Volume XXX, Bulletin No. 8
on action by the United Nations system and
relevant to the question of Palestine
UNRWA condemns Israeli Defense Forces’ incursion into an Agency school in Gaza
Deputy United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process warns of worsening situation in the Gaza Strip
Quartet appoints Tony Blair as Quartet Representative
Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process briefs Security Council
United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace convenes in Brussels
UNRWA issues report on the humanitarian impact on Palestinians of Israeli settlements and other infrastructure in the West Bank
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development issues report on assistance to the Palestinian people
The Bulletin can be found in the United Nations Information System
on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) on the Internet at:
I. UNRWA CONDEMNS ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES’ INCURSION
INTO AN AGENCY SCHOOL IN GAZA
The following news release was issued on 3 August 2007 by the United Nations Works and Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA):
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), condemned the incursion into an UNRWA school in southern Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces, which left UNRWA property damaged. “This is a violation of our property and we expect the IDF to halt any operation that places in danger our staff and which damages our installations,” said John Ging, Director of the UNRWA office in Gaza. According to the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, to which Israel has acceded, “The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable”.
Local residents reported that at about 7.30 a.m. that morning, IDF soldiers and two tanks entered the compound of the Al Shouka Elementary Coeducational School and arrested two of the guards. The main gate of the school was damaged during the operation. Israeli soldiers then rounded up about fifty other people, about fifteen of whom were brought to the school, where they were held for several hours. Thus the violation of UNRWA premises was exacerbated by turning the school into a detention center.
At about 9.30 a.m. those detained by the IDF were taken to an area outside the school compound for interrogation.
UNRWA has already raised this issue with the IDF, to convey its concerns about the operation and to protest to the IDF about the impact on its education programme.
“My most immediate concern is to ensure that the IDF withdraws immediately, as their operation prevents the holding of examinations that are scheduled to take place in the school tomorrow and Sunday for remedial students,” said Mr. Ging.
II. DEPUTY UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COORDINATOR FOR THE
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS WARNS OF WORSENING
SITUATION IN THE GAZA STRIP
On 21 August 2007, the following press release was issued by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process:
Kevin Kennedy, the Deputy United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a statement that while the basic humanitarian needs of Gaza’s estimated population of 1.4 million people are largely being met, the conditions remain very difficult.
United Nations officials have warned repeatedly in recent weeks that the closure of border crossings since intra-Palestinian violence flared in May and June and Hamas took control of the territory is threatening Gaza’s economic sustainability.
Factories in import-dependent industries have had to close because of a lack of basic materials, and other businesses are also suffering because they are unable to export their products.
Mr. Kennedy said “tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and income” as a result.
He added that UN relief agencies are facing increased demands to provide humanitarian assistance and “much remains to be done” to help the people of Gaza.
III. QUARTET APPOINTS TONY BLAIR AS QUARTET
The following is the text of the letter dated 22 August 2007 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council on the recent meeting and decisions of the Quartet (S/2007/507 of 24 August 2007):
Recent events in Gaza and the West Bank make it more urgent than ever to move forward with the search for peace in the Middle East. The Quartet, comprising the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States of America, recently reaffirmed its goal of promoting an end to the conflict in accordance with the road map and expressed its intention to step up its efforts in that regard.
The urgency of recent events has made it even more necessary for the international community, bearing in mind the obligations of the parties, to help the Palestinians as they build the institutions and economy of a viable State in Gaza and the West Bank that is able to take its place as a peaceful and prosperous partner, at peace with Israel and its other neighbours.
In order to facilitate efforts to achieve these objectives, on 27 June 2007 the Quartet announced the appointment of Tony Blair as the Quartet Representative. His mandate is to:
(a) Mobilize international assistance to the Palestinians, working closely with donors and the existing coordination bodies;
(b) Help identify and secure the international support needed in order to address the institutional governance needs of the Palestinian State, focusing as a matter of urgency on the rule of law;
(c) Develop plans to promote Palestinian economic development, including private sector partnerships, by building on previously agreed frameworks, especially concerning access and freedom of movement; and
(d) Liaise with other countries, as appropriate, in support of the agreed Quartet objectives.
As Representative, Mr. Blair will bring continuity and intensity of focus to the Quartet’s efforts in support of the Palestinians, within the framework of its efforts to promote an end to the conflict in accordance with the road map.
