PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (left) walks with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres yesterday during a reception ceremony in Ramallah..
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, on his first visit to the Palestinian territories since taking office in January, embraced a two-state solution on Tuesday.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has resisted taking a position on the issue.
“I want to express very strongly the total commitment of the United Nations [and] my personal total commitment to do everything for a two-state solution to materialize,” Guterres told a joint press conference in Ramallah, alongside Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
“I have said several times there is no Plan B to a two-state solution,” the secretary-general continued.
On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert suggested that supporting the two-state solution would bias the US in favor of the Palestinians
“We are not going to state what the outcome has to be,” Nauert said in response to a question about the two-state solution. “It has to be workable to both sides. That’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it.”
Guterres also sharply criticized settlement construction during Tuesday’s press conference, characterizing it as an obstacle to the achievement of a two-state solution.
“We recognize that settlement activity... is illegal under international law and that settlement activity is an obstacle that needs to be removed in relation to the possibility of the two-state solution to be adequately implemented,” he said.
In his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in Jerusalem, Guterres also stated his disapproval of settlement construction.
Netanyahu holds that settlements are not an obstacle to achieving peace, but rather the Palestinians’ unwillingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and crack down on incitement.
Hamdallah expressed his frustration that UN Security Council resolutions pertaining to the Israel-Palestinian conflict have not been implemented, accusing the UN of applying a double standard in its dealings with Israel.
“Not compelling Israel to respect and implement UN Security Council resolutions weakens our people’s confidence and trustworthiness in the UN to bring about peace and security, and reinforces the oppression practiced against our people,” Hamdallah said. “Dealing with [Israel] as a state above the law reflects a double standard.”
The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah celebrated the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 in December, according to which settlements have “no legal validity” and “constitute a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to the achievement... of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
Since then, Israel has continued building settlements and Netanyahu vowed on Monday never to uproot any of them.
Hamdallah also called on the UN to pressure Israel to lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip.
“Israel, which has placed a siege on Gaza for more than 10 years, bears responsibility for the humanitarian situation,” Hamdallah said.
While Israel heavily limits the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, the PA government has recently decreased its expenditures on electricity and medical services in the Strip to pressure Hamas to cede control of the territory.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007, when it forcibly took it over, ousting the Fatah-dominated PA.
Following his meeting with Hamdallah, Guterres visited the Yasser Arafat Museum and laid a wreath on the former PA president’s tomb.