Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search
Règlement pacifique de la question de Palestine - Rapport du Secrétaire général

English (pdf) ||Arabic||Chinese||Français||Русский||Español||

Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS


        General Assembly
        Security Council

17 September 2010

Original: English

General Assembly
Sixty-fifth session
Agenda items 36 and 37
The situation in the Middle East
Question of Palestine
Security Council
Sixty-fifth year

Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine

Report of the Secretary-General

The present report is submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 64/19. It contains replies received from the parties concerned to the notes verbales sent by the Secretary-General pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 24 of the resolution. The report also contains the observations of the Secretary-General on the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on international efforts to move the peace process forward with a view to achieving a peaceful settlement. The report covers the period from September 2009 through August 2010.

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 64/19.

2. On 1 July 2010, pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 24 of the above-mentioned resolution, I addressed the following letter to the President of the Security Council:

3. As of 31 August, no response had been received to that request.

4. In a note verbale dated 3 May 2010 to the parties concerned, I sought the positions of the Governments of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization, regarding any steps taken by them to implement the relevant provisions of the resolution. As at
31 August 2010, replies had been received from Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The note verbale dated 20 July 2010 from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations reads as follows:

5. The note verbale dated 24 June 2010 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations reads as follows:
II. Observations

6. During the reporting period, efforts intensified to achieve the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, discontinued in December 2008, were set to resume on 2 September 2010. On the ground, unilateral actions and human rights violations continued to undermine diplomatic efforts. The situation in Gaza remained unsustainable, while the divide between Gaza and the West Bank continued to deepen.

7. On 21 September 2009, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, hosted the first meeting between Palestinian and Israeli leaders since 2008. On 23 September 2009, the President addressed the General Assembly (see A/64/PV.3) and presented his goal of urgently starting talks, without preconditions, on the key issues of security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. Since then, the United States Special Envoy, George Mitchell, has regularly visited the region in an effort to bring about a resumption of negotiations. The Middle East Quartet and I welcomed and supported this engagement throughout the reporting period.

8. However, there was an overall impasse in diplomatic efforts from November 2009 to January 2010. This reflected the frustrations and low confidence of the parties in the renewed process; disputes over the terms of reference for negotiations; continued creation of facts on the ground by Israel; tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank; and continued violence and closure in Gaza.

9. In February 2010, Senator Mitchell proposed to the parties to facilitate proximity talks. Israel accepted this proposal. Affected by internal political challenges, the Palestinian side turned to the League of Arab States for backing, and subsequently agreed to the proximity talks. However, the announcement on 9 March of additional settlement construction in East Jerusalem, during a visit to Israel by Vice-President Joseph R. Biden of the United States, caused a major setback, and highlighted the problems created by Israel’s continued policy of illegal settlement construction.

10. The Quartet Principals’ meeting in Moscow on 19 March focused on efforts to overcome obstacles and move the process forward. The Quartet urged the parties to launch proximity talks and move to direct negotiations as soon as possible, which should lead to a negotiated settlement within 24 months that would end the occupation which began in 1967 and result in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours. The parties were called upon to act in accordance with international law and the road map, and refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric. The Quartet agreed to closely monitor developments and consider additional measures that might be necessary.

11. Directly from the Quartet meeting, I visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory on 20 and 21 March, where I urged the Israeli leadership to refrain from actions that could undermine trust and prevent the launch of the proximity talks. I urged the Palestinian Authority to enter the proximity talks and give this process a chance.

12. On 26 and 27 March, I attended the League of Arab States Summit in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, where I emphasized that the goal of the creation of an independent Palestinian State could be brought about only through a return to the negotiating table and testing the parties’ commitments in that framework. I reiterated to President Mahmoud Abbas my own and the Quartet’s support for the talks. The Arab leaders conditioned their support for Palestinian participation on the outcome of the efforts by the United States to create conditions conducive to the success of the talks. However, tensions on the ground again delayed the start of the proximity talks.

13. On 1 May, the League of Arab States reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian participation in the proximity talks, but conditioned it to progress within four months. On 8 May, the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed to enter the talks. President Obama reaffirmed that both parties would be held accountable for actions that would undermine trust during the talks. Senator Mitchell started shuttling between Ramallah and Jerusalem to build support for the start of direct negotiations, holding seven rounds of proximity talks in total.

14. On 6 July, following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama expressed confidence in Israel’s intentions to engage in negotiations on all core issues and hoped that direct negotiations would start within weeks. On 29 July, the Arab League lent its support to the Palestinians to enter direct negotiations at a point deemed appropriate by President Abbas.

