The Israel-Palestine conflict has “once again entered a dangerous phase,” United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the Security Council today, warning that the latest eruption of violence, rising tensions at holy sites in Jerusalem and the alarmingly vitriolic nature of public discourse in the region is rooted in the lack of hope on both sides that peace is possible and the absence of a genuine political horizon.
Stressing that the violence gripping the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as Israel and Gaza shows no signs of abating, Mr. Eliasson strongly condemned all attacks against Israelis and Palestinians alike. “The recent wave of knife attacks and shootings is particularly appalling. There can be no justification for such despicable acts,” he declared.
Mr Eliasson’s briefing to the Council, in a meeting chaired by José Manuel Garcfa-Margallo, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, which holds the 15-member body’s presidency for the month, comes as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is wrapping up a three-day mission to the region, including Jordan, to ease tensions.
The first priority for all, Mr. Eliasson said, to immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and urgently achieve real progress towards a negotiated two-state solution. Underscoring the urgency of swiftly calming tensions, he reported that from 1 to 21 October, 47 Palestinians and seven Israelis had been killed. More than 5,000 Palestinians and some 70 Israelis have been injured.
He added that the conflict deteriorated mainly due to loss of hope in Palestinians to achieve a viable Palestinian state, poor economy in the country along with lack of job and opportunities, lack of security and legal and administrative processes and the ‘stifling and humiliating occupation’ that Palestinians have lived under for almost half a century.
“They see, instead, the growth of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, which undermines the very possibility of a two-state solution and poses growing security risks to all. They see the emergence of a parallel de-facto settler community, with better infrastructure, services and security than in Palestinian populated areas,” Mr. Eliasson explained.
Additionally, he stressed that the Israeli population is also gripped with a sense of fear as the recurrence of violence threatens their personal security. Moreover, Israeli’s are alarmed over the signs that anti-Semitism is on the rise globally.
“We must understand these Israeli concerns. Israelis see growing attempts in the international community at what they believe is aimed at ‘de-legitimization’ of the State of Israel. When confronted with a climate of terror, Israelis rightly expect their authorities to enforce security,” said Mr. Eliasson.
He further condemned attacks against holy sites and urged both sides to respect the sanctity of such sites, especially by denying ‘extremist elements any opportunity to transform the current situation into a religious conflict.’
He condemned the shameful boasts by militant Palestinian groups, including members of Hamas and specified that “there is nothing ‘heroic’ about the killing of an innocent man and the serious injury of his wife and two-year old child as they walked through Jerusalem’s Old City.”
He also condemned attacks on the 65-year-old woman near a bus station in Tel Aviv and the killing of an Israeli couple while driving with their four children. Failing to stop all attacks against Palestinian and Israelis would only let extremists to promote their aggressive agendas.
“This is murder, full stop. Crimes like these risk perpetuating the current climate of fear and mistrust. We call on all stakeholders, including the Palestinian leadership, to unequivocally condemn the violence and stand up publicly to extremism and incitement.”
He also welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated assurances that it will not change the historic status quo at the Haramal Sharif and Temple Mount. He further commended the Prime Minister’s decision to ban Ministers and Knesset members from visiting the Holy Sites.
Mr. Eliasson also expressed the concerns of the Secretary General about Israeli authorities targeting homes of alleged perpetrators of attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces.
“Incitement is another factor significantly fuelling the situation. While the leadership on both sides have tempered their rhetoric of late, misleading and inflammatory public statements continue to surface from all sides.
The vitriolic nature of the public discourse is alarming. “Every incident that takes place evokes impassioned narratives and counter-narratives that feed a vicious cycle of hatred and division,” he added.
Mr. Eliasson stressed the need to de-escalate the violence and emphasized that efforts must be taken to restore hope in Palestinians and Israelis that peace is still possible.
“We must urgently achieve real progress towards a negotiated two-state solution. To do so, we must see significant change of policies, consistent with prior agreements, which will strengthen the Palestinian institutions, economy and security,” said Mr. Eliasson.
“We need to hear Palestinian leaders address sincerely Israelis’ legitimate security concerns and see them take steps to end incitement,” he added.
Lastly, he urged the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process to continue its outreach to regional and international partners to contribute to a comprehensive resolution of the conflict.
He also reaffirmed the commitment of United Nations to at the side of Israelis, Palestinians and international partners to advance this crucial goal towards peace and reconciliation.