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Upholding #UN resolutions and international law is just as important as preventing escalation and #war in #Gaza and paving the way for negotiations.

20/11/2019 4 comments

On 20 November I briefed the UN Security Council on the latest developments in the Middle East.

We met in in the aftermath of the most serious recent escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. Although the immediate crisis was diffused, the situation remains highly volatile.

Following Israel’s targeted killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Commander Baha Abu al-Ata in Gaza, Palestinian militants launched more than 500 rockets towards Israel. This latest escalation was preceded on 1 November by some ten rockets that were launched from Gaza towards Israel, one of them hitting a house in Sderot City.

While according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 90 per cent were intercepted by the Iron Dome, those that landed caused damage to residential and commercial property. 78 Israelis were treated for injuries or shock. 

The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars at civilian population centres is unacceptable and must stop immediately.

In response to the rocket attacks, the IDF conducted a number of strikes against PIJ and militant targets in Gaza. 34 Palestinians were killed, more than 20 of them identified by the IDF as militants, and three women and eight children. One of the fatalities was reportedly caused by a Palestinian rocket falling short inside Gaza. In total, 109 people were injured as well.

Among the people killed in Gaza were eight members of a family, who were killed in a single Israeli strike. The IDF has reportedly admitted that their home was mistakenly targeted. This is a tragic and heinous incident and must be thoroughly and impartially investigated.

There is no justification for the killing of civilians anywhere.

I welcomed the extraordinary effort by Egypt, working closely with the UN, to ensure that calm in Gaza was restored after 48 hours of hostilities. Had our efforts failed, we would certainly be in the midst of another war that would be far worse than the terrible conflict in 2014.

The dangers have not passed. Although for now, the arrangements that came into effect in the early hours of 14 November are holding, sporadic rocket launches have continued, prompting Israeli retaliation. 

There are also other risks.

Israeli closures and intra-Palestinian division feed a desperate reality. Militant activity, rocket fire, and retaliatory air-strikes constantly risk more violence. Over the past year and a half, the UN has worked hard to prevent escalation and implement the UN package for Gaza as endorsed by the AHLC. As a result of this work, electricity supply was restored to an average of 13 hours per day, more than 16,000 temporary jobs were created, and work is progressing on reviving an industrial zone to create long-term economic opportunities. All these measures have admittedly eased tensions, but they fall short of what is required both in terms of financial resources, political commitment by Palestinian leaders, and measures by Israel.

Gaza ultimately requires a political solution. 

Militant activity cannot continue to undermine the chances for peace and development.

Israel cannot continue with its policy of closures that stifles development.

Palestinian leaders cannot continue to avoid the devastating consequences of their internal political division.

I took the opportunity to thank those in the international community who have contributed to the implementation of the AHLC plan and call on all to increase their support to UN programmes on the ground. Most urgent is the need to address the collapse of the health system in Gaza.

Nevertheless, our important humanitarian engagement must not divert us from the political goal of helping Palestinians to develop freely, without relentless occupation, and Israelis to live in security, free from the fear of terror and rockets. The only way to ensure this goal is to work towards — and achieve — a two-state solution, based on relevant UN resolutions; a two-state solution, in which Gaza is an integral part of the future state of Palestine. 

Protests at the Gaza perimeter fence have also continued with a small number of participants engaging in violent activities. The IDF responded with riot dispersal means and live fire, injuring over 300 people, including women and children. 

Israeli security forces (ISF) must exercise maximum restraint and only use lethal force when strictly necessary, as a last resort, and in response to an imminent threat of death or serious injury, in accordance with international law. 

Hamas must ensure that protests at the fence remain peaceful and prevent provocations.

If we want a way out of the crisis – a way out that leads to something more than yet another ceasefire, the road is clear: stop firing rockets, retaliatory strikes and provocations, uphold the understandings that sustain calm in Gaza, redouble efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and lift the closures, and focus on a long term, sustainable political solution that includes allowing the Palestinian people across the occupied territory to vote and elect their leaders for the first time since 2006.

In recent weeks, I have engaged with senior Palestinian officials and different factions and am encouraged that all sides have moved from their entrenched positions and made important concessions toward making elections a more realistic prospect.

Renewing the legitimacy of all national institutions is important for the future of the Palestinian people.

In my discussions, I emphasized to all the critical elements required for elections to be credible:

First, they must be organized across the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) – in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza – in line with the Palestinian Basic Law, electoral legislation and international best practices; 

Second, both legislative and presidential elections are necessary and should be held within a clearly identified and reasonable timeframe;

And third, broad intra-Palestinian agreement must be reached on the modalities of holding elections.,

As Palestinians hopefully accelerate their efforts tohold elections, the Israeli-Palestinian political deadlock continues to manifest itself in the continuation of negative trends on the ground. 

On 1 November, some 2,600 housing units were advanced by the Civil Administration High Planning Committee, including 182 units in Mevo’ot Yericho, an outpost in the Jordan Valley that the Israeli Government decided in September to retroactively legalize as a new settlement. Other notable plans include 382 units in the Dolev settlement, west of Ramallah, and 609 units in the large urban settlement of Beitar Illit, west of Bethlehem. 

I took this opportunity to reiterate that we regret the announcement made on 18 November by the United States that it no longer views settlements as inconsistent with international law. The UN position remains unchanged. As per UNSC Resolution 2334, Israeli settlement activities are a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. 

Demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures also continued across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Citing the absence of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Area C and East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities demolished or seized 48 structures resulting in the displacement of 101 Palestinians, including 46 children. 

This practice must immediately cease.

Violence continues across the OPT.

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, 46 Palestinians, including 9 children, and three Israelis were injured in various incidents, including during clashes, search and arrest operations, and settler-related violence. 

On 11 November a 22-year-old Palestinian man was killed in circumstances that indicate that he did not pose a threat. Such acts must be thoroughly and impartially investigated, and the perpetrators held accountable. The IDF has reportedly launched an investigation into this incident.

