United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel should take “credible steps” to spark the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, including freezing settlement activity and the regular transfer of all the tax fees owed to it, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday.
“I strongly urge the incoming government to reaffirm Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution,” Ban said.
He also called on the international community to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to increase its donor support of Gaza, when he spoke to the UN Security Council, which discussed the peace process which has been frozen for a year.
“I am encouraged by current discussions among member states. The United Nations is committed to supporting such efforts,” he said.
He welcomed Israel’s agreement with the PA with regard to the transfer of five months of tax fees it had withheld to protest the PA’s decision to join the International Criminal Court so that it could sue Israel for war crimes.
But he chastised Israel for using tax fees as a punitive measure against the PA as he called for a return to a routine schedule by which the fees would be transferred.
Israel has not spoken of what will happen in coming months with regard to the tax fees.
“I wish to underline that the recurrent withholding of such revenues is counterproductive and seriously undermines the ability of the government of Palestine to carry out its responsibilities,” Ban said.
“I urge the parties to find a sustainable solution on tax collection, in line with the Paris Protocol of the Oslo Accords,” he added.
Israeli demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures create further unrest, as do clashes between Palestinians and the IDF and the increase in administrative detentions of Palestinians, Ban said.
At no point did he point out specific details of what the PA has done or should do to help restart the peace process.
But he did laud Israel for approving a master plan for 2,500 housing units and public buildings for Arabs living in east Jerusalem.
“Such steps can help to reduce pressure,” he said, “but they also need to lead to tangible results.”
The secretary-general also made no mention of the many Israeli gestures to the Palestinians in the last few months, including the water hookup to Rawabi, which will allow the new Palestinian city to open in the next few months.
Turning to Gaza, Ban called on the Palestinian government of national consensus to take charge of Gaza, which remains under Hamas control.
The housing and food crisis in Gaza continues and more donor funding is needed, Ban said.
“I urge the international community to support a second humanitarian payment to Palestinian civil servants in Gaza as an integral part of the necessary and agreed crucial reforms,” he said.
Construction material has been transferred to Gaza, but $720 million is needed for temporary shelters for the 100,000 displaced people, he said.
“Without immediate funding, the World Food Program will be forced to suspend its food assistance to 95,000 Palestinians in Gaza by July,” he said.
“Gaza’s water and energy supply is also perilously unstable, with no long-term solution in sight,” he said.