By Santo D. Banerjee
UNITED NATIONS (IDN) – Despite the scepticism – if not opposition – of the veto-wielding United States to realizing a two-State solution, a senior United Nations official has urged the parties to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict to recommit to that solution and to ending the occupation of Palestinian lands.
This view was unequivocally supported by the representatives of Bolivia and Uruguay, two of the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council in addition to five permanent members (P5): China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Against the backdrop of heightened tensions and multiple violent incidents in and around Jerusalem — as well as a worsening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip — Miroslav Jenča, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said in his briefing to the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East on August 22: “Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties.”
He said that if approved, the proposed amendment to the “Basic Law: Jerusalem the Capital of Israel” would further cement Israeli control over occupied East Jerusalem and would limit the ability of both sides to reach a negotiated solution that is in line with UN resolutions and prior agreements.
“Any move which could impact demographics in the city is extremely worrisome and could spark violence,” he warned. Citing the latest settlement activities by Israel, he said that “such actions only fuel perceptions that those working to obstruct the two-state solution are gaining the upper hand.” He reiterated that settlements are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.
Jenèa said that the recent crisis in Jerusalem’s Old City – including several violent attacks and the resulting temporary closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque – highlighted the unsustainability of the current situation, and the need for a political horizon and a clear re-commitment by the international community and both parties to realizing a two-state solution that meets the legitimate national aspirations and security needs of both Palestinians and Israelis.
The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs outlined recent events, and recalled that three Israelis had been stabbed to death in a terror attack and six Palestinians were killed during primarily peaceful protests following a July 14 attack in which two policemen were killed in Jerusalem’s Old City. Two of the Palestinians killed during the protests had died due to the use of live ammunition, he said, which also raised concerns about the use of force by Israeli security forces.
Jenèa acclaimed Israel and Jordan for bringing the crisis to an end, as well as religious leaders on both sides of the conflict for their calls for de-escalation, and added that continued coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was paramount in the current context.
He also described several other violent incidents in recent weeks, including the firing of a rocket into southern Israel by militants in the Gaza Strip on August 8. The following day, the Israeli Air Force retaliated with missile fire at two Hamas installations in Gaza, injuring three people. On August 17, an alleged suicide bombing had killed one and injured five others in southern Gaza.
Meanwhile, Israeli settlers had reportedly placed mobile homes near the settlement of Halamish in response to last month’s deadly attack there, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had delivered an inauguration speech at the launch of 1,000 new housing units in the Beitar Ilit settlement. “Such actions only fuel perceptions that those working to obstruct the two-State solution are gaining the upper hand,” Jenèa warned, underscoring the illegal nature of those settlements.
Nearly three years after the last round of hostilities between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, the overall humanitarian situation in the territory had worsened, he continued. Since its takeover by Hamas in 2007, there had been increasing concerns that Gaza could become unliveable by 2020.
The “punishing measures” instituted by the Palestinian Authority in April 2017 had only added to the crippling humanitarian effect of Israel’s closures on the population. “Whatever the political differences between the Palestinian factions, it is not the people of Gaza who should pay the price,” he stressed.
Despite reconstruction efforts, approximately 29,000 people remained displaced, he said, encouraging both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to intensify their engagement with the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism. Noting that most residents were experiencing the sweltering summer heat with only four to five hours of electricity per day, he added that the energy crisis was also affecting the availability of clear water, health care and sanitation services.
Calling on Palestinian leaders to address the destructive consequences of their divisions, he also urged Hamas to ensure that calm was maintained by ending the militant build-up against Israel and to do its utmost to sustain security at the border with Egypt.
Israel should also step-up measures to lift its closures and facilitate Gaza’s development in line with Council resolution 1860 (2009). In addition, he called on donors to respond urgently to the $25 million humanitarian appeal issued in July in the wake of the electricity crisis, and to fill the current 70 per cent funding gap.
Turning briefly to the situation in Lebanon, he said the area in which the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) operated remained generally quiet, while military operations against militants continued on the eastern border with Syria. In the Syrian Golan, the ceasefire between Israel and Syria had been maintained, albeit in a volatile environment attributable to the ongoing Syrian conflict.
Speaking after the briefing, Ambassador Luis Bermúdez of Uruguay in the country’s Permanent Mission to the UN said his country was concerned by the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was characterized by humanitarian, political and security consequences throughout the country and region. Unfortunately, in recent months there had not been any new developments with respect to the peace process and the parties had not taken any measures to reverse the trends that threatened the two-State solution.
He called upon the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to make the greatest efforts to avoid unnecessary provocations, which increased tensions and violence and undermined the efforts of the international community to resume bilateral peace negotiations with the aim of achieving a two-State solution.
On Gaza, he expressed concern over the serious crisis being suffered by the population, which was marked by the consequences of armed conflict, as well as negligence by the authorities. He called upon the Palestinian authorities, Israelis and Hamas leaders to find a solution to the different problems that threatened to plunge Gaza into a deep spiral.
Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz, Bolivia’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, voiced concern about the information circulated by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which stated that on August 21, Israel had dismantled a nursery school on the West Bank. His country rejected such unilateral actions.
The two-State solution was the only way that Palestine could reach its full development and in that regard, Bolivia supported all efforts that would lead to a peaceful, just and sustainable solution. It was essential that the Security Council pursued all efforts aimed at resolving the conflict given that it was that body’s responsibility to maintain international peace and security. It was unacceptable that the Government of Israel flagrantly continued with its policies and practices aimed at changing the demographic make-up of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 August 2017]
Photo: Miroslav Jenca (right), Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, addresses the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East. At his side is Ambassador Abdel Latif Aboulatta, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the UN and President of the Council for August. UN Photo/Kim Haughton
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