Amid Israeli concern that a Middle East report by the Quartet could serve as the basis for a new Security Council resolution underpinning the peace process, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday a political horizon was one of the keys to neutralizing the “underlying causes of the cycles of violence.”
Ban’s comments came before a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This session, as well as Netanyahu’s two meetings in Rome earlier this week with US Secretary of State John Kerry, dealt with the Quartet report, and to what end it would be used.
The report – which has been a number of months in the making and is expected to both spell out what the Quartet believes are the reasons for the current diplomatic impasse and how it can be broken – is expected to be released Wednesday or Thursday.
The Quartet is made up of the US, EU, Russia and UN.
Diplomatic officials said Netanyahu’s diplomatic efforts over the last few days have not been to “soften” the language of the report, which has already been written, but to influence the thinking regarding how to implement the recommendations. Israel does not want to see this report replace UN Security Council resolution 242 from 1967, which has been the touchstone document for all diplomatic efforts ever since.
Jerusalem is bracing for sharp criticism in the report of Israel’s settlement policies and its protocols in Area C of the West Bank, but also is expecting harsh language against the Palestinians regarding incitement and violence.
Jerusalem, according to officials, is also expecting the document – written in large part by the US special Middle East envoy Frank Lowenstein – to call for a renewal of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
For this reason, Jerusalem is likely to favor this document over the French initiative as the way to kick start the peace process.
Lurking behind the French initiative, according to Israeli assessments, is the notion that negotiations cannot succeed and, therefore, the international community must get involved in a more aggressive manner.
The French plan calls for convening an international peace process in December.
Ban, in his comments, also came out squarely in favor of direct talks.
“No solutions can be imposed from the outside, it must be based on direct negotiations on the final state issues.” Yet, he added, “the international community can and must support all these efforts.”
Speaking to Netanyahu, Ban said: “I encourage you to take the courageous steps necessary to prevent a one-state reality of perpetual conflict that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of Israel and the Palestinian people.”
Ban, whose 10 years in office will come to an end in December, is on his 11th trip to Israel. His last was in October, during the peak of the most recent wave of terrorism.
“Stabbings, vehicular ramming and shootings have only one name: terrorism,” he said. “Incitement to such acts and glorification of their perpetrators are unacceptable and must stop.”
The frequency of the attacks has decreased, he noted, but added that “we must not mistake shortterm quiet for a long-term solution.
We must not allow difficulties to become excuses for inaction.”
Ban said security measures alone cannot solve the underlying cause of the “cycles of violence,” and that for that “you need hope, a political horizon and you need a leadership that is committed to peace and a just and lasting solution.”
Netanyahu, in his welcoming comments to Ban, urged him to use his last six months in office to “right the wrong” of the UN unfairly singling out Israel for condemnation.
He noted that Ban’s visit came on the same day the UN Human Rights Council was meeting in its annual ritual of condemning Israel, “a country that does more to promote and protect human rights and liberal values than any other in the blood-soaked Middle East.”
Netanyahu thanked Ban for agreeing to meet with the families of Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.- Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose bodies are being held by Hamas, as well as the family of Avera Mengistu, who went missing in Gaza.
Hamas is a terrorist organization,” he said. “Hamas has genocidal aims. It doesn’t merely practice terrorism. It says openly that its goal is to wipe away from the face of the earth a member state of the United Nations.”
Netanyahu said he hoped the UN would “highlight Hamas’s crimes” and understand that “our security measures are aimed only at keeping our citizens safe from this threat and we use judicious force in this regard.”
Ban, who went to Gaza before meeting Netanyahu, made no mention of the terrorist organization in his comments there.
Rather, he said the “closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy, and impedes reconstruction efforts. It is a collective punishment for which there must be accountability.”
Ban said that “just a short drive from the hi-tech parks of Israel,” people in Gaza are surviving with “less than 12 hours of electricity per day. Today, some 70 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, and over half of Gaza’s youth have little to no job prospects or horizons of hope.
“This situation cannot continue.
It feeds anger and despair. It increases the danger of a new escalation of hostilities, which can only bring further suffering to the people of Gaza,” Ban said.
He did not, however, apportion any of that responsibility to Hamas.
“We need to speak openly of the challenges and the unacceptable difficulties that the people of Gaza face,” he said.
“Of the humiliation of the occupation and the closures, but also of the division between Gaza and the West Bank. Palestine is one, and until Gaza and the West Bank are united under a single, democratic and legitimate Palestinian government, based on the rule of law and the PLO principles, Gaza’s prospects for full recovery will be limited. The responsibility for reconciliation remains with the Palestinian leaders.”
Ban wrapped up his visit by meeting Tuesday night with Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas at the Mukata presidential compound in Ramallah.
“Many Palestinians question the feasibility of reaching a just and lasting peace with Israel. They hear talk of peace, but they see violence.
They still have a life of checkpoints and profound economic hardships,” Ban said.
As the “humiliating occupation” enters its 50th year, “many are losing sight, too, of the prospect of an independent Palestinian state,” he added.
Ban also spoke privately with the family of Mahmoud Badran, 15, who was accidentally killed last week by the IDF as soldiers pursued Palestinian stone throwers along Route 443. Badran and five of his cousins were on their way home from a pool in the nearby village.
“I had the very moving meeting with the family of Mahmoud Badran, a 15-year-old boy who was tragically killed in an incident that once again raises questions of the appropriate use of force,” Ban said.
“Continuing violence, terrorism and incitement are incompatible with the two-state solution,” Ban said.
“Abbas remains committed to nonviolence, and I encourage the Palestinians leadership to act effectively, particularly against incitement,” he added.
During his meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Ban reminded them that the “time for action is long overdue” and “encouraged them to tangibly demonstrate this commitment and create the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations for a two-state solution.”
Abbas, meanwhile, spoke of the importance of ending the conflict with Israel.
“Our hands shall always remain extended for peace, based on the two-state solution along the 1967 borders,” Abbas said, calling on Israel to end the “occupation” and settlement construction.
“Whoever seeks the two-state solution must stop and refrain from creating a fait accompli situation that makes it unsolvable and worsens the conflict,” he said.
Abbas said he asked Ban to support and promote the French Initiative, the Quartet efforts, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the international peace conference that is being planned for later this year.
Abbas stressed the importance of not amending the Arab initiative any further, as Israel has called on its Arab neighbors to do.
A timeline must be established for negotiations and peace talks, Abbas said, adding that the Palestinians, reject any talk of interim solutions or a state with provisional borders.