Israel-Palestine: ‘Meaningful initiatives’ needed soon, to reverse current course
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council on Wednesday, that since the adoption in December 2016 of resolution 2334, which demands Israel stop building new settlements on Palestinian land, there’s been “little progress” implementing it.
Tor Wennesland updated ambassadors on a litany of violations, including “mounting pressure” on Palestinians to leave their homes, and plans for new construction outposts.
“The absence of a meaningful peace process to end the Israeli occupation and resolve the conflict is fueling a dangerous deterioration across the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory], particularly in the West Bank, and driving the perception that the conflict in unresolvable”, he said.
📽️UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process @TWennesland briefed the Security Council on deteriorating security situation, high levels of settler-related violence against Palestinians in West Bank & that #children continue to be killed & injured in large numbers. pic.twitter.com/kMOqawX4blUNISPAL
‘Perpetual state of violence’
The UN envoy reminded that resolution 2334 called for “immediate steps to prevent all violence against civilians,” before listing a wide range of attacks carried out between June and September in the West Bank and Gaza, the vast majority of which left Palestinians dead or injured.
“I am particularly appalled that children continue to be killed and injured in large numbers,” he stated. “Children must never be the target of violence or put in harm’s way”.
He said Israel should only use lethal force when “strictly unavoidable to protect life”, must thoroughly investigate all resulting deaths or injuries, and “hold those responsible, accountable”.
“Negotiations can no longer be pushed off indefinitely”, Mr. Wennesland continued, observing that the current course is heading towards “a perpetual state of violence and conflict”.
Reversing ‘negative trends’
As resolution 2334 also calls for immediate steps to “reverse negative trends…imperiling the two-State solution”, he described some positive developments, such as on 7 July when President Abbas and Defense Minister Gantz met in Ramallah, and the following day when Israeli President Herzog and Prime Minister Lapid, spoke to President Abbas by phone.
And during his July visit to Israel and the OPT, US President Biden announced a $100 million contribution to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network; $201 million for UN Palestine refugee relief agency, UNRWA, and $15 million to address food insecurity.
Moreover, Israel issued some 16,000 worker and other business permits for Palestinians in Gaza and extended social entitlements under Israeli labour laws, to workers entering from the Gaza Strip.
The UN envoy informed the 15 Council members of the Secretary-General’s concerns over continued settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
He highlighted the Supreme Court’s Mitzpeh Kramim decision that could set a legal precedent for additional outposts, and demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned property.
He also noted civilian casualties from the latest escalation in Gaza; indiscriminate rocket launches there by Palestinian militants; and the deteriorating security situation in the occupied West Bank.
He also relayed the UN chief’s apprehension that “the current negative trajectory” puts at great risk the socioeconomic and institution-building that has prepared the Palestinian Authority for eventual statehood.
At the same time, the Secretary-General welcomed the Special Representative’s 22 September report on a comprehensive package of “incremental, durable, and meaningful steps” that the parties and their partners should take, to address the current situation, strengthen the Palestinian Authority, and advance the goal of a sustainable peace.
In closing, Mr. Wennesland stressed the need for “meaningful initiatives” to reverse the current trajectory, adding, “they are needed quickly”.
He said that “Israelis and Palestinians must determine how they envision the future”.
“Ending the occupation and realizing a two-State solution must drive our collective efforts”, he concluded, vowing to remain “actively engaged in advancing these objectives with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and with key international and regional partners”.