NEW YORK: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now entering uncharted territory as tensions between the two sides escalate and an “ever-widening trust deficit” risks hampering future peace talks, a senior United Nations political official has told the Security Council as he urged Palestinians and Israelis to “plot a course” and work towards a negotiated resolution.
Briefing the Council on the situation in the Middle East, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, Assistant Secretary-General ad interim for UN Political Affairs, warned that neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis had taken the “challenging steps or made the bold decisions” required to rebuild trust, further reducing the likelihood of a resumption of talks.
In recent weeks, both sides have experienced a worsening of relations amid a series of unilateral moves which have only served to deepen tensions. On 30 December, a draft resolution was submitted to the Security Council aimed at reaching a final status agreement and an end to the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
When the resolution failed to pass, the Palestinian delegation signed instruments of accession to 18 international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The following day, Israeli authorities froze some $127 million in tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian authority for the month of December in violation of their Oslo Accord obligations.
“The Secretary-General is alarmed that the parties are now engaged in a downward spiral of actions and counter-actions and calls on both sides to refrain from any actions that would exacerbate existing divisions,” Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen declared, as he called on the international community to “uphold its responsibility” in shepherding a way forward on a two-State solution.
“We should be under no illusions about the perils that this new chapter may entail,” he continued. “The increasingly antagonistic and virulent nature of the discourse between the two sides should be cause for serious concern among those seeking to foster an environment conducive to a return to constructive dialogue.” Pointing to the situation in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians and Israelis recently fought a 50-day conflict resulting in the deaths of more than 2,100 Palestinians and more than 70 Israelis, Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen warned that the security situation was once again showing signs of “serious deterioration.” In particular, he noted, the payment of salaries to Gaza employees remained outstanding and reconstruction in the war-devastated Strip – assisted by the UN-backed Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism –was not being implemented at the required scale.
The UN official warned that unless all efforts to resume peace talks were made, the international community should remain “under no illusions about the perils that this new chapter may entail.” “I urge Palestinians and Israelis to plot a course that ultimately leads to a negotiated resolution of the conflict on the basis of a two-State solution in which Israel and Palestine live side by side in peace and security,” concluded Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen. “The alternative is fraught with unknown hazards that may be irreversible.”