Given the iconic nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the interconnected nature of disputes throughout the region, creating the conditions for the parties to return to meaningful bilateral negotiations remained critical, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today.
Providing the Secretary-General’s first written report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) (document S/2018/614), Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov told members: “I remain deeply concerned by the state of our collective efforts to advance peace”.
Emphasizing the need to reverse, or at the very least contain the impact of negative trends, especially illegal settlement activity, violence and incitement, he said that such efforts would be critical for preserving hope for a meaningful return to the negotiating table, as well as to prevent the escalation of broader regional tensions.
Noting that no steps had been taken during the reporting period to “cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” as demanded in the resolution, he said that some 3,500 housing units in settlements in Area C of the occupied West Bank were advanced, approved or tendered.
With one third of those units in settlements in outlying locations deep in the West Bank, he highlighted that the reporting period also witnessed an overall increase in demolitions across Area C compared to the previous period, albeit at the relatively low rate which characterized 2017. Such settlement activity was illegal under international law, he said, underscoring that “it continues to undermine the practical prospects for establishing a viable Palestinian State and erodes remaining hopes for peace.”
The reporting period was also characterized by high levels of violence, including rocket attacks from Gaza, he said, drawing attention to a series of recent protests in that province, during which 135 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces. Under the cover of the protests, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militants engaged in violent and provocative acts, he said, with hundreds approaching and attempting to breach the fence, throwing rocks and fire bombs at Israeli forces and laying improvised explosive devices.
Israel had a duty to protect its citizens, but must exercise maximum restraint in the use of live fire and must only use lethal force as a last resort, he underlined. The actions of militant groups in Gaza put at risk not only the lives of Israelis and Palestinians alike, but also jeopardized efforts to ensure a liveable future for people in Gaza.
As part of his work, he said he was engaging with all sides to advance the proposal previously outlined by the Council that would prioritize projects agreed by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, enhance United Nations project management capacity in Gaza, and strengthen coordination with the Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian authorities. However, he warned that due to an unprecedented shortfall of more than $250 million, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was weeks away from painful cuts to its emergency assistance for Gaza and elsewhere in the region.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 10:21 a.m.