Four days later on 15 November, a Palestinian journalist lost an eye after being reportedly shot by ISF while covering a demonstration in Surif village, north of Hebron.

I remain concerned by continuing, and sometime escalating, settler-related violence. Attacks on Palestinians and their property in the context of the annual olive harvest have continued despite preventive measures adopted by the Israeli authorities. These attacks, along with restrictions on Palestinian farmers’ access to their land in areas adjacent to Israeli settlements and behind the West Bank barrier, have undermined agricultural livelihoods.

Despite the agreement reached last month between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which resulted in the transfer of some USD 425 million of clearance revenues to the Palestinian Authority, the underlying disagreements between the two parties remain, including over Israel’s deductions. It remains critical that both sides engage in a constructive manner with the goal of restoring the revenue transfers in full line with the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations. The UN stands ready to assist this process.

In a positive development, on 11 November, UN-Women, with support from the Government of Norway, launched a USD1.2 million programme to support the advancement of the Women Peace and Security Agenda in Palestine, including the development of the Palestinian National Action Plan for the next four years on the implementation of UNSCR 1325.

I have regularly updated the Council and its members on the financial challenges UNRWA continues to face. Cash flow is reaching a record low. I welcome the extension of UNRWA’s mandate until 2023, as adopted by the 4th Committee of the General Assembly on 15 November. Given the stakes, I urge the swift mobilization of support to enable the Agency to sustain its operations.

Turning now briefly to other developments in the region, on the Golan the situation remains calm. However, the continued violations of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement remain of concern particularly in this volatile time for the region. On 19 November, UNDOF observed two unidentified objects being fired from a location on the Alpha side and heard three explosions. The IDF informed UNDOF that it had intercepted rockets fired from Syria. The Syrian authorities informed UNDOF that they had no knowledge of any firing of rockets. On 20 November, the IDF carried out airstrikes against what it described as Iranian Quds Force and Syrian Armed Forces targets in Syria.

Further details of the developments on the occupied Golan will be reported in the Secretary-General’s Report on UNDOF due to the Security Council on 3 December.

In Lebanon, peaceful nationwide and non-sectarian demonstrations triggered by frustration against government policies led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on 29 October. Security forces have largely responded with restraint allowing peaceful demonstrations to continue despite heightened tensions at roadblocks. After one month of unabated protests, a political deadlock hinders the nomination of a Prime Minister-designate and the formation of a new government, amidst a rapidly deteriorating economic situation. The United Nations has called for a swift formation of government that is responsive to the protestors aspirations and which has the parliament’s backing. The UN also encourages the Lebanese security forces to continue to protect peaceful demonstrators. 

In the UNIFIL area of operations, following decreased joint operations with the Lebanese Armed Forces prompted by the popular protests, UNIFIL’s operations in close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces returned to normal levels in early November.

The Council will be briefed on resolution 1701 on 25 November.

In closing, I returned to the issue of the long overdue Palestinian elections. The Palestinian people have a right to vote and elect their leaders. For too long they have been denied that right and division has set in. A whole generation’s voice for the future has yet to be heard. Intra-Palestinian division is like a cancer eating away at the aspiration for statehood, peace and the commitment to democracy, rule of law and human rights.

Elections are not a gift. They are a right. If elections are to build unity, they must take place in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. How can you heal the devastating division if people in Gaza are not able to vote for their future?

The United Nations will do all that is necessary to support a successful Palestinian election process.

But, ladies and gentlemen, we must be cognizant of broader risks as well.

The continuing risk of war threatens to upend all our efforts to prevent escalation and revive a political process. The UN will continue our efforts to prevent another devastating conflict despite all odds. 

Upholding the international consensus on resolving the conflict and all final status issues on the basis of the two-state solution as per relevant UN resolutions, international law and mutual agreements is just as important. Unilateral moves fuel anger and disillusionment and significantly undermine the prospects for establishing a contiguous and viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.

#UN continues efforts with #Egypt to avoid #Gaza escalation, relieve the suffering of people, lift the closures, and support intra-Palestinian reconciliation

03/04/2019 Leave a comment

For the past year the United Nations has engaged constructively with Egypt and all concerned parties to avoid escalation, relieve the suffering of people in Gaza, lift the closures, and support intra-Palestinian reconciliation. I welcome the efforts of all sides to do their utmost to avoid escalation and any further unnecessary bloodshed and destruction.

To date significant headway has been made on the implementation of the package of urgent humanitarian and economic interventions endorsed by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) in September 2018 to stabilize the situation in Gaza, prevent an escalation, and support Egyptian-led reconciliation efforts. Since then, nearly USD 110 million for fuel, health, water, sanitation and temporary employment programmes has been raised.

The UN and its partners have mobilized nearly USD 45 million that will allow for the creation of approximately 20,000 temporary jobs in 2019. Discussions with the Palestinian and Israeli governments, and the private sector continue to support sustainable job creation, the expansion of Gaza’s industrial sectors and generally improving economic conditions and movement and access. Improved electricity supply has positively affected the delivery of basic services and the operations of water and wastewater facilities.

Since September, approximately USD 4.6 million in support to the Humanitarian Response Plan has contributed to the delivery of large quantities of 15 types of essential drugs and the performance of some 9,500 emergency surgeries. To increase transparency and credibility with donors, the UN has developed a monitoring framework for medical supplies and drugs in Gaza.

An amount of USD 3 million has been pledged to support immediate needs in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector. Over the coming period it is expected that construction on the associated works of the Gaza Central Desalination Plant will also begin.

These efforts will continue in coordination with all stakeholders, yet at its core the crisis in Gaza is political. Significant progress on the lifting of the closures and advancing intra-Palestinian reconciliation remain essential. I call on all Palestinian factions to engage in earnest with Egypt on reconciliation efforts.

I welcome Israel’s decision to increase the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles in certain places and urge for a substantial improvement of the movement and access for goods and people, including between Gaza and the West Bank.

