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5 Jun, 2012

UN Security Council Told: If Opportunity Missed, Dangerous ‘One-State’ Solution Could Result


United Nations, (UN Department of Public Information) 29 May 2012 – Describing a mix of positive potential in the recent “quiet engagement” between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, as well as concurrent destabilizing events, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process warned the Security Council this morning that if current opportunities were not seized a dangerous “one-State” solution could result. (Click here to see the original source of this dispatch).

“We could be moving down the path toward a one-State reality, which would also move us further away from regional peace”, Robert Serry said, during his regular monthly briefing, expressing hope that the parties would find a way forward to substantive talks in the coming months.

In that regard, he said that positive developments in the past month had included an exchange of letters, kept confidential, in which the parties outlined respective requirements for direct talks to continue. That was followed by direct engagement with limited international involvement. “This should be welcomed and encouraged”, he said, pledging the engagement of the diplomatic Quartet (United Nations, United States, European Union and Russian Federation) towards that end.

Threatening to inflame tensions, however, were a parallel series of events, including a hunger strike by more than 1,500 prisoners in Israeli custody, he said. He welcomed the resolution of that situation, including Israeli steps to address concerns, direct engagement between the parties and a “brokering” role played by Egypt. He called for limitations on the use of administrative detention and the speedy resolution of other cases in which a few prisoners were reportedly continuing their hunger strikes, with one in critical condition.

At the same time, he called protests on the hot-button dates of 15 and 20 May “relatively contained” compared to past years, saying that the two sides “acted in a way that averted an escalation of tensions”. In addition, he noted the statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his newly expanded governing coalition allowed him to promote a “responsible peace process”.

On the Palestinian side, he noted that a newly shuffled Cabinet was tasked with arranging overdue municipal elections and progress was currently being made on Palestinian reconciliation through meetings on voter registration in Gaza. “We expect the de facto authorities to extend their full cooperation to enable voter registration in Gaza”, he said, reaffirming the importance of reconciliation within the framework of the Quartet and the Arab Peace Initiative for a two-State solution.

On developments in the West Bank, he noted the announcement of Israeli intentions to legalize three settlement outposts, plans for 1,200 new hotel rooms in East Jerusalem and for more than 1,000 housing units nearby. He called for such actions to stop. Demolitions continued but at a slower rate, he added. Settler attacks had resulted in 11 Palestinians injured and damage to more than 1,300 trees. Palestinian attacks on Israeli vehicles had resulted in injury to an Israeli, and the arrest of Palestinians in a kidnapping plot had been reported.

In addition, he said, 725 Palestinians, including 44 children, had reportedly been injured, during the reporting period, in 306 Israeli operations in the West Bank, with 284 Palestinians arrested and nine Israeli soldiers wounded. The bulk of the injuries and detentions related to the prisoner protests. Noting the conviction of a Palestinian, Bassem Tamimi, for soliciting stone throwing during protests, he reaffirmed the right of peaceful protest, but stressed that all demonstrations should be kept strictly non-violent.

Reporting that Palestinian security forces had dismantled explosive devices and had conducted a large security operation in Jenin, arresting some 60 suspects following the firing of shots at the residence of the Governor, he stressed that Palestinian forces must be adequately equipped. He welcomed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ reversal of an order restricting web access.

In Gaza, he said, relative calm prevailed, with a total of 11 rockets fired into Israel, while Israeli forces had conducted seven incursions and two airstrikes. Ten Palestinians had been injured in those actions, while six were killed and four injured in “tunnel-related activities”. He called on Hamas to abolish the death penalty in Gaza, after the fifth confirmed sentence this year had been issued there in May. With the value of Israeli-approved United Nations projects involving “dual-use materials” now exceeding $365 million, he said Israel was further urged to allow unrestricted import of building materials.

The recent export of a truckload of shirts to the United Kingdom represented an important broadening of exports allowed from Gaza, he said, welcoming the total of 150 truckloads exported and expressing hope for continued increase. Noting that the electricity supply in the Strip had improved slightly, he said that further improvements were required, and the United Nations had been engaged in the replacement of four destroyed transformers.

Turning to Lebanon, he said that the situation in the area of operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) remained generally quiet, with Israel conducting agreed-upon work on a barrier near a sensitive area south of the Blue Line. It was also conducting air violations on an almost daily basis. However, tensions connected to the crisis in Syria had continued to rise, with clashes between predominately Sunni and Allawite neighbourhoods leaving at least 10 dead. In addition, the killing of two Sunni Sheikhs by Lebanese Armed Forces at a checkpoint and the abduction of Lebanese pilgrims returning from Iran had resulted in protests and clashes throughout the country.

There had been some momentum towards resumption of national dialogue in Lebanon, however, he said, with leaders discussing the convening of inclusive talks early next month, encouraged by the King of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly. The United Nations also continued to coordinate closely with the Government on provision of assistance to the more than 26,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Noting extensive recent briefings to the Council, he deferred comment on the Syrian crisis itself.