister Riyad Al Maliki accused Israel of denying the existence, the rights and humanity of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

He said Israel doesn't see the Palestinians as a people and a “political reality to coexist with, but as a demographic threat to get rid of through death, displacement or subjugation.”

He said those are the choices Israel has offered Palestinians, calling them tantamount to “genocide, ethnic cleansing or apartheid.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian warned Israel that it would not destroy Hamas, its stated goal.

“The killing of civilians in Gaza and the West Bank cannot continue on to the so-called total destruction of Hamas, because that time will never come,” he said.

“Stopping the genocide in Gaza is the main key to security in the region.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov further highlighted the aim was not only to establish a Palestinian state but also to develop measures to ensure reliable security for Israel and the normalisation of its relations “with all Arab states and also Muslim states as a whole”.

The US, Israel’s main military and diplomatic backer, rejected any territorial changes to the Gaza Strip.

Uzra Zeya, undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, said a key component of US diplomacy is to pursue a pathway both to a Palestinian state and normalisation and integration between Israel and other regional states.

She said it was President Joe Biden's firm conviction that the two-state solution, with Israel's security guaranteed, is the only path to durable peace, as well as the only guarantor of a secure and democratic Israel.

“We do not purport to make these decisions for them,” Ms Zeya said.

“But we believe strongly that if they're willing to pursue these goals, they can help to usher in an era where Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace.”

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Updated: January 24, 2024, 8:06 AM