Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, delivered by Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, to the United Nations International Conference in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, in Geneva today:
I am pleased to send greetings to the participants of this International Conference in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
Your title is apt: “Peace is possible — frameworks for a way forward”. We must never give up hope of negotiating a settlement between Israel and Palestine. All that is lacking is the political will to make that happen.
The international community’s latest efforts to revitalize the peace process and seek to build international consensus towards a resumption of negotiations include the upcoming report of the Middle East Quartet, and the recent French-led ministerial meeting.
The Arab Peace Initiative, with its vision of a comprehensive peace and an opportunity to build a regional security framework, can also be an important forum for dialogue.
I have just made my eleventh visit to Israel and Palestine. During my trip, I reminded the leadership on both sides of the imperative of taking prompt action to restore hope in a peaceful future and to preserve the two-State solution — the only way to meet the national aspirations of both peoples.
Israel’s settlement enterprise, illegal under international law, continues to expand in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, undermining trust and constituting a significant threat to a viable Palestinian State. The continued designation of land in Area C for exclusive Israeli use; the steady expansion of settlements; the legalization of outposts; and the alarming spike in demolitions in 2016 are systematically jeopardizing the viability of a future Palestinian State and raise serious concerns about Israel’s commitment to the two-State vision.
Violence, and the incitement that fuels it, also presents a major obstacle to rebuilding trust and restoring faith in a negotiated solution. There can be no justification for terrorism, nor for the glorification of those who commit such heinous acts. Palestinian leadership must live up to its responsibility to speak clearly and act firmly against violence and incitement.
Israelis and Palestinians alike are entitled to live in security — free from constant fear and threats. I am encouraged by the reduction in attacks against Israelis over the past few months. Israel must calibrate its response to avoid unnecessarily harming civilians, in accordance with its obligations under international law.
Turning to Gaza: the situation there is untenable. Nine years of closures and three rounds of hostilities between Israel and militant groups operating from Gaza have exacerbated the vast humanitarian challenges. Most Palestinians in Gaza need international humanitarian aid in the face of crises in housing, electricity and water, and a lack of sustainable development.
It is critical that donors fulfil their financial pledges for the reconstruction of Gaza. Hamas must end its military build-up and the construction of tunnels, which undermine humanitarian efforts and increase the risk of renewed violence. I call again on the Israeli Government to end its closure of Gaza in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). I also urge Egypt to open the Rafah crossing on a regular basis, particularly for humanitarian cases, while respecting its legitimate security concerns.
Reuniting the West Bank and Gaza under a single, legitimate and democratic Palestinian Government based on Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) principles is critical, not only to relieving the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza, but to empowering Palestinian leadership to negotiate a resolution to the conflict.
The United Nations remains committed to supporting a negotiated, just, comprehensive and enduring two-State resolution for the people of Israel and Palestine.
I personally commit to working with their leaders and the international community to advance their essential goals, until the last day of my tenure as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
In this spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful event that looks at past peace initiatives and lessons learned, current peace initiatives, and the way forward.