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Fifth report under #UN #SecurityCouncil Resolution 2334

27/03/2018 Leave a 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.

#Opinion: Two-State Solution Slipping Away! Do Not Miss the Opportunity to Reverse the Negative Trends #Israel #Palestine @UNSCO_MEPP

03/07/2016 2 comments

The report published last week by the Quartet – the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations – presents an analysis that should come as no surprise to anyone. The negative trends on the ground continue to jeopardise prospects for peace and diminish the prospects for a two-state solution.

Palestinian frustration after half a century of occupation, dozens of failed peace efforts cannot be wished away; it cannot be vanquished by aggressive security measures, continued illegal settlement activities in the occupied West Bank, arrests or punitive home demolitions. Neither is it helped when Israeli ministers openly reject the very notion of a Palestinian state, call for the complete annexation of the West Bank or rush to approve more settlement construction.

But neither will the violence and terror we are witnessing again help bring about a Palestinian state. A peaceful future for both peoples cannot emerge on the back of statements that glorify terror and justify killing; mutual respect cannot come as a result of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings.

Most Palestinians have lived with the humiliation of occupation all their lives.

They do not need the Quartet to tell them about the devastating impact of the illegal settlement enterprise on their lives, their economy, and their legitimate aspirations for an independent, sovereign, viable state. For them, a nine-page report could never fully capture what it is like to live under a military rule which governs every aspect of their daily existence and which has the power of life and death over them and their children. The shooting of 15 year old Mahmoud Raafat Badran, on his way home from a swimming pool is the latest testament to this sad predicament. No army should kill children by mistake.

Equally so, Israelis know that continuing terrorist attacks, the incitement which encourages such acts, and the ongoing militant activity in Gaza are major obstacles not just to peace, but to rebuilding trust. The recent murder of Hallel Yaffa Ariel provided further testimony to that. Heroes do not kill sleeping children. Most Israelis have lived with such fears all their lives. It is also clear that the takeover of Gaza undermines the ability to achieve and implement a negotiated solution.

Given this stark reality, Palestinians and Israelis have reached a point where many on

both sides have lost faith in the other’s commitment to a future of two states

living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition. Many of them have also grown critical of the international community – some thinking it is not doing enough to resolve this conflict while others see it as overly involved with it.

 At the end of the day, the sad reality for peoples on both sides of the conflict is that the things which they hold most dear – statehood and security – are slipping further away.

 The report published by the Quartet sends two very clear messages. First, to those who hope that the international community would somehow abandon this conflict and let it descend in a deteriorating status quo to perpetual chaos, we say: no, you are wrong. The report reflects the determination of the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations not to look away, but to expose and draw attention to the problems in a more detailed and uncompromising manner than ever before and to hold the leaderships to account on their actions and inactions.

Second, to those who hope that the international community will enforce a solution on this conflict, we say: you, too, are wrong. No third party can decide for Israelis or Palestinians what compromises to make and what risks to take for peace. None of us can convince them to begin trusting each other. What the international community can and must do is to provide the parties with support and incentives to take the right path, the one towards peace, in line with commitments they have already made to each other and before the world. We must pledge to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) through negotiations in a manner that resolves all permanent status issues, meets Palestinian aspirations for statehood and Israeli security needs.

The report describes the Quartet’s view on the main obstacles blocking the path forward, and what needs to be done to overcome them. Both have been critical of the report.

But can anyone deny that violence is a problem for rebuilding trust? Who will make the argument that more cannot be done to end incitement?

Can anyone question the fact that illegal settlements, the taking of land for exclusive Israeli use and the prevention of Palestinian development in Area C of the occupied West Bank are not undermining the prospect for a two-state solution? Who will say that the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations are wrong when they call for these policies to stop?

Who can question the need to fully lift the closures on Gaza, end militant activity and reunite it under one single legitimate leadership?

This conflict is so complex and so long-standing, that any expectation of a quick fix that resolves all final status issues is at best naïve, and at worst a cynical strategy to avoid the painstaking work needed to rebuild trust and create conditions for a realistic, serious and ultimately successful negotiations that will end the occupation that began in 1967 and realize a two state solution. No one is talking about yet another new transitional agreement but rather about

implementing what both sides have already agreed upon

and changing reality on the ground to pave the road for the final deal.

The Quartet report sounds an alarm bell that we are on a dangerous slope towards a one state reality that is incompatible with the national aspirations of both peoples.

The international community stands ready to engage both with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the implementation of the report’s recommendations. We believe that if they take up this challenge, in cooperation with regional actors, Palestinians and Israelis will experience a positive change in their lives and sense renewed hope – a first and necessary step towards a future in which they can each live in freedom and dignity on their ancestral homeland, as good neighbours and masters of their own fate. I urge leaders on both sides not to miss this opportunity.


this opinion piece was published or quoted in the following media:

In Full/English

·         Israeli and Palestinian Media 

Ø     Jerusalem Post, 4 July, Link

Ø     Maan News Agency, 4 July, Link

·         Forum/Blogs

Ø     Naruto Café, 6 July, Link

Excerpts/English

·         Israeli and Palestinian Media 

Ø    Times of Israel, 4 July, Link

Ø    Arutz Sheva, 4 July, Link

Ø    Jerusalem Post, 4 July, Link

Ø    Maan News Agency, 5 July, Link

·         Regional Media

Ø    Press TV (Iran), 4 July, Link

Ø    Al-Bawaba, 4 July, Link

·      International

Ø    Reuters, 3 July, Link

Ø    Reuters, 4 July, Link

Ø    Reuters, 5 July, Link

Ø    Breitbart, 4 July, Link

Ø    Camera, 6 July, Link

Ø    Sputnik, 7 July, Link

Ø    Russia Today, 4 July, Link

Ø    The Nation (UAE), 4 July, Link

Ø    The Forward, 3 July, Link

Ø    EuroNews, 4 July, Link

Ø    Business Insider (UK), 3 July, Link

Ø    New Europe, 5 July, Link

Ø    Daily Mail, 3 July, Link

Ø    Germany Sun, 5 July, Link

Excerpts/Arabic

·         Palestinian Media

Ø     Al-Quds Newspaper, 3 July, Link

Ø     Al-Ayyam Newspaper, 4 July, Link

Ø     PalSawa, 3 July, Link

Ø     Palestine News Network (PNN), 4 July, Link

Ø     Amad, 3 July, Link

Ø     Shams News Agency, 4 July, Link

Ø     Panet, 5 July, Link

Ø     Arab48, 3 July, Link

Ø     Al-Hourriah, 9 July, Link

·         Regional Media 

Ø     Al-Arabiya, 3 July, Link

Ø     Sky News Arabic, 3 July, Link

Ø     Al-Hurra, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Mayadeen, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Bayan (UAE), 4 July, Link

Ø     Masr Al-Arabia, 4 July, Link

Ø     Lebanon Daily, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Rai, 5 July, Link

Ø     Al-Mydan, 4 July, Link

Ø     New Middle East, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Khaleej, 4 July, Link

Ø     Sana (Syria), 4 July, Link

·         International Media

Ø     Reuters, 3 July, Link

Ø     Russia Today, 4 July, Link