The conflict between Israelis, and Palestinians is “reaching a boiling point”, the UN Middle East Envoy said to the Security Council Monday, warning about escalating violence in the midst of a stalled Peace Process.
Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator, called for greater international support of the two-State solution. He also outlined possible ways forward.
He stated that violence in the occupied West Bank, and Israel has caused severe suffering in recent months.
These included attacks on civilians by both sides, an increase in arms use, and settler-related violence.
Violence on the rise
He said, “After decades and persistent violence, illegal settlement expansions, dormant negotiation, and deepening occupation, conflict is again at a boiling point.”
Two Israelis were murdered and over a dozen others were injured in bombings that took place in Jerusalem last week. The envoy condemned the attack. He also condemned the attack by Israeli settlers on Palestinian in Hebron days before.
Mr. Wennesland stated that “this surge in violence in Occupied Palestinian Territory occurs in the context of an stalled peace proces and entrenched occupation and amid mounting economic and institutional challenges faced by Palestinian Authority.”
“Global trends, declining donor support and a lack of democratic renewal have all contributed to these problems.”
Additionally, the “fragile calm” in Gaza was disrupted when Palestinian militants launched four missiles at Israel. This prompted airstrikes from the country’s defense force.
He stated, “Once more, we are reminded of the danger of escalation caused by the combination of militant activity and debilitating closings, the absence of the legitimate Palestinian government, and hopelessness.”
His team and Mr. Wennesland have maintained discussions with Palestinian officials and Israeli representatives, as well as international and regional actors.
Progress and restraint
The UN worked in partnership with partners to mediate ceasefires in Gaza during May and earlier this year.
To support the local economy, measures were taken, including improved movement and access to Gaza for people and goods.
He said that important projects were completed, including fueling the Gaza electricity plant and providing assistance to more than 100,000 families in need. These efforts will continue throughout the year.
He also noted progress by Mr. Wennesland. He pointed out that Israel approved the greatest number of permits for Palestinians, Gaza, to work on its territory since 2007.
However, delays and restrictions continue to exist, which adversely impact development and humanitarian efforts.
He stated that “These preventive and escalation measures, diplomatic engagements, have helped maintain calm and provide some space to progress, but with no tangible movement on the politically-oriented track, they are likely to be temporary.”
Problems with the Palestinian Authority
He added that the Palestinian Authority is facing significant institutional and legal challenges.
Since 2006, elections have not been held and more than half of the electorate, people between 18-35 years old, has never had the opportunity to vote.
“This is happening against the backdrop of changing dynamics, shifting international priorities and, more recently, the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine which have significantly reduced attention to this conflict,” stated Mr. Wennesland.
Engagement in political issues
The envoy stressed the importance of taking urgent steps towards the two state solution. He said that it still receives substantial support from Palestinians as well as Israelis.
He described three actions that could be taken to move the parties forward on fundamental political issues.
“First, we must engage with the parties to r induc tensions and counter negative trend, especially those that impact final status issues. This will include reining violence and incitement, and holding those responsible. He stated that this means that each side must stop unilateral steps that threaten peace, such as settlement expansion or legalization.
His second point was to improve access, movement, and trade in order to make room for the Palestinian economic growth. A comprehensive approach is needed to ease restrictions on movement of goods and people in Gaza, along with other measures.
International support is needed
As his last point, Mr. Wennesland emphasized the need to strengthen Palestinian Institutions, improve Governance, and boost the fiscal health of Palestinian Authority.
He stated that the PA’s political legitimacy, accountability and effectiveness must be enhanced through democratic reforms, opening the civic space and holding elections in the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territory), and ensuring credibility and effectiveness of the Palestinian security force.
He said, ” without implementing points one & two above, it will not be possible .”
Under current circumstances, Mr. Wennesland acknowledged that these steps would be “a formidable task”. He demanded more commitment from the international community and coordinated and sustained attention, resource and engagement with all parties.