United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to immediately begin discussions on implementing the recommendations made in a recent report published by the diplomatic partners mediating the peace process as efforts continue to restore hope for a lasting political solution.
“The parties will have to make the necessary compromises for peace. At the same time, the region and the wider international community must exercise its influence to encourage both sides,” the Secretary-General said this morning in remarks to the Security Council’s briefing on the situation in the Middle East.
‘Time is running out,’ message at heart of Quartet report on conflict
On 1 July, the so-called Middle East Quartet – comprising the UN, Russia, the United States and the European Union – released the first-of–its-kind report, which analyzes the impediments to a lasting resolution to the conflict and offers recommendations on the way forward, urging Israel to stop its settlement policy and Palestine to end incitement to violence.
In the report, the Quartet calls on each side to “independently demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution” and to “refrain from unilateral steps that prejudice the outcome of the final negotiations. The diplomatic partners reiterate that a negotiated two-state outcome is the only way to achieve an enduring peace that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all permanent status issues.
In his remarks today, Mr. Ban recalled that during his visit to Israel and Palestine this past month, he carried a “clear and consistent” message to leaders on both sides that “time is running out,” a fact that he said is also at the heart of the Quartet’s report.
Noting that some on both sides have criticized the report’s content and sought to dismiss its conclusions and recommendations, the UN chief emphasized that the report’s overriding message, however, is irrefutable: “As negative trends grow more frequent, the prospects of a two-state solution grow more distant,” he said.
As such, the report’s 10 recommendations provide a practical approach to end the political stalemate, resume the transition to greater Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and chart a course to negotiations to resolve all final status issues, the Secretary-General said.
Mr. Ban also noted that French efforts to pursue peace complement the efforts being made by the Quartet envoys, and welcomed their coordination with the Quartet. In that regard, he also welcomed Egyptian efforts, including the recent visit by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to Palestine and Israel.
UN chief cites leadership failures on both sides, shrinking space for civil society
Turning to the leaders of Israel and Palestine, the Secretary-General stressed that their failures to advance peace has created a vacuum, with extremist voices filling that space. In addition, recent incidents reinforce the mounting risks, and those responsible for recent terror attacks must be held accountable, he said.
However, closures – such as those in Hebron – as well as punitive demolitions and blanket revocations of permits, penalize thousands of innocent Palestinians and amount to collective punishment, Mr. Ban said.
Noting that he is “deeply troubled” by shrinking space for civil society in the region and around the world, the Secretary-General also expressed concerned over Israel’s passage of the so-called “NGO Transparency Law,” which he said contributes to a climate in which the activities of human rights organizations are increasingly delegitimized.
“All the while, Israel’s settlement enterprise marches on,” he said, highlighting that days after the Quartet called on Israel to cease settlement construction and expansion, Israel announced plans to advance building approximately 560 housing units in the West Bank and 240 more in occupied East Jerusalem.
“This is in flagrant disregard of international law. These actions constitute an undeniable contradiction to Israel’s official support for a negotiated two-state solution,” he added, urging Israel to immediately cease and reverse such plans.
Moreover, the Secretary-General said it is necessary to ask: “How can the systematic expansion of settlements […] the taking of land for exclusive Israeli use […] and the denial of Palestinian development be a response to violence?”
He stressed that such policies will not bring the two-state solution closer to reality, nor will they make Israelis safer or more secure.
“As many former Israeli military and intelligence officers have clearly stated, these policies will do precisely the opposite. Indeed, every brick added to the edifice of occupation is another taken from Israel’s foundation as a majority Jewish and democratic State,” the Secretary-General said.
At the same time, Mr. Ban said, those Palestinians who “celebrate and encourage” attacks against innocents must know that they are not serving the interests of their people or peace. Such acts must be universally condemned and more must be done to counter the incitement that fuels and justifies terror, he stressed.
Ongoing strife in Gaza
Mr. Ban also noted that his visit to Israel and Palestine included his fourth trip to Gaza, where, despite significant progress, tens of thousands of people are still displaced following the 2014 conflict, families are forced to live without electricity for 12 to 18 hours per day, and unemployment remains staggering.
Emphasizing that funds to rebuild Gaza remain elusive, the UN chief urged donors to fulfil their pledges made at the 2014 Cairo conference.
A long-term stability and sustainability for Gaza depends on the lifting of the “crippling” closures and a re-establishment of a single, legitimate Palestinian governing authority based on Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) principles.
Turning to the Golan, the Secretary-General said that the situation remains volatile and continues to undermine the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria, jeopardizing the ceasefire between the two countries.
“As we focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace, we must take a hard look at where this conflict stands. How much longer can the parties and the international community accept political paralysis? And at what grave price?” the Secretary-General asked.
Stressing that the international community, including through the recommendations outlined in the Quartet report, remains resolute in its commitment to support the goal of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis, the Secretary-General concluded his remarks by encouraging the Security Council to support the efforts of the Quartet to work with the parties, the region and interested stakeholders in advancing peace.