Right to free expression must be respected, authorities should resolve #Gaza electricity crisis

13/01/2017 32 comments

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I am following with great concern the tense situation unfolding in Gaza after two million Palestinians have been left with just a couple of hours of electricity per day in the middle of winter.

I call for the full respect of the right to freedom of expression, peaceful protest and assembly in Gaza. All responsible authorities must cooperate to resolve the electricity crisis immediately.

Categories: Gaza, Palestine, statement, UN

‘Legalization Bill’ has serious legal consequences for #Israel, #WestBank and undermines peace

06/12/2016 2 comments
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Israeli settlers at Amona, near Ramallah in the West Bank. Photograph: Ronen Zvulen/Reuters via The Guardian

On August 29th I briefed the UN Security Council on the upsurge of settlement related activity in the West Bank, warning that ‘no legal acrobatics’ can change the fact that such construction is illegal under International law. Since then a draft bill, known the “Legalization bill” is moving forward in the legislative process. It has the objective of protecting illegal settlements and outposts built on private Palestinian property in the West Bank. Some have pronounced it to be a step towards the annexation of the West Bank.

If adopted, it will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel, across the occupied West Bank and will greatly diminish the prospect of Arab-Israeli peace. I encourage Israeli legislators to reconsider this move.

I reiterate that all settlement activities are illegal under international law and run counter to the Middle East Quartet position that settlements are one of the main obstacles to peace.

#Democracy & the um al jamaheer for all #Palestinians

29/11/2016 Leave a comment
On November 29th Fatah — the main Palestinian political party, opened its 7th Congress in Ramallah. It comes against a background of political divisions and turmoil across the West Bank and Gaza. Having been delayed for quite a few years, with local elections having been recently postponed and with presidential and parliamentary elections not having taken place in about a decade, the Fatah Congress was the first opportunity to renew the democratic legitimacy of Palestinian institutions.
The Congress contended with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. I was asked to address the gathering. My main message was focused on the need to preserve unity, on the need to strengthen democracy and never give up on peace and negotiations.
Here is what I said:
“Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here with you today on behalf of the Secretary-General on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
It is an honour to address the 7th Congress of Fatah – which is the soul of the Palestinian people, just as the Palestinian people are the soul of the Arab nation.
Dear delegates, today you make history.
A strong, democratic and inclusive Fatah is the best guarantee for the realization of the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, for the fulfilment of their inalienable rights of self-determination, statehood, dignity and freedom.
Your movement has turned a people of refugees into a nation seeking freedom and statehood.
I am confident that all in Fatah understand the historic responsibility that your movement has for the Palestinian national cause.
For generations of Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank, from East Jerusalem to the refugee camps in the region your movement has stood for freedom. We, your friends, all confident that all of you here today and those beyond the confines of this great hall will seize the opportunity to promote unity, to strengthen the mainstream centre of Palestinian politics and to stand against the rising tide of extremism and radicalism across the region.
Fatah is the um al jamaheer for all Palestinians.
Fatah is Palestine’s democracy.
Preserve this democracy. Protect the dream of Palestinian statehood. Stand against violence. Work for peace.
And never give up! Never give up!
Never give up until the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. A state that lives in peace, in security and mutual recognition with Israel.
In the last 30 years, Abu Ammar and the Palestinian leadership have accepted key UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Your leadership has renounced terror, it has supported the principle of two states and has declared the state of Palestine.
Since then, under the leadership of President Abbas, we have witnessed the building of national institutions, we have seen the upgrading of the status of Palestine in the United Nations, and last year we saw the Palestinian flag raised at the United Nations.
Your Excellency President Abbas,
Thank you for your leadership, for your unfailing commitment to the statehood of Palestine, for your belief in peace and non-violence.
Today, sadly, the Israeli occupation continues. Illegal settlement expansion, violence, terror and divisions are threatening the bold vision of a just peace. Today, the prospect of two-states is slipping through our fingers to be replaced by a one-state reality.
Let me speak to those who think that today’s status quo is acceptable. To those who criticise the two-state solution or call for annexation.
Let me make it very clear — they are wrong.
They advocate for an open-ended occupation. An endless conflict that breeds anger among the people of Palestine just as it breeds anger among the people of Israel. It feeds radicalism across the region.
These people offer no alternative. They give no hope, and we need to stand up to them.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fatah has a role in advancing the vision of Palestine through bold leadership, through negotiations and through non-violent resistance.
I wish you success. Success in electing a leadership that will wisely guide you through the challenging environment. A leadership that will work to end the occupation. That will bring about national unity. That will have the strength and the honour and the dignity to negotiate with Israel on an equal footing and that will, inshallah, deliver a peace treaty that brings about freedom and independence to Palestine.
The United Nations will continue to stand side-by-side with the Palestinian people and all those who work for peace and a just and fair resolution to this conflict.
I wish you success. I wish Palestine success.”

