The first test of the Cairo agreement is the return of the crossings to PA control & resolving the humanitarian crisis in #Gaza

16/10/2017 Leave a comment

DMQVWLhX4AAOwWuThis afternoon I met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr to discuss the implementation of the intra-Palestinian agreement that was signed in Cairo on 12 October.

The agreement provides for the return of the crossings of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority by 1 November. The timely and effective implementation of this provision and concrete steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis will be critical for effectively empowering the Palestinian Government in Gaza.

The United Nations will continue working with the Palestinian leadership, Egypt and the region in support of this process, which is critical for reaching a negotiated two-state solution and sustainable peace.

Third report on the implementation of #UN Security Council Resolution #2334

25/09/2017 Leave a comment

IMG_4692Today I delivered the third report under UNSCR 2334 to the Security Council. In it I focused on developments on the ground in accordance with the provisions of the resolution, including on regional and international efforts to advance the peace process.

During the reporting period, Israel did not “cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard,” as called for by the resolution. Since 20 June, Israel’s illegal settlement activities have continued at a high rate, a consistent pattern over the course of this year.

Activity during this period settlement activity was concentrated primarily in occupied East Jerusalem, where plans were advanced for over 2,300 housing units in July, 30 per cent more than for the whole of 2016. This includes plans for some 1,600 units expanding a ring of settlements north of East Jerusalem as well as in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, adjacent to the Old City. While no plans were advanced in Area C during the reporting period, in early September construction resumed on the new settlement of Amihai, in the heart of the West Bank.

The reporting period witnessed the eviction of a Palestinian family in Sheikh Jarrah, residents for over fifty years, after a protracted legal battle. The building is located in a section of the neighborhood in which several settlement plans were among those promoted in July. Eviction proceedings are under way for some 180 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, over 60 of whom reside in Sheikh Jarrah.

Meanwhile, according to OCHA, the destruction of Palestinian-owned property across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continued, albeit at a significantly lower rate. Overall since the beginning of 2017, 344 structures have been demolished, a third of them in East Jerusalem, displacing some 500 people.

In Area C of the occupied West Bank in August, three educational facilities, serving 175 children, were demolished or confiscated, citing the lack of building permits, which are virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

On 25 July, in the city of Hebron, 15 Israeli families illegally occupied the Abu Rajab/Machpelah House despite ongoing legal proceedings over its ownership. On 27 August, the Israeli Government notified the High Court of Justice that it would evict the settlers within one week, however this process has been put on hold by a temporary injunction issued by the Court.

In other related developments, on 26 July an amendment to the “Basic Law: Jerusalem the Capital of Israel” passed a first reading in the Knesset. If approved, this law would further cement Israeli control over East Jerusalem.

On 17 August, the High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction formally postponing application of the so-called “Regularisation law”.

Later this month, on 31 August, a military order was issued establishing a civil services administrationthat upgrades the status of settlements in the H2 area of Hebron, further consolidating Israeli presence there and reinforcing the existing separation and division of this highly volatile area, where some 500 Israelis live among some 40,000 Palestinians.

The United Nations considers all settlement activities to be illegal under international law and an impediment topeace.  Resolution 2334 states that the international community will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed to by the parties themselves through negotiations.

Moving on to the issue of violence, I noted that it persists as one of the main obstacles to resolving the conflict. Resolution 2334 calls on all sides to prevent such acts and to strengthen efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination.

Although the reporting period was characterized by relatively low levels of fatalities, a number of incidents occurred, particularly related to the unrest following the fatal 14 July attack against two Israeli policemen in Jerusalem’s Old City. During the reporting period, 19 Palestinians, five of whom were in Area A of the West Bank, were killed in attacks, clashes and Israeli military operations. Eight Israelis were killed in clashes and attacks, including the three Israeli-Arab perpetrators of the 14 July attack, who were killed by the security forces. Of the 19 Palestinian fatalities, five were killed during protests and subsequent clashes related to the unrest in Jerusalem. On 21 July, a Palestinian brutally murdered three members of an Israeli family in a terrorist attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

In a reaction to the events at the Holy Esplanade, on 21 July, Palestinian President Abbas declared a freeze of all contacts with Israel on all levels, including security coordination.

After three months of quiet, on 26 June, 23 July and 8 August Palestinian militants fired rockets towards Israel with no injuries reported. In response, Israeli Defence Forces conducted five airstrikes in Gaza, resulting in three Palestinians being injured. On 17 August, one Palestinian was killed by a suicide bomber, who was also killed, close to the Egyptian border in Gaza. This appears to be the first suicide bombing affecting Hamas forces in Gaza.

During the reporting period settler related violence also continued. Some twenty-five incidents were documented, the majority involving the vandalization of Palestinian agricultural property around Nablus, and assaults against Palestinians in or around Hebron. Meanwhile, at least 21 Palestinian attacks also took place against Israeli settlers resulting in casualties or property damage.

