Peace Process between Israelis, Palestinians Entering Critical Period, Concerted Action Vital to Salvage Two-State Solution, Top Envoy Tells Security Council
6906th Meeting (AM & PM)
Robert Serry, Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace, Briefs; Council Hears from Palestine, Israel, More than 40 Others in Day-Long Debate
“This is not a time to be idle,” Robert Serry, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the Security Council today, stressing that the consequences of inaction in the Arab-Israeli conflict could be dire for everyone.
Absent serious engagement, he said, opening a day-long debate that grappled with the range of interlocking challenges confronting that complex region, the peace process would remain on life support and stability on the ground would be put at further risk. Entering the coming critical period, he said, “concerted action will be vital if we are to salvage the two-State solution”.
Regional and international partners, he said, were increasingly alarmed that the only way to resolve the conflict was “slipping away”. They also questioned the effectiveness of international efforts to bring about decisive results.
He said the United Nations would remain an integral part of efforts to urgently address the “dangerous political vacuum”. But, no international effort alone was sufficient for progress absent the requisite will from the parties themselves. And, now was not the time for actions that undermined mutual trust.
Outlining recent developments, he drew particular attention to the dramatic increase in settlement building announced by Israel. Housing units built in the so-called E1 area would be a “red line”, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had said he would consider referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. Mr. Serry said such “worrying events and trends” also included an increase by nearly 90 per cent of Israeli operations and arrests in the West Bank.
Also troubling was the withholding of tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority, he added. The Israeli Government had ended the refugee exemption for paying for electricity, and the Authority’s budget, as it stood, had a deficit of more than $1 billion. Further timely disbursement of aid was essential to sustain institution-building and prevent disruption of core operations.
“We should be under no illusion: the viability of the Palestinian Authority will be increasingly at stake if its standing is based on political quicksand,” he said, adding that, ultimately, there is no future for the Palestinian Authority without a two-State solution.
The peace process and reconciliation was not an “either-or” proposition and must be made compatible by advancing both in a mutually reinforcing way, he said, stressing that the time had come for Hamas to make clear where it stood on the central issues at stake.
Following Mr. Serry’s briefing, Riad al Malki, Palestine’s Foreign Affairs Minister, in his first address to the Council following the General Assembly’s historic decision last year to accord Palestine non-Member observer State status in the United Nations, recalled that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when asked about that decision, had responded in an interview: “What the UN says does not interest me.”
That attitude was manifesting itself in the systematic escalation of the settlement campaign, particularly in and around occupied East Jerusalem, he said. All Israeli settlements were illegal, whether it was one unit or 1,000; whether it was called a “settlement” or an “outpost”, and halting “is not a precondition — it is a legal obligation”. If all such practices were not halted, Israel would have to bear the responsibility for the destruction of the two-State solution.
Israel’s Ambassador declared that there were many threats to security in the Middle East, but the presence of Jewish homes in Jerusalem — the eternal capital of the Jewish people — “has never been one of them”. After the vote last year on a unilateral resolution in the General Assembly, President Abbas had promised his delegation would return promptly to the negotiating table, without preconditions. Those nations that supported that bid should ask themselves: what exactly did we vote for? The Palestinians “have not lifted one finger to restart negotiations”.
“Make no mistake, the major obstacle to the two-State solution is the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to speak to their own people about the true parameters of a two-State solution, to speak a lexicon of peace, not a litany of war,” he said. Moreover, there was only one road to statehood, and “it does not travel through this chamber in New York”. Rather, it “runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah”. There were no shortcuts; no quick fixes or instant solutions. Peace must be negotiated, and not imposed, he said.
The interventions throughout the day were predictably sombre, as speaker after speaker criticized the impasse between the parties and called for the leadership on both sides to take bold and courageous steps. Many, like Mr. Serry, sounded notes of caution, including the representative of the United Kingdom, a Quartet member, who said that without resumption of talks, “we may find ourselves in a situation where there is no longer a two-State solution to speak of”.
The United States’ representative said it must be acknowledged that the recent Assembly vote had not brought the Palestinians any closer to the common goal of achieving an independent State. Nor did she consider that text as bestowing Palestinian “statehood” or recognition. Only commitment to direct negotiations on all final status issues, without preconditions, would lead to that outcome.
From the region, many speakers stressed the need to end all “illegal” Israeli activities, especially its ongoing settlement activities, which, they said, prejudiced efforts to achieve the two-State solution. Following adoption of the status resolution in the General Assembly, said Egypt’s delegate, the Israeli Government had proceeded with a “settlement frenzy” in occupied territory.
Lebanon’s delegate, like many in the chamber, raised particular concern about the announced settlement plans in the E1 area, and noted that even Israeli civil society groups had referred to that, not as a “game changer, but perhaps a game ender”.
Summing up the current state of affairs was Jordan’s representative, who said that the Arab-Israeli conflict had reached a fine point, and that the Council, in the coming year, would either be known to future generations as the one that presided over the end of one of the longest conflicts in history, or the one that presided over the burial of peace and the ruin of those living in the region.
The situation in Syria drew much attention, as delegates urged an immediate end to the crushing conflict through a negotiated political solution, followed by a Syrian-led transition. However, opposing views were expressed about the cause of the bloodletting and the ultimate path to staunching it and unifying the country. Some said the current regime could not be part of any transition, as a clear break was needed from a leader that had unleashed the carnage on his own people. Others held that the crisis was perpetuated by certain countries and the extremists they supported, eager to replace the current regime.
The Syrian representative said that a national solution based on dialogue between and among Syrians themselves, under Syrian leadership, was the way forward. He had hoped that the statements by the United States, France and the United Kingdom would have been balanced and reality-based, in line with the facts on the ground in Syria. He urged them to lend support to national dialogue based on the aspirations of the Syrian people and leadership, instead of supporting an entity of the Syrian opposition and inciting its members to “operate against the motherland”, thereby furthering a cycle of violence and destruction.
Statements in today’s debate were also made by the representatives of the Russian Federation, France, Guatemala, Luxembourg, Rwanda, Australia, Morocco, Togo, China, Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, Pakistan (in his national capacity), Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Iraq (on behalf of the Arab Group), Djibouti (on behalf of Organization of Islamic Conference), Japan, Bangladesh, India, South Africa, Tunisia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Indonesia, Iceland, Turkey, Cuba, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Canada, Namibia, Botswana, Qatar and Nigeria.
Also speaking were the Permanent Observer for the Holy See, the Head of the European Union Delegation, and the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The delegation of Iran took the floor for a second time.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m., was suspended at 1:22 p.m., resumed at 3:08 p.m. and adjourned at 7:04 p.m.