Briefing the Security Council, Tor Wennesland underlined the need for “firm action” that will enable Israelis and Palestinians to re-engage on the path to meaningful negotiations.
1/ @TWennesland: I commend the #Palestine|ian Government’s efforts to plan & implement its vaccination campaign. #UN agencies, in particular @WHOoPt, @UNICEFpalestine, @UNRWA & their partners will continue to support vaccination efforts. #SCR2334 #SecurityCouncil #COVID19
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“There is no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the conflict,” he said.
West Bank concerns
Mr. Wennesland reported on ongoing worrying trends that he said are increasing the territorial fragmentation of the West Bank, undermining the Palestinian Authority, and further eroding prospects for peace.
“Across the West Bank, daily violence continues; tensions in East Jerusalem and the refugee camps are mounting and settler violence remains a serious concern. Illegal settlements and planning processes are steadily advancing, alongside demolitions and evictions, including in and around Jerusalem,” he told Ambassadors.
‘Fragile calm’ in Gaza
Meanwhile, although “a fragile calm” currently prevails in Gaza, the envoy stressed it is only temporary.
“Hamas control of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian divisions and the Israeli closure regime are creating a generation who have experienced multiple wars and humanitarian crises and who have few prospects for a better life,” he said, urging Israel to further ease restrictions on the movement of goods and services there.
Mr. Wennesland outlined the violence that has occurred throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory since his last briefing in January.
Six Palestinians, including two children, were killed by Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank during this period. These deaths occurred during demonstrations, clashes, search-and-arrest operations, attacks and alleged attacks against Israelis, as well as other incidents.
Overall, some 205 Palestinians were injured, 25 of them children.
Nine Israeli civilians, including at least one woman and two children, as well as eight Israeli security personnel were injured by Palestinians during the reporting period.
Incidents included clashes, shooting, stabbing and ramming attacks, and the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails.
Settlements and demolitions
While settler-related violence also remained a concern, recent efforts by Israel to reduce incidents “are well-noted,” Mr. Wennesland told Council members.
Addressing settlement activity, he reported on plans for some 400 new housing units in the Gilo settlement in occupied East Jerusalem to replace 80 units there.
Earlier this month, the Israeli Attorney-General also published a legal opinion allowing authorities to advance plans for a settlement at Evyatar, a West Bank outpost.
“I reiterate that all settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace,” he said.
Israeli authorities also demolished 79 Palestinian-owned structures during the reporting period.
The UN official was particularly concerned about several families who face eviction from their long-time homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, located in occupied East Jerusalem.
Tensions flared in Sheikh Jarrah after Israeli authorities on 30 January authorized the eviction of a Palestinian family in March. On Tuesday, an Israeli court suspended the eviction pending an appeal and the family depositing some $8,000 with the court as collateral.
Strengthen Palestinian Authority
Mr. Wennesland also called for urgent action to avert the fiscal collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which continues to face a prolonged financial crisis that is affecting service delivery and crippling the economy.
Revenues are not keeping up with needed expenditures, he said, resulting in accumulated debt, while investment in health, education, infrastructure and other important sectors “is virtually non-existent”.
He said economic and political reforms driven from inside the authority are a “critical first step” to changing its dire fiscal situation.
No substitute for political process
Although recent high-level dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian leaders has netted commitments and some economic steps, the envoy stressed that these efforts must be turned into durable achievements and significantly expanded alongside policy changes by both sides.
“While we have seen some encouraging economic initiatives, we must push beyond the paradigm of managing, rather than resolving the conflict. Economic steps alone – while essential and desperately needed – will not put us on the path toward a just and lasting peace,” he said.
Underscoring the need for political leadership, Mr. Wennesland urged Israelis, Palestinians, regional States, and the wider international community to take firm action to get the parties back on the path to negotiations.
“Only an end to the occupation and the achievement of two States, living side by side in peace and security, based on the 1967 lines, in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements, will resolve this conflict,” he said.