Special Representative Outlines Recent Developments, Including Israel’s Designation of Palestinian Non-Governmental Groups as Terrorist Entities
To break the deadlock over the long-standing Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the international community must focus less on political paradigms and more on what is happening on the ground, the representative of a leading think tank told the Security Council today, as members expressed grave concerns over rising tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Comfort Ero, Interim Vice President and Programme Director of the International Crisis Group, said the 15-member Council and the global community more broadly have done “too little to steer this tragic conflict into calmer waters, to protect its victims and to push Israelis and Palestinians toward a just solution”.
She said her organization has consistently urged the international community to put in place the building blocks of a more peaceful and just future for Israelis and Palestinians. Further, it has called on the international community to press all sides to rethink the peace process in a manner that “acknowledges the structural power imbalance between an occupying State and an occupied people, and the necessity of challenging the impunity Israel has come to take for granted”.
However, she warned that, “arguably, the opposite has happened”. The new Israeli Government — inaugurated in June — continues to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank and take repressive measures against Palestinians in ways no different from its predecessors. At the same time, Palestinian politics has become “dangerously ossified”, with the Palestinian Authority turning into a governing body with limited powers that is unresponsive, unaccountable, authoritarian and repressive.
Outlining several recommendations, she said the global community should immediately seek a long-term truce in Gaza, a return to the historical status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites and a halt to eviction orders in East Jerusalem. It should also press Israel to end its settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and rescind the order banning the six Palestinian civil society groups. Palestinian elections must be held as soon as possible, with the participation of East Jerusalem’s Palestinians, and the Middle East Quartet Principles must be revised to allow Hamas to participate in a Palestinian unity Government.
The Council also heard its regular briefing by Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who reported on recent incidents and new developments on the ground. He said that in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, clashes, attacks, search and arrest operations as well as other incidents resulted in the deaths of four Palestinians and one Israeli civilian.
In recent months, Israeli authorities announced tenders for 1,350 housing units — about half of which are at the heart of the northern West Bank — and advanced plans for some 3,200 additional units in Area C, after an eight-month hiatus. In a rare development, the authorities also advanced plans for a total of 7,300 housing units for Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and Area C. Urging Israel to advance additional plans for Palestinian housing, he noted that, notwithstanding that move, demolition and confiscation of Palestinian homes and other structures continued during the reporting period.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members welcomed recent international meetings of key actors, including a session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee — a 15-member organ that coordinates development assistance to the Palestinian people, chaired by Norway — and a meeting of envoys of the Middle East Quartet, consisting of the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United States and the United Nations. Speakers largely voiced concern about Israel’s decision to designate six Palestinian non-governmental organizations as terrorist entities, while broadly welcoming the strong support expressed by Member States for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) at the ministerial conference co-hosted by Jordan and Sweden earlier this month.
China’s representative stressed the important role played by civil society organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and underlined the need to create an enabling environment for them. He also called for the convening of a United Nations-brokered, international peace conference, with participation by all permanent Council members and stakeholders in the Middle East peace process.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the Middle East Quartet is the sole internationally recognized mechanism to facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. As such, he called on his Quartet colleagues to examine several proposed initiatives, including one concerning an expanded format with the participation of regional States.
Norway’s delegate welcomed that the recent Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting, convened in Oslo, addressed the critical fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority. She stressed that improving economic relations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel is key, as there is simply not much external aid available.
The representative of Niger was among those speakers calling for an immediate end to Israel’s continued occupation and illegal settlement activities. He stressed that those continued actions indicate that all hopes arising from the recent normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab States have been dashed.
Mexico’s representative called for the blockade on Gaza to be lifted definitively, emphasizing that a prosperous, peaceful Gaza Strip also means security for Israel. Urging both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to abstain from resorting to inflammatory rhetoric and acts of incitement, he emphasized that the “cycle of reciprocal violence must be broken”.
Meanwhile, the representative of the United States observed that the Council’s monthly meetings on the situation in the Middle East focus almost exclusively on Israel’s actions. The organ should also hold open meetings on the situation in Lebanon and meet more regularly on Iran, she said, noting that her country’s disapproval of settlement expansion goes back decades and warning that Israel’s current settlement activities undermine the viability of a negotiated two-State solution.
Also speaking were the representatives of Estonia, Kenya, Viet Nam, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Tunisia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and India.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:01 p.m.