I reiterate that there can be no state in Gaza, and there can be no state without Gaza. Ultimately, only sustainable political solutions will reverse the current negative trajectory and restore hope to Gaza’s long-suffering population.

Categories: Middle East, Palestine, statement, UN Tags:

My briefing to the #UN Security Council in November focused on the precarious calm in #Gaza and the necessary next steps

19/11/2018 Leave a comment

Today I briefed the UN Secuirty Council on recent developments, starting with the dangerous escalation of violence in Gaza that risked unleashing an armed conflict with catastrophic consequences for two million impoverished Palestinian people who live under the control of Hamas and have endured three wars and crippling Israeli closures.

The Secretary-General warned that a new war in Gaza would bring forth another unbearable tragedy and urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

My team and I worked closely with Egypt and all concerned parties to ensure a return to the 2014 ceasefire

arrangements. Thankfully, a precarious restoration of calm has now been achieved. We must all work to ensure that this calm is maintained.

The period of 11-13 November saw one of the fiercest exchanges of fire since the 2014 Gaza conflict. The escalation was triggered by an operation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) insidethe Gaza Strip in which a local commander of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades and six other Palestinians were killed. One IDF officer was also killed and a second was injured in the incident.

In the following two days, militants in Gaza launched some 450 rockets and mortars at Israel, including at the towns of Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot, killing one Palestinian civilian and seriously wounding one Israeli civilian. An IDF soldier was also seriously wounded by a targeted anti-tank guided-missile strike on a bus transporting military personnel in K’far Aza.

The IDF responded in turn with a series of airstrikes on 160 militant targets, including a Hamas- affiliated TV station and a hotel, resulting in the killing seven Palestinians – at least four identified by the Israeli Army as members of armed groups.

The fragility of the situation underscores the urgency to fundamentally change the dynamics on the ground, that address the underlying political issues.

Two million Palestinians in Gaza cannot be held hostage to political grandstanding and brinkmanship. Their lives matter and they deserve real leadership that addresses the real problems of Gaza.

The latest outbreak of violence came just as the United Nations and its partners were intensifying efforts to alleviate Gaza’s deepening humanitarian and economic crises, and, critically, to provide space for ongoing Egyptian-led efforts to advance intra-Palestinian reconciliation. This is essential to ending the occupation and resolving the wider political conflict.

Significant headway has already been made on the implementation of the package of urgent interventions endorsed by the September Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) meeting in New York.

In October, the United Nations started importing and monitoring the delivery of donor-funded fuelto Gaza’s power plant. This resulted in the greatest supply of electricity since March 2017, a minimum of eleven hours per day. I reiterate the United Nations sincere gratitude to the Government of the State of Qatar for its generous funding to this end.

The impact has been immediate: water supply has increased, the risk of sewage overflow has been reduced; hospitals are less dependent on precarious generators; street lights are on again; children can study and play more; and families have more cash in hand to meet their daily needs.

These improvements however are temporary. They provide much needed relief, but can do little to reverse the longstanding, structural problems affecting Gaza, driven by years of crippling closures and Hamas control.

Implementation of the other urgent humanitarian interventions in Gaza must also be expedited. My team and I will continue to engage with the Palestinian Government, with donors and partners on the ground, to support several initiatives. These include finding a sustainable solution to Gaza’selectricity and health problems, increasing the supply of potable water, medical supplies and sewage treatment. These should take place alongside concerted efforts to rescue the economy through cash-for-work and other emergency measures.

Yet, the international community cannot bear the burden of addressing Gaza’s problems alone. The primary responsibility falls on the parties themselves.

The clock on intra-Palestinian reconciliation is ticking.

I urge all Palestinian parties to not waste time and engage in earnest and achieve visible progress in the coming six months. This is in the interest of the Palestinian people. It is in the interests of peace. The success of international efforts in Gaza depends on the parties’ willingness to confront the inevitable hurdles, withstand the internal political consequences, and stay committed to the reconciliation process over the long-term.

If any side fails, every side fails.

Hamas and militant groups must stop all provocations and attacks,

Israel must significantly improve the movement and access of goods and people to and from Gaza as a step towards the lifting of the closures, in line with UNSCR 1860; and the Palestinian Authority must strengthen its engagement in Gaza, which is an integral part of the Palestinian territory.

In earlier incidents, before the most recent escalation on 26-27 October, 34 rockets were launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) towards Israel. In response, the IDF targeted 95 Hamas and PIJ military sites across the Strip; a hospital in the vicinity of one of the targets was damaged as were several homes in Gaza City.

On 28 October, the IDF struck and killed three Palestinian children aged 13 to 15 in the southern Gaza Strip, who they said were placing an improvised explosive devices at the security fence, a claim refuted by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Protests the next day saw some 3,000 participants, with one Palestinian killed and another 15 injured by IDF live fire.

I remain very concerned by Israel’s persistent use of live fire against protestors. I call on the authorities to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from using lethal force, except as a last resort.

I urge Hamas and other Palestinian militants to end the indiscriminate firing of rockets into southern Israel,

and to stop all violence near the fence, including attempts to breach it.

Overall in the reporting period, the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) killed 31 Palestinians Gaza, including four children. One IDF soldier was killed during the 11 November operation in Gaza.Meanwhile, in the occupied West Bank, ISF killed four Palestinians.

On 22 October, ISF shot and killed a Palestinian man in Hebron, after he was reported to have stabbed and injured an Israeli soldier. Three other attempts against Israeli civilians or ISF personnel were reported near the Kiryat Arba and K’far Adumim settlements on 5 and 6 November, and in Jerusalem on 14 November.

On 24 October, a 21-year-old Palestinian man was shot and killed by the IDF during clashes following an IDF weapons search near Tubas in the northern West Bank. On 26 October, in the context of clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians near Ramallah, ISF shot and killed a 33-year-old Palestinian and injured nine others; another 28-year-old Palestinian subsequently died of his wounds later in November.