It is envisaged that as from 1 September 2007, he will spend significant time in the region, working with the parties and with others to help create viable, lasting government institutions representing all Palestinians, as well as a robust economy and a climate of law and order for the Palestinian people.
The members of the Quartet have agreed that an office of the Quartet Representative will be established in Jerusalem. The Quartet Representative will be assisted in his work by a small team of experts seconded by partner countries and institutions.
The Quartet has encouraged robust international support for the Representative’s efforts. In the context of Security Council resolution 1515 (2003), in which the Council endorsed the Quartet’s road map and encouraged the diplomatic efforts of the Quartet and others, I would be grateful if you could confirm the Council’s support for the proposed arrangements. In view of the urgent nature of Mr. Blair’s mission, it would then be my intention to proceed swiftly with the provision of logistical, technical and financial assistance in support of his mandate.
On 24 August 2007 the President of the Security Council, Pascal Gayama, addressed the following letter to the Secretary-General (S/2007/508).
I have the honour to inform you that your letter of 22 August 2007 (S/2007/507) concerning the activities of the Quartet, including the mandate of its representative, Mr. Tony Blair, and the establishment and functioning of its Jerusalem office, has been brought to the attention of the members of the Security Council. They have taken note of the arrangements that you proposed in your letter.
IV. SPECIAL COORDINATOR FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL
On 29 August 2007, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Michael Williams briefed the Security Council on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.” The following are excerpts from the briefing (S/PV.5736):
I have just completed my last visit to the region as Special Coordinator, and I return guardedly optimistic but conscious of many challenges ahead. The substantive dialogue developing between Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and the reform efforts of Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad have created growing expectations. The anticipated engagement of Tony Blair, the Quartet’s representative, more active regional diplomacy and the preparations for a series of high-profile international gatherings -above all the November meeting called for by President Bush – reinforce those efforts.
In the period ahead, the diplomatic process will need to be carefully monitored and supported and must be buttressed by urgent and meaningful efforts and steps on the ground if the many factors that could derail efforts are to be overcome.
Turning to the situation in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority, under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, has begun to implement reforms and a serious security programme.
On security, Israel’s agreement not to pursue a number of wanted militants provided they turn in their weapons and report to Palestinian Authority offices has provided an important first example of security cooperation. I would also like to commend the work of the Palestinian Authority security forces in Jenin, who recently rescued a soldier of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from a mob after he had mistakenly entered the city.
The easing of closures is another urgent requirement. While Israel has its legitimate concerns, the 532 obstacles in the West Bank continue to restrict the movement of Palestinians and to prevent normal economic activity.
Let me turn now to Gaza. I remain deeply concerned about the political, institutional and socio-economic consequences of the continued split between Gaza and the West Bank. President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad confirmed to me that they remained committed to reintegrating Gaza under the legitimate authority of the Palestinian Authority. I welcome that clear position. For its part, Hamas continues to call for dialogue. However, in the absence of steps that indicate acceptance by Hamas of President Abbas’s dismissal of Mr. Haniya as Prime Minister on 15 June, or its readiness to reverse its actions, progress will remain elusive.
While some order has been brought to the streets of Gaza, the actions of Hamas are taking place outside the framework of the rule of law and the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, generating concern regarding respect for human rights and the future development of Gaza. Hamas is recruiting volunteers and using charities in efforts to provide certain services, since the majority of Palestinian Authority employees are not reporting to work owing to the dispute over whom they should report to.
The Palestinian Authority is continuing to pay public sector salaries in Gaza. Due to efforts by the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the United Nations, food and medical supplies are entering through two border crossings, namely, Sufa and Karem Shalom, as well as through a conveyor belt at the Karni crossing. Yesterday, for the first time in two months, potatoes were exported through Karem Shalom. Despite a temporary interruption of support earlier this month, owing to concerns about a diversion of resources, the European Commission has resumed payments to enable fuel shipments to Gaza for local electricity generation.
However, those measures are not enough to prevent a worrying social and economic deterioration in Gaza. The shortage of some essential commodities, unstable prices, the accumulation of garbage owing to municipal strikes and, above all, the mass closure of industry are sources of acute concern. The main commercial crossing of Karni has now been closed for more that two months, ever since the Hamas takeover led to the removal of trained Palestinian Authority security personnel on the Palestinian side. Neither the import of raw materials nor the export of commercial goods through Karni has been possible. As a result, 85 per cent of manufacturing businesses have been closed and 95 per cent of private construction projects have been halted – at a loss of $160 million, as well as $213 million in United Nations projects. Approximately 70,000 workers have lost their jobs.
