Movement Restrictions Have Political Aim, Says Civil Society Briefer, as Delegates Criticize United States Settlements Decision
The recent escalation of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip demonstrates the urgent need for political progress on the Middle East peace process, which, in turn, calls for maintaining the international consensus on basic principles, the Special Coordinator of that process told the Security Council today.
“Upholding the international consensus on resolving the conflict and all final-status issues on the basis of the two-State solution, as per relevant resolutions, international law and mutual agreements is critical,” Nickolay Mladenov said during his regular monthly briefing, cautioning that unilateral actions fuel anger and disillusionment while undermining the prospects for peace.
Expressing regret with the 18 November announcement by the United States that it no longer views Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as inconsistent with international law, he stressed that the position of the United Nations remains that settlement activity is a flagrant violation of international law and an obstacle to a peaceful solution.
He went on to affirm the importance of holding credible Palestinian elections. “A whole generation’s voice for the future has yet to be heard,” he said, describing intra-Palestinian division as “a cancer eating away at the aspiration for statehood, peace and the commitment to democracy.” He pledged that the United Nations will do everything necessary to support a successful Palestinian election process.
Also briefing today was Tania Hary, Executive Director of the Gisha Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, who pointed out that Israel continues to control many aspects of daily life in Gaza, including the main crossing points, as well as the movement of humanitarian and commercial goods. People in the enclave are only permitted to travel in “extraordinary cases”, she added. Far from ensuring security, however, such restrictions constitute an effort to apply pressure for political gain, she emphasized, pointing out that Israel has an interest in maintaining the fracture dividing the Palestinians. Israel’s restrictions created despair and had a political goal rather than a security purpose, she said.
Noting that much of the current focus is on the expansion of settlements, she said Gaza’s continued isolation is another primary obstacle to the peace process, emphasizing that, without self-determination, Palestinians cannot vote for those who make decisions affecting their lives. She called upon the international community to insist on Israel allowing the maximum access possible, subject only to serious security concerns. It must remove obstacles imposed on those seeking work or trying to reunite with their families, she said, adding that it must also lift restrictions for those seeking health care and on companions of those receiving medical care — such as parents of young children.
Most Council members taking the floor affirmed their support for a two-State solution and many underlined the importance of holding inclusive and credible Palestinian elections, alongside efforts for intra-Palestinian reconciliation. Many speakers criticized the announcement that the United States no longer recognizes the illegality Israel’s settlements under international law.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine described Washington’s decision as yet another in a series of irresponsible recent steps that will only undermine the prospects for peace and the legitimacy of United States diplomacy. Such desperate attempts to alter international law through mere political whims will never succeed, he said, emphasizing that every country represented at the United Nations has the ability to contribute to Middle East peace by withholding support for the settlements, thereby ensuring accountability and ending long-standing impunity for that country’s crimes. “There can be no international law applied to all of us, and another […] designed to fit the colonial greed of Israel,” he stressed.
The representative of the United States clarified that her country does not judge the legality of any particular settlement, or what the final status of such settlements should be in a peace agreement. However, the focus of discussions within the Council, should not be on settlements, but on attacks against Israeli civilians that threaten peace and security, she said, pointing out that both sides are affected by such terrorist actions. The United States remains committed to the cause of peace, but also to fair treatment of Israel in the United Nations, she added. “We will not stand idly by when this Council unfairly condemns Israel, especially when those who attack Israel are not condemned,” she stressed.
Israel’s representative thanked the United States for “righting an historic wrong” by denying the illegality of settlements in the West Bank and identifying the true obstacles for peace in the region. The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan demonstrated the lengths to which Israel is willing to go to achieve peace through negotiations, as did the withdrawal from Gaza, he added. The armistice that ended the fighting in 1948 specified that agreed boundary lines were exclusively for military purposes, without prejudice to final status, he said, adding that insistence on the validity of pre-1967 borders pre-determines the outcome of negotiations.
The Russian Federation’s representative decried the announcement by the United States, warning that it can only heighten tensions and describing it as a gross violation of international law. He went on to affirm that the Golan is Syrian territory illegally annexed by Israel, while expressing serious concern about that country’s rocket fire against Syria.
