The Palestinian Authority is on the verge of “total collapse” due to the twin combination of COVID-19 and Israel’s pending annexation plans, UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov warned on Tuesday.
“May salary payments were delayed due to an 80 per cent reduction in Palestinian revenues,” Mladenov said. “It is unclear whether the Palestinian Government will have sufficient resources to make any future salary payments or, indeed, to continue to carry out its governing functions in the coming months,” Mladenov told the UN Security Council during its monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During the first wave of the virus Mladenov praised the joint Israeli-Palestinian efforts to combat the disease. Now that the second wave has hit, Mladenov said, the two sides were more at odds.
“We are far below the level of coordination that existed in the beginning of the year,” Mladenov said.
“This situation could have serious repercussions on the ability to control [COVID-19’s] spread and its impact on people’s lives,” he added.
Steps to combat the second round of the pandemic have been hampered by the PA’s response to Israel’s pending annexation plans, Mladenov explained. This has included the PA’s decision to “end” its security coordination with Israel and its refusal not to accept tax revenues from Israel.
Closures due to COVID-19 has only compounded the PA’s financial crisis, he said. The lack of security coordination with Israel, means that Palestinian security services are less able to move around the West Bank to enforce restrictions and thu delnicivery of humanitarian aid is more difficult, Mladenov said.
In addition, he added, the PA has blocked medical patients from Gaza from traveling to Israel.
“Over the past weeks.. the UN has offered to increase its intermediary role between the parties. This includes COVID-19 response as well as a greater role in the facilitation of patient referrals from Gaza,” Mladenov said.
“Nevertheless, there are limitations to what the UN and other organizations can be expected to do. Any increased responsibilities in this context should be limited and time-bound and not designed to replace the roles and responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority or the Government of Israel,” Mladenov said.
He called on Israel to abandon its “plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
“The unfolding dynamics have shed a stark light on the daily reality of the conflict” and “have further exposed the un-sustainability of the occupation,” Mladenov said.
“Today, however, it is not enough to restate our opposition to annexation. Today we should discuss what can and must be done to improve the situation on the ground,” he said.
“We need to restart diplomacy!,” Mladenov added, as he called for a resumption of negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines.