NEW YORK — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned violence on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said Israeli actions were fueling tensions, in a Thursday address to the Security Council.
“2022 was a deadly year for both Palestinians and Israelis. We condemn all unlawful killings and acts by extremists. There is no justification for terrorism,” Guterres said at a debate on international law held at UN headquarters in New York.
“At the same time, the expansion of settlements by Israel, as well as home demolitions and evictions, are driving anger and despair,” Guterres said.
“I am also very concerned by the unilateral initiatives that we have seen in recent days. The rule of law is at the heart of achieving a just and comprehensive peace, based on a two-state solution, in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements,” he said.
UN officials and the international community have widely condemned National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit to Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount earlier this month, describing it as a unilateral Israeli threat to the fragile status quo that governs the holy site.
The Security Council held an emergency session on the visit that saw heated debate between the Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian representatives.
Israel’s envoy to the UN, Gilad Erdan, called the session “absurd” in light of the council’s inaction on other global developments, while the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, warned of an “uprising” surrounding the Temple Mount at the session, saying the site could become “the epicenter of religious conflict.”
Guterres highlighted the International Court of Justice and its role in enforcing international law in his Thursday address. The top UN court is set to investigate Israel after a highly contentious General Assembly vote last month that Israel called biased and dismissive of its security concerns.
“I note the importance of accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the court and call on all member states to do so without any reservations,” Guterres said.
He also stressed the importance of the UN’s commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions.
There are open-ended investigations against Israel being carried out by a UN commission of inquiry, and by a special rapporteur, the only country under such scrutiny. Members of both investigations are on the record as making antisemitic statements, but have not faced any repercussions from the UN for their comments.
Israel was one of only a few countries Guterres mentioned, along with Russia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Haiti.
Israel and the US have long accused the UN of having a lopsided focus and bias against the Jewish state. Last year, the General Assembly passed more resolutions critical of Israel than against all other nations combined.