South Africa has proposed that the United Nations Security Council reconsider a long-delayed decision for a visit to the occupied West Bank territories that Palestinian’s seek for a future independent state.

The call was made during a Council session on the Middle East and the Palestinian question.

The visit was first proposed in earlier 2019, but the Israel Mission rejected in February the request of a collective visit while the Palestinian Ambassador at the time said such a visit would be viewed in a positive way.

A Council visit requires the support of all 15 Council members and approval from the countries concerned.

The proposed visit would take the Council to the West Bank including East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as a future capital and the Gaza strip.

“South Africa proposes that the Council should also reconsider its long-delayed visit to the region. In this regard, should some members of the Council be unwilling to participate in the visit, the Council should consider a ‘mini-mission’, which could include those members interested in being part of the visit to the region. We believe a visit to the region will be a clear indication that the international community has not washed its hands of the core and long-standing conflict in the Middle East. Similarly to the Council’s other field visits, it will also offer Council members an opportunity to meet relevant actors on the ground, including government of Israel and Palestine and convey our well wishes to them and  help them to resolve this question,” says Ambassador Jerry Matjila.

Of particular concern to the Council is Israel’s expanding network of illegal settlements in territories that remain part of final status negotiations – moves the Palestinians view as preventing the continuity of a independent, sovereign state of their own.

The UN has consistently said that settlements are an illegal and flagrant violation of international law while undermining the chances for peace.

The Security Council in 2016 passed resolution 2334 confirming the illegality of settlements, but its prescripts have been ignored.

“The expansion of settlements has no legal effect and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law. By advancing the effective annexation of the West Bank, it undermines the chances for establishing a Palestinian state based on relevant UN resolutions, as part of a negotiated two-state solution,” says Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov.

Pretoria has long complained of the inability of the Council to uphold its resolutions but the United States administration under President Donald Trump has consistently blocked any council action on this matter.

Ambassador Matjila has also expressed hope that written reports by the Secretary General on the implementation of resolution 2334 would be received in the next reporting period.

“South Africa believes that the Council ought to work towards restoring the trust in the legitimate peace process that has been pursued for decades and prevent the further development of antagonism between the parties. The rockets fired into Israel from Gaza in recent days and the deadly Israeli responses are clear indications that as long as the impasse continues, instability will be perpetuated and more lives will be lost.”

Matjila has urged the Council to work towards injecting positive momentum into resolving the oldest conflict in the Middle East “within our lifetimes”