UNSC meet on Ben-Gvir’s storming of Al-Aqsa compound ends with calls for maintaining status quo

China and Russia have blamed Israel for provoking violence in the region. Palestinians also slammed the UNSC for failing to take any concrete action despite Israel’s repeated violations of international law

January 06, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
UNSC on Ben-Gvir storming Al Aqsa
Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour. (Photo: UN Photo/Manuel Elías)

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Thursday, January 5, discussed Israeli minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s storming of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and ended with a request that Israel maintain the status quo. 

Ben-Gvir, an ultra-nationalist right-wing politician and the national security minister in the newly formed Benjamin Netanyahu government, stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday, January 3. Ben-Gvir went ahead with his visit to the mosque under heavy security and despite warnings issued by Palestinians, who had called it a “provocative” move. 

Most of the speakers at the UNSC meeting criticized the storming and expressed concern about the impact such “inflammatory” moves would have on the deeply fragile situation in the region.   

Palestinians and Jordanians, who are recognized as the custodians of the Al-Aqsa mosque, had asked that Ben-Gvir’s actions be discussed in the UNSC. The move to do so was introduced in the UNSC by China and the UAE. 

Speaking at the meeting, Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary General for the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations of the UN, said that “while the visit was not accompanied by violence, it is seen as particularly inflammatory, given Mr. Ben-Gvir’s past advocacy for the changes to the status quo.” 

Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour questioned the UNSC silence on the “unprecedented provocation” and asked “what red line does Israel need to cross for the Security Council to finally say, enough is enough?” He said at the meeting that it was the job of the UNSC to stop Israel as per “international law and the historic status quo,” but added that, if it failed to do so, “our people will [stop Israel].”

He emphasized that there cannot be any peace in the region without peace in Jerusalem, and for that peace “the historical and legal status quo, the rights of the Palestinian people, and the sovereignty of the state of Palestine must be upheld,” Wafa reported.   

Speaking at the meeting, Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun appealed to all concerned parties to exercise restraint. However, he emphasized that “Israel, in particular, should stop provocation and unilateral actions vis-a-vis the historic status of the holy sites.”

Vasily Alekseyevich Nebenzya, the permanent representative of Russia to the UN, compared Ben-Gvir’s act to the storming of Al-Aqsa compound by then opposition leader Ariel Sharon in 2000. He mentioned that that “outrageous incident” had sparked the second intifada, which claimed thousands of lives.   

Nebenzya also expressed hope that Israel would “stop confiscating Palestinian property and stop the displacement of Palestinians.”

Israel criticized the meeting as being “truly absurd and pathetic.” Israeli representative Gilad Erdan called Ben-Gvir’s storming of Al-Aqsa completely normal and “legitimate,” in line with the “status quo,” and “a non event.”