Amid violence, 'glaring lack of hope,' UN deputy chief urges action to break Israeli-Palestinian impasse

Israeli forces and a newly installed metal detector on the corner of Al Wad Street, in Jerusalem’s Old City. Photo: Mya Guarnieri/IRIN

23 November 2015 – Nearly 12 months after the launch of the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People with the aim of generating global engagement on 'the Question of Palestine,' security and hope in Gaza and in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remain at a “very low point,” observed UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson today.

“We continue to witness illegal settlement activities and settler-related violence. Demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures have continued, including punitive demolitions. Such policies and actions are directly contrary to the Government of Israel's stated intention to pursue a two-State solution,” said Mr. Eliasson in his remarks to a special meeting of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People ahead of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, marked annually on 29 November.

Mr. Eliasson, who presented his statement on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, recalled that the International Year had been established in 2014 to focus on the Question of Palestine and on growing hopes at the time that the international community would engage in finally bringing to an end this long-standing conflict of such consequence to so many areas of the world.

However, he noted that today the region continues to witness illegal settlement activities and settler-related violence, including demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures have continued, including punitive demolitions.

“Such policies and actions are directly contrary to the Government of Israel's stated intention to pursue a two-state solution,” said Mr. Eliasson who also warned against religious dimensions to the conflict, after tensions and violence related to the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem erupted in the recent weeks.

He stressed the need to preserve the status quo at the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount, in accordance with the agreements between Israel and Jordan and with the special role of the King of Jordan, as Custodian.

Further, Mr. Eliasson also welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's repeated assurances that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo and urged the Israeli leader to accompany this commitment by actions to defuse the situation and to restore confidence.

Additionally, he condemned the recent wave of “heinous attacks, stabbings, shootings and attacks causing immense suffering among Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

At the same time, he acknowledged the security problems Israel faces, but reminded the Israeli authorities that using excessive forces feeds anger and frustration and urged the security services of the country to exercise maximum restraint, particularly, for the use of lethal force.

“It is abundantly clear that Palestinians feel deep frustration over an occupation that has lasted nearly 50 years. Similarly, Israelis strongly fear for their security. The lack of a political horizon to achieve the two-state solution seriously increases the risk of the situation spiralling out of control,” said Mr. Eliasson.

He also called for greater participation of the international community to break the impasse and urged the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process to continue its efforts to preserve the viability of a Palestinian State and establish conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations.

“On 29 November 2012, the State of Palestine joined the United Nations as a non-Member Observer State. Today, 136 countries recognize the State of Palestine and its flag flies at the United Nations next to those of Member States. However, these diplomatic advances are not felt by children in Gaza, or by the Palestinians of Nablus and Hebron,' said Mr. Eliasson.

The UN deputy chief added that the region is gripped with a “glaring lack of hope that their lives will change for the better and that they will be citizens of a State which will ensure their freedom and well-being.”

Lastly, ahead of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Mr. Eliasson urged all parties to reaffirm their commitment to bring about peace in the region, which can also contribute to international peace and security.

“Simply put, the Palestinian people have waited too long. On this Organization's momentous 70th anniversary, let us recall the ideals of peace, unity and human rights at the heart of the UN Charter. And let us use those ideals to inspire new momentum to find a lasting solution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft in his remarks to the special meeting.

He noted that key UN principles, namely the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war; equal rights and self-determination of peoples, continue to be violated. In addition, the General Assembly had repeatedly affirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

The General Assembly had also repeatedly affirmed the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.

“I am therefore gravely concerned by the continuing expansion of settlements, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the revocation of residency rights and the eviction and displacement of numerous Palestinian families from East Jerusalem in contravention of international law. Such actions do not contribute to peace. Rather they have become a major impediment and serve only to increase tension,” he stressed, calling on both parties to return to meaningful negotiations with a pre-established timeframe.

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