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24 Nov, 2015

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Cannot Be Separated from Global Terrorism Threat, UN Security Council told

United Nations, UN media release, 19 November 2015 – The abhorrent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula reinforced the reality that the extremism and terrorism infecting many parts of the Middle East was not constrained by borders, and that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could not be separated from the global threat of terrorism, the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council this morning.

“Establishing a Palestinian State, while addressing Israel’s substantial security concerns, would yield major dividends not only for Israelis and Palestinians alike, but for the entire region,” Nickolay Mladenov said while briefing Council members, via video-teleconference from Jerusalem, on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. Over the past month, Palestinians had carried out 35 reported attacks, including stabbings, shootings and car-rammings against Israelis inside Israel and in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The attacks had left six Israelis dead and 36 injured.

He went on to say that the two apparent sniper attacks in Hebron on 10 November and the drive-by shooting south of that city on 13 November were worrying signs of escalation from knives to firearms. Of the suspected Palestinian assailants, 24 had been killed. In clashes across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 11 Palestinians had been killed and more than 3,500 injured, with seven others wounded in settler-related violence, he added. Calling upon political, community and religious leaders on all sides to speak out against terror and all forms of violence, he said the epicentre of violence had moved to Hebron, which had holy sites revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Hebron was also the heart of the Palestinian economy and an industrial and commercial engine, but its streets were barricaded and unnaturally cut off, he said. Over the past 20 years, the city’s Palestinian and Jewish populations had been physically separated, he noted, adding that the economic impact of the current violence had been severe for the entire district. However, ending the violence and de-escalating the overall situation in Jerusalem, Hebron and other areas could not be achieved through security measures alone, he cautioned. All parties must play a part in implementing measures that could have a positive impact, including immediate efforts by all political, religious and community leaders to stop the hate-fuelled incitement that glorified the murder of Jews or branded all Palestinians terrorists.

The recent understandings on upholding the status quo at Haram al‑Sharif/Temple Mount should be implemented and the apparent impunity favouring settler violence should be addressed, he said, emphasizing that the sanctity of burial rituals must be recognized and Hebron’s main commercial artery, Al Shudada Street, re-opened. Security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority must be bolstered and Israeli security forces should only use firearms to address imminent threats of death or serious injury.

The reality in which a settler State was emerging in the occupied West Bank must be reversed if hope for a two-State solution was to be reignited, he stressed. Concerned about the decision to issue tenders for 436 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo, he said the five punitive house demolitions were equally worrisome. “I reiterate that settlement activity and punitive demolitions are illegal under international law,” he said, expressing concern that Israeli forces had carried out several raids in hospitals, including in East Jerusalem and Hebron.

Turning to Gaza, he said the security situation there had been relatively calm, despite three fatalities resulting from clashes near the border fence. Seven rockets had been fired towards Israel, and the Israel Defense Forces had responded with six air strikes and three incursions into Gaza. In a worrying development, Israel had intercepted 450 litres of TDI (toluene diisocyanate), a substance that could be used for the production of rockets. Noting that the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism continued to function effectively, he said that Israel had removed aggregate from the list of dual-use materials, but had added other items to the list during the year, including timber. Pointing out that such additions hindered Gaza’s reconstruction process, he called upon Israel to reconsider that decision.

He said that although current conditions made a return to negotiations a challenging prospect, the parties and their international partners must pursue measures that would significantly improve the lives of Palestinians, including by strengthening their institutions, economic prospects and security. That would require Israel to make substantial policy changes on the ground. The Middle East Quartet remained the principal international entity to support negotiations towards a comprehensive and just resolution of the conflict, he said, requesting that the Council provide any additional guidance on developing a new peace architecture.

More broadly, he said, the Secretary-General was encouraged that the international community had finally re-engaged in the search for a political settlement to the conflict in Syria, based on the transition elements of the 2012 Geneva communiqué. It was important that key international and regional players follow through on commitments to press their Syrian allies to engage in all areas. “This is vital in order to give political backing, leverage and credibility to our efforts,” he added.

Turning to the occupied Golan, he said the volatile situation there was marked by clashes between Syrian Government forces and armed groups, as well as continued air strikes in Ufaniyah, Jabbata Al Khashab and Al Baath, in the central part of the separation area. On 13 October, the Israel Defense Forces had notified the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) that it had retaliated to spill-over fire from the Bravo side by firing three missiles at Syrian armed forces in the limitation area. Noting that UNDOF had not observed the alleged firing from the Bravo side, he warned that such incidents could potentially jeopardize the ceasefire between the two countries.

“I refuse to be convinced that Israelis and Palestinians want to live by the sword and in a state of perpetual violence,” he said, noting that the Secretary-General remained steadfast in his support for any effort to restore the hope that a two-State solution could be achieved through negotiations. “But the long road ahead requires leadership,” he said, underlining that such leadership had been “glaringly absent to date”.