'New teams must proceed with Annapolis'

UN envoy: Obama should support what Israelis, Palestinians have been trying to do from the start.

robert serry 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
robert serry 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A new Israeli government and the new American administration must continue the Annapolis peace process to "ensure that it comes to fruition," said Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process on Thursday. Serry, who represents UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in peace discussions, told a Tel Aviv University crowd that "it is in my view vitally important that a new Israeli government continue this process to its end, in accordance with Israel's commitments." He insisted the Annapolis process "has made important progress in 2008, and we must keep it going in 2009 and ensure that it comes to fruition." It is also "essential" that the incoming Obama administration in the United States "engage in support of what Israelis and Palestinians are trying to do from the first day." Serry also called for the Quartet to play a "stronger role as a guardian of the process and its irreversibility." After noting Israel "has real security concerns," particularly after "the scourge of suicide bombings [and] the aftermath of disengagement from Gaza," he insisted that Israel had "genuine partners for peace in President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Salaam] Fayyad, [who are] working to build their own state to live in peace with you." Improving security for Israel required the empowerment of the Palestinian Authority government, said Serry. This meant Israel "taking decisive action soon. I am talking about freezing settlement activity, removing settler outposts, controlling violence against Palestinians by radical settlers in places like Hebron, lifting obstacles to movement, reopening closed Palestinian institutions in east Jerusalem, ceasing IDF incursions into West Bank cities where the PA security forces are operating, ending house demolitions in Jerusalem and elsewhere and allowing the Palestinians to begin developing new land in the West Bank. "These are fundamental things," he added. "If we don't see action [on them], everything we've seen [in peace discussions] may be threatened." Speaking of Hamas, Serry insisted that "organizations that don't accept the two-state solution are unacceptable. That's why I as UN envoy don't speak to Hamas." A former Dutch diplomat in Moscow who had signed thousands of visas in the 1970's to allow Jewish refuseniks to emigrate to Israel, Serry told the Israeli audience he considers himself "a friend of Israel and equally a friend of Palestine." He insisted that the UN, too, was "a partner for peace" whose General Assembly Resolution 181 established Israel, and was not merely the "UN podium [that] is used for totally unacceptable statements threatening Israel's very existence or even … peddling anti-Semitism… Remember please, people speaking at 'the UN' don't necessarily speak for 'the UN.'" "What I want to tell you is that there is a far more positive agenda being pursued between the UN and Israel today," he added, noting the "long overdue" November 2005 resolution marking a day for remembrance of the Holocaust and growing Israeli representation in UN bodies and committees.