South Africa has warned that the credibility of the United Nations Security Council was at stake if the body did not take any action to ensure the implementation of its own decisions.

UN envoy Jerry Matjila was speaking in the first open debate of Pretoria’s tenure on the world body focused on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict where he questioned the Councils effective influence on the Middle East Peace Process.

He pointed to a Council resolution in December of 2016 which states that Israel’s settlement activity in Palestinian territories constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and has no legal validity, but settlement activity has continued unabated without any Council action.

Matjila warned that Council inaction and silence would result in a just peace becoming more and more out of reach.

“South Africa, therefore, calls for the full implementation of Resolution 2334. This should include the submission of timely written reports by the UN Secretary General to the Security Council on its implementation, every three months in order for progress to be adequately monitored. This Council receives written reports on other matters that it is seized with and the situation in Palestine should be no different. We must not allow the decision made by the Security Council to be undermined and blatantly violated in some areas.”

Two thousand, three hundred and thirty four passed unexpectedly in December 2016 when the US administration of Barack Obama chose to abstain allowing the passage of the resolution. But the administration of President Donald Trump that came into office just a month later called it a terrible mistake, warning that it made a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine even harder to achieve. Despite the criticism, Council resolutions are legally binding and Matjila urged his fellow members to safeguard the gains made over decades of diplomacy.

“The Council must do everything it can to remove all obstacles to peace between Israel and Palestine, and no longer allow continued hatred, human rights violations and disregard for international law to fester. Generations of Palestinians and Israeli have known only conflict and violence. We must do all we can now to create a culture of peace and to foster hope for a future free of conflict for both communities. Mr President, anytime the Palestinians want to bring its full membership of the UN to the Security Council, they will find South Africa ready to support them.”

Earlier the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov told Council – via videolink from Geneva, that hopes for a genuine-intra-Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority were fading.

“The early January arrests by Hamas of dozens of Fatah members in Gaza were particularly alarming and led to Palestinian Authority to withdraw its personnel from Rafah crossing on 7 January. These developments are a very serious blow to the reconciliation process. I call on Palestinian leaders to engage constructively with Egypt and act decisively to resolve the political impasse by ensuring the full implementation of the 2017 Cairo Agreement. One thing is certain, Palestinian sovereignty and statehood will remain an impossibility without genuine unity. There can be no state in Gaza and no state with Gaza.”

Gaza is controlled by Hamas while the Palestinian Authority runs the West Bank and while unity remains elusive, Israel has warned it would not negotiate with a unity Palestinian body that included Hamas, a group it views as a terrorist organisation.