25 August 2022Peace and Security
Managing the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is no substitute for a real political process, a truth laid bare by recent events, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council on Thursday, as he urged delegates to turn their attention to the broader strategy of ending the occupation and realizing the long elusive two-State solution.
“Such a strategy will require significant steps from all sides,” said Tor Wennesland. It must involve strengthening the ability of the Palestinian Authority to engage with Israel on political, economic and security issues, as well as working towards the return of the legitimate Palestinian Government to the Gaza Strip, he affirmed.
He called for reducing tensions and violence across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
“Unilateral steps that perpetuate negative trends need to stop”, he insisted. The space for Palestinian economic activity and further improvements to access and movement in Gaza and the West Bank should also be expanded.
Ceasefire averts full-scale war
Describing gains, he reported that the ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, remains in effect and a “fragile calm” has been restored in Gaza.
The Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings have been open since 8 August and the United Nations is working with partners to ensure the urgent delivery of assistance to those most in need.
To be sure, the ceasefire prevented the situation from escalating into a full-blown war, he told ambassadors.
Unresolved drivers of conflict
Violence has increased across much of the occupied West Bank. Israel’s settlement activity continues, along with demolitions and evictions, while fiscal and political challenges threaten the Palestinian Authority’s effectiveness in delivering public services.
The West Bank and Gaza remain politically divided. Gazans suffer under economic and movement restrictions linked with Israel’s “closure regime”, the nature of Hamas rule and the ever-present threat of violence. “Unless these fundamental issues are addressed the cycle of acute crisis, followed by short-term fixes will persist,” he warned.
Turning to the Golan, he said the ceasefire between Israel and Syria was generally maintained, despite several violations of the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement of Forces.
In Lebanon, the lack of progress with reforms, deadlock of Government formation and increasing strain on institutions such as the armed and security forces weighs heavily on State authority.
In the south, tensions persisted in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operations, with at least four firing ranges – unknown to Lebanese authorities – observed in regular use south of the Litani River.
“This is a blatant violation of resolution 1701 (2006),” he explained, as are Israel’s regular and ongoing violations of Lebanon’s airspace.
A call to action
“The status quo is not a strategy,” he said. He urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders, regional countries and the broader international community to take firm action to enable a return to meaningful negotiations.
The ‘last standing pillar’ for refugees
Reinforcing that point, Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), said the agency is the lifeline for one of the most underprivileged and desperate communities in the region.
“Going to school, getting health services or receiving a food parcel are, for many Palestinian refugees, their only sources of normality,” he said.
For these refugees, UNRWA remains the “last standing pillar” of the international community’s commitment to their right to a dignified life and a just, lasting solution, he stressed. He appealed to Member States that have reduced their funding to reconsider the impact of that decision on the region’s stability.