Punitive demolitions also continued during the reporting period with Israeli authorities demolishing five homes belonging to families of Palestinian perpetrators of attacks.

The reporting period also witnessed a shrinking space for civil society and freedom of expression.

On 24 June, the Palestinian President issued, by decree, the Cybercrime Law. Since then at least six journalists, one human rights activist in Hebron and a number of others have reportedly been arrested. While most have been subsequently released, these arrests raise strong concerns that the law is being used to curtail freedom of expression.

In Gaza, a social media activist was arrested by Hamas on 3 July and detained for almost two weeks on charges of incitement against the de facto authorities, while a journalist was  detained for more than two months on unclear allegations of collaborationwith the authorities in Ramallah.

Security Council resolution 2334 called upon both parties to refrain from acts of provocation, incitement, and inflammatory rhetoric, and to condemn all acts of terrorism. At the height of the July crisis around the holy sites of Jerusalem, officials and representatives on all sides employed provocative rhetoric.

In the midst of what were largely peaceful protests, Hamas and senior Palestinian Authority officials called for an escalation and a “day of rage” across the occupied Palestinian territory. Hamas and others continued to openly glorify attacks, describing the murder of three Israelis at their home in Halamish as “heroic.”

Meanwhile, President Abbas explicitly condemned the 14 July attack, and, in an attempt to calm tensions at the holy sites, some Palestinian leaders and religious authorities on both sides called on protestors to avoid violence and provocation.

With regard to settlements, Israeli officials continued to use provocative rhetoric in support of expansion. On 3 August, the Israeli Prime Minister delivered an inaugural speech at the launch of construction for 1,000 new housing units in the Beitar Ilit settlement in which he praised the achievements of his Government in promoting settlement construction.  On the 28th of August, he said that “there will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel (…) we will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle”. Other senior Israeli politicians also made repeated calls for annexation of the West Bank, with one Member of Knesset expressing his desire to destroyhopes for Palestinian statehood, and stated that there is room to define and realize the national aspirations of one people only — the Jewish people.

Resolution 2334 also reiterated the call by the Middle East Quartet for both parties to take steps to “reverse negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-state solution.”

On 10 July, an interim power purchasing agreement was signed between the Palestinian and the Israeli Electricity companies, energizing the first Palestinian-owned and operated substation in Jenin and allowing for an increase in electricity supply in the northern West Bank.

On 13 July, the United States facilitated an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel allowing for an increase in water supply for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as part of the 2013 Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project.

Moving on to Gaza, I noted that the situation there remains extremely fragile. The chronic energy deficit has been substantially worsened by the decision of the Palestinian Authority to reduce electricity supply to the Strip. While Egyptian fuel has enabled the Gaza Power Plant to resume operations, electricity supply is still down to about four hours per day.

Basic services in some 190 health, water and sanitation facilities, continue to rely on back-up generators powered by United Nations-provided fuel. As part of the Gaza Emergency Appeal issued in July, an additional USD 4 million from the United Nations Central Emergency   response fund has been released to support critical services. The appeal is now 51 per cent funded.

To end the standoff, the Palestinian Authority has remained firm in its demands for Hamas to dissolve the Administrative Committee it established in March 2017, and allow the Government of National Consensus to take up its responsibilities in Gaza. On 17 September, Hamas officially accepted these conditions. It now remains to be seen whether the agreement will be implemented and electricity supply will be restored to Gaza.

I informed the Council that I had just returned from a trip to Gaza and would like to report on developments there during closed consultations.

During the reporting period there have been no developments related to Member States’ distinguishing, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories it occupied in 1967.

Meanwhile, the international community has continued its efforts to advance the goal of peace as well as the deteriorating situation in Gaza.

The Envoys of the Middle East Quartet continue to meet to discuss current efforts to advance peace as well as the deteriorating situation in Gaza. In August, a US delegation travelled to the Middle East and met with regional interlocutors, with a focus on reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. All parties agreed to continue working toward a sustainable peace and to promote security and stability across the region.

Shortly thereafter, on August 27th, the Secretary-General arrived in the region for his first official visit to Israel and Palestine. He strongly reaffirmed the United Nations position that there is no alternative to the two-state solution and suggested a three-track approach to end the occupation and advance the prospects for peace: firstly, a serious political process with a clear end goal — two states living side-by-side in peace and mutual recognition; secondly, a simultaneous effort to improve the socio-economic conditions of Palestinians; and thirdly, active engagement with regional partners. He conveyed his personal commitment to help the parties return to meaningful negotiations, based on relevant United Nations resolutions, international law and prior agreements.

In September, Egypt hosted delegations from Hamas and Fatah in an effort to advance Palestinian unity, which led to the breakthrough decision by the de facto-Gaza leadership to dissolve the Administrative Committee and invite the Government to return to the Strip.

On 18 September, Norway convened the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee in New York with Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr, PA Minister of Finance and Planning Shukri Bishara and Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzahi Hanegbi, in attendance. The meeting agreed that additional concerted action was needed to make progress on fiscal sustainability, economic development and Gaza reconstruction and recovery. It was also noted that socioeconomic conditions cannot be adequately addressed without progress in the peace process.

