6520th Meeting (AM & PM)
Palestine Observer Welcomes Strong Support for State-Building Initiative; Israel Says Peace Cannot Be Imposed, Must Come through Return to Direct Negotiations
Unfortunately, the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations had persisted over the past month and, with the state-building efforts of the Palestinians progressing, “bold and decisive steps” were needed to resolve the decades-old conflict, a top United Nations political official told the Security Council today.
“Despite the Palestinian Authority’s accomplishments, the institutional achievements of the state-building agenda are approaching their limits within the political and physical space currently available,” said B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, ahead of a day-long open debate.
Both parties should be concerned that the political track was falling behind the significant progress made by the Palestinian Authority in its state-building agenda, he said. In the six areas where the international community was most engaged with the Palestinian Authority, governmental functions were now sufficient for a viable State, according to a recent United Nations report. In parallel, Israeli measures to facilitate movement had also supported economic activity and access to basic services.
However, he said, “far-reaching rather than incremental steps” were needed from Israel to lead to progress on the ground, by rolling back restrictions to match the Palestinian Authority’s achievements. He noted also that the Palestinian achievements did not apply to certain areas, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, and he reiterated calls for the end of settlement activity in the West Bank, and for Palestinian unification.
On the diplomatic front, he stressed the importance of empowering the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whose two-year state-building plan was due to be completed in September, and of bringing the parties back to the negotiating table. He said Quartet envoys continued to work with both Israelis and Palestinians, but it had been determined that more time was needed for consultations before the next Quartet meeting was scheduled.
At the same time, he pointed out that the reporting period had seen the highest levels of violence in Gaza and Israel in two years, with civilians killed and injured on both sides due to rockets fired into Israel, Israeli responses and other violent incidents. He emphasized the importance of ending the closure of Gaza in conformity with Council resolutions, but at the same time he reiterated, in the context of media reports of potential flotillas, the Quartet position that all goods should be brought into Gaza through established channels and that there was no need for unnecessary confrontations.
Following Mr. Pascoe’s briefing, the Permanent Observer of Palestine and the representative of Israel made statements. The Palestinian Observer welcomed the strong international support for the state-building initiative, which was rapidly advancing to completion with the only obstacle to fully realizing its objectives being the Israeli occupation. He thanked those countries that had extended recognition to Palestine.
He said that the dramatic developments taking place in the Middle East were expressions of the aspirations for which the Palestinian people had been struggling for decades, but that had been denied them because of Israeli defiance of the international community, as it had continued its illegal practices, from settlement activity to deadly military incursions, since the last Council debate. He called on the Council to assume its obligations at this critical time and allow Palestine to take its rightful place among the community of nations with pride and dignity.
Israel’s representative also noted historic changes taking place in the region, which he said held promise of spreading new freedom, but he cautioned that extremists sought to take advantage of the turbulence. He described attacks against civilians that had emanated out of Gaza during the reporting period, including a fatal attack by Hamas on a school bus, saying that represented the reality facing Israelis and was a consequence of arms smuggling, principally sponsored by Iran and Syria, which the Council had largely ignored.
He went on to draw the Council’s attention to plans for another flotilla to challenge the blockade of Gaza, which, he maintained, was clearly designed for political provocation, as there were legitimate ways to get humanitarian goods into the Strip. He urged action to prevent it. Describing measures taken by Israel to improve the lives of Palestinians, he stressed that peace could not be imposed, but must come through a return to negotiations, and that Israel’s commitment to a future Palestinian State must be met with a clear acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist, as a Jewish State for the Jewish people.
Following those statements, over 40 speakers took the floor to urge a return to negotiations that would tackle the tough core issues and allow the establishment of a Palestinian State as state-building efforts reached completion. Many called for greater international momentum towards that end, including more action from the Quartet. Most speakers called on Israel to halt settlement activity, while many also called for an end to rocket attacks and other violence directed against Israelis.
While calling for a further increase in goods allowed into Gaza, and in many cases an end to the blockade, many also urged humanitarian groups to avoid the provocation that another flotilla could cause. Turkey’s representative, however, said that the humanitarian convoys could not be simply explained away as unilateral provocations; the root cause was the pattern of Israeli policies towards Gaza.
Many speakers saw the current period as critical, as the end of the Palestinian Authority’s two-year state-building period coincided with international statements that had projected a negotiated settlement by September. “The goal of Palestinian statehood by September 2011 is well within our grasp; letting it founder on the rocks of cynicism, inaction or political expediency will have serious consequences for peace and stability,” Pakistan’s representative said, maintaining that failure to meet the 1999 “deadline” in the Oslo Accords had triggered the second intifada.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Lebanon, United Kingdom, Portugal, China, Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Russian Federation, India, Gabon, Colombia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Arab Group), Norway, Egypt (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Japan, Cuba, Malaysia, Tajikistan (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Syria, Morocco, Uganda, Bangladesh, United Republic of Tanzania, Australia, Namibia, Mexico, Venezuela, Tunisia, Qatar, Maldives and Iran.
The Acting Head of the European Union Delegation and the Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also made statements.
The meeting was opened at 10:10 a.m., suspended at 1 p.m., resumed at 3:31 p.m. and closed at 6:20 p.m.
The Security Council met today for a briefing and an open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.