Zhang Bo: Uneasy calm
24 Jul, 2021  |  Source:China Daily  |  Hits:1128

Palestine and Israel should avoid confrontations and accept China's invitation to hold direct talks for harmonious coexistence and common development

Palestinian-Israeli conflicts from May 10 to 21 caused heavy casualties on both sides, with tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes. As the rotating president of the United Nations Security Council in May, China, together with Norway, Tunisia and other countries, initiated emergency UNSC sessions multiple times to deliberate on the Palestinian-Israeli situation, increasing the pressure on them to declare an immediate ceasefire.

As a responsible major country, China's position and diplomatic efforts reflect its consistent support for the UN and the multilateral system and its firm commitment to the "two-state solution" in the spirit of fairness and justice.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a threat to the international rule of law, a test for multilateral cooperation and a question of human conscience.

During the conflicts in May, the United States obstructed the UNSC from issuing a joint statement three times, thus covering for Israel's actions. The Joe Biden administration approved the sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel. The US' siding with Israel calls into question its so-called commitment to safeguarding Muslim human rights and undermines the role and authority of the UN. The US must abandon unilateralism and hegemonism if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to be resolved.

As a staunch supporter of the "two-state solution", China proactively mediates and calls for a ceasefire to end violence and protect civilians. On May 10, Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, said that China condemned violence against civilians and called on all parties to exercise restraint and avoid provocations. Israel should take measures to end violence, threats and provocations against Muslims. The historical status quo of the holy sites of Jerusalem should be respected.

On May 16, Zhang issued a joint statement with the permanent representatives of Norway and Tunisia to the UN, calling on Palestine and Israel to immediately end hostilities and fully abide by international law, including international humanitarian law to protect civilians, especially children. The same day, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the emergency open session of the UNSC on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that a ceasefire to end violence is the top priority, humanitarian assistance is an urgent need, international support is an obligation, and the "two-state solution" is the fundamental way to resolve the conflict. China extended again its invitation to Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers and negotiators to hold direct talks in China.

Thanks to the leadership of China and the joint efforts of all parties, the Security Council introduced a statement on May 22, calling for full adherence to the ceasefire and stressing the immediate need for humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians, especially those in Gaza.

On May 25, presiding over an open debate of the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, Zhang, China's permanent representative to the UN, remarked that China had urged all parties concerned to abide by international humanitarian law and implement relevant Security Council resolutions to protect civilians.

Since the pandemic broke out, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly called on parties to all conflicts to cease fire immediately and concentrate all their efforts on fighting the virus, a common scourge of mankind.

China has been calling on all parties to the conflict to adhere to the UN global ceasefire initiative and to take practical actions to support Palestine's pandemic response and people's livelihoods. The Chinese government's donation of 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine was delivered to Palestine on March 29. China also announced an emergency humanitarian cash assistance of $1 million to Palestine apart from continued humanitarian aid and participation in the reconstruction of Gaza. China will also donate $1 million and 200,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Since 2020, Israel, helped by the US, has normalized relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. However, this round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict shows that the Palestinian question is still at the core of the Middle East issue. It should not be marginalized or ignored.

The escalation in Palestinian-Israeli confrontations is still attributable to the construction of Jewish settlements and the Jerusalem issue, which reminds us once again that the Middle East peace process should not be derailed, the Palestinian issue should not be marginalized, the suffering of the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights should not be ignored, and the binding resolutions adopted by the Security Council should not be forgotten. This conflict once again highlights the value of the "two-state solution", which is the only way to ensure justice and lasting peace between the two sides.

Skirmishes between Palestine and Israel resumed just two days after Naftali Bennett, leader of the united right-wing alliance, officially took office as the prime minister of the eight-party coalition government in Israel on June 13. In the early morning of June 16, Israeli warplanes bombarded targets in the Gaza Strip, underlining the new Israeli administration's hardline policy toward Palestine.

As fragile as it is, Palestine and Israel should cherish the hard-won ceasefire and avoid recurrence of confrontations that will afflict civilians on both sides. Israel should not bully the weak, and Palestine should respect Israel's right to survival and its legitimate security concerns. We call on Israel to fully lift its blockade against Gaza and allow the access of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction supplies. Differences need to be overcome through dialogue, mutual respect and concessions. Peace brings about coexistence, while war leads to mutual suffering. Palestine and Israel should work with the international community for harmonious coexistence and common development, and build a community with a shared future for mankind.

(Zhang Bo, an assistant researcher of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.The views don't necessarily represent those of this platform.)