In closing, I shared some broad observations on the reporting period.

  1. Continuing settlement expansion, most notably during this period in occupied East Jerusalem, is making the two-state solution increasingly unattainable and undermining Palestinian belief in the international peace efforts. In addition to illegal settlements, the practice of demolishing Palestinian structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and displacing Palestinians undermines the prospects of peace.
  2. Continued violence against civilians and incitement perpetuate mutual fear and suspicion, while impeding any efforts to bridge the gaps between the two sides. I once again urge both parties to demonstrate their commitment to rejecting violence, inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions.
  3. The Jenin agreement was an important first step towards a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian power purchasing agreement that would lead to greater Palestinian energy autonomy. I encourage Israelis and Palestinians to fully implement the Red Sea-Dead Sea agreement to enable delivery of much-needed water to the West Bank and Gaza.
  4. While all initiatives to improve the Palestinian economy are welcome, much more needs to be done, as part of a political process aimed at establishing a Palestinian state. Economic development, critical as it is, is no substitute for sovereignty and statehood. As the Secretary-General has called for, efforts aimed at achieving both must proceed in parallel.
  5. Intra-Palestinian reconciliation remains critical to preventing the continuing militant buildup and restoring hope for the future. In this respect, I welcome the recent statement by Hamas announcing the dissolution of the Administrative Committee in Gaza and agreement to allow the Government of National Consensus to assume its responsibilities in the strip.
  6. I commended the Egyptian authorities for their tireless efforts in creating this positive momentum. All parties must seize this opportunity to restore unity and open a new page for the Palestinian people. This should facilitate the removal of Israeli closures on Gaza, in line with Security Council Resolution 1860. The United Nations, as always, stands ready to assist all efforts in this process.
  7. It is critical that the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza, most notably the crippling electricity crisis, be addressed as a priority as well.

In closing I said that collective and determined action by the parties, the region and the international community is needed to initiate a serious political process, drawing upon all relevant UN resolutions, that will realize a two-state solution, ending the occupation and resolving all final status issues.

As the Secretary-General said on his recent visit, “the international community cannot simply turn away and allow the situation to deteriorate. We have a role and a responsibility to support the parties in resolving this conflict.” With that responsibility comes an obligation, an obligation to do what is necessary to establish a peaceful, prosperous and secure future – for Palestinians, for Israelis and for the entire region.

Categories: Uncategorized

#Palestinian parties must seize opportunity created by #Egypt for reconciliation

17/09/2017 Leave a comment

I welcome the recent statement by Hamas announcing the dissolving of the Administrative Committee in Gaza and agreement to allow the Government of National Consensus to assume its responsibilities in Gaza.

I commend the Egyptian authorities for their tireless efforts in creating this positive momentum. All parties must seize this opportunity to restore unity and open a new page for the Palestinian people.

The United Nations stands ready to assist all efforts in this respect. It is critical that the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza, most notably the crippling electricity crisis, be addressed as a priority.

#Palestinian factions must seize positive momentum for unity created by #Egypt and solve #Gaza humanitarian crisis 

13/09/2017 Leave a comment

I welcome the recent developments related to Palestinian unity in Cairo. Reconciliation is critical to addressing the grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza, preventing the continuing militant buildup and restoring hope for the future. 

I urge all parties to seize the current positive momentum and reach an agreement that would allow the the Palestinian Government to immediately take up its responsibilities in Gaza. 

Gaza is and must be an integral part of any future Palestinian state. Unity is an essential step towards the peaceful realisation of the Palestinian national aspirations. 

Categories: statement

As we deal with the crisis in #Jerusalem, we must not lose track of ongoing crisis in #Gaza

25/07/2017 Leave a comment

My remarks as delivered here, or you can watch the video here.

After the closed session of the UN Secuirty Council yesterday on Jerusalem, today the Council convened the regular debate on the Middle East and the Palestinian question. The risks of escalation and violence in the region continue to increase, despite the emergence of a newfound agreement among a number of countries of the need to stand united against terrorism and radicalism. As societies continue to fracture along ethnic or religious lines and non-state actors continue to control large territories, recent events in Jerusalem resonate across the Middle East. For nearly a century, despite a myriad of peace efforts, one conflict has evaded solution. Some say it is irresolvable. Others challenge the basic premises of international consensus on how it can be resolved.

The Palestinian – Israeli conflict is not only about land and peace. It is about two peoples who both have legitimate national aspirations for statehood and recognition. Two nations, whose histories are intertwined, and whose future is forever intricately linked. Fortunately until now, Israelis and Palestinians have not succumbed to the torrent of violent upheaval that has engulfed the region in recent years. But half a century of occupation have produced tens of thousands of casualties and left deep psychological scars on both sides.

Developments over the past 11 days at the holy sites of the Old City in Jerusalem, however, have demonstrated the grave risk of dangerous escalation that exists, a risk of turning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one and dragging both sides into the vortex of violence with the rest of the region.