China’s representative called for an immediate end to all rhetoric and actions that contravene United Nations resolutions. Emphasizing that statehood is an inalienable right and “not something to be traded for”, he pointed out that resolution 2334 (2016) clearly finds Israel’s settlement expansion to be illegal under international law, demanding that it end immediately.
Kuwait’s representative rejected all attempts to justify Israel’s expansionist policies, describing them as flagrant violations of international law. He also denounced other actions aimed at changing reality on the ground, including in Jerusalem.
Indonesia’s representative described the new position unveiled by a Council member as a clear, unquestionable and flagrant violation of international law. “The international community must resist the irresponsible and unjustifiable call which seeks to undermine the international consensus concerning this conflict.”
France’s representative declared: “It’s not up to one country as to what is legal.” Israel’s settlement policy contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention and Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), among other documents, he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Poland, Peru, Equatorial Guinea and the United Kingdom.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:22 p.m.
NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, noted that the meeting was taking place in the aftermath of the recent serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, with the situation remaining highly volatile. It occurred after Israel’s targeted killing of Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata, which in turn was followed by the launch of more than 500 rockets towards Israel, he added, emphasizing that such indiscriminate launching is unacceptable and must stop immediately. In Israeli attacks responding to the rocket attacks, 34 Palestinians were killed, including 20 identified as militants as well as three women and eight children, he said, stressing that there is no justification for killing civilians anywhere.
Recognizing Egypt’s efforts to calm the situation, he cautioned, however, that the danger has not passed, with sporadic rockets and retaliatory strikes continuing and the violence threatening to undermine reconstruction and development in the Gaza Strip. “Gaza ultimately requires a political solution,” he said, adding: “Militant activity cannot continue to undermine the chances for peace and development. He continued: “Israel cannot continue with its policy of closures that stifles development. Palestinian leaders cannot continue to avoid the devastating consequences of their internal political division.” He went on to underline that important humanitarian engagement in Gaza must not divert from a political settlement represented by a two-State solution.
Noting that the protests at the Gaza perimeter fence have dwindled but continue, he called upon Israeli forces to exercise maximum restraint and upon Hamas to prevent provocations while ensuring that the protests remain peaceful. The road to a way out of the crisis is clear — sustain calm across Gaza and focus on a long-term sustainable solution that entails allowing the Palestinian people across the occupied territory to vote and elect their leaders for the first time since 2006. He recalled his recent engagement with senior Palestinian officials and different factions to encourage that goal, emphasizing that among critical elements for credible elections are inclusiveness across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the need to hold both legislative and presidential elections within a clear and reasonable time frame, and the need for broad intra-Palestinian agreement on election modalities.
He went on to cite negative trends on the ground — including additional planning and approvals of housing units in the occupied West Bank — reiterating regret over the 18 November announcement that the United States no longer views settlements as inconsistent with international law. The position of the United Nations remains that settlement activity is a flagrant violation of international law and an obstacle to a peaceful solution, he stressed. He went on to report that Israeli authorities continued to demolish and seize Palestinian-owned structures in the occupied West Bank, citing lack of building permits, a practice that must also cease immediately. Reporting on Palestinian casualties resulting from various incidents, including one death, he said the authorities must investigate the fatal incident thoroughly and ensure accountability. He also expressed deep concern over continuing violence by settlers.
Despite agreements on the transfer of Palestinian revenues, underlying disagreements remain, he continued, calling upon both sides to engage in constructive discussions to fully restore the transfers, in accordance with the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations. The United Nations stands ready to assist in that effort. He went on to note the launch of a UN-Women initiative to advance the women, peace and security agenda in Palestine, with support from Norway, while also urging swift mobilization of support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Turning briefly to other developments in the region, he outlined violations in the Golan reported by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). He also reported on the aftermath of Lebanon’s Prime Minister’s resignation following nationwide demonstrations, reiterating calls for the swift formation of a new Government that is responsive to the concerns of demonstrators while encouraging security forces to continue to protect peaceful protestors. Operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) returned to normal levels in early November, he said.
