On 29 November 2012, the Palestinian authorities, with the support of the League of Arab States, submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations General Assembly applying for Observer State Status. An overwhelming majority of UN Member States approved this application, with 138 voting in favour, 9 against and 41 abstaining. Bilaterally, 132 member states of the UN have recognized Palestine as a state, with reference to the borders of 4 June1967.
South Africa fully supported the bid and co-sponsored the resolution. This position is based on South Africa's steadfast support for the Palestinian struggle as a legitimate struggle for self-determination, justice and freedom and on our full support for a two-state solution to the Question of Palestine and Peace in the Middle East, as determined by Resolution 181 (1947).
The decision by the General Assembly does not undermine existing agreements between the parties. In fact the two-state solution is undermined by the continued illegal actions by the Israeli government to expand its settlement activity in occupied territory. South Africa strongly condemns the Israeli Government's decision to build 3 000 new settlement homes in the so-called E1 area of the West Bank. Any further construction of settlements would seriously undermine the two-state solution by isolating East Jerusalem, the future capital of Palestine, and by threatening the viability and territorial contiguity of the future Palestinian State. The South African Government is also extremely concerned at the Israeli Government's announcement to withhold 100 million dollars of Palestinian tax revenue. These punitive measures will have severe consequences for the Palestinian population as a whole.
South Africa is further concerned at the inability of the UN Security Council and of the Quartet on the Middle East Peace Process to take meaningful action to move the negotiations forward. The silence of both these bodies during the recent crises in Gaza is indicative of the paralysis and the need for a new approach to resolving the situation. South Africa calls on the international community to redouble its efforts aimed at a permanent and sustainable political solution, namely the implementation of a viable two-state solution providing for the establishment of a Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace and security with Israel within internationally recognised borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital. We also call on those countries that have leverage over the parties to encourage them to choose the path of negotiations instead of the destructive path of conflict.
It has been 65 years since the adoption of Resolution 181, which acknowledged the existence of the State of Israel and 45 years since the occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In our view the decision taken by the UN General Assembly is only a modest step to nudge the peace process forward.