On 14 July, two Israeli policemen were killed by three assailants at the Lion’s Gate entrance of the Holy Esplanade. The attackers fled inside the compound before being shot by police. According to the Israeli authorities the assailants had initiated the attack from within the compound. In the immediate aftermath, the Palestinian President condemned the attack, while the Israeli Prime Minister committed to upholding and respecting the status quo at the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. Citing security concerns, the Israeli authorities closed the compound to all, including, for the first time since 1969, to Muslims for Friday prayers, and restricted entrance to the Old City in order to secure the area of the attack, search for further threats and conduct an investigation. Two days later, on Sunday 16 July, the compound was reopened, first for Muslim worshippers, and later for visitors, placing metal detectors outside its entrances. The Islamic Waqf immediately rejected this move as a change in the status quo and called on worshippers not to enter the compound through the metal detectors but to pray outside the entrance and in the streets of Jerusalem. Palestinian factions also immediately rejected the security measures. Hamas and Islamic Jihad issued a joint statement warning that this is a red line that would lead to an escalation and Fatah called for “a day of rage”.

Starting on 16 July, prayers and peaceful protests were conducted at Lion’s Gate, followed by clashes with the Israeli police. Tensions rose by Friday 21 July, as the Waqf announced the closure of all Jerusalem mosques for Friday prayer, directing worshippers to pray outside the compound. In response, Israel announced a restriction of entry for all Muslim men under 50 into the Old City. Clashes that evening and the next turned fatal. Later on Friday evening, three Israelis were killed in a brutal terror attack at their home in the settlement of Halamish by a 19-year-old Palestinian assailant who in his last will made a clear connection between his act and the events in East Jerusalem. Overall in clashes since 14 July attack, at least four Palestinians have been killed and over 300 injured. I asked Member States to unequivocally condemn the violence of the last few days. Our thoughts and prayers must go out to their families of the victims. On 21 July, President Abbas announced that the Palestinian Authority was freezing all contact with Israel, including high-level security coordination.

Let us make no mistake that while events in Jersualem may be taking place over a couple of hundred square meters in Jerusalem, they affect hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Therefore, I welcomed last night’s decision by the Israeli security cabinet to remove the metal detectors, while ensuring the security of visitors and worshippers to the holy sites. I hope that the cabinet decision will lead to a calming of the current tensions and will enable a return of worshippers to the Holy Esplanade. It is expected that President Abbas will convene the Palestinian leadership later night to discuss these development.

As we have seen over these past 11 days, it is vital that the status quo, established since 1967, be preserved while security be maintained for worshippers and visitors to the holy sites. I encouraged Israel to continue its intense contacts with Jordan, recognizing the special and historic role of the Hashemite Kingdom.

All parties must refrain from provocative actions, show restraint, and bring a conclusive end to this crisis in the next few days. In these efforts, constant discussion with the Islamic religious authorities in Jerusalem and the Palestinian leadership can greatly contribute to maintaining calm in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank.

As this crisis has unfolded I reflected briefly on the views of residents of East Jerusalem, who have been in the midst of events in the last few weeks. They often tell us that for many years they have felt that religious and ethnic identity is under threat; that their very livelihood in their own city is at risk while living under occupation; their children live in fear of security operations and house demolitions. They want to pray in peace and live in security and freedom. Many of them feel alone. They talk of the ‘special status’ that United Nations Resolution 181 (1947) had bestowed on Jerusalem, yet they see the reality around them. This is why often they come to us appealing for protection. It is critical that any decision made at the highest political and religious levels, if it is to be sustainable, take into consideration the fears and hopes of the people.

Jerusalem remains is a final status issue that needs to be decided and negotiated between the two sides. As the occupying power, Israel has a responsibility to uphold its obligations under International Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law, and must show maximum restraint in order to avoid further loss of life and an escalation of the situation. At the same time, Palestinian leaders also have a responsibility to avoid provocative statements that further aggravate an already tense environment. I am particularly concerned by statements made over the past weeks by some factions that have sought to fan the flames of violence. Such provocations are dangerous and I call on all to condemn them.

This crisis has diverted us from the real tasks ahead, namely how to restore a political process in order to find a solution that meets the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians; a solution that is based on United Nations Resolutions and is achieved through negotiations. A solution, whose ultimate goal is two states living side by side in peace and security.

These latest incidents have taken place have taken place against a backdrop of other developments in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.
In July alone, plans were advanced for over 2,300 housing units in East Jerusalem – 30 per cent more than were advanced during all of 2016. This includes plans for 1,600 units expanding a ring of settlements in northern East Jerusalem, as well as plans in Sheikh Jarrah, which may involve demolition of Palestinian houses. I once again emphasized that settlement activity in occupied territory is illegal under international law, and undermines the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.