In closing, he reaffirmed the importance of holding credible Palestinian elections, emphasizing: “A whole generation’s voice for the future has yet to be heard.” Describing the intra-Palestinian division as “a cancer eating away at the aspiration for statehood, peace and the commitment to democracy”, he pledged that the United Nations will do everything necessary to support a successful Palestinian election process, while continuing efforts to prevent another devastating war. At the same time, “upholding the international consensus on resolving the conflict and all final-status issues on the basis of the two-State solution, as per relevant resolutions, international law and mutual agreements is just as important”, he stressed, pointing out that unilateral moves fuel anger and disillusionment while undermining the prospects for peace.
TANIA HARY, Executive Director, Gisha Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, said she was born in northern Israel and moved to the United States at age five, returning to Israel in 2007, just before its near-total lockdown of the Gaza Strip. In the years that followed, there have been three major military operations and several smaller ones, she said, adding: “I don’t believe that we are better off or safer for it in Israel.” Outlining her organization’s work, she said it takes on a broad caseload in defence of the right of Palestinians to free movement, pointing out that Israel continues to control many aspects of daily life in Gaza, including the main crossing points, as well as the movement of humanitarian and commercial goods. People in Gaza are only permitted to travel in what Israel calls “extraordinary cases”, she added. Far from ensuring security, however, such restrictions constitute an effort to apply pressure for political gain, she emphasized, pointing out that Israel has an interest in maintaining the fracture of the Palestinian people.
Meanwhile, unemployment rates in Gaza remain among the highest in the world, while residents struggle to gain access to water and electricity is only available for a few hours each day, she reported. “Hopelessness and despair have increased, especially among young Palestinians,” she said, noting that they make up 70 per cent of the population. Women are less likely to meet Israel’s conditions for work-related travel, she added, recalling that her organization recently represented a group of women who sought to sell cookies outside Gaza, but were prevented from doing so. Recounting a number of similar cases — including several that eventually reached Israel’s highest court — she stressed: “It gives me no joy to expose these decisions that are made senselessly, ostensibly in my name.”
While much of the current focus is on the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the continued isolation of Gaza is another primary obstacle to the peace process, she noted, underlining that, without self-determination, Palestinians cannot vote for those who make decisions over their lives. Altogether, the situation can be nothing but a source of instability, she added. She went on to recommend that the international community insist on Israel allowing the maximum access possible, subject only to serious security concerns. It must remove obstacles imposed on those seeking work or trying to reunite with their families, she said, adding that it must also lift restrictions for those seeking health care and on companions of those receiving medical care — such as parents of young children.
Israel must also refrain from leveraging such basic services as electricity as part of its political strategy, she continued. Emphasizing that full release of humanitarian assistance is also critical, she warned that in light of recent events, “we cannot delude ourselves that a peace process is right around the corner”. The international community must provide strong support to civil society, both Israeli and Palestinian, she stressed. She went on to state that while many in Israel might view her appearance before the Council as an act of disloyalty, she rejects the idea of the conflict as a zero-sum game, underlining instead that Palestinian prosperity is closely linked to the security of Israelis. She went on to urge Council members to embrace today’s meeting as a wake-up call and an opportunity for change.
CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States) clarified the recent announcement by her country’s Government that Israel’s construction of settlements in the West Bank is not in violation of international law per se, emphasizing that the United States is not judging the legality of any particular settlement, or what the final status of such settlements should be in a peace agreement, which must be worked out through negotiations between the parties. Stressing that the focus of discussions in the Council should not be on settlements, she said it should be on attacks against Israeli civilians that threaten peace and security, nearly 500 of which have emanated from Gaza, with support from Iran. Both sides are affected by such terrorist actions and “there is hardly a more self-evident obstacle to reaching peace”, she noted. The United States remains committed to the cause of peace, but also to fair treatment of Israel in the United Nations, she added. “We will not stand idly by when this Council unfairly condemns Israel, especially when those who attack Israel are not condemned.”