15. On 20 August, the Quartet called on the parties to launch direct negotiations in Washington, D.C., on 2 September to resolve all final status issues. In parallel, the United States issued an invitation to the parties. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas responded positively. I welcomed this decision by the two leaders and called upon them to show leadership, courage and responsibility to realize the aspirations of their peoples. I stressed that this was an opportunity that must not be wasted.

16. The situation in occupied East Jerusalem remained tense and continued to impact the peace process. I have expressed concern at house demolitions and continued settlement construction in East Jerusalem. The reporting period witnessed disturbances in and around the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound and access restrictions for Muslim and Christian worshippers to holy sites. Reports of increased revocations of identity cards and the enactment of revised military orders on the expulsion of “infiltrators” contributed to the apprehension of the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Archaeological excavations and tunnelling activities under Palestinian neighbourhoods continued and raised concerns among Palestinian residents. I appeal to all sides to exercise restraint. Jerusalem is a final status issue and a way should be found for the city to emerge as the capital of two States, with arrangements for the religious sites acceptable to all.

17. In June, expulsion orders were issued against four Palestinian legislators who were residents of Jerusalem, but had been members of the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform bloc and imprisoned in 2006 for failing to meet the minimum loyalty criteria in Israel.

18. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority continued to implement a state-building agenda. Institutional reforms, improved security conditions and the resulting increased private sector confidence contributed to a solid economic recovery, evidenced by real GDP growth of 11.3 per cent in the West Bank in the first quarter of 2010. Most recently, the second Palestinian Investment Conference, held on 2 and 3 June in Bethlehem, attracted almost US$ 1 billion in pledged investments in Palestinian businesses.

19. The state-building agenda of the Palestinian Authority, under the leadership of Prime Minister Fayyad, is an important complement to a renewed political process. It must be enabled and supported. I call on donors to provide timely assistance to sustain this agenda and also to fulfil their pledges made in Sharm el-Sheikh in March 2009. I also call on Israel to do more to ease restrictions on movement and take steps to facilitate economic growth in the West Bank. The current number of obstacles to movement is approximately 500, compared to 618 in August 2009. This is movement in the right direction, which has had a real positive impact on the lives of many Palestinians, but I strongly encourage the Government of Israel to build on these positive steps with more far-reaching measures.

20. As the Palestinian Authority makes progress in institution-building, it remains constrained by the occupation and settlement activity, which stifle space and opportunities of the Palestinian people. I welcomed as a step in the right direction the announcement by Israel, on 26 November 2009, of a 10-month restraint on new construction in settlements, which was aimed at encouraging direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. However, I also noted that this restraint policy fell short of Israel’s commitments under the road map to freeze all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001. Settlements are illegal, they cast doubt on the viability of the two-State solution and prejudice the final status issues.

21. I appreciate the continued efforts of the Quartet’s Special Representative, Tony Blair, to support continued economic development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. I encourage the parties to work with him to bring about transformative change on the ground.

22. Violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continued. The causes, among others, were Israeli security operations, mistrust between the communities, deep-rooted grievances, retaliation against Palestinians following the implementation of the settlement restraint, and unilateral acts deemed to be provocative. In total, 15 Palestinians were killed and 1,092 injured. Seven Israelis were killed, four of whom were killed on 31 August in an obvious attempt to undermine the launch of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on 2 September 2010, which I condemned; Hamas claimed responsibility for this attack. During the reporting period, 205 Israelis were injured. There was a slight decrease of Israeli incursions and arrests in the West Bank; 247 settler attacks on Palestinians and their property, and 93 Palestinian attacks on settlers were recorded during the reporting period. I condemn all attacks that indiscriminately target civilians and I call for international humanitarian law to be upheld in all circumstances. I urge the parties to seek out those responsible for all such incidents and bring them to justice.

23. Both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate security concerns. I believe that sustainable security will best be achieved by intensified cooperation, continued empowerment of the Palestinian Authority’s security efforts and performance, further curtailment of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) incursions into Palestinian areas, full respect for legitimate non-violent protest, Israeli action to curb settler violence, Palestinian action against incitement, and progress in the political negotiations and economic development.

24. Although attempts at holding presidential, legislative and municipal elections did not materialize during the reporting period, I still hope that it will be possible in the near future to hold free and fair elections throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

25. Contrary to the 9 July 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, the barrier continues to deviate significantly from the 1967 Green Line into Occupied Palestinian Territory in the West Bank. It continues to restrict Palestinian access to East Jerusalem, key social services and agricultural land. In accordance with General Assembly resolution ES-10/17 of 15 December 2006, on 19 July I provided a progress report on the work of the United Nations Register of Damage Caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Palestinian, Israeli and foreign protesters continued demonstrating against the barrier, mostly in Nil’in and Bil’in villages, and there have been clashes with Israeli security forces. I regret the detention of activists involved in peaceful protests.