Israeli settlement activity continued to advance, eating away at the viability of a contiguous future Palestinian state. I reiterate that all settlement activities are illegal under international law, and an obstacle to peace and must immediately cease.

On 5 November, Israeli authorities advanced two plans for a total of 264 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramot. Demolition and confiscation of Palestinian-owned structures also continued with a total of 31 structures demolished or seized by the authorities, citing lack of building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Israeli-controlled Area C and East Jerusalem. As a result, some 25 people were displaced and, according to OCHA, the livelihoods of 200 others were affected.

Meanwhile, on 4 November, the Israeli authorities informed the High Court of Justice of their decision to demolish an illegal outpost comprising some dozen Israeli families that had been established in recent months in an abandoned military base in the Jordan Valley.

I welcome the announcement by the authorities on 21 October to delay the demolition of Khan al Ahmar-Abu al Helu and reiterate the call by the international community for plans for the demolition of this community and all others facing similar pressures to be annulled.

On 28 and 29 October, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council (PCC) held its 30th session in Ramallah. In its final statement, the PCC reaffirmed recent decisions taken to suspend recognition of the State of Israel until the latter recognizes the State of Palestine on the June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, end security coordination in all its forms, and disengage economically from Israel. A follow-up committee chaired by President Mahmoud Abbas was established to discuss implementing these decisions.

The situation in Lebanon will be considered by the Council this week. Political actors have yet to find agreement on a national unity government. The delay hampers Lebanon’s abilityto address issues essential to its stability, including the economy. We again encourage all stakeholders to put the national interest first and expeditiously reach an agreement that preservesLebanon’s stability and its ability to deliver on its international commitments.

In closing I made two important points.

First on Gaza. It is vital that all stakeholders work to de-escalate the deteriorating situation and seize the current window of opportunity to advance urgent humanitarian and economic interventions in line with the AHLC conclusions. I would also like to reiterate the importance of sustained support to UNRWA and extend our gratitude to the State of Kuwait for the swift disbursement of its USD42 million contribution to the Agency.

Palestinian factions must seize the opportunity to engage in earnest with the Egyptian-led efforts to bring Gaza back under the control of the legitimate Palestinian Government.

We in the international community must do all we can to support these efforts. Israel must also recognize that Gaza is about to explode, and to prevent such an explosion, people must also see a normalization of their lives, for which the closures need to be relaxed and ultimately lifted.

We cannot stand idle and allow the division between the West Bank and Gaza to be further entrenched.

The Palestinian people are demanding that their leadership finally re-unites Gaza and the West Bank and advances their goal of peacefully ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a viable Palestinian state based on relevant UN resolutions.

This is what people desire, and this is what they deserve.

Second on the broader peace efforts. It is essential that we prevent further collapse of the foundations that must underpin any future agreement. We must continue to consistently push back against the entrenchment of the military occupation and the erosion of the international consensus on the final status issues.

Together, we must work with determination and with vigilance to establish an environment conducive to the return to negotiations that will end the Israeli -Palestinian conflict, in line with the 2016 Middle East Quartet report recommendations. The United Nations remains firmly committed to advancing all efforts towards a just and lasting Israeli- Palestinian peace based on relevant United Nations resolutions.

#UN and #Egypt efforts to difuse growing tensions continue as latest #Gaza rocket fits pattern of provocations that seeks to bring #Israel and Gaza closer to war

17/10/2018 1 comment

Earlier today I met with the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin. The meeting took place against the backdrop of escalation as in the early hours of 17 October, Palestinian militants fired a rocket from central Gaza towards Israel that hit a residential house in the city of Be’er Sheva, causing extensive damage. Three people were reportedly injured. A second rocket reportedly landed in the sea southwest of Tel Aviv. The Israeli Air Force responded with a series of airstrikes on a number of locations which they identified as military sites around Gaza and open fields. Media report two Palestinians killed and two injured in a strike on a group said to be launching rockets.

This is what I said at the start of the meeting: “Thank you very much, Mr President, for this important meeting. I look forward to briefing you on our efforts. I am afraid that the last 24 hours have been particularly complicated. The latest rockets that were fired from Gaza towards Beer Sheva are a dangerous escalation of the situation. Unfortunately, they fit a pattern of provocations that seek to bring Israel and Gaza into another deadly conflict and confrontation. It is our responsibility to do everything possible to avoid that confrontation and I want to assure you that over the last three months we have worked very actively with all parties – with the government of Israel, with the Palestinian Authority, with the regional players, particularly with Egypt and the international community  – to pursue three goals. Firstly, to avoid a war which would be devastating for the people of Gaza and for the Israelis who live across the border. Secondly, to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the people who live in really terrible conditions. And thirdly, to support our joint efforts with Egypt to bring the legitimate Palestinian Authority back into control of Gaza. This is the only path forward and we need to make sure that in the next 48 hours we really see a de-escalation on the ground so that these efforts can continue in the interests of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and in the interests of peace in the entire region. I am afraid that there is no more time for words. Now is the time for actions. And we must see very clear actions on all sides that bring the situation to a de-escalation. Otherwise, the consequences will be terrible for everyone. I look forward to discussing with you what can be done in order to de-escalate this environment and to move forward in a constructive manner. “

The cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end and the international community must step in to prevent another war

15/05/2018 Leave a comment

UN_Palestine_58245-780x520On 15 May the Polish Presidency of the UN Security Council called an emergency session on the situation in Gaza. For the people of Gaza the previous day was a day of tragedy. There are no other words with which to describe what actually happened. There is no justification for the killing. There is no excuse.  It serves no one. It certainly does not serve the cause of peace.

My heart weighed heavy as I had to brief the Council and began by expressing my condolences to the families of those killed yesterday and the last six weeks of demonstrations in Gaza. Who can possibly find words to console the mother of a child that has been killed? I called on all

join me in condemning in the strongest possible terms the actions that have led to the loss of many lives in Gaza.