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) condemned recent rocket attacks against Israel, saying his country remains steadfast in its commitment to Israel’s security. At the same time, the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza is of deep concern, he added, while emphasizing that freedom of movement is essential to improving the situation in that enclave. Germany remains committed to a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he affirmed, warning that unilateral measures risk destroying the viability of that process. Israel’s continuing occupation and settlement activity, therefore, constitute an obstacle to peace, he said, reaffirming his delegation’s view that settlement activity is illegal. He went on to call for an end to settlement activity and to seizures of Palestinian-owned structures while warning against the annexation of territory. Germany will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 lines without the agreement of the parties, he emphasized, going on to call for an end to all violence and incitement, and for increased financial support to UNRWA.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) condemned the firing of rockets into Israel and welcomed the ceasefire in Gaza, calling upon all parties to exercise restraint and respect the rights of civilians. He also called for a thorough investigation into an air strike that killed members of a family in Gaza. Emphasizing the need to end restrictions in Gaza, he also called for progress in Palestinian reconciliation efforts and for building institutions. A credible electoral process should contribute to that goal, he said. Describing continued settlement activity in the occupied territories as illegal, he said cautioned that it compromises a two-State solution in a fundamental way. Urging the Israeli authorities to end settlement activity without delay, he said Belgium will not recognize any changes in the pre‑1967 lines without the agreement of the parties. Noting that today is the World Day of Childhood, he expressed concern over the effect of the Middle East conflict on children and called upon the parties to act in accord with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) condemned the recent escalation of violence as well as the indiscriminate targeting of civilians as unacceptable, emphasising that protecting their lives must be at the heart of all international efforts. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 34 Palestinian civilians were killed and 111 wounded by Israeli forces in Gaza in recent months, he said, noting that injuries were also reported in Israel as a result of rocket fire emanating from Gaza. He went on to warn that the continued expansion of settlements, as well as severe restrictions on movement and on access to basic services, are grinding down the Palestinian people’s hopes of consolidating their State. Joining the broad international consensus in favour of a two-State solution, he expressed concern over the extraordinary circumstances in which UNRWA continues to function and called upon all States to support the Agency. They should also promote a peaceful intra-Palestinian reconciliation process leading to free, fair and credible elections.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire) said that a fair and lasting peace requires a negotiated two-State solution, with both parties making compromises. Both sides must strictly observe the 14 November ceasefire and refrain from unilateral actions that might further compromise its viability, he added, emphasizing that the international community, and the Council in particular, must work to create an environment conducive to the resumption of dialogue. Calling upon Council members to stand unified in that regard, he said United Nations mediation must remain a priority. Council members should also address the long-standing blockade of Gaza, which has led to the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situations while fuelling rancour and radicalization.
ZHANG JUN (China) called for an immediate end to all rhetoric and actions that contravene United Nations resolutions. Emphasizing that statehood is an inalienable right of the Palestinian people and “not something to be traded for”, he pointed out that resolution 2334 (2016) clearly finds Israel’s settlement expansion to be illegal under international law, and demanded that it end immediately. He went on to call upon both sides to refrain from actions that could further escalate tensions, urging the international community to commit to the pursuit of peace through development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Describing UNRWA as a “success story of multilateralism”, he pointed out that its mandate was renewed overwhelmingly and called upon all partners to support the Agency.
