By J Nastranis
The United Nations, Russia, the United States and the European Union, known as ‘the diplomatic Quartet’, have pledged active support for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of pertinent Security Council resolutions.
They also reaffirm that a negotiated two-State outcome meeting Israel’s security needs and Palestinians’ aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967, and resolves all permanent status issues is the only way to achieve an enduring peace.
Summarizing the first ever report by the diplomatic Quartet to the Security Council. the United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned that continuing violence, terrorism and incitement, settlement expansion, and the Palestinian Authority’s lack of control of Gaza are hurting the Middle East peace process.
“The main objective of this report is not about assigning blame,” Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the 15-member Council on June 30. “It focuses on the major threats to achieving a negotiated peace and offers recommendations on the way forward.”
The report refers to both sides, and specifically to the Palestinians and Israelis in relation to violence, incitement to violence, Israeli settlement construction and related policies, Palestinian unity and institution building.
The UN envoy reiterated several times in his remarks the urgent need for the parties to engage on these recommendations: “The Quartet has outlined a reasonable set of steps that, if implemented sincerely and resolutely, with support from the international community, could set Israelis and Palestinians firmly along a navigable course towards establishing a comprehensive peace with historic implications for the entire region.”
Mladenov also stressed that a permanent status agreement on ending the conflict could only be achieved through “direct, bilateral negotiations, the outcome of which cannot be prejudged by unilateral steps that would not be recognized by the international community”.
He called for leadership and vision that he said had been “starkly absent from this conflict for far too long” and replaced by “empty platitudes”. He added: “It is time for both sides to rise to the challenge.”
“A peaceful future for both [Palestinians and Israelis] cannot emerge on the back of statements that glorify terror and justify killing,” said during his briefing on the Middle East. “No solution can come through violence; it must be based on mutual respect and the recognition of the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”
He recalled that, at the beginning of June, the Secretary-General and ministers from 30 countries had gathered in Paris to discuss incentives that could kick-start momentum towards that goal. The underlying message from Paris was clear: “We must act decisively now or continue to deal with the damaging repercussions for years to come.”
However, negative trends on the ground continued to jeopardize prospects for peace, he stressed, recalling that two Palestinians had opened fire and killed four Israelis, and that Israeli security forces had killed a Palestinian teenager on a highway. Both tragedies had provided political fodder for cynical advocates of divisiveness, further undermining trust between communities, he said.
Recognizing the urgent need to reverse that destructive dynamic, the Middle East Quartet had worked with the concerned parties and key stakeholders to preserve the two-State solution, he continued. In September 2015, the Quartet had expressed serious concern about trends on the ground at the time, and voiced appreciation for steps taken to stabilize the situation and restore belief among Palestinians and Israelis.
The Security Council met on June 30 amid fresh violence in the region. Just a few hours earlier, a 13-year-old girl was stabbed to death by a Palestinian at her home in West Bank. Earlier in the month, four Israelis died in an attack in Tel Aviv, and a Palestinian teenager was killed by Israeli Security Forces on a highway.
“All three incidents clearly illustrate the environment of fear in which both Palestinians and Israelis have lived for generations,” the UN envoy explained. “Palestinian frustration cannot be wished away,” he said, adding that “neither will the violence and terror, fuelled by resentment, bring about a Palestinian state.”
Earlier on June 29, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that what is lacking in terms of a lasting settlement for peace to the conflict is the political will to make that happen.
Reporting on a two-day visit to Israel and Palestine, Ban said: “During my trip, I reminded the leadership on both sides of the imperative of taking prompt action to restore hope in a peaceful future and to preserve the two-State solution – the only way to meet the national aspirations of both peoples.”
In a message to the International Conference in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace in Geneva on June 29-30, Ban noted that the title of the conference – Peace is possible – frameworks for a way forward was apt, as no one should give up hope of negotiating a settlement between Israel and Palestine.
“All that is lacking is the political will to make that happen,” he stressed in his message, which was delivered by Michael Moeller, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG).
Ban pointed to the expansion of Israel’s settlement enterprise in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as a factor that undermines trust and constitutes a significant threat to a viable Palestinian State. For its part, Palestinian leadership must live up to its responsibility to speak clearly and act firmly against violence and incitement, the Secretary-General said.
“The United Nations remains committed to supporting a negotiated, just, comprehensive and enduring two-State resolution for the people of Israel and Palestine,” Ban said, adding that he will personally commit to working with their leaders and the international community to advance their essential goals, until the last day (December 31, 2016) of his tenure as Secretary-General.
The conference, convened by the UN Palestinian Rights Committee, brought together experienced peace negotiators, international experts including from the UN, Israel and Palestine, civil society and academics, to discuss lessons learned from past initiatives related to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and assess recent initiatives by key actors.