The United Nations and others continue efforts to find a formula that could lead to the early reopening of Karni. United Nations policy in that regard is guided by three concerns: first, that the people of Gaza should not be subject to collective punishment; secondly, that further damage to the socio-economic fabric of Gaza will only increase dependency on aid and fuel extremism; and, thirdly, that all steps taken should be consistent with the goal of reunifying the occupied Palestinian territory under the Palestinian Authority. I call for the cooperation of all parties to work to reopen the Karni crossing.
Israeli-Palestinian violence has continued this month, claiming the lives of 51 Palestinians, injuring 145 others and injuring 13 Israelis. A further 18 Palestinians were killed and 88 injured in internal violence. I would like to draw the Council’s attention to three aspects of that violence.
First, 83 rockets and 89 mortars were fired by Palestinian militants, including Hamas, from Gaza into Israel. A school and a day care centre in Sederot were hit, and an infant was among those injured. There have also been several attacks with those weapons on the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip. I condemn those attacks on civilians and on crossing points used by civilians as well as aid workers seeking to help the people of Gaza. Reports of the continued smuggling of weapons and materiel into the Gaza strip from Egypt are another cause for concern. On 25 August, two Palestinian militants scaled the wall between Israel and Gaza and opened fire on IDF positions before being killed by IDF fire.
Secondly, Palestinian casualties of IDF operations in the West Bank and Gaza include, in the latest period, five children killed and 23 injured. A Palestinian woman also died of a heart attack while waiting at a West Bank checkpoint to be taken to a hospital. I remind Israel of its obligations to protect civilians under international humanitarian law and of the need for more credible accountability measures, as called for by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Thirdly, I wish to underscore my concern at the lawless action of some Israeli settlers, who injured eight Palestinians, including a United Nations staff member, in violent incidents in the past month. In Hebron, there have been confrontations between Jewish settlers and Israeli security personnel. Eighteen Israeli security personnel and 12 settlers were injured during the evacuation of a building in the market of the Old City after settlers had refused to obey the orders of the Israeli Government. Three settlers were also injured by Palestinians throwing rocks. I note also the continued lack of progress in securing the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and I call on all parties to work with Egypt as it seeks to resolve that issue and the fate of a number of Palestinian prisoners.
I am also deeply concerned that Israeli settlement activity continues throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. I regret to say that there are no credible efforts or actions to remove any of the more than 100 outposts or halt settlement expansion. Israeli steps to meet its Road Map obligations in this regard are crucial to the credibility of the renewed diplomatic process.
Settlement activity undermines hope for a contiguous Palestinian State. Settlements and their supporting infrastructure are also a key cause of significant hardship for the Palestinian people, as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs details in a forthcoming report.
I have described the bilateral process and the considerable challenges on the ground. I wish to turn now to regional and international diplomatic efforts.
In the aftermath of the visit to Israel in late July of the Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Jordan, as envoys of the committee of the League of Arab States on the Arab Peace Initiative, Arab Foreign Ministers met in Cairo on 30 July and called for the November international meeting to be comprehensive in nature. …
The Secretary-General will host his Quartet partners for a meeting here at United Nations Headquarters on 23 September, after which he and other Quartet members will host an iftar dinner for members of the Arab League’s follow-up committee on the Arab Peace Initiative. This will be an important moment to take stock of the bilateral efforts under way and to make preparations for the November international meeting.
I will miss the opportunity to contribute to those goals as United Nations Special Coordinator and as Special Adviser on the Middle East, a role I have undertaken since last summer’s war in Lebanon. I wish to thank the Secretary-General and his predecessor for giving me this opportunity, and to pay tribute to the professionalism and dedication of my colleagues in the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and here in New York. I wish them well and look forward to working closely with the United Nations in the region in my new role.
V. UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CIVIL
SOCIETY IN SUPPORT OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE
CONVENES IN BRUSSELS
The United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace was held on 30 and 31 August 2007 at the European Parliament in Brussels. At the opening session on 30 August 2007, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the Conference with the following message that was read by Angela Kane, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs (SG/SM/11136, GA/PAL/1061):
I would like to offer warm greetings to all participants in the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace. Your gathering, organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, reflects the deep and enduring desire of people across the world for a comprehensive, just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Such a settlement is also one of the foremost priorities of the United Nations. The continued occupation of the Palestinian territory prolongs hardship and injustice for millions of Palestinians, yet it has also failed to ensure the security of Israeli civilians.
