In the near future, a two-state solution may no longer be viable, UN
humanitarian coordinator John Holmes told The Jerusalem Post on
Thursday evening, at the tail-end of a four-day visit to Israel and the
“You are not far off from the point
where the two-state solution becomes impossible,” said Holmes. “If you
are going to have a meaningful Palestinian state, it needs to have a
meaningful piece of land that goes with it.”
He listed the ways
in which Israel had stymied Palestinian national aspiration over the
years, including, as he saw it, Israel’s “illegal annexation of
Other items on his list were divisions in Area C
of the West Bank, such as the security barrier, settlements and the
roads connecting them that Palestinians cannot use.
“This is not
contiguous territory. It is territory that is split up. It is a very
funny kind of state. That is why people are not sure that a solution is
available,” said Holmes.
He spoke in advance of the indirect
negotiations that are expected to begin next week between Israel and
the Palestinians – the first time that any kind of negotiations will
have taken place since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office
last year. Earlier, at a Jerusalem press conference, Holmes said
Israel’s “creation of facts on the ground,” particularly in east
Jerusalem, had not made it “easier.”
He spoke out against
Israeli plans for new Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, as well as
the demolition of Palestinian homes.
“There is a continued
disconnect between what is happening in those areas and the
negotiations that are about to start,” said Holmes.
acknowledged that there had been improvements in the life of
Palestinians, particularly with regard to movement and access. But he
said it was not enough, and the situation on the ground was
“frustrating for Palestinians.”
The more time passes, the more the facts on the ground become irreversible, said Holmes.
causes this deep frustration and cynicism about the possibility of a
real state on a piece of contiguous territory,” he said.
major issue Holmes championed during his time here was his call for
Israel to fully reopen the Gaza crossings, which have been closed to
all but humanitarian goods since Hamas violently took over the area in
Holmes, whose title is UN under-secretary general and
emergency relief coordinator, has visited Israel three times since he
took office in 2007. He came last year in the aftermath of Operation
Cast Lead and visited Gaza so he could see the destruction caused by
Israel’s military incursion there in January 2009.
This week, he returned to Gaza. It is likely his last visit to Gaza and Israel, as he leaves his job in six months.
“It was disappointing and depressing,” he told journalists. “So little has changed.”
rubble has been removed, but there was “no significant start on
reconstruction” because Israel has banned construction material from
Life there, he said, “is difficult” and “grim.”
policy of the blockade is unacceptable” and is a form of “collective
punishment,” said Holmes. “It damages the people of Gaza, but not
Israel must fully reopen the passages into Gaza, he
said, adding that this position was held “pretty unanimously” by the
“There have been many statements and
private discussions to that effect, including by the Americans and the
Europeans,” said Holmes.
It is “hard to demonstrate” that
closing the crossings has harmed Hamas, particularly when smuggling
tunnels are operating in full swing and goods are entering in an
uncontrolled way, Holmes said. He added that the international
community should press harder to reopen the passages, but he did not
specify how they should do so.
He later told the Post
in the interim, he had urged Israel to allow a certain amount of
building material into Gaza for reconstruction of homes and
In particular, he said, water and sewage
treatment plants are needed. People in Gaza need clean drinking water,
and the pollution that has occurred from untreated waste has to be
stopped, he said.
It seemed to him that Israel might be willing
to “be more flexible in the margins of their policy, and that would be
a good thing, even if it won’t solve the underlying problem,” he said.
During his time here, Holmes met with the Noam Schalit, whose son Gilad has been held captive by Hamas in Gaza since 2006.
a press conference in Gaza on Tuesday and again in Jerusalem, Holmes
called for the IDF soldier’s release and for Hamas to allow the
International Red Cross to visit him.
Israel has linked the
issue of the passages to Schalit’s continued captivity. But Holmes said
he did not think the two were connected. It didn’t make sense, he said,
to connect the fate of one individual to the living conditions of 1.5
million people in Gaza.
He told the Post
that he intended, however, to continue to press for Schalit’s release privately and publicly.
also had critical words for Hamas, which, he said, should make sure not
to interfere with humanitarian operations in Gaza, as they have from
time to time, as well as to insure the rule of law and protect human
They should also stop launching rockets at Israel, he
told the Post
. “Obviously we would want the authorities there to
make sure that no rockets are being fired and the situation remains
calm,” said Holmes.
He also had praise for the field hospital
that Israel sent to Haiti after the recent earthquake there. “It was
there very quickly, and it was an extremely effective operation. It was
important, and I have welcomed it publicly several times since,” said
He added that he would like to see Israel become more
involved in international humanitarian operations, saying he had raised
this issue with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and others in the
Foreign Ministry with whom he met.
“We welcome the greater engagement of Israel with the international
humanitarian effort in other circumstances in the future,” said Holmes.
agreed to intensify the dialogue we have about that. We want to
intensify those contacts and make use of areas where Israel has a
particular strength, like agriculture, or the medical area, where
Israel is strong and has rapidly deployable field hospitals,” said