Israel has a responsibility to calibrate its use of force, to not use lethal force, except as a last resort, under imminent threat of death or serious injury. It must protect its borders, but it must do so proportionally and investigate every incident that has led to a loss of human life.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, must not use the protests as cover to attempt to place bombs at the fence and create provocations; its operatives must not hide among the demonstrators and risk the lives of civilians.

Tens of thousands of people in Gaza have been protesting for over six weeks now. People who live in abject poverty, who survive in prison-like conditions, who live with no prospect for the day after. These people want their voices heard; they want a future beyond mere survival. Their leaders have failed them. The promises they have made to them have not been delivered. And now the people are angry. But their anger, if not channelled in a constructive manner will lead to more destruction and suffering. Whatever we may think of their motivation, we have an obligation to hear their plight.

They have lived through three devastating conflicts. Their lives are marked by personal anguish, scarred by a national tragedy, marred by daily suffering caused by leaders, who use them for their own political ends. For ten years, they have lived under the control of Hamas, separated from their families in the West Bank, isolated behind crippling Israeli closures.

This cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end,

for it to end we need everyone of us to prevent and explosion that will drag everyone in the region into another deadly confrontation.

The international community must step in and prevent war, we need to move forward quickly and effectively on all projects that we have been discussed for months and months to solve the energy, water and health crisis of the population. We can only do this in coordination with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. But before all that, the senseless violence needs to stop.

On 14 May, an estimated 35,000 people participated in demonstrations in Gaza and hundreds in the West Bank cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nablus, and in East Jerusalem — all part of the “Great March of Return”, as well as in protest of the relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While no fatalities were reported in the West Bank, where limited clashes took place between demonstrators and Israeli security forces at several checkpoints, the situation in Gaza deteriorated throughout the day, particularly along the perimeter fence.

According to various reports at least 60 people were killed throughout yesterday, including six children, and more than 1,300 were reportedly injured by live ammunition and rubber bullets. One Israeli soldier was wounded and taken to hospital for treatment.

Since the beginning of the protests on 30 March, over one hundred people have been killed, including thirteen children, over half of whom yesterday alone. This constituted the bloodiest day in Gaza, with the highest death and injury toll, since the conflict of 2014.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have acknowledged that among those killed were members of their organizations, and the Israeli Defense Forces claims that at least 24 had links to militant activities.

Under cover of the protests Hamas and other militants have also engaged in violent and provocative acts, including the placing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at the perimeter fence and other attempts to breach it with the intent of perpetrating attacks. According to UNDSS, at least one IED reportedly detonated against an IDF vehicle during an incursion. Eighteen airstrikes and eight shelling incidents were also carried out by the Israeli security forces on 26 Hamas targets in retaliation for what Israel has classified as violent acts.

Against this backdrop, hospitals in Gaza report an unfolding crisis of essential medical supplies, drugs and equipment needed to treat the injured. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, who is currently in Gaza, yesterday visited Shifa Hospital, where there is a shortage of beds for the number of wounded arriving from the protests at the fence. He witnessed first-hand patients being brought in on stretchers and left in the hospital’s courtyard, which was being used as a triage area.

I appealed to Israel, to Egypt, to the Palestinian authorities, to facilitate the exit from Gaza of the seriously wounded for medical treatment and I welcome steps reportedly taken in this direction by Egypt.

I took this opportunity to

salute the bravery of the medical staff who continue to put their own lives at risk,

such as those working for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, who have endured casualties of their own. I am deeply saddened to note the death of another health worker yesterday during the demonstrations and I reiterate the inviolability under international law of health facilities and medical personnel. Journalists have also been among those injured in yesterday’s demonstrations.

The dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, about which I have reported time and again to the Security Council over the past year, has been compounded by the fact that the Palestinian Authority continues to withhold the payment of salaries to some 20,000 civil service employees in Gaza.

To further complicate a dismal picture, on the 4th and on the 11th of May, Palestinian demonstrators destroyed most of the facilities on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main point of entry for goods and materials into the Gaza Strip. Members of my team have conducted an initial assessment of the site and I can report that the damage is extensive and will hinder deliveries of fuel and much needed goods to Gaza for weeks ahead. As we speak, the United Nations is working with Israel and the Palestinian Authority and with Israel to bring in life-saving assistance, despite the destruction and extensive damage to the crossing. Whoever orchestrated that destruction shares in the responsibility of worsening the suffering of two million people in Gaza.

The Secretary-General and I have repeatedly called on

all to exercise restraint, for all necessary steps to avoid an escalation and for all incidents to be fully investigated.

I have engaged with all sides to this effect. Public statements and messages by Hamas indicate the intention to use mass protests to infiltrate into Israel and attack Israelis. Such statements and action endanger the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians and cannot be justified.

It is imperative that civilians, particularly children, not be targeted by anyone, not be used as a cover for militant activity, or be put at risk or in danger in any way.

As the violence continues, technical problems have also resurfaced in further decreasing electricity supply and have currently caused some 22 hours of blackouts in Gaza. This is a critical reminder of the fragility of Gaza’s infrastructure.  Starting tomorrow, the United Nations, together with international partners will need to focus and redouble efforts to implement projects that will have an immediate impact on improving the electricity, water and health situation as a matter of urgency.

The developments in Gaza are a painful reminder, and extremely painful reminder, of the devastating consequences of the continued absence of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I would like to reiterate this message, particularly as Palestinians commemorate “Nakba” day or “the day of the Catastrophe”, by which they remember the displacement during the war of 1948-1949, and as they continue to demonstrate in Gaza and the West Bank over the coming days. We must step up our efforts in support of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

We must collectively call on all to refrain from unilateral measures that only steer us away from a peace process and instead work to end the occupation and advance the goal of a just and sustainable peace, culminating ultimately in two states, Israel and Palestine – of which Gaza is an integral part – two states living side by side in peace, security and prosperity.

