4 Feb, 2016
by Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General, United Nations
United Nations, 1 February 2016 (UN News Centre) – In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, 2016 has begun much as 2015 ended — with unacceptable levels of violence and a polarized public discourse. That polarization showed itself in the halls of the United Nations last week when I pointed out a simple truth: History proves that people will always resist occupation.
Some sought to shoot the messenger — twisting my words into a misguided justification for violence. The stabbings, vehicle rammings and other attacks by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians are reprehensible. So, too, are the incitement of violence and the glorification of killers.
Nothing excuses terrorism. I condemn it categorically.
It is inconceivable, though, that security measures alone will stop the violence. As I warned the Security Council last week, Palestinian frustration and grievances are growing under the weight of nearly a half-century of occupation. Ignoring this won’t make it disappear. No one can deny that the everyday reality of occupation provokes anger and despair, which are major drivers of violence and extremism and undermine any hope of a negotiated two-state solution.
For their part, Palestinians must make political compromises to bring Gaza and the West Bank under a single, democratic governing authority according to principles laid down by their national umbrella organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization. This also means consistently and firmly denouncing terrorism and taking preventive action to end attacks on Israelis, including an immediate stop to Gaza tunnel construction.
I will always stand up to those who challenge Israel’s right to exist, just as I will always defend the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own. That is why I am so concerned that we are reaching a point of no return for the two-state solution. And I am disturbed by statements from senior members of Israel’s government that the aim should be abandoned altogether.
The stalemate carries grave risks for both sides: a continuation of the deadly wave of terrorism and killings; the collapse of the Palestinian Authority; greater isolation of and international pressure on Israel; and a corrosion of the moral foundation of Israeli and Palestinian societies, ever more inured to the pain of the other.
Criticism of the United Nations — or attacks against me — comes with the territory. But when heartfelt concerns about shortsighted or morally damaging policies emanate from so many sources, including Israel’s closest friends, it cannot be sustainable to keep lashing out at every well-intentioned critic.
Everyone is free to pick and choose what they like or dislike from speeches. But the time has come for Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to read the writing on the wall: The status quo is untenable. Keeping another people under indefinite occupation undermines the security and the future of both Israelis and Palestinians.
This opinion piece by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon appeared in The New York Times on 31 January 2016.