I am encouraged by recent international and regional efforts to get the Palestinians and the Israelis back on the negotiating track. The Arab peace initiative, Tony Blair’s appointment as the Quartet Representative, and President Bush’s decision to convene a Middle East peace meeting all have the potential to result in a significant breakthrough.
Amidst this activity, I particularly welcome the decision by Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas to meet regularly to discuss a range of issues. I hope that the internal challenges each faces will not deter them from moving forward with discussions on the political horizon.
Of course, movement on the political front cannot obscure the dire humanitarian situation on the ground. The unsustainable division of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has grave humanitarian and political implications. Conditions in the Gaza Strip have become particularly acute; they demand the urgent reopening of border crossings for commercial and humanitarian deliveries. To alleviate this crisis, UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] and other United Nations agencies are doing everything they can to support the affected populations. Their efforts, however, cannot compensate for the effect of the closed crossings.
Today, I again encourage both parties to demonstrate a true commitment to peace through a negotiated two-State solution. Israel should cease settlement activity and the construction of the barrier, ease Palestinian movement and implement the Agreement on Movement and Access. Palestinians, for their part, need to make every effort to end violence by militant groups and make progress on building robust institutions.
The United Nations will continue to support international efforts aimed at bringing an end to the occupation, and achieving a two-State solution. This work is not easy, but it would prove close to impossible without the active participation and support of innumerable civil society groups and individuals in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and around the world. Civil society actors are helping build bridges between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. They are strengthening institutions and providing critical humanitarian and other assistance. In every aspect of their work, they are contributing towards a just solution to this decades-old conflict.
Working together, we can achieve our goal: a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement, based on Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1515 and the principle of land for peace.
In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.
VI. UNRWA ISSUES REPORT ON THE HUMANITARIAN IMPACT ON
PALESTINIANS OF ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS AND OTHER
INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE WEST BANK
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) issued on 30 August 2007 a report on the humanitarian impact on Palestinians of Israeli settlements and other infrastructure in the West Bank. The conclusions of the report are reproduced below:
As the preceding chapters demonstrate, West Bank settlements and other Israeli infrastructure have a profound impact on Palestinian life. They deprive Palestinians of access to land and limit their ability to move freely.
This concluding chapter addresses the increasing pressure on land, resources and movement, and the socio-economic consequences for Palestinians, unless there is a political process that moves the parties beyond the current impasse.
Settler numbers continue to grow at a rate of 5.5 per cent a year, equivalent to adding one and a half busloads of new settlers each day to the 450,000 living in the West Bank in 2007. This rate of growth is three times that of Israel itself.
The majority of new arrivals settle in the large settlement blocs west of the Barrier, where over 80 per cent of all settlers currently reside.
Based on the current growth rate, the settler population will double to nearly 900,000 in just 12 years.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian population is growing at a rate of around 2.5 per cent a year, which means the Palestinian population will double in less than 30 years to around four million.
The problem is obvious: the West Bank’s resources are finite. As both settler and Palestinian populations expand, it is inevitable that the pressure on natural resources – namely land and water – will increase. It is equally inevitable, based on trends of the last 40 years, that the growth of settlements, roads and other infrastructure will come at the expense of Palestinian development and freedom of movement around the West Bank.
Pressure on land
Exacerbating the pressure on land is the geographical demarcation of the West Bank under the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Under the Oslo Accords, which was an interim agreement intended to lead to a final settlement, the West Bank was divided into three jurisdictional areas
Approximately 40 per cent of the land area of the West Bank is made up of areas A and B, which come under Palestinian administrative jurisdiction.
The remainder of the West Bank, Area C – around 60 per cent – remains under Israeli control .
As no final settlement has yet been agreed, this interim situation has remained geographically frozen.
Little Palestinian development has been allowed in Area C. Buildings permits, for example, are rarely given by the Israeli authorities and buildings constructed without a permit are frequently destroyed. Between May 2005 and May 2007, 354 Palestinian structures were destroyed by the IDF in Area C.
Palestinian residential areas already have a population density double that of Israeli settlements. Overcrowding is particularly severe in the West Bank’s 19 refugee camps. Much of the agricultural and grazing land of many rural communities lie in Area C. So too are the remaining large reserves of land for future Palestinian development.