A conflagration of Middle East conflicts is raising tensions in Syria, Yemen, and on the Palestinian track

11/05/2018 Leave a comment

untitledOn May 11 I visited Moscow for discussions on the Middle East with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. Here is what I said to the media at the beginning of our meeting:

“… We are very concerned that there is a conflagration of conflicts currently in the Middle East that are raising tensions on all levels, including the situation in Syria, the situation in Yemen, and most certainly on the Palestinian track.

On the Palestinian track, we feel that there [is a] combination of three very important factors coming together now. Firstly, is the lack of a political process that brings the Israelis and the Palestinians together on the basis of internationally recognized parameters for solving the conflict and for achieving the two-state solution. The Secretary-General has made it very clear that there is no Plan B except the two-state solution; for Israel and Palestine to live in peace and security together. Secondly, we have the problem with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza which is extremely dangerous. The economy has collapsed. We are seeing on a daily basis the suffering of people that needs to be addressed very quickly. Thirdly, there are the security incidents that can always bring us back into another confrontation on the ground.

We are working very hard to avoid all of these risks and to find a way to bring back the Middle East Quartet as the key forum in which we discuss both the political process and the perspectives for resolving the conflict. But also, to put the Israeli-Palestinian situation in a broader regional context that it is important today.

I’m particularly worried about today and the coming days with the US embassy move to Jerusalem on Monday and with the planned protests in Gaza and take this opportunity again to call on Israel to be very careful and calibrated in how it uses force in addressing the protestors in Gaza. But I also call on Hamas and the leaders of the protests in Gaza to prevent friction and to prevent situations in which provocations can happen.

Nobody in the Middle East now needs another war and we need to make everything that we can possible to prevent such a conflict and to find the political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian track just as every other conflict in the Middle East; be that Yemen or Syria or elsewhere, demands a political rather than a military solution. Thank you again and I look forward to our discussions with you later today.”

Link to video here

Fifth report under #UN #SecurityCouncil Resolution 2334

27/03/2018 1 comment

IMG_1555On 25th march I presented, on behalf of the Secretary-General, the fifth report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 covering the period from 18 December to 25 March.

I focused on developments on the ground in accordance with the provisions of the resolution, including on the regional and international efforts to advance the peace process.

These developments cannot be divorced from the broader context: continued military occupation of Palestinian territory, uncertainties about the future of the peace process and the two-state solution, unilateral actions that undermine peace efforts and continued turmoil in the wider region.

I expressed my continued concern over UNRWA’s USD 446 million funding gap. It must be bridged urgently to ensure that UNRWA can provide basic services to Palestine refugees, including to school half-a-million children across the Middle East until a just and lasting peace is achieved. I welcome the approximately 100 million dollars pledged at the recent Extraordinary Ministerial Conference in Rome. I encourage Member States to consider urgently providing additional new funding for UNRWA’s critical work.

Resolution 2334 calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and to fully respect all its legal obligations in this regard. No such steps were taken during the reporting period.

The United Nations considers all settlement activities to be a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace.

Israel advanced 22 plans for some 1,500 housing units in Area C settlements.

Around a dozen units were approved for construction – significantly lower than the 1,200 units approved during the previous three-month period. Ten tenders for some 900 housing units in seven Area C settlements were also announced. Official figures released last week show that construction starts in Area C settlements declined in 2017 to nearly half the number in 2016, which was the highest in over a decade.

The plans include 15 temporary housing units near Gush Etzion, south of Bethlehem, in an area outside the jurisdiction of nearby settlements. These units are planned for residents of the Netiv Ha’Avot outpost whose homes are slated for demolition on 15 June.

In response to the January shooting attack on 4 February that killed a rabbi from the Havat Gilad outpost, the Israeli Government approved the establishment of a new settlement to absorb its residents. Havat Gilad is built almost entirely on privately owned Palestinian land.

 In related potentially significant legislative developments, in January, the Knesset passed an amendment to the “Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel.” This change will make it more difficult for Israel to transfer territories that are currently within the Israeli-defined Jerusalem municipality boundaries to a future Palestinian state by requiring a super-majority of 80 votes in the Knesset. It also makes it somewhat easier to change Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries by lowering the required Knesset threshold to a simple majority.

On 7 March, the Knesset also approved an amendment to the “Entry to Israel Law” allowing the revocation of permanent residency status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem involved in terrorist activities, treason or espionage, as defined in Israeli law.

The Israeli Government, on 25 February, endorsed a bill transferring jurisdiction over certain categories of petitions related to decisions by Israeli authorities in the West Bank from the High Court of Justice to the Court for Administrative Affairs in Jerusalem. The sponsors of the bill have described it as a step towards equating legal processes and norms in the West Bank and Israel.

Demolition of Palestinian-owned structures by Israeli authorities continued across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, albeit at the relatively low rate which characterized the past year. Ninety-two structures, including 15 that were donor-funded, were demolished, including for a lack of building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. Consequently, 104 Palestinians were displaced, including 42 children, affecting the livelihoods of over 360 people.

Particularly concerning was the demolition of two donor-funded classrooms serving 26 children in the Palestinian Bedouin community of Abu Nuwar. For at least three years now, the United Nations has been warning of steady Israeli pressure on Abu Nuwar residents to move. The community is in the strategic E1 area planned for the expansion of Ma’ale Adumim that would result in the creation of a continuous built-up area between the settlement and East Jerusalem, further dividing East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Similarly, the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran also came under renewed threat on 21 March as Israeli authorities posted eviction notices on homes, indicating that evictions can take place between 14-29 April.

In late December in the Massafer Yatta area of Hebron, where most structures face demolition orders, the IDF blocked several access routes and issued a military order requiring Palestinians to obtain permits to cross, limiting access to services and livelihoods for some 1,400 residents in 12 communities.

The reporting period was also characterized by continuing demonstrations and clashes following to the U.S. announcement on 6 December recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and to the growing tensions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and along the Gaza fence.