JERRY MATJILA (South Africa) reaffirmed that the only way to achieve lasting peace is to restore all legitimate rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with the two-State formula and all relevant United Nations resolutions. Final-status issues such as borders, the status of Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestine refugees cannot continually be disregarded, he emphasized. Noting that Israel has systematically constructed more than 160 settlements and outposts on land seized from Palestinians since 1967, he said that land is now populated by more than 600,000 Israelis. He went on to express concern about increased tensions in Gaza — where more than 30 Palestinians were killed and hundreds of Palestinians as well as Israelis injured — saying they are perpetuating the dire security and humanitarian situation in the enclave. South Africa, therefore, welcomes last week’s ceasefire agreement brokered by the United Nations and Egypt, he added, calling for a cessation of violence on both sides. He went on to warn that human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory only foster hatred, emphasizing that Israel’s security and that of its future generations lies not in annexing territory or blockading Gaza, but in a peaceful, sovereign and independent Palestinian State. That goal can be achieved through sustained dialogue, negotiation and mediation, he said.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that, due to hard work by the United Nations and Egypt, a dangerous escalation of the situation in and around Gaza was thankfully avoided. Emphasizing that the idea of a negotiated two-State solution remains the cornerstone of her country’s policy on the Middle East peace process, she said that, unfortunately, it continues to be dismantled, particularly by Israel’s expansion of its settlements. Poland’s position on that country’s settlement policy remains unchanged, he said, stressing that it is also the European Union’s position. All settlement activity is illegal under international law, he reiterated, underlining that it erodes the viability of a two-State solution and the prospects for lasting peace.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) decried the announcement by the United States on Israel’s settlements, saying it can only increase tensions and describing it as a gross violation of international law. He went on to affirm that the Golan is Syrian territory illegally annexed by Israel, while expressing serious concern about that country’s rocket fire against Syria. Reiterating his delegation’s position that settlement activity contravenes international law and undermines the prospects for peace, he also expressed concern over violence and the humanitarian situation in Gaza, calling for practical measures to extricate the peace process from a dangerous deadlock. He emphasized that the Russian Federation continues to encourage efforts for resumed dialogue between the parties, calling for coherence in bilateral, regional and United Nations efforts in that regard. Describing UNRWA as extremely important due to its stabilizing effect in the region, he warned that neglecting the plight of Palestinians will lead to radicalism. He went on to call for a sustainable mechanism for collective security in the entire Middle East, adding that his country seeks to build trust for that purpose.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said his delegation is appalled by the occupying Power’s continuing provocations and violence towards Palestinian civilians. The gravity of its violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law is not comparable to the actions of Palestinians, which are often in response or due to insurmountable frustration, he emphasized. Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, compounded by its illegal settlement policy, is at the root of the problem, he stressed. Citing the new position unveiled by a member of the Council this week, he said describing it as a clear, unquestionable and flagrant violation of international law. “This irresponsible and provocative statement can only achieve the effect of making the resolution of the conflict more difficult, and the two-State vision unattainable,” he said. The coercive environment in the West Bank — intensified by Israel’s demolitions, forced evictions, discriminatory planning, access restrictions, settlement expansion and settler violence — are also generating increasing vulnerability for Palestinians, he said, underlining: “The international community must resist the irresponsible and unjustifiable call which seeks to undermine international consensus concerning this conflict.”
NICHOLAS DE RIVÈRE (France) said that Israel’s policy of settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention and Security Council resolutions, compromises the viability of a two-State solution and threatens stability on the ground. Urging that country’s authorities to renounce the policy, he declared: “It’s not up to one country as to what is legal.” He also condemned the firing of more than 450 rockets from Gaza into residential parts of Israel, while emphasizing that the latter’s security is not, and will never be, negotiable. There can be no lasting peace without the lifting of the Gaza blockade and the assurance of appropriate security guarantees for Israel, he reiterated. Expressing support for the resumption of the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process, he underlined his delegation’s support for fundamental rights and freedoms and urged Israel to reverse its decision to revoke the residency permit of the Director of Human Rights Watch. He went on to express support for UNRWA and cautioned against the pursuit of any peace plan contrary to the international consensus in favour of a two-State solution.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) joined other delegates in condemning the indiscriminate attacks by Hamas and other groups against Israel, as well as the latter’s use of disproportionate force in retaliation. Noting the close link between Israel’s settlement expansion and the spike in violent episodes, he warned that such practices contravene binding Council resolutions, further enflame tensions and risk undermining the quest for a two-State solution. He went on to call for ending the blockade of Gaza, while emphasizing the need to grant UNRWA stable and predictable funding. In light of the current fragile situation, the Council must speak up clearly in favour of restoring a viable dialogue in pursuit of a two-State solution, he said.