UN envoy: Security Council should act to save two-state solution

"Proponents of Israeli settlement expansion feel emboldened, internal divisions among Palestinians flare up, and the prospect of a future Palestinian state comes under threat like never before."

November 26, 2016 22:45
4 minute read.
UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov.

UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov.. (photo credit: TAMIR BARGIG)

The international community, including the Security Council, must weigh steps to save the two-state solution, UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov said last week.

“The continuing status quo in the occupied Palestinian territory reduces the prospect for sustainable and just peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Mladenov told the UN Security Council in New York during a monthly briefing.

“I urge all those who are committed to ending this conflict, including this Council, to consider carefully what it will take to advance the prospects for peace and to begin, in consultation with the parties, to develop an agreed path forward,” Mladenov said.

“A carefully worded statement or a well-crafted speech will not reverse the current trajectory,” said the Jerusalem based Mladenov, who is the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

What is needed here is for the international community to re-affirm its commitment to the two-state solution and put forward a plan that would rebuild trust and create conditions for the return to meaningful negotiations, Mladenov told the UNSC.

The international community should “restate its consensus that the two-state solution is the only outcome that legitimately meets the national aspirations of both peoples,” Mladenov said.

It should also speak “clearly against the obstacles to peace: settlements, the taking of land, violence and incitement,” he said.

This is the time for “courageous Israeli and Palestinian leaders” to work together to “chart a clear strategy to peace and security,” Mladenov said.

He spoke as France has attempted to push forward plans for a peace conference at the end of December to confirm international commitment for a two-state solution.

There is some speculation that the election of Donald Trump to replace US President Barack Obama has scuttled those plans particularly given pre-November 8th comments Trump made indicating he would not oppose Israeli settlement activity.

Since the election, Trump has stated repeatedly that he wants to broker a deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has already spoken by telephone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about a US meeting as soon as possible. Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi party head Naftali Bennett met with Trump’s advisors in New York earlier last week.

Last Wednesday he urged Netanyahu to rule out the possibility of a Palestinian state altogether when he meets with Trump.

“The next few weeks present a unique window of opportunity for Israel,” Bennett said as he addressed The Jerusalem Post’s annual diplomatic conference.

“Since 1967 there have always been external reasons for Israel to not do what is right for itself. When Prime Minister Netanyahu meets President Trump, what will he say? Will he continue the long standing approach of forming a Palestinian state in the heart of Israel or take a new, fresh approach?”

“No American administration will be more hawkish to Israel than Israel,” he said. “We have one chance – to go by a failed path or try something new.”

What is needed instead is a “Marshall Plan” for the Palestinian territories, something akin to “autonomy on steroids,” he said.

In contrast, Egyptian Ambassador Hazem Khairat spoke to the conference about the necessity of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

Israel has insisted that the best plan is direct talks with the Palestinian Authority; something it has refused to do unless Israel halts all settlement activity and agrees to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the conference that when visiting world leaders speak with him about resolution of the conflict, he suggests they take an “acid test.”

He tells them, “Invite me and [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen to a meeting right now in your capital. Right now. I'm willing to come. I'll change my schedule. I'm willing to come to see him.”

Netanyahu continued, “They get very excited. You know, they start passing notes to each other. They say: "We're at the point of a breakthrough. The Prime Minister of Israel is willing to meet President Abbas."

“So immediately they pass the message to Ramallah and what do you think is the response? 'Not now. Can't.' Conditions, preconditions,” Netanyahu said.

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro warned the conference that unless negotiations were resumed, Israelis and Palestinians were sliding into a dangerous bi-national reality.

He made no mention of whether US President Barack Obama would support or push forward a UNSC resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before he leaves office on January 20th.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington that no decision had been made on that possibility.

“We’re going to continue to stay focused on trying to see us all get closer to a two-state solution,” Kirby said.

At the UNSC in New York last Wednesday, Mladenov warned of dangerous changes on the ground.

"Inaction has a cost. A cost measured in human lives and suffering,” he said.

“Proponents of Israeli settlement expansion feel emboldened, internal divisions among Palestinians flare up, and the prospect of a future Palestinian state comes under threat like never before,” he said.

Those who oppose a two-state solution have not offered another viable alternative as to how to resolve the situation, he said.

“The alternative is an open ended occupation, a perpetual conflict which breeds anger among the people of Palestine and Israel, and feeds radicals across a Middle East torn already by ethnic and religious strife,” Mladenov told the UNSC.

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