24 August 2005 With the first stage of Israel’s "watershed" disengagement from the Gaza Strip nearly completed – although the work for security forces on both sides is far from over – the United Nations political affairs chief today called on all Palestinian factions to reject violence and pursue their goals through peaceful and democratic means.
“Under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinians are soberly welcoming this important stage in their history. His continued leadership will be needed at a time of rising expectations in Gaza and mounting concern in the West Bank,” Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council today during its regularly monthly briefing on the situation in the Middle East.
For its part, Israel has demonstrated that it has the requisite maturity to do what would be required to achieve lasting peace, and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has demonstrated their ability to discharge their mission with carefully calibrated restraint, Mr. Gambari said. “Prime Minister Sharon should be commended for his determination and courage to carry out the disengagement in the fact of forceful and strident internal opposition,” he added.
As the disengagement drew to an end, attention must turn to the aftermath – the “day after,” he said. Over the next month, that would be at the forefront of agenda of the diplomatic Quartet – the UN, European Union, Russia and United States. It will be necessary to bring the process back into the mainstream laid down in the Road Map, which calls for a series of parallel steps leading to two states living side-by-side in peace, and to achieve a comprehensive and just peace in the region.
But while Israel’s “bold” first withdrawal is welcome, the situation elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territory continues to fester, Mr. Gambari warned, with many Palestinians fearing that Israel is consolidating its occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Of concern in that connection are recent statements by Hamas leaders that they will carry their resistance to the West Bank. ‘Violence as a means to achieve any objective should be rejected,” he said, “but at the same time, it would be unwise to lose sight of the concern of mainstream Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank that their legitimate aspirations may be put off indefinitely.”
“Neither party should be exempt from its Road Map obligations,” he said. President Abbas must take up the difficult challenge to transform and develop the security sector and ensure that the Palestinian Authority held the monopoly on the use of force. He would need all possible support from his own people, as well as from Israel and the international community. For its part, Israel should freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank.
Following the briefing, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, which holds the Council’s presidency for August, said in a press statement that the members appreciated the coordination between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority before and during the engagement. He also reiterated their call on both parties, in close cooperation with the Quartet, to ensure continued progress in the full implementation of the Roadmap and relevant Council resolutions.