We must avoid the risk of sleep-walking into another violent conflict in Gaza

19/10/2016 1 comment

On 19 October I briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East. Although international focus on the Question of Palestine may have been overtaken by the tragedy in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, but it cannot be allowed to be relegated to a secondary problem.

Sadly, settlement announcements, outbreaks of violence and terror, and the absence of visionary leadership continue to define the conflict. The inability to see beyond the horizon and grasp the benefits of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, of ending the occupation, of establishing a two-state solution that meets the national aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis alike, is a historic loss to the region as a whole.The absence of progress has led to growing anger and frustration among Palestinians and profound disillusionment among Israelis. It has strengthened radicals and weakened moderates on both sides.

On October 9th, a Palestinian opened fire, killing two Israelis and injuring six others in a terror attack in occupied East Jerusalem. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. Deplorably, Hamas and many others chose to justify and glorify the attack and its perpetrator. 

This tragic incident once again underscores an undeniable truth – if Palestinians genuinely hope to reach the long-overdue goal of statehood and an end to the occupation, this will not be achieved through violence, but must be reached through negotiations. In separate incidents, during recent clashes in East Jerusalem, a 20-year-old Palestinian civilian died after being shot by Israeli security forces. Separately, an unarmed 12 year old girl was also shot in the legs by security guards while approaching a checkpoint.

I spoke of the fact that during the past month Israel has continued with settlement planning, including the recent promotion of an initial 98 out of 300 housing units in Shilo, located deep in the occupied West Bank. If implemented, this plan will drive a wedge between north and south in the West Bank and jeopardize the contiguity of a future Palestinian state. Israeli officials have defined this move as an attempt to relocate settlers from the illegal Amona outpost, which has been slated for demolition by the Israeli Supreme Court.
I once again reiterated the position of the Secretary-General that settlements are illegal under international law and undermine the two-state solution.
Adding to this troubling overall picture, I noted that Palestinians have again been unable to exercise their democratic rights after local council elections in the West Bank and Gaza were postponed. The political bickering, mutual accusations, legal challenges and counter-challenges that followed have left the people of Gaza and the West Bank feeling more apart.
I also stated my concern at recent calls by Hamas legislators in Gaza for the Hamas led government to resume its work in Gaza. Such a step would seriously undermine the Palestinian Government of National Consensus and would also make the reconciliation almost impossible.

In a previous breifing in August, I raised UN and international concerns about the steady continuation of Israel’s policy of expanding its presence in the occupied West Bank. Today, I focused on another impediment to a negotiated solution — the security, humanitarian and political situation in Gaza. Three deadly conflicts in the past eight years have eroded both Palestinian belief that Israel wants anything more than Gaza’s destruction and Israeli conviction that their Palestinian neighbours desire peace. Fueling Israeli fears is that Gaza is controlled by a de facto authority whose overtly anti-Semitic Charter equates resistance with violence, rejects peaceful solutions and aspires to the obliteration of Israel.

Israel accuses Gaza militants of continuously seeking to obtain money and military matériel, including by smuggling in civilian boats, concealing components for the production of rockets inside commercial shipments and diverting construction materials from needy beneficiaries. The United Nations has been informed by Israel of at least 41 serious smuggling attempts which have been intercepted since the beginning of 2016. Although the UN lacks the capacity to independently confirm the smuggling accusations, if accurate, they show the intention to continue attacks against Israel.
Last week, I travelled to Gaza where I witnessed warehouses, empty of construction materials, as the reconstruction process is significantly slowing down. And this is due to limitations of imports. No new residential reconstruction projects have been approved since March. In the recent days the approval of some 80 projects – some of which had already been started – has been revoked by Israel.
I saw residential buildings half built. I met with families whose projects have been cleared for reconstruction, yet have not received any cement for months. I heard from those that have tried to navigate the web of rules governing the import of materials considered ‘dual-use’ with no luck or response. I stand with the people in Gaza who have suffered through conflicts, closures and continue to face unimaginable suffering.

At current rates, it will take more than one year to catch up on the backlog of approved projects and years to address the full housing and reconstruction shortage in Gaza. These trends are worrying and I call on the parties to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism to recommit once again to ensuring its smooth operation. Failing to do that will put in question the viability of the mechanism and undermine the precarious calm in Gaza today.