On a positive note, some constructive steps have been taken that are in line with the recommendations of the Middle East Quartet report. On 10 July, an interim power purchasing agreement was signed, energizing the first Palestinian-owned and operated substation in Jenin. This will increase electricity supply in the northern West Bank and help the Palestinian Authority take control of the energy sector. Both sides should now move to negotiate a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian power purchasing agreement that would be a landmark achievement towards Palestinian energy independence.

On July 13th, with United States facilitation, the Palestinian Authority and Israeli Government also reached an agreement allowing for an increase in water supply for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Under its terms, the Palestinian Authority will purchase some 32 million cubic meters of water from Israel, 22 million cubic meters for the West Bank and 10 million for Gaza. The water will come from a desalination plant to be constructed in Aqaba, Jordan.

The implementation of such agreements is instrumental in rebuilding trust between Palestinians and Israelis. They are, however, put at risk by the freezing of contacts between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Without resolution to the current crisis, these hard won gains will swiftly evaporate.

I then turned to the situation in Gaza with a heavy heart, where two million people have been taken hostage in the political standoff between Fatah and Hamas.

The humanitarian impact of the punishing measures taken against Gaza is appalling. In some parts of Gaza people have experienced electricity cuts of 36 hours. No electricity means no drinking water. Hospitals are struggling to survive. An environmental crisis is in the making.

Whatever the political differences between the Palestinian factions, it is not the people of Gaza who should pay the price.

Mr. President,
The UN will not give up on Gaza and its people. Despite the odds, we will continue our intense mediation efforts to resolve the standoff.
I want to thank Egypt for stepping in at a moment of need and facilitated the entry of badly needed fuel to increase electricity supply. Egyptian fuel, along with the nearly 900 thousand liters of fuel per month provided by the United Nations for the most essential services, provide a temporary lifeline to the residents of Gaza.

In this environment the continued functioning of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism is more than ever critical for the people of Gaza. Recently, too, Qatar has signed contracts for eight more residential buildings as part of their commitment to reconstruction.

Today Gaza and the West Bank are further apart than ever. Palestinian leaders must make some hard choices about the future of their people. They can work to overcome their ideological divisions, or they can continue along the path that will guarantee Gaza’s complete collapse. They can work to unite Palestinians in pursuit of the goal of statehood, or they can oversee the demise of the Palestinian national project. They can resolve the current crisis, or preside over the radicalization of their population and see it fall into the hands of extremists with even more destructive agendas.

I know that this is not the future that the majority of Palestinians want for their country. I know that they want to build a state in which human rights are respected; a state that is achieved on the basis of negotiations — not violence; one that lives in peace and security with the State of Israel.

For ten years, however, the population in Gaza has lived in a state of chronic vulnerability. At what point will people say enough is enough? At what point will we say enough is enough?

Since violently seizing control of Gaza, Hamas has tightened its grip on power and suppressed dissent. The fact that no presidential or legislative elections have been held in Palestine since 2006 has also created a democratic deficit that undermines the legitimacy of institutions. Two different legal systems have emerged and diverging laws have been enacted in Gaza and the West Bank.

I once again called on Palestinian leaders to address the destructive consequences of the split. I encourage them to reach agreement that would allow the legitimate Palestinian authorities to take up their responsibilities in Gaza, as a step towards the formation of a national unity government on the basis of the PLO platform, and agree to hold elections. Meanwhile Hamas must ensure that calm is maintained by ceasing militant buildup against Israel and by maintaining security at the border of Egypt. At the same time, I encouraged Israel to step-up measures to lift the closures and facilitate development in Gaza as overall calm persists in the Strip, in line with Security Council resolution 1860

Turning to Lebanon, I refer to the briefing by the Special Coordinator for Lebanon a few days ago who briefed the Council in detail on developments and risks under UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

Meanwhile the ceasefire between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic has been maintained, albeit in a volatile environment. I am alarmed by the recent spike of military activities in Syria, which has resulted in several spill-over fire incidents across the Disengagement Line and Israeli retaliatory actions. I join the Secretary-General in welcoming the announcement by the Governments of Jordan, the Russian Federation and the United States of a de-escalation zone and arrangements to support a ceasefire and delivery of humanitarian assistance in southwest Syria.

In closing, I emphasised that the events we have witnessed over the past weeks are a reminder of how easy it is to reach the precipice of a dangerous escalation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. We are not yet over this crisis, but I hope that the steps being taken by Israel will enable a return the relative calm before the violent events of 14 July, and that, with agreement between Israel and Jordan and the positive engagement of the religious authorities, we will avoid a cycle of violence that would destroy all peace efforts for the foreseeable future.

We must not lose focus on the need to restore a political perspective, on the need to bring Palestinians and Israelis back into an environment that is conducive to negotiations on a final status arrangement and avoids turning the national Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious conflict.

Events in #Jerusalem could have catastrophic consequences across the #MiddleEast #UN

25/07/2017 7 comments

FullSizeRenderI spoke to the media after the extraordinary UN Secuirty Council discussion on the situation in Jerusalem. Here is what I said:

“I want to start by thanking the Chinese Presidency of the Security Council for accepting the request by Egypt, Sweden and France to have a discussion on the situation in Jerusalem before the open debate tomorrow. Allow me to say a few words about what I presented today to the Security Council.

