With no prospect for resuming peace negotiations in sight, developments on the ground in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories continued to undermine an already precarious situation, said Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, briefing the Security Council today.
Speaking via video conference from Jerusalem, Mr. Mladenov noted that illegal settlement construction continued, Gaza remained beyond the control of the legitimate Palestinian authority and political leadership on both sides continued to shy away from taking steps needed for peace. Those realities had eroded trust in the prospect of a two-State solution, he said, resulting in dwindling hopes in both Israel and Palestine.
Although the past month had been relatively calm in terms of the frequency and intensity of violence, Mr. Mladenov pointed to a number of security-related incidents that had continued to be cause for concern. Against that backdrop, preparations were advancing for the 8 October Palestinian local council elections, the first such simultaneous polls that would be held in the West Bank and Gaza since 2006. Conducting those local elections in line with established international standards could continue to advance Palestinian reconciliation. Although the lack of unity or any attempt to influence the outcome of the elections risked widening divisions and undermining the Palestinian national cause.
Recalling that it had been two years since the ceasefire had ended the last Gaza conflict, he said that “while progress has been made on reconstructing the physical damage, sadly we are miles away from repairing the physical, emotional and psychological damage of the conflict.” As long as Gaza remained locked away from the rest of the world, in the grip of militants and dependent on aid and humanitarian assistance, the status quo would prevail, he stressed.
He went on to say that, after two months since the Middle East Quartet had clearly outlined the threats to the two-State solution and offered practical recommendations, its recommendations continued to be ignored. Pointing to a surge in Israeli settlement-related announcements and continued demolitions, he said that, since 1 July, Israel had advanced plans for more than 1,000 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and 735 units in Ma’ale Adumim and other locations in the West Bank. Further, steps were being taken to enable the establishment of a new settlement on the outskirts of Bethlehem and new housing units on a portion of a military compound in Hebron.
No “legal acrobats”, he said, could change the fact that all outposts remained illegal under international law. It was difficult to view such actions as a genuine intention to work towards a viable two-State solution.
He said the Quartet had also highlighted that Palestinians living in Area C and East Jerusalem had been disproportionately denied Israeli building permits. The past two months had also seen an increase in the enforcement of non-punitive demolition orders against Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem. The Bedouins in Area C were particularly vulnerable, while the potential demolition of the Susiya community would set a dangerous precedent for displacement and feed the perception that Israel aimed at a de facto annexation of Area C.
Turning to the situation in the Golan, Mr. Mladenov said persistent volatility had continued to undermine the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement. Fighting between the Syrian Armed Forces and armed groups in the areas of separation and limitation had continued with several reported incidents taking place across the ceasefire line.
Despite the international community’s efforts to manage the conflict, occupation had continued, Palestinians were increasingly dispossessed and a one-State reality was gaining momentum on the ground. It was time for all parties to end the conflict on the basis of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and in a manner that met the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples.
Both sides should work to reverse the negative trajectory, to build trust and restore hope that a negotiated two-State solution was not just a political slogan, but a reality that could be achieved.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:18 a.m.