According to some estimates, in the last decade, militants in Gaza have fired nearly 16,000 rockets and mortars at Israel. Some 200 projectiles have been fired since the end of the last conflict. While since 2014 there has been little damage or injury, there is an ever-present risk of a potentially catastrophic escalation that neither wants nor needs.
During the 2014 conflict, Israel discovered and destroyed 14 tunnels crossing into its territory and, in May of this year, detected and destroyed two more.
I reiterated the joint position of Russia, the United States, the European Union and the Secretary-General of the UN as stated in the Quartet report: the illicit arms build-up and militant activity in Gaza must be terminated. Such actions increase the risk of a new escalation of hostilities, keep thousands of people on both sides of the border under constant threat of attack, and undermine the reconstruction process. The militant threat, however, should not serve as an excuse for Israel to indiscriminately harm civilians in Gaza. In addition to the continuing severely restrictive closures, I am concerned by persistent incursions and the almost daily firing and shelling by Israeli forces into Gaza along the fence and at sea.

The vicious cycles of conflict in Gaza must end. 

To do so, control of Gaza must return to the Palestinian Government of National Unity committed to the PLO principles. The closures on Gaza must also be lifted in line with Security Council resolution 1860. Palestinians and Israelis both deserve the right to lead a normal life in freedom and security, with their human rights respected. Since Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2007 40 per cent of Palestinians living in the occupied territory are beyond the control of the legitimate Palestinian government. Israel’s closure policy and severe restrictions have brought social, cultural and economic interaction between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to a virtual standstill. The widening chasm that has emerged between both parts of the occupied Palestinian territory undermines the national state-building enterprise and threatens the very viability of establishing a unified Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution. Unity is, therefore, critical.

I encouraged Hamas to pursue reconciliation with Fatah in line with the PLO principles and to consider redefining its political stance.

Turning briefly to the Golan I stated my continuing concern by the volatile situation which undermines the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement and jeopardises the ceasefire between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic. It remains critical that the parties to the Disengagement Agreement maintain liaison with UNDOF in the first instance, exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any action that could escalate the situation across the ceasefire line and the already volatile regional environment.

In closing, I issued two warnings.Firstly, to those who believe that the people of Gaza can be punished by closures or by imposing restrictions on the entry of construction materials that are vital for the economy. They should know that the temperature in Gaza is rising. Secondly, to those who build tunnels, fire rockets, smuggle military materiel, profit from the black market or seek to create confrontation. Their actions are dangerous and irresponsible. They are stealing from their own people and risk the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

We must all avoid the risk of sleep-walking into another violent conflict at a time when the region as a whole needs moderate forces to unite and stand up to the radicalisation that we see across the Middle East. Gaza’s future is inextricably linked to the future of the Palestinian people and their goal of establishing an independent state. But the longer its population continues to suffer under the intolerable weight of Gaza’s current dynamics, the further Palestinians are from realizing that objective, and the closer we are unfortunately to the next major escalation.

I condemn today’s #terror attack in #Jerusalem. Deplorable that #Hamas glorify such acts

09/10/2016 Leave a comment

jerusalem-shootingI condemn this morning’s terror attack by a Palestinian perpetrator in occupied East Jerusalem which killed two Israelis and injured six others. Nothing can justify such attacks.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of all victims and I hope for a full and speedy recovery of the wounded.

It is deplorable and unacceptable that Hamas and others choose to glorify such acts which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis

The #Palestinian people need local elections that can be organised both in #WestBank & #Gaza

04/10/2016 Leave a comment

onehomeToday, it was announced that the Palestinian Government has decided to postpone local elections. I welcome this decision. It is in the national interest of the Palestinian people that when such elections take place, they be organised both in the West Bank and Gaza.

All Palestinian bodies should work together in good faith to overcome internal divisions and uphold democracy.

Local elections, conducted in line with established international standards, must contribute to advancing Palestinian reconciliation based on PLO principles as well as to ending the occupation and establishing a democratic, unified Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution.

Патриарх на мира и прогреса

28/09/2016 Leave a comment

Днес на 93 годишна възраст ни напусна патриархът на мира и прогреса Шимон Перес. За нас българите, президентът Перес ще остане сред най-големите приятели на България. Той винаги е вярвал, че един народ не е велик, защото е многоброен или контролира голяма територия, а защото е способен на големи дела, на голрми открития и на прогрес. Той виждаше в България вдъхновяващ пример за толерантност и морална сила и винаги я даваше за пример. Баща на съвременен Израел, Перес отдаде живота си, за да изгради модерна държава за своя народ. Бори се за мир до последния си дъх.

За първи път се запознахме през 1996 малко след трагичното убийството на премиера Рабин. Посрещал съм го в София, в Брюксел, множество пъти сме били заедно в Израел. Последната ни среща беше през ноември 2015 в Тел Авив.

Почивай в мир, Шимон!