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) recalled that 170 Member States voted last week in the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), to send a “clear and firm message” in support of UNRWA by extending its mandate for three more years. Noting that Kuwait had provided the Agency with $118 million in the last five years alone, he said UNRWA has the legal, moral and ethical responsibility to support the Palestinian people. He went on to condemn attempts to erode the rights of Palestine refugees — including their right to return — by reframing the terms of their legal status. Decrying other actions aimed at changing reality on the ground, including in Jerusalem, he rejected all attempts to justify Israel’s expansionist policies, describing them as flagrant violations of international law.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), expressing concern over the recent escalation in Gaza, lamented that the confrontation threatens the security of women and children. He called upon all armed groups in Gaza to cease their attacks and provocations, saying Israel must restrict its response in order to prevent civilian casualties. Israeli forces must also ensure the security of protestors in their exercise of free expression. He went on to emphasize the need to resume negotiations and for progress on intra-Palestinian reconciliation, reiterating his delegation’s support for a two-State solution. He also expressed appreciation for UNRWA’s work and encouraged donors to provide it with adequate funding.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) stressed that her delegation’s position on settlements has not changed, as demonstrated by its consistent statements and support for resolution 2334 (2016), which affirmed that the settlements lack legal validity. Concerning Gaza, she expressed deep concern over the escalation of hostility in the enclave and expressed appreciation for mediation efforts. Condemning indiscriminate rock fire, she said misrule by Hamas is hurting people in Gaza, while urging Israel to ease restrictions on the Strip. She went on to express concern about settler violence and to affirm the need for Palestinians to work together on holding credible elections. She also called for greater media freedom in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and joined others in affirming the importance of a two-State solution.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said the Council is meeting on the heels of an announcement by the Government of the United States, in which it reversed a long-standing policy against Israel’s expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Describing that decision as yet another in a series of irresponsible recent steps by Washington — including its attacks against the right of return for Palestine refugees’, its attempt to declare Jerusalem the “capital” of Israel and its declaration of Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights — he emphasized that none of them will bring legitimacy to Israel’s continued colonization of Palestinian land. “This will only impact […] the legitimacy of the United States, or what is left of it,” he declared.
He went on to stress that Palestinian land is not a present to be offered up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding: “Our blood is not a currency to be bartered.” Desperate attempts to alter international law through mere political whims will never succeed. Every country represented at the United Nations has the ability to contribute to peace in the Middle East by withholding support for Israel’s settlements, he said, thereby ensuring accountability and ending long-standing impunity for that country’s crimes. “There can be no international law applied to all of us, and another […] designed to fit the colonial greed of Israel,” he declared. States must not permit bullying by any country, he added, vowing that the Palestinian people will never bow to racist blackmail, while telling the Council: “International law does not forgive deafening silence.”
DANNY BEN YOSEF DANON (Israel) thanked the United States for “righting an historic wrong” by denying the illegality of settlements in the West Bank and identifying the true obstacles to peace in the region. Describing resolution 2334 (2016) as the outcome of political motives that prolonged the conflict, he said Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are not an obstacle to peace. Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan demonstrated how far it is willing to go to achieve peace through negotiations, he said, recalling that in 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza in an attempt to pave the way for peace, in spite of the rights of communities there to remain in the enclave. Israel even froze the construction of housing in response to an initiative of then-President Barack Obama, but no negotiations ensued, he said. The main obstacle to peace is the Palestinian Authority’s incitement against Jews, he said, adding that children are taught to hate them and to deny Israel’s right to exist.
The other obstacle entails attempts to alter the starting point of future negotiations before they start by using questionable legal tools to solve a political conflict, he continued. The internationally-endorsed armistice that ended the fighting in 1948 specified that boundary lines were agreed for military purposes only, without prejudice to final status, he recalled, while noting, however, that he repeatedly hears calls for a pre-determined border based on the pre-1967 lines. UNRWA represents another attempt to pre-determine the outcome of negotiations, which keeps people frozen in refugee status even if they are citizens of other countries, he said. In addition, the one-sided narrative undermines a negotiated solution by automatically supporting all Palestinian claims, which Europeans do, and merely delays negotiations since the Palestinians have no incentive to compromise, he said. However, the announcement by the United States creates a level playing field for future talks, he said, calling upon the international community to encourage direct negotiations without pre-conditions.