Twenty-three Palestinians, including six children, were killed by Israeli security forces (ISF) in various incidents, including reported attacks against Israelis, demonstrations, clashes, or military operations in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Five Israelis – three civilians and two soldiers were killed by Palestinians in separate attacks in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. On 5 February, a resident of the Har Bracha settlement was stabbed to death at the entrance to the settlement of Ariel. On 9 January, a rabbi from the Havat Gilad outpost was killed in a drive-by shooting. Two of the three alleged perpetrators were killed by the ISF during subsequent search and arrest operations. On 18 March, an Israeli civilian was stabbed and mortally wounded in Jerusalem’s Old City. The alleged assailant, a Palestinian man from the West Bank town of Aqraba, was shot dead by Israeli Security Forces.

On 10 March, a Palestinian teenager was shot dead during clashes with Israeli security forces and settlers in the village of Urif, after confrontations between Palestinian villagers and residents of the nearby Yitzhar settlement turned violent.

There was a concerning escalation of violence in and around the Gaza Strip.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) placed by Palestinian militants near the Gaza fence exploded on three occasions, wounding four Israeli soldiers in one incident on 17 February. On each occasion, Israeli forces responded with airstrikes and shelling against Hamas targets. The Israeli military also announced that it had destroyed three tunnels either fully inside Gaza or leading from Gaza into Israeli territory. Prior to this escalation, on 13 January, the IDF also destroyed a tunnel extending from Gaza into Israel and Egypt under the Kerem Shalom crossing.

In addition, 33 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, with 11 landing in Israel. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) retaliated against Hamas military sites in Gaza. No injuries were reported on either side.

On 13 March, an IED exploded in Gaza targeting the convoy of the Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah and the Head of Intelligence, lightly injuring six people. There were no claims of responsibility.

On 22 March, Hamas security forces conducted an operation in the an-Nuseirat Camp in Gaza, reportedly targeting the chief suspect in the 13 March bombing. During the operation, the suspect and an accomplice were critically wounded and later succumbed to their wounds. Two members of Hamas’ security forces were also killed during the incident.

Despite the call in Security Council resolution 2334 for the parties to refrain from acts of provocation, incitement, and inflammatory rhetoric, such statements continued.

Fatah’s official social media pages continued to feature posts glorifying perpetrators of past violence against Israeli civilians, including terror attacks that killed civilians and children. In addition, Palestinian officials continued to make statements denying the historical and religious connection of Jews to Jerusalem and its holy sites. One senior religious leader falsely claimed Jews had lived in historical Jerusalem for only 70 or 80 years. Others continue to describe Israel as “a colonial project.”

I urged the Palestinian leadership to continue to speak against violence and to condemn specific attacks against civilians.

Senior Israeli officials made provocative statements encouraging annexation of all or parts of the occupied West Bank and categorically rejecting the two-state solution. Some claimed that Palestinians are an “invented people”, others referred to Palestinians as “blood thirsty barbarians”, and one political leader called for more “injuries and deaths” in Gaza, complaining that Israeli military strikes responding to rocket fire were not producing enough casualties among militants.

I urged political leaders to refrain from provocative statements and actions that fuel an already tense environment.

Resolution 2334 reiterated the calls by the Middle East Quartet for affirmative steps to be taken to “reverse negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-state solution.” The period has witnessed both positive and negative actions by the parties in this regard.

In January, after years of negotiations, Israel approved the operation of local Palestinian 3G service in the West Bank, allowing Palestinian telecom companies to offer higher speed data services and somewhat improve their competitiveness.

There were two high-level meetings between the Israeli and Palestinian Ministers of Economy on 15 February in Paris and between the Israeli Minister of Finance and the Palestinian Prime Minister and the Palestinian Minister of Finance on 19 February in Ramallah – to discuss a range of economic and infrastructure issues concerning the West Bank and Gaza.

On 18 February, Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation endorsed a bill which would allow Israel to withhold tax revenues that are collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The amount withheld would be equivalent to the money used for payments to the families of Palestinian perpetrators of attacks against Israelis or for prisoners held in Israeli jails. On 5 March, the Knesset advanced a more restrictive version of the same bill.

Meanwhile, implementation of the 12 October intra-Palestinian agreement between Fatah and Hamas has stalled. In February and March, Egypt hosted delegations from the two parties in an effort to advance the process of returning Gaza under the control of the Palestinian Authority. I also held multiple meetings with senior Palestinian and Egyptian officials in support of the process.

On 4 March, the Palestinian Government approved a USD 5.1 billion budget for 2018, while presenting the option that if it were empowered in Gaza, it could amend the budget and absorb up- to 20,000 Gaza civil servants in Gaza.

In Gaza, electricity supply remains far below needs, with cuts of up to 20 hours-per-day. Without emergency fuel, 55 sewage pools are at significant risk of overflowing and the functioning of 48 water desalination plants has been reduced to around 20 per cent of their working capacity. Water is piped to households for a few hours only every four-to-five days. Basic services continue to function thanks to UN-distributed, donor-funded fuel for generators, which is expected to last, at best, only until September 2018.

Over 40 per cent of essential medicines remain at zero stock due to a lack of funding.

After a ten-year delay, the Northern Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment (NGEST) plant finally began operating on 1 March, albeit at minimum capacity. More sustainable energy supply and other infrastructure projects needs to be urgently pursued to allow it to function at full capacity. In addition to a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, Gaza’s economy remains on the brink of collapse. Urgent interventions alongside increased commitment to short, medium and longer-term projects provided the basis for discussions at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) on 20 March in Brussels. Two preparatory meetings in Cairo and Washington on 8 and 13 March, respectively, helped develop a series of priority engagements aimed at improving the electricity, water and health situations in Gaza.

