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Germany’s objectives on Middle East resolutions at the United Nations

General Assembly of the United Nations in New York

General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, © picture alliance/Valery Sharifulin/TASS/dpa

12.01.2022 - Article

Germany seeks balanced texts of resolutions which are in the interest of lasting peace in the Middle East and works to prevent unfair treatment of Israel at the United Nations.

Middle East resolutions in the General Assembly

Every year, a number of resolutions dealing with various aspects of the Middle East conflict are negotiated and voted on in the United Nations General Assembly and its main committees. The texts of the resolutions adopted in 2021 can be found here.

In 2021, too, Middle East resolutions were negotiated in the UN under various items of the agenda. These include, for example, the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) or the human rights situation in the occupied territories.

In assessing the draft texts of resolutions in terms of policy, the Federal Government is guided by the principles that have determined Germany’s policy on the Middle East for many years: the historical responsibility for the Jewish and democratic State of Israel and its right to exist, as well as the firm conviction that only a negotiated two-state solution will guarantee lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.

EU’s negotiating and voting strategy

In negotiating and voting on Middle East resolutions, Germany coordinates closely with the other EU member states. Having a joint negotiating and voting strategy enables Germany and its partners in the EU to influence the drafting of the texts. Acting together in intensive negotiations with the Palestinian side, the European Union is regularly able to block decisions that are unbalanced vis-à-vis Israel, or to reject unacceptable formulations in resolutions for which there is anyway a majority in the General Assembly.

Following intense negotiations on the texts in keeping with the criteria outlined above, the EU member states have in recent years found themselves able to vote in favour of the majority of Middle East resolutions. These resolutions make it possible, for example, for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance. At the same time, they underline the importance of a negotiated two-state solution and formulate the expectations that the parties to the conflict will contribute to a sustainable solution for peace.

In 2021, significantly fewer resolutions were submitted for discussion than in previous years. Out of the almost 20 original resolutions, this year there were only nine submitted by the Palestinian side, and 13 resolutions altogether. In previous years, Germany, together with the other EU states, succeeded in reducing the total number of resolutions as well as improving resolution texts.

On 1 December 2021, voting on the Jerusalem and the Peaceful Settlement resolutions submitted by the Palestinians took place during the plenary of the 76th UN General Assembly. As with all resolutions in connection with the Middle East conflict, Germany’s voting policy was based on various considerations. Decisive steps must be taken to continue to counteract the singling out of Israel in the United Nations. It is also crucial that the resolutions reflect Germany’s stance on the Middle East conflict and on the challenges in the region. On this basis, Germany abstained on the so-called Jerusalem resolution on the status of the city’s holy sites, for example. Twenty-four EU member states, including Germany, voted for the Peaceful Settlement resolution. In this resolution, it was possible for the first time to include an explicit condemnation of missile attacks on Israel in the text.

Against unfair and biased treatment of Israel

The Federal Government agrees with criticism that Israel is repeatedly inappropriately criticised, subject to bias and marginalised in UN bodies. This is especially true in the UN specialised agencies. At the same time, the United Nations is an indispensable forum for supporting the Middle East peace process and discussing the conflict.

Germany therefore works to combat any unfair treatment of Israel in the UN and to support Israel’s legitimate interests, Germany has repeatedly expressed its criticism of the disproportionately large number of resolutions critical of Israel and taken a stand against this.

Similarly, on the UN Human Rights Council, the German Government is working continuously to reduce the number of resolutions relating to Israel (under agenda item 7: Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories). To this end, two resolutions were combined in March 2021. Germany was unable to support a resolution submitted in May 2021 within the framework of the special session of the Human Rights Council on the situation in Gaza/East Jerusalem due to it being unbalanced.

In specialised agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Germany likewise opposes decisions and initiatives that place an inappropriate focus on Israel.

Germany also calls for attacks against Israel to be clearly identified as such and condemned. For example, in the UN General Assembly Germany called for the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas to be condemned.

Furthermore, Germany is also trying to get the UN to look more closely at human rights violations in other countries in the region, in order to ensure a more balanced perspective: With this in mind, Germany regularly submits a resolution on the human rights situation in Syria to the UN Human Rights Council (most recently in September 2021). At the same time, Germany is striving to promote the investigation of war crimes and human rights violations in Syria.

Historical responsibility

Germany’s historical responsibility for the Jewish and democratic State of Israel and its security is part of our raison d’état. Germany will always work, including in the UN, to ensure that Israel’s right to exist is never called into question.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock underscored Germany’s historical responsibility in her inaugural speech, assured Israel of Germany’s unwavering solidarity and discussed with her Israeli colleague Yair Lapid the Federal Government’s intention to continue to intensify relations with Israel, particularly in the areas of youth, women and the climate.

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