The expansion and development of Israeli settlements and other infrastructure has nearly all occurred in Area C, as a comparison of the two maps opposite shows.
Palestinian-designated nature reserve settlements, settlement industrial areas and outposts outer limits, land cultivated by Israelis, military bases, closed military areas, Israeli-declared nature reserves, actual/projected areas west of the Barrier and roads primarily for Israeli use.
Palestinian enclaves (a Palestinian community or a group of Palestinian communities bordered by Israeli infrastructure).
Settlements are illegal under international law. A state can impose security measures on the population it occupies for immediate military purposes but not transplant its own population into that territory.
As violence escalated in September 2000, the closure regime focused on those West Bank roads mainly used by Israelis to severely restrict Palestinian movement. These continuing measures are justified by the Government of Israel as necessary to protect Israeli citizens from terrorist attacks. As this report demonstrates, these measures are also intimately linked to maintaining settler access and their quality of life.
The roads have become corridors to link settlements to Israel. They have also fragmented the West Bank into a series of enclaves, isolating Palestinian communities from each other. Palestinians now mostly move from one enclave to another via a network of checkpoints, alternative roads or through tunnels or bridges under roads primarily reserved for settlers.
This provides a measure of transport contiguity – in the sense that enclaves are linked – but not territorial contiguity because West Bank land is divided by Israeli roads and other infrastructure.
Transport contiguity may satisfy short- term humanitarian needs but cannot ultimately lead to a sustainable economy. It also does not provide the basis for a two state solution.
The construction of the Barrier since 2002 has further fragmented the West Bank and has reinforced the permanence of the settlements. The route of the Barrier is determined by the settlements. The Barrier cuts deep into the West Bank, looping around the settlements, stretching 22 kms to encircle Ariel settlement at its most intrusive point.
Without the settlements, the Barrier could follow the Green Line with minimal disruption to Palestinian life. An agreement may yet be reached to reverse the current expansion of settlements and address their removal. An important milestone occurred in 2005 when the Government of Israel evacuated all of the approximately 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip, in addition to several hundred settlers from four small settlements in the northern West Bank.
But these steps did not address the relentless progress of the settlement enterprise over the past 40 years throughout most of the West Bank.
Unless the problems caused by the existence and expansion of settlements are addressed, the dismal humanitarian outlook for Palestinians will intensify.
Moreover, the socio-economic and even the territorial basis for a sustainable long-term solution will also remain elusive.
As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated in his final report to the Security Council on the Middle East, settlement expansion is “the single biggest impediment to realizing a viable Palestinian state with territorial contiguity.”
VII. UNITED NATIONS CCONFERENCE ON TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT
ISSUES REPORT ON ASSISTANCE TO THE
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development issued on 30 August 2007 the Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people (TD/B/54/3). The Executive Summary of the report is reproduced below:
The vulnerability of the Palestinian economy to the impact of prolonged Israeli occupation and closure policies was heightened by donors and financial restrictions on the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2006. “Separation” has isolated Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza from Arab regional and world markets, and institutionalized fragmentation inside the occupied Palestinian territories. With economic decline, it is estimated that the Palestinian Authority lost nearly $1.2 billion in revenues from 2000 to 2005. As donor support has decreased, tenuous Palestinian Authority financial solvency undercuts national fiscal policy to stabilize the economy in economic downturn via automatic stabilizers. Furthermore, in the absence of a strong international mediator, renewed confrontations have resulted in unprecedented restrictive measures on Palestinians. Viability of the economy is less an issue. Rather, the focus is increasingly on how to limit vulnerability and create an appropriate and effective policy space that minimizes the economic impact of Israeli security measures. The immediate economic priority is to sustain minimal levels of “effective demand” under greater isolation. The reversal of post-Oslo investor confidence and the trend towards de-formalization of the economy mean private sector stabilization will require an intensive Palestinian Authority trade policy fortified by expanded policy space in the areas of macroeconomic, trade and labour policy. There is an urgent need for comprehensive trade facilitation overhaul. Initial steps can take place regarding the urgent matter of trade flows and within a fuller analysis of re-routing costs, and the activation of transit agreements with Egypt and Jordan. The United Nations, including UNCTAD through its technical assistance and policy advice, and its international partners in Palestinian development need to continue to help the Palestinian people withstand this prolonged humanitarian and economic crisis.