An EU-hosted pledging conference for the Gaza Central Desalination Plant, also held on 20 March, saw Member States commit some USD 565 million, nearly 80 per cent of the project costs, enabling the tendering process to begin. This is a positive development for the people and infrastructure of Gaza. Nevertheless, it is only one, albeit important, project required to ensure that Gaza remains livable beyond the foreseeable future. In a welcome development, over the past two months, Israel approved thousands of pending residential cases, more than 130 private sector projects and over 1,200 requests for the import of items that Israel considers to be of dual civilian and military use.

On 14 February, at a trilateral meeting convened by the United Nations, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to continue with the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism and conduct a joint review in order to improve its functionality, transparency and predictability.

Resolution 2334 calls upon all States to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. There are two developments to report in this regard.

On 23 January, the Danish Parliament passed a resolution with reference to Security Council resolution 2334, and in line with European Union policy, urging that future agreements between Denmark and Israel clearly state their inapplicability to occupied territory and encouraging the Government to strengthen its guidance to private and public investors.

Also in January, the European Commission signed a financing agreement with Israel allowing the latter’s participation in the Joint Operational Programme “Mediterranean Sea Basin” under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument Cross-Border Cooperation Programme for 2014-2020. In continuation of an existing European Union practice, the agreement includes a territorial clause stating that “in accordance with EU policy the agreement shall not apply to the geographic areas that came under the administration of the State of Israel after 5 June 1967.”

Regrettably, the reporting period has seen

no progress towards advancing the goal of a lasting peace.

On 31 January, Norway and the European Union convened an extraordinary Ministerial meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, in which support for the two-state solution in line with relevant UN resolutions was reiterated. The participants stated their support to ongoing efforts to restore unity between the west Bank and Gaza under the control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority, by focusing, inter alia, on urgent projects that address urgent electricity, water and humanitarian needs.

Speaking at the Security Council on 20 February, Palestinian President Abbas called for an international peace conference to be held by mid-2018 that would form a multilateral mechanism in support of the parties to negotiate all permanent status issues within a specific timeframe, and attain full UN membership for the State of Palestine and mutual recognition of Palestinian and Israeli statehood on the 1967 lines.

On 23 February, the U.S. announced that it would move its embassy to Jerusalem on 14 May 2018 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence.

In closing, I shared some broad observations concerning the provisions of resolution 2334 on the reporting period.

1) Israel’s settlement expansion and related activities continue further threatening the viability of the two-state solution and eroding the prospects for peace. The latest decision to establish a new settlement for the second time since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2334, following Amihai in May 2017, is particularly troubling

Meanwhile, Palestinian development remains extremely restricted. In Area C alone, there are nearly 13,000 outstanding demolition orders against Palestinian-owned structures, of which some 500 are ready for execution. Less than one per cent of Area C, comprising over 60 percent of the West Bank and critical for the contiguity of a future Palestinian state, is available for Palestinian construction under approved plans.

2) Violence and incitement continue to fuel hatred, division, distrust and fear. Continuing terror attacks on Israelis and the attempt on the life of the Palestinian Prime Minister illustrate the growing risk of destabilization and the empowerment of radicals and extremists.

The use of force by Israel must also be calibrated. Israel must uphold its responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law. Lethal force should only be used as a last resort, with any resulting fatalities properly investigated by the authorities. I once again, urged the security forces to exercise maximum restraint to avoid casualties.

I noted the developing Palestinian plans for a march on the Gaza fence on 30 March. I call on all sides to exercise restraint and to take the necessary steps to avoid a violent escalation. It is imperative that civilians, in particular children, not be targeted and that all actors refrain from putting children at risk at any time.

I also take this opportunity to reiterate my call to Hamas to provide full information on the two Israeli soldiers and two civilians who are being held in Gaza, as required by international humanitarian law.

3) Steps taken on the ground in Area C and Gaza are welcome, but far from transformative. The relaxation on the import of certain “dual-use” items and the increased number of permits issued to business people in Gaza are, nevertheless, important developments that need to be sustained and augmented. Economic development, critical as it is, is no substitute for sovereignty and statehood. Efforts aimed at achieving both must proceed in parallel.

4) The terrorist attack against the convoy of PM Hamdallah on 13 March in Gaza was a serious attempt to derail the Cairo process and its perpetrators must be brought to justice. In this respect, I call on Palestinian factions to engage earnestly with Egypt and move forward on the implementation of the Cairo agreement. This includes the paying of salaries for civil servants and the full empowerment of the government in Gaza. A fully empowered PA in Gaza remains key to lifting the closures, to alleviating the humanitarian and developmental crisis in Gaza, and to furthering national aspirations for statehood.

I commended the Prime Minister’s commitment to continue his efforts towards reconciliation and commend Egypt for its tireless efforts in this regard. The United Nations remains committed to supporting Egyptian efforts to advance this process and welcome the efforts of the international community for a more coordinated engagement in alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

I noted with concern however that, reports have emerged today, indicating that Hamas has set up a checkpoint outside Erez/Beit Hanoun crossing, controlling the entrance of national and international personnel into Gaza and the exit of all Gaza ID holders. As per the 12 October intra-Palestinian agreement, all checkpoints should be handed over to the Palestinian Authority.

5) I remain greatly concerned by the state of our collective efforts to advance peace. Long-held international consensus positions on final status issues, including on Jerusalem and refugees, and United Nations principles must remain the guiding framework of a negotiated process towards the ultimate goal of a two-state solution. Any deviation from these principles would be dangerous. UN Security Council resolution 2334 states that “it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.” All final status issues should be resolved on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, bilateral agreements and international law.

As the Secretary-General repeatedly reminded this Council, the United Nations strongly urges Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to take concrete measures that will reverse the current course of the conflict and advance the goal of a just and sustainable peace based on the two-state solution.

Generations of Palestinian and Israeli lives have been shaped by this conflict. It is time to begin constructing a different future, a future built on mutual respect, dignity, and the belief that even the deepest and most painful divisions can be resolved if there is a genuine desire for change.