Let me begin by once again calling on all parties to

refrain from provocative actions, show restraint, and find a solution.

It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday this week as the dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayers without a resolution.

I asked Security Council Member States to use their influence with all sides in order to encourage them to de-escalate, to ensure that while security is provided for worshippers and visitors to the holy sites in Jerusalem, the status quo that has been established since 1967 is preserved for all.

It is critically important that

the status quo be preserved in Jerusalem,

and I want to welcome once again the assurances that Prime Minister Netanyahu has provided that Israel has no interest in changing it.

I encourage Israel to continue its intense contacts with Jordan, in light with the Hashemite Kingdom’s special and historic role in Jerusalem, to find a solution to the crisis.

I asked the Member States of the Security Council to unequivocally

condemn the violence of the last few days.

We have seen Palestinians being killed in clashes with Israeli security forces. We have seen an Israeli family being slaughtered in a terrorist attack in a settlement in the West Bank. All incidents deserve the full condemnation of the international community and our thoughts and prayers must go out to their families of the victims.

Jerusalem is perhaps one of the most critical cities in the world. It is an emotionally, religiously and historically charged place for billions of people. East Jerusalem is a final status issue that needs to be decided and negotiated between the two sides.

As the occupying power, Israel has a responsibility to uphold its obligations under International Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law, and must show maximum restraint in order to avoid further loss of life and an escalation of the situation.

At the same time, the Palestinian leadership also has a responsibility to avoid provocative actions and statements that further aggravate an already tense environment. I am particularly concerned by some statements that have been made by some Palestinian factions that seek to fan the flames of violence and I call on all to condemn such statements and actions.

Ahead of tomorrow, I hope that all Member States, when they speak at the open debate will be careful

to avoid statements that further inflame the situation

and to call on all parties to de-escalate and find a solution that is based on the status quo and the need to ensure security for all worshippers and visitors to the holy sites in Jerusalem.

In closing let me say that nobody should be mistaken that these events can be localized. In fact, they may be taking place over a couple of hundreds square meters in Jerusalem, but they affect hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people around the world. They have the potential to have catastrophic consequences well beyond the walls of the old city, well beyond Israel and Palestine, well beyond the Middle East itself.

This crisis, in fact any such crisis, is a step backwards. It is a step away from what we need to focus on and that is how to bring the parties back to a political process in order to find a solution that meets the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians; that is based on UN Security Council Resolutions and relevant international law; that is achieved through negotiations and that has the ultimate result of two states, which is what the international consensus on how to resolve this conflict requires.

It is critically important to also understand that these events take place at a time of political vacuum, at a time when the political perspective is still missing. This is why it is important for all of us to focus on restoring a political perspective, on helping bring Palestinians and Israelis back into an environment that is conducive to negotiations on a final status arrangement, and to do that in a manner that avoids turning that national Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one.

Tomorrow I will return to Jerusalem and continue our direct engagement with all stakeholders in order to facilitate a quick end to this crisis and a return to the situation which would allow the status quo to be observed, as well as for people to have safe and secure access to the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Nickolay Mladenov (Special Coordinator) on the situation in the West Bank – Security Council Media Stakeout (24 July 2017)

It is time to turn the challenges of the past into opportunities for the future

21/06/2017 1 comment

On 20 June I briefed the UN Security Council, on behalf of the Secretary- General, on the implementation of resolution 2334 during the period from 25 March to 19 June. I focused on developments on the ground in accordance with the provisions of the resolution, including on regional and international efforts to advance peace.

From the beginning I noted that nothing in the report can be divorced from the broader context in which it is happening: the half century of occupation, the stalled peace process, the lack of dialogue between the parties, as well as continued illegal settlement activities, terror, violence and increased radicalization. This briefing coincides with the 50-year anniversary of the Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan. Achieving a negotiated two-state outcome is the only way to lay the foundations for enduring peace that is based on Israeli security needs and the Palestinian right to sovereignty and statehood.

Now is not the time to give up on this goal. Now is the time to create the conditions for a return to negotiations to resolve all final status issues on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, mutual agreements and international law.

Resolution 2334 calls on Israel to take steps “to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” No such steps have been taken during the reporting period. In fact — since the 24th of March –

there has been substantial increase in settlement-related announcements

as compared with the previous reporting period, with plans for nearly 4,000 housing units moving forward and 2,000 tenders issued. The United Nations considers all settlement activities to be illegal under international law. Resolution 2334 states that the international community will not recognize any changes to the 4th of June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed to by the parties themselves through negotiations.

Plans for some 3,200 units were advanced through the various stages of the planning process in 22 settlements in Area C of the occupied West Bank. These plans include 2,000 housing units in major population centers of Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel, and over 800 units in Kerem Reim, Oranit and Beit El.

