Amid roiling tensions in the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has taken to the airwaves to speak directly to the peoples of Israel and Palestine and to urge the leaders on both sides to end the “posturing and brinkmanship” and get serious about pursuing the two-state solution –“the only solution capable of durably stanching the bloodshed hatred and fear.
“I am dismayed – as we all should be – when I see young people, children, picking up weapons and seeking to kill,” declared the Secretary-General in a video message to address what he called “the dangerous escalation in violence across the occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, especially in Jerusalem.”
Mr. Ban emphasized that “violence will only undermine the legitimate Palestinian aspirations for statehood and the longing of Israelis for security.”
The UN chief's message comes in the wake of an uptick in violence since early September. A series of ever-more deadly clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, including Israeli security forces, has marked much of October, with incidents reported in more than 50 different locations, including in East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jenin, Tulkarm and Nablus.
Just this past Friday, the UN Security Council convened an emergency session and was briefed on the latest violent incident in which a large group of Palestinians set fire to the compound containing the holy site of Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus.
“To the youth of Palestine I say: I understand your frustration. I know your hopes for peace have been dashed countless times. You are angry at the continued occupation and expansion of settlements. Many of you are disappointed in your leaders and in us, the international community, because of our inability to end this conflict,” said Mr. Ban in his message.
The Secretary-General added that Palestinian youth should turn their frustrations into “a strong, but peaceful, voice for change.”
Next, he addressed Palestinian leaders, urging them to use peaceful measures. “Harness the energy of your people in a peaceful way to make their dreams and aspirations a reality,” said Mr. Ban, urging Palestinian youth to “demand that your leaders act responsibly to protect your future. Demand progress for a political solution – from your leaders, from Israeli leaders, and from the international community.”
“I am not asking you to be passive, but you must put down the weapons of despair,” underscored the UN chief.
“You have the right to live a decent life in dignity, respect and freedom,” he continued. “I know that this is your goal. It is also our goal. But it can only be reached by establishing a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel, not through the violent acts we have been witnessing.”
He then turned his remarks to address the leaders and people of Israel.
“Let me say, I appreciate your genuine concern about peace and security. I also understand the anger many Israelis feel,” said Mr. Ban. “When children are afraid to go to school, when anyone on the street is a potential victim, security is rightly your immediate priority. But walls, checkpoints, harsh responses by the security forces and house demolitions cannot sustain the peace and safety that you need and must have.”
“You – the people of Israel – as much as the Palestinian people, need to see a political horizon to break this cycle of violence and fear,” he said, adding that the United Nations “will continue to support all efforts to create the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations. IN this, we have never wavered.”
He also urged leaders on both sides to “stand firm against terror, violence and incitement,” and to demonstrate “in both words and deeds that the historic status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem will be preserved.”
Mr. Ban also asked leaders to “reaffirm your commitment to end the occupation and pursue a two-state solution by making changes in the ground. Non-violence requires more courage and strength than violence. At this difficult time, let us say 'enough is enough.'”
“Let us get truly serious about reaching the only solution capable of durably stanching the bloodshed, the hatred and the fear of even greater conflict,” he urged. “That is the courage and leadership the peoples of this holy land demand and deserve,” the Secretary-General concluded.