In Last Briefing as Top Envoy, Robert Serry Urges 15-Member Body to Lead, Present Negotiating Framework to Preserve Two-State Solution
It might already be too late to realize the paradigm of “two States for two peoples”, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today, of the view that during his tenure he had been part of a peace process in which “a can is kicked down an endless road”.
Losing sight of peace between Israel, Palestine and the wider Arab world would be “tantamount to pouring more oil on regional flames”, Robert Serry warned in his last briefing as the United Nations top envoy in the Middle East.
Mr. Serry pressed the 15-member body to present a framework for negotiations as perhaps “the only way to preserve the goal of a two-State solution”. Resolution 242 (1967), which embodied the “land for peace” principle, was nearly half a century old, he said, noting that during his tenure, the Council had passed only two resolutions on the matter, neither of which had offered a strategy.
“Hasn’t the time come, Mr. President, for the Council to lead?” he asked.
He held that the peace process had played out on three mutually conflicting tracks — peace negotiations, Gaza and the United Nations — an interplay that had produced the biggest crisis to date in joint efforts to reach a two-State solution. The parties, he added, did not appear ready to restart negotiations and should not be rushed back to the table.
All three stalled negotiations, he continued, had been followed by wars in Gaza, while the remarkable progress achieved in Palestinian State-building had turned into a “failed success”. He had publicly called for a new strategy that prioritized Gaza, he said, warning that persistent illegal settlement activity could kill the possibility of peace under the present peace architecture.
“We must fix Gaza — or at least stabilize it — so that we do not reconstruct it for a third time only to see it destroyed again,” he urged. A more stable ceasefire under the umbrella of the Government of National Consensus was needed, as was a freeze of all military activities for three to five years. Such efforts could only be sustained if Palestinians moved towards real reconciliation. The only way forward was for the Government of National Consensus to take up its leadership role in the area.
Moreover, he said, all Gaza crossings must be opened to support the free movement of people and goods. For its part, the international community should support the Government politically and financially, including by acting on commitments made at the Cairo Conference on Gaza’s reconstruction. “Gaza is our collective failure,” he said, “and the people of Gaza continue to suffer the consequences.”
Those developments had dovetailed with what Mr. Serry called another month plagued by brutality and immense human suffering across the region.
Updating on recent events, he said general elections had been held in Israel on 17 March. He expressed concern at remarks by the Prime Minister, which raised serious doubts about Israel’s commitment to the two-State solution, and he urged the incoming Israeli Government to seize the opportunity of a fresh mandate to quickly demonstrate that commitment.
At the same time, he said, the decision by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council to suspend security coordination, given Israel’s non-compliance with signed agreements, could have far-reaching consequences. Along with the Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court, effective 1 April, it was another “powerful” sign of Palestinian determination not to return to the status quo.
“We cannot run from reality,” he said, stressing that ending such coordination with Israel could be “the final nail in the coffin” of the Oslo Accords. As well, with the third month of Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax revenues amounting to $400 million, the Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis was worsening, and he called on Israel to immediately reverse that decision.
In Gaza, he said, an equally destructive financial crisis, related to stalled civil service reform, had ratcheted up tensions. Yet, some progress had been made. As of 23 March, almost 80 per cent of damaged shelters had been processed through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, with more than 61,000 individuals having procured construction materials for home repair, and more than 40 international and private-sector projects approved.
In the West Bank, he said, the situation remained tense amid negative developments that resembled those over the last seven years: loss of life and injuries from protests, intercommunal violence involving Israeli settlers and Israeli search-and-arrest operations.
He reiterated that real progress towards a two-State solution would go a long way towards strengthening moderate forces in the region. The Arab Peace Initiative still held the prospect of normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab and wider Muslim world. In any agreement, Israeli security concerns would need to be seriously addressed.
The meeting began at 10:26 a.m. and ended at 10:44 a.m.