One hundred units were advanced for the new settlement of Amihai, established in the eastern Shiloh Valley for the former residents of the Amona outpost, where the Israeli authorities also declared 241 acres as ‘state land’ in the same zone. Both acts would further sever the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian State, solidifying a line of settlements dividing the northern and central West Bank. As construction on the new settlement began today, the Prime Minister stated that “there will never be, a Government that is more prosettlement than our Government”.

Separately, tenders were issued for close to 2,000 housing units in four settlements close to the 1967 line — Alfei Menashe, Beitar Illit, Beit Arie and Karnei Shomron. Infrastructure tenders for a future construction of over 200 settlement units in Kochav Yaakov, located between Ramallah and Jerusalem were also re-issued. In East Jerusalem 770 housing units in the Gilo Southern Slopes reached the final approval stage, and building permits for over 360 housing units were granted in Ramat Shlomo, Pisgat Ze’ev and Ramot.

Meanwhile, according to OCHA, the reporting period witnessed a sharp decline in the number of demolished Palestinian-owned structures in Area C: 29 structures were demolished or seized, down from 149 in the previous reporting period. East Jerusalem saw a less pronounced decrease in demolished structures from 49 to 32; however, the monthly average of demolitions in East Jerusalem since the beginning of 2017 remains at the same levels as in 2016 when demolitions reached a 15-year record.

Resolution 2334 calls on all sides to refrain from violence and undertake efforts to combat it. During the reporting period,

the security situation on the ground remained relatively calm. 

No rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces did not conduct any airstrikes in Gaza.

However, according to OCHA seventeen Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, in various incidents including reported terror attacks, clashes, and military operations. One Israeli soldier was killed in a car ramming attack on 6 April outside the Ofra settlement, northeast of Ramallah, and, on 16 June, a policewoman was killed in a shooting and stabbing attack by Palestinian assailants in the vicinity of the Old City of Jerusalem. On 14 April, a British exchange student was killed by a Palestinian assailant in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem. The Israeli Security Forces killed a Jordanian citizen reportedly involved in a stabbing incident in the Old City on 13 May, and on 25 May a Palestinian fisherman off the coast of Gaza. The reporting period also witnessed the shooting of two Palestinian men during protests at the fence along Gaza’s northern border.

On March the 24th, a senior Hamas military commander was assassinated by unknown assailants in Gaza City. This was followed by a lockdown of Gaza by Hamas in which for a period of a few days the de facto authorities did not allow Palestinians or internationals to leave the Strip. In April, Hamas executed six Palestinian men for alleged collaboration with Israel, an act that was condemned by the international community.

Settler-related violence continued during the reporting period as well. According to OCHA, 31 incidents were documented, resulting in one Palestinian killed, ten injured, and damage to Palestinian property. Much of the violence has centred around the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, near Nablus, a recurrent source of violent actions against neighbouring villages in the past.

Against the backdrop of Israeli security officials reportedly warning of the increased risk of another terror attack by Jewish extremists, like the one against the Dawabshe family two years ago, a Rabbi from Yitzhar was indicted for incitement to violence against Palestinians, while a number of others have been arrested.

Resolution 2334 called upon both parties to refrain from acts of provocation, incitement, and inflammatory rhetoric, and to “clearly condemn all acts of terrorism.” Regrettably, such calls continued to go unanswered during the reporting period.

Palestinian officials and media outlets affiliated with Fatah continued to commemorate perpetrators of past terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

One community center was recently named after a Palestinian woman who was involved in an attack in which 38 Israelis, including 13 children were killed in Tel Aviv in 1978. UN Women and Norway withdrew support from the organisation.

Hamas leaders have also continued their deplorable practice of celebrating recent attacks against Israeli civilians as “heroic,” including the 1 April stabbing in Jerusalem’s Old City in which two civilians were injured. And, just a few hours after the complex attack at Damascus Gate last Friday, in which a policewoman was killed, Hamas was quick to praise “the three martyrs from today’s heroic Jerusalem operation.”

Some Israeli officials have also employed provocative rhetoric. Politicians have repeatedly declared that there will never be a Palestinian state, pledging to take the idea of statehood “off the agenda.” In a regrettable incident, an Israeli minister spoke at an event, attended by other members of the Knesset, celebrating the publication of a book promoting abhorrent views towards Israel’s Arab citizens. The book was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League as “dangerous and inhumane” and a number of the participants expressed regret at their attendance.

Resolution 2334 reiterated the call by the Middle East Quartet on both parties to take steps “to reverse negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-state solution.” In May,

Israel approved a number of positive measures to improve the Palestinian economy.

These included the 24-hour opening of the Allenby Bridge for a three-month period, which is effective as of today, in addition to extended operating hours at the Tarkumiya, Ephraim, Gilboa, Maccabim and Reihan crossing points, and the construction of a vehicular crossing at Eyal. In addition, the package envisions the development of an industrial zone that includes bonded warehouses and a natural gas and fuel terminal, aiming to enhance Palestinian authority over trade and customs issues. The measures also included the demarcation of approximately 4,000 acres of land in Area C, including next to three major Palestinian cities — Ramallah, Nablus and Tulkarem – in which the regulation of planning and zoning will undergo changes, with potentially positive implications for Palestinian development.