26. The Gaza Strip remained subject to a regime of closures and under the de facto control of Hamas. Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) continued to provide a strategic framework for addressing this situation, but its key elements remained unfulfilled. The blockade on Gaza remained unacceptable and punished innocent civilians. I have consistently urged the Government of Israel to lift it, and I welcomed the measures announced by Israel in June and July to ease it. As efforts are made to relaunch a meaningful political process, the situation in Gaza cannot be left to further deteriorate. Israel’s legitimate security concerns should also be addressed.

27. Addressing dire conditions of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip remained my priority during the reporting period. The United Nations engaged intensively with the Government of Israel, and within the Middle East Quartet, to promote reconstruction. On 21 March I visited Gaza, where I witnessed first-hand the immense reconstruction needs, the impact of the closure on the civilian population and the unsustainable nature of the situation there. The Quartet continued to reaffirm that the situation in Gaza was unsustainable, unacceptable, and not in the interests of any of those concerned. The Quartet called for a solution that would ensure the opening of the crossings to allow for the unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza, consistent with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).

28. Since March, Israel approved 15 United Nations projects in housing, water, sanitation, education and health. These projects are an important step forward but represent only a fragment of the vast reconstruction needs in Gaza, which I personally witnessed during my visit in March. The implementation of the approved United Nations projects has, however, been slow, and we continue to advocate for lighter approval and coordination procedures to allow for rehabilitation and reconstruction at a more appropriate scale.

29. Food and medical supplies made up the bulk of imports allowed through the official crossings. But this situation changed dramatically after the 31 May “Gaza aid flotilla” incident; Israel announced measures to ease the blockade on 20 June. The weekly average of imported truckloads reached 1,006 in mid-August 2010, compared to 531 truckloads during the same period in 2009. Construction materials needed to rebuild homes and social infrastructure are allowed for projects implemented under the oversight of international organizations and approved by the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel. Exports, so needed for economic development, are not part of the new measures. Nor can construction materials be imported on a commercial basis, available to all. Nevertheless, the Quartet welcomed this announcement and expressed hope that this move would contribute to the fulfilment of resolution 1860 (2009), including for the unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza. The United Nations and the Quartet are following closely the implementation of these measures, while exploring additional ways to improve the situation in Gaza.

30. I continued to be alarmed by reports of smuggling of weapons into Gaza during the reporting period. Increased-capability rockets have reportedly been test-fired from Gaza. In this regard, I note Egypt’s intensified efforts to curtail smuggling through illegal tunnels. The tunnels also continued to be used to import most of the goods available on Gaza’s markets. This both sustained and distorted the local economy.

31. The blockade continued to impede freedom of movement of Gazan civilians. Although passage to and from Egypt and Israel through the Rafah and Erez crossings has been significantly relaxed since June, the movement of people is still limited largely to medical cases, some students and humanitarian workers. In a positive development, the number of businessmen allowed to exit through the Erez crossing has steadily increased since June and reached 99 per week as at 31 August.

32. All crossings into Gaza should be urgently opened, consistent with the Agreement on Movement and Access. The longer-term consequences of the closure are deeply worrying, in terms of deteriorating public infrastructure, environmental degradation, destruction of livelihoods and psychological impact on a population half of whom are children.

33. The reporting period witnessed two attempts to break the Gaza blockade. The “Viva Palestina — Lifeline 3” convoy entered the Gaza Strip through Egypt in January, amid confrontations between Egyptian authorities, convoy activists, Gaza residents and Hamas militants, in which an Egyptian border guard was killed and dozens of protesters and Egyptian police were injured. On 31 May, a tragic incident took place during the takeover by the Israeli military of the Mavi Marmara vessel which was part of the “Gaza aid flotilla”. I immediately condemned the acts, which resulted in the deaths of nine civilians and injuries to at least 30 others, including seven IDF soldiers. I called for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation.

34. During its emergency session immediately following this incident, the Security Council called for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards (S/PRST/2010/9). On 2 August, I launched a panel of inquiry on the flotilla incident. The United Nations was also instrumental in ensuring that all supplies delivered by the flotilla reached their destination in Gaza, and closely monitored the repatriation of the flotilla passengers and vessels.

