On Monday October 15th, 2012, the Security Council held an open debate on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian Question. The council's quarterly debate on the Middle East focused upon the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the crisis in Syria, among other regional challenges.”. At the start of the debate Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, addressed the council, bringing attention to the stagnation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Mr. Feltman added, “A negotiated two-State solution, to which both leaders are committed, must remain the highest priority. We fear, however, that the door for such a solution may be closing before our eyes.” Out of the collective 46 statements, only three made gender references.
Current gender dimensions within the Middle East were largely neglected during the Council's open debate. However, a few speakers a few speakers did call attention to the way in which the contemporary situations specifically affect Palestinian women. did call attention to contemporary situations as they relate specifically to Palestinian women. The Islamic Republic of Iran expressed concern regarding the unlawful detention of Palestinian women held in Israeli jails, in addition to violent actions perpetrated against Palestinian women by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. In juxtaposition to these recorded bodily and security threats, Mr. Feltman addressed Palestinian women's political participation during the country's upcoming election on October 20th, noting a fourth of the 4,700 nominated candidates are women.
The debate's most gender-conscious statement was delivered by Lebanon, who emphasized the link between SCR 1325 and SCR 1265, which addresses the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Lebanon noted the Council's failure to implement Resolution 1265 in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict, specifically drawing attention to the targeting of Palestinian women. Lebanon further elaborated on this point and the Council's inability to take concrete action with regards to abuses perpetrated against Palestinian women by directly linking the notion to Resolution 1325 and the responsibility for all parties in armed conflict to fully respect the rights of women and girls. The permanent representative of Lebanon additionally called attention to the direct vulnerabilities Palestinian women face as a direct result of Israeli occupation including: health violations resulting from restriction of movement, negative impacts experienced in relation to education and economic security, and the humiliation of threatening interrogation methods.
It is unsatisfactory to note the lack of gender dimensions addressed during this Security Council open debate. It is apparent that the rights of Palestinian women are overshadowed by the politicization of the current Israeli-Palestinian situation. Women, and the role of women, are in dire need of recognition at all levels during the region's time of transition. Focus must be placed on increasing women's participatory action within rights-based principles, inclusion within political processes, and inclusion in the peace process.
The debate predominately focused on the need for the international community to remain focused on the Israeli-Palestinian situation and a negotiated two-state solution and not divert its attention solely towards the Syrian crisis. Many speakers called for the international community to end Israeli impunity and enforce the state to comply with international law. Israel, however, called attention to its efforts to resume negotiations while the Palestinian leadership has pursued seeking unilateralism through the UN.
Many speakers also expressed strong concerns regarding the crisis in Syria and the threats imposed on the region at large as a result of the conflict. Mr. Feltman also acknowledged this growing concern in addition to affirming the continued need for all Governments to abstain from supplying arms or military aid to any actor in the conflict.
Member states who spoke at the open debate included: Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group), France, Germany, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, and Viet Nam.
Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
*Bolded speaker referenced gender.