Palestinian and Israeli Finance Ministries held a number of meetings to discuss fiscal leakages, a critical issue given the Palestinian Authority’s 800 million dollar financing gap. The parties have progressed in discussions on VAT clearance revenues. In early June, in accordance with the Electricity Agreement signed last September, Israel transferred 30 million dollars to the Palestinian Authority in lieu of equalization levies and health stamps and agreed to conduct monthly transfers in the future. In May, the Joint Water Committee held its first meeting in seven years.

During the reporting period, the situation in Gaza has heightened intra-Palestinian tensions, creating an increasingly dangerous humanitarian situation, and raising serious concerns about the prospect of another conflict. By establishing an Administrative Committee to run civilian affairs, Hamas tightened its control of Gaza and further antagonized the legitimate Palestinian authorities, reducing the prospects for reconciliation.

Meanwhile, a standoff between Fatah and Hamas over the payment of taxes on fuel led to the shutdown of the only power plant in Gaza, leaving residents with four hours of electricity per day. Basic services, including health facilities, water supply and wastewater management have almost ground to a halt increasing the risk of health and environmental disasters. Today Gaza depends exclusively on Israeli electricity lines, which normally provide 60 percent of supply; on Egypt; and on a UN-managed emergency fuel operation that given the funding available, will expire in two to three months.

On May 15th , the Palestinian Authority informed Israel that it would reduce its payment for the electricity Israel supplies to Gaza by 30 per cent. One month later, Israel agreed to the Palestinian request. An initial five per cent reduction was implemented on 19 June; further cuts are expected to have catastrophic consequences for Gaza’s population.

I went beyond the scope of today’s report on the implementation of resolution 2334 and — once again – warned all parties that Gaza is a tinderbox. If and when it explodes, it will have devastating consequences for the population and derail all efforts at advancing peace.

Two million Palestinians in Gaza can no longer be held hostage by divisions.

For a decade they have lived under the control of Hamas. They have had to deal with crippling Israeli closures, Palestinian divisions and have lived through three devastating conflicts. Perpetuating this situation breeds radicalism and extremism. We have a collective responsibility to prevent this. We have a duty to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

Returning to the resolution I noted that during the reporting period there have been no developments related to Member States’ distinguishing, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967. There have, however, been continuing efforts by the international community to advance peace. On the 29th of March in Jordan, at the Summit of the League of Arab States, Arab leaders committed to re-launching serious peace negotiations on the basis of the two-state solution, establishing a Palestinian state “on the lines of June 4, 1967 with its capital in East Jerusalem” and reaffirmed their commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

In May, on his first trip abroad, U.S. President Trump visited Israeli and Palestinian leaders and made clear that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is critical to combating the threat of violent extremism and terrorism. He expressed his personal commitment to helping both sides achieve a peace agreement that would begin a process of peace throughout the region.

The Secretary-General looks forward to working with the United States, Russia, the European Union and regional partners towards improving the environment for peacemaking, including by engaging with all sides to improve the Palestinian economy in the West Bank and Gaza.

In closing, I shared some broad observations on the reporting period.

First, I stressed the urgency of addressing the rapidly deteriorating situation in Gaza.

We must acknowledge the significant budget constraints the Palestinian Authority is currently facing and the need to support the Government in addressing them. However all decisions must be taken with due consideration of their humanitarian impact. I called on Palestinian leaders to urgently reach the necessary compromises that will return Gaza to the control of the legitimate authorities.

Last month, I warned the Security Council that this crisis is leading us toward another conflict. A conflict that no one wants. I urged all parties to act before it is too late.

Secondly, the policy of continued illegal settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory contravenes resolution 2334. The large number of settlement-related activities documented during this period undermine the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.

Thirdly, the continuing terror attacks, violence and incitement remain a very serious concern. Leaders have a responsibility to implement measures demonstrating their commitment to combatting violence and any acts of provocation and inflammatory rhetoric.

Fourthly, while Israeli initiatives to improve the Palestinian economy are positive steps forward, it remains to be seen whether this will significantly increase Palestinian civil authority, in line with Quartet recommendations and prior commitments between the parties.

 

In this symbolic month it is time to turn the challenges of the past into opportunities for the future. As the Secretary-General recently stated: “The occupation has shaped the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis. It has fueled recurring cycles of violence and retribution. Its perpetuation is sending an unmistakable message to generations of Palestinians that their dream of statehood is destined to remain just that, a dream; and to Israelis that their desire for peace, security and regional recognition remains unattainable.”

Every day that passes without peace, is another day we neglect our collective responsibility to advance a meaningful strategy towards a negotiated two-state solution that meets the national and historic aspirations of both peoples.

The United Nations will continue its determined engagement with the parties and all key stakeholders to achieve that objective.