UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland on Thursday called for the revival of a real political process to address the underlying drivers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The cease-fire independently declared by Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad following three days of military escalation in early August remains in effect, and a fragile calm has been restored in Gaza, he told the Security Council in a briefing.
The Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings have remained open since Aug. 8, allowing for the entry of essential goods and materials into Gaza. The United Nations is working with partners to ensure the delivery of urgent assistance to those who need it most, he said.
The cease-fire prevented the situation from escalating into a full-scale war, which would have had devastating consequences. It also allowed for the resumption of the measures implemented over the past year that have resulted in much-needed economic relief to the people in Gaza. But a cease-fire is limited to ending immediate hostilities. The underlying drivers of the conflict are still unresolved, he said.
Violence has increased across much of the occupied West Bank. Israeli settlement activities continue, along with demolitions and evictions. Fiscal and political challenges threaten the Palestinian Authority’s effectiveness in delivering essential public services. The West Bank and Gaza remain politically divided. Palestinians in Gaza face the challenge of economic and movement restrictions linked with the Israeli closure regime, the nature of Hamas rule and the ever-present threat of violence, he said.
“Unless fundamental issues are addressed, the cycle of acute crisis followed by short-term fixes will persist. Concerted efforts are needed to restore a political horizon and resume meaningful negotiations,” said Wennesland.
Managing the conflict is no substitute for a real political process. Attention must be turned, once again, to the broader strategy of ending the occupation and realizing a two-state solution in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements, he said. “Crucially, we must work toward restoring a political horizon.”
As a first step, tensions and violence across the occupied Palestinian territory should be stopped or significantly reduced, especially in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Unilateral steps that perpetuate negative trends need to stop. The space for Palestinian economic activity and further improvements to access and movement in Gaza and the West Bank should be expanded. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority, including its institutional capacity, needs to be strengthened, he said.
“The status quo is not a strategy nor a strategic option — not for positive change on the ground nor for a restart of talks between the two sides. I urge the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, regional countries and the broader international community to take firm action to enable a return to meaningful negotiations,” he said.