January 22, 2019
Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See

Security Council, Open Debate on
Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question

New York, 22 January 2019

Mr. President,

The Holy See thanks the Presidency of the Dominican Republic for convening this open debate on the situation in the Middle East, with particular reference to Israel and Palestine.

In his Message for the 2019 World Day of Peace, focused on the theme of Good Politics at the Service of Peace, Pope Francis compared peace to “a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence.”[1]

Such an image vividly captures the enduring situation between Israel and Palestine, where we know how fragile peace is and how its tenuous existence is constantly threatened by harmful rhetoric, provocations and attacks, violations of human rights and unilateral actions hampering efforts toward resolution, bringing untold suffering and causing the death of innocent, defenseless civilians.

In such a context, the Holy See continues to appeal fervently to both Israeli and Palestinian authorities “to resume dialogue and undertake a journey of peace that can put an end to a conflict that, for over seventy years, has rent the land”[2], which is not only home to these two peoples, but also of great historical and cultural importance for the whole world and spiritual home for the three monotheistic religions of Judaism,  Christianity and Islam. With regard to its religious significance, the Holy See seeks to have international guarantees for the holy city of Jerusalem as recommended by the General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947.

Notwithstanding the fundamental importance of the holy places, there is the risk of transforming what is a territorial and political conflict into one about religion and identity. This must be avoided so as not to compromise further the search for a much-needed political solution. It thus remains essential that those who hold political office use their authority in a responsible manner; overcoming disputes by engaging in an open and honest dialogue to secure genuine and lasting peace, rather than simply maintaining an illusory peace that is in essence only “a balance between power and fear” [3]. Genuine and lasting peace, on the other hand, is “the fruit of a political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings”[4]; one that goes beyond the difficulties which characterize these times of “mistrust rooted in the fear of others or of strangers or anxiety about one’s personal security.”[5]

A responsible political project spares no effort to protect the lives of all citizens, regardless of origin or religious affiliation, creating the conditions necessary for a worthy and just future for all. In this regard, it is important not to lose sight of the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the other occupied territories, as well as to highlight the generous response of the international community to the financial deficit faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) last year. Assistance to those most in need must always go before political considerations, and aid to Palestine refugees must be allowed to continue unimpeded as long as the situation remains unresolved.

With reference to the grave humanitarian crises affecting several parts of the Middle East, it seems appropriate, in this forum, to reiterate Pope Francis’ own remarks made in reference to the generous welcome and solidarity, made possible not by what is in excess, but by the sacrifices of their citizens, offered by Lebanon and Jordan to alleviate the suffering of those affected by conflicts in the region, including the Palestine refugees.

Mr. President,

In his recent address to the Diplomatic Corps on the occasion of the traditional exchange of New Year greetings, Pope Francis stated: “The Holy See expresses the hope that dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians will resume, so that an agreement at last can be reached and a response given to the legitimate aspirations of both peoples by ensuring the coexistence of two States and the attainment of a long awaited and desired peace. A united commitment on the part of the international community is extremely important and necessary for attaining this goal, as also for promoting peace in the entire region.”[6] May this Security Council Open Debate contribute to the achievement of a lasting mutually agreed solution to the Palestinian Question.

Thank you, Mr. President.

1. Pope Francis, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2019, 2.
2. Pope Francis, Message “Urbi et Orbi” (to the City [Rome] and to the World) for Christmas, 25 December 2018.
3. Pope Francis, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2019, 6.
4. Pope Francis, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2019, 7.
5. Pope Francis, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2019, 5.
6. Pope Francis, Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 7 January 2019.