35. A Libyan-sponsored vessel, carrying aid for Gaza, arrived in an Egyptian port without incident on 15 July. Egypt facilitated the transfer of its humanitarian cargo to Gaza. There were reports of other ships intending to sail towards Gaza. I continued to believe that only properly functioning open land crossings could make a strategic difference in reviving the economy in the Gaza Strip.

36. Turning to internal dynamics in the Gaza Strip, Hamas continued to strengthen control, thus further deepening the rift with the West Bank. There were reports of increasing human rights abuses and political arrests. On 15 April, Hamas illegally and unacceptably executed prisoners without proper and transparent trial. I called on Hamas not to carry out such executions. International and civil society organizations in Gaza have faced increasing pressure. In May and June, acts of vandalism were committed against the summer camps of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which I condemned in the strongest terms. I insist on non-interference with international aid operations in Gaza.

37. Hamas continued to refuse the proposal for Palestinian reconciliation mediated by Egypt and presented to the parties on 10 September. Although the reporting period witnessed practical efforts at cooperation and goodwill gestures by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, stalemate continued. I stress that Palestinian unity is a key component to finding a sustainable solution to the crisis in Gaza. I reiterate my call for the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank on the basis of the PLO principles and under the legitimate Palestinian Authority, and urge all factions to engage positively in dialogue. I support Egypt’s efforts in this regard.

38. A fragile calm between Israel and Hamas prevailed during the reporting period. However, violent incidents continued: 147 rockets and 115 mortars were fired from Gaza; there were 173 IDF incursions and 100 air strikes; 56 Palestinians were killed, including 5 children and 39 militants; and 169 Palestinians were injured, including 40 militants. Meanwhile, a foreign worker in Israel was killed, as well as five Israeli soldiers. Five Israeli soldiers were injured. On 30 July, a rocket hit inside the town of Ashkelon in southern Israel, the first such attack since Operation Cast Lead. I urge all parties to refrain from violence and to respect international humanitarian law.

39. Israeli Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit remains in Hamas captivity, now for over four years. I call for his immediate and unconditional release and humanitarian access to him. I also note the deteriorating living conditions for the approximately 9,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, down from 11,000 a year ago. In October, Israel released 20 Palestinian female detainees after Hamas presented, through a German mediator, a video clip showing Shalit in good health. I welcomed these developments, and call for the completion of a prisoner exchange agreement and the release of Palestinian prisoners to the Palestinian Authority.

40. The Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict mandated by the Human Rights Council and headed by Justice Richard Goldstone released its report on
25 September 2009 (A/HRC/12/48). The report made a number of recommendations for ensuring accountability for perpetrators and redress for victims. International humanitarian law, justice and accountability must be fully respected and civilians must be protected in all circumstances. I therefore called upon all parties to carry out credible domestic investigations without delay. The General Assembly and its Human Rights Council continued to follow the implementation of the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission. I will continue to support their work in this regard.

41. On 15 January, an arrangement was concluded whereby the Government of Israel made a payment of US$ 10.5 million to the United Nations in respect of losses sustained in the nine incidents investigated by the Gaza Board of Inquiry. In the light of this payment, the United Nations has agreed that the financial issues relating to those incidents have been brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

42. I would like to record my deep appreciation to Robert H. Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, as well as to the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, whom I appointed on 20 January. He replaced Karen Koning AbuZayd, whom I thank for her outstanding performance. I express my appreciation to all United Nations staff who provide indispensable services under difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. National and international staff have faced growing restrictions as concerns their free movement and access in the service of the United Nations. I have repeatedly protested these restrictions to the Government of Israel and look forward to improvements in this regard.

43. I remain convinced that direct and meaningful negotiations are the only avenue towards a comprehensive and sustainable solution that fulfils the aspirations of the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples. In the days ahead, we must make sufficient progress at the negotiating table and on the ground to enable a move towards an agreement on all core issues of the conflict. The commitments of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders will be tested during direct negotiations. I call upon the parties to seize this opportunity and show leadership, courage and responsibility to arrive at a final status agreement within one year. For these negotiations to have a chance of success, a conducive environment on the ground will be crucial, in line with the parties’ respective road map commitments and international legal obligations. I urge Israel to extend its moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank past its 30 September 2010 deadline, and to expand its scope to East Jerusalem. I call on the Palestinians to continue maintaining law and order, fighting extremism and incitement against Israel, and building strong and democratic institutions. I call on regional and international partners to lend their support to these negotiations, and look forward to their success.

44. As Secretary-General, I will continue to ensure that the United Nations works towards the creation of an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace with a secure Israel in the framework of a comprehensive regional settlement consistent with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1860 (2009), and in accordance with the road map, the Arab Peace Initiative and the principle of land for peace.


Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter