Time 'to ring the alarm bell' on waning prospects for Middle East peace, UN envoy tells Security Council

Toddlers sit on the top step and their grandmother stands on a landing, inside their partially destroyed home in the Shejaiya neighbourhood of Gaza City. UNICEF/UNI188296/El Baba

24 March 2016 – The United Nations envoy for the peace process in the Middle East today warned the Security Council that the prospects for an independent Palestinian state are disappearing, and questioned the political will of the Israeli and Palestinian actors to address the main challenges blocking peace efforts.

“The time has come to ring the alarm bells that the two-state solution is slipping from our fingers,” said Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, pointing to ongoing settlement activities and confiscation of Palestinian land, as well as the continued lack of genuine Palestinian unity.

'Wave of violence'

The persistent inability to achieve a just and lasting solution that meets the national aspirations of the Palestinians and Israelis is being expressed through violence.

The past month has been marked by “some of the bloodiest incidents in this current wave of violence” across Israel and the occupied West Bank, Mr. Mladenov said.

That violence has left 198 Palestinians and 30 Israelis dead in the past six months, with most of the Palestinians killed while reportedly carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.

The UN envoy said that it is time to move past mere condemnations of such acts of terror and violence “to send a clear message to both parties.”

He spoke to Palestinians, weighing against radicals determined to poison the minds of Palestinian youth, and urged them to not praise or glorify violence against Israel in the media.

At the same time, Mr. Mladenov called on Israelis to realize that actions such as illegal building and movement restrictions “breed anger among people who feel they are being collectively humiliated, punished and discriminated against.”

Noting Israeli authorities' interpretation of the Ottoman Land Law in their favour, he reiterated that “settlements are illegal under international law” and urged Israel “to halt and reverse” decisions that allow them to declare state land on property that is not registered as private. He spoke also against the demolition and confiscation of Palestinian structures in the West Bank, and the regular denial of legal building permits to Palestinians.

Palestinian's political discord

The lack of a united Palestinian front is also a challenge – with political factions unable to reach a consensus on long-term Palestinian national goals, as well as fiscal and development goals.

The senior UN official stressed that “achieving a genuine Palestinian unity on the basis of non-violence, democracy and the PLO Principles would constitute a crucial building block for the foundation of a Palestinian state.”

Among other issues, he called for allegations of corruption to be investigated, referencing an arrest warrant that was temporarily ordered against Najat Abu Bakr, a Fateh member of the Palestine Legislative Committee, who raised such allegations.

Report on way forward

In an attempt to break the political impasse between the actors, Mr. Mladenov announced that the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process – comprising the UN, Russia, the United States and the European Union – have started work on a report to review the situation on the ground and suggest a plan to overcome the impediments.

“We remain seriously concerned that current trends – including continued acts of violence against civilians, incitement, ongoing settlement activity, and the high rate of demolitions of Palestinian structures – are dangerously imperilling the viability of a two-state solution,” Mr. Mladenov said.

According to information provided to the press yesterday, the work has already started and the Quartet is seeking inputs from both sides and other stakeholders, including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The report is expected to be completed in a few months.

Gaza reconstruction

In Gaza, where the security situation remains volatile, the pace of reconstruction is slow, the UN envoy said.

He pointed to slow disbursements of donor pledges, and encouraged all Member States to disburse their commitments without delay.

Only 35 per cent of the $3.5 billion pledged at the 2014 Cairo conference has been disbursed, according to figures Mr. Mladenov provided at a press briefing yesterday.

“Failure to comprehensively address the chronic problems affecting Gaza risks another escalation in the future,” he warned.

Mr. Mladenov was due today to hold an informal consultation with Member States on the reconstruction efforts.

Secretary-General in Lebanon

Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is today in Lebanon, joined by the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim.

In his briefing, Mr. Mladenov said the visit illustrated the “strong commitment” of the UN and international community to helping Lebanon address multiple challenges resulting from the Syria crisis.


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Diplomatic Quartet to prepare report to lay ground for Israel-Palestine talks – UN envoy

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