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‘We must turn back from this dangerous abyss,’ Ban says in Israel on first day of visit to crisis-torn region

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at a press briefing in Jerusalem.
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at a press briefing in Jerusalem.

‘We must turn back from this dangerous abyss,’ Ban says in Israel on first day of visit to crisis-torn region

In an effort to ease the current tensions between Israel and Palestine, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is heading to the region to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas, as well as with other senior officials.

The UN chief arrived earlier today in Jerusalem and began by meeting with the President of Israel, Reuben Rivlin.

A statement issued earlier today by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson stressed that he “has repeatedly expressed his anguish and deep concern at the escalating violence in Israel and Palestine.”

A series of deadly clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, including Israeli security forces, has marked much of October, with violent incidents reported in more than 50 different locations, including in East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jenin, Tulkarm and Nablus.

According to the statement, the Secretary-General is also expected to meet with Israeli and Palestinian victims of these recent hostilities and terror attacks.

Speaking to the press alongside President Rivlin, Mr. Ban thanked him for receiving him “so warmly and at such short notice.”

“My visit reflects the sense of global alarm at the dangerous escalation in violence between Israelis and Palestinians,” Mr. Ban declared. “I am here to encourage and support all efforts to lower tensions and prevent the situation from spinning out of control.”

The UN chief expressed his condolences to the families and loved ones of all the victims of the hostilities and terrorist attacks. “No society should have to live in fear,” he said. “No society can afford to see its youth suffer in hopelessness.”

Mr. Ban stressed that if action is not taken fast, the dynamics on the ground may only get worse, “with serious repercussions in and beyond Israel and Palestine.”

“It is not too late to avoid a broader crisis,” he insisted. “In my meetings today and tomorrow with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, I will be appealing to all to take concerted steps to limit new incidents on both sides. Violence only begets violence.”

He added that extremists on either side, or those who think violence is the answer, must not be allowed to further fuel the conflict.

“Beyond the immediate tensions, what is missing is the resolve to restore a political horizon for talks, and a political process that delivers real results and hope,” Mr. Ban noted. “Violence only undermines the legitimate Palestinian aspirations for statehood and the longing of Israelis for security.”

Underlining that “the status quo is only making things worse,” the Secretary-General stated that this conflict has gone on for far too long.

“We must, for the future of our children, turn back from this dangerous abyss, safeguard the two-state solution and lead people back onto the road towards peace,” he urged, adding that the UN, and himself as Secretary-General, will continue to support all efforts to create the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations and a just and lasting peace.

During his day in Israel, Mr. Ban also met with the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and said he understands the duty weighing on the Israeli leader to ensure that his citizens can enjoy safety and security. He also urged Israel to guard against violent incidents, and to conduct thorough investigations when necessary.

“Mr. Prime Minister, the security challenges your Government is currently facing raise many complicated dilemmas and may require tightening of security measures,” the UN chief said speaking again to the press.

“However, security measures can be counterproductive if they are applied without special efforts to defuse situations before people lose their lives. If the use of force is not properly calibrated, it may breed the very frustrations and anxieties, from which violence tends to erupt,” he continued.

Later, the Secretary-General had a meeting with Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Zionist Union party, and Tzipi Livni, a member of Parliament and former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

A readout issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson in New York indicated that he expressed particular concern with the situation at Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount and the religious dispute over it, which has “serious repercussions not only for Israel and Palestine but throughout the region.”