Ban urges Israelis, Palestinians to show courage needed to make peace

29 November 2010 – The United Nations today marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People with a challenge from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to both Israelis and Palestinians to show the statesmanship and political courage needed to reach peace.

He noted that there was little optimism on either side that peace could be achieved soon, let alone within the one year target date set by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when they resumed direct talks in September, and he reiterated his calls to Israel to freeze settlement activity and to the Palestinians to fight terrorism and curb incitement.

“Soon after direct talks on final status began in September, they were undermined by the expiry of Israel’s commendable settlement moratorium,” Mr. Ban said in a message marking the Day. “Construction of hundreds of new units throughout the West Bank commenced, and new approvals for settlements in East Jerusalem were given.

“This development is a serious blow to the credibility of the political process. The obligation remains on Israel to meet its responsibilities under international law and the Road Map to freeze settlement activity,” he added, referring to the internationally-endorsed peace plan that foresees two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

Noting the lack of optimism in Israel, he called on all Israelis to “look with fresh eyes at the indisputable emergence of a reliable security partner on the ground, and the continued commitment of President Abbas to Israel’s right to live in peace and security, and to his rejection of violence and terrorism.”

He commended steps taken during the past year to improve conditions on the ground but said much more is needed. “The Palestinian Authority must continue to roll out the institutions of statehood, combat terrorist attacks and curb incitement,” he urged. “Meanwhile, it is both Israel’s interest and its duty to begin rolling back the measures of occupation, particularly with respect to movement, access and security actions.”

Mr. Ban noted that an overwhelming international consensus exists on the need to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory that began with the 1967 war, address the major security concerns of both parties, find a solution to the refugee issue and see Jerusalem emerge from negotiation as the capital of two States.

“I challenge the two leaders to show statesmanship and political courage in reaching a historic peace,” he said. “The international community, for its part, must be ready to assume its own responsibilities for peace.”

Addressing an observance at UN Headquarters to mark the Day, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro reiterated Mr. Ban’s message, adding: “Let the year ahead be the one in which we realize, finally, a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

General Assembly President Joseph Deiss also called on the parties to step up their efforts to engage each other in honest negotiations and overcome deadlocks.

“Violence and acts of terror must cease,” he said in his message. “International law and UN resolutions must be respected and actions which could aggravate the situation and increase suspicion and mistrust must be stopped.”

He noted that the Day marked the date in 1947 when the General Assembly adopted the resolution partitioning then-mandated Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab, which has not happened. He urged that everything be done to alleviate the daily suffering of the Palestinian people.

The Chairman of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Abdou Salam Diallo, highlighted the human tragedy of the Palestinians and stressed that Israel must be “called upon to adhere strictly to international humanitarian law,” particularly on the issue of settlements.

The Committee has repeatedly urged the parties to refrain from unilateral acts, including building new settlements or expanding existing ones, but “unfortunately, it appears that Israel found itself unable to assume this undertaking, recognized by the entire international community as a minimum confidence-building measure,” he said.

“Member States, individually and collectively, must demonstrate their active solidarity and take immediate action to improve the lives of the Palestinian people,” he added, calling for the lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and for all the appropriate international bodies to prevent impunity, “particularly during military operations in the territories, and to ensure that the status of East Jerusalem and the holy sites is respected.”

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, urged the UN and the international community to draft a new protocol declaring the prolonged occupation and refugee status imposed on the Palestinians over the past 43 years a crime against humanity.

Mr. Falk, who serves in an independent capacity and reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, stressed in a news release the need to impose “some outer time limit after which further occupation becomes a distinct violation of international law, and if not promptly corrected, constitutes a new type of crime against humanity.”

In a cultural performance entitled “The Gaza Monologues” by the Ramallah-based Ashtar Theatre, 25 young people narrated personal statements written by children in Gaza in the wake of the 2008-2009 Israeli offensive. In addition, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is presenting a photo exhibit entitled “Summer Games in Gaza” at UN Headquarters in conjunction with the Day.


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