The political process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in “profound and persistent” deadlock, a senior United Nations envoy warned today, calling on the parties to work towards a two-State solution and on the international community to help them find a credible way forward.
Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told a meeting of the Security Council that efforts to find the necessary common ground for resumed negotiations have proven extremely difficult, given the differences and lack of trust between the parties.
“Political leaders on both sides are frustrated, as are their publics,” he said at the start of a debate that was expected to hear from over 35 speakers. “This is particularly acute on the Palestinian side, in the absence of a credible political horizon for ending the occupation that began in 1967. Israelis remain concerned about achieving lasting security and end of conflict.”
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since late September following Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.
That decision prompted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw from direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which had only resumed a few weeks earlier after a two-year hiatus.
“The political process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in profound and persistent deadlock,” stated Mr. Serry, who along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been calling repeatedly on the parties to re-engage in direct talks.
“We continue to urge the parties to find a way forward at this sensitive and important time. We hope that the international community can help by shaping a legitimate and balanced framework,” he added.
The envoy noted that both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu continue to reiterate their desire to negotiate. However, in the absence of a framework for meaningful talks, and with Israeli settlement activity continuing, the Palestinians are actively exploring approaching the UN.
“President Abbas states that he remains committed to negotiations, and that efforts in the United Nations would help to preserve the two-State solution. Israel opposes this course of action, stating that it will make negotiations for a two-State solution more difficult to achieve,” he said.
“We hope that the international community can be united in fora of collective decision-making– now, in September, and after September too – and shape a legitimate and balanced way forward that helps the parties overcome their differences and ultimately return to negotiations.”
Noting the gains made in the West Bank, Mr. Serry said that the Palestinian Authority has, in key areas, reached a level of institutional performance sufficient for a functioning state and is ready to “assume the responsibilities of statehood” at any point in the near future.
“Real security and economic gains have been made, benefiting both peoples,” he said, pointing out that better governance, increased investment, improvements in movement and access and donor engagement have strengthened the West Bank economy in a difficult global environment over the past two years.
“However, as we have often warned, this agenda is reaching the limits of achievement without more political and physical space. This requires Israeli steps to roll back measures of occupation and continuous donor support.”
Meanwhile, on the ground, demolitions of Palestinian structures have surged, settlement activity continues and the calm between Israel and Gaza that was restored in early April has been challenged by the firing of rockets into Israel and air strikes and incursions carried out by Israel in Gaza.
“I cannot but describe the situation where Palestinian statebuilding has matured in the West Bank, but the political track has failed to converge, as dramatic,” stated the envoy.