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

15 September 2009

Original: English

General Assembly
Sixty-fourth session
Items 15 and 16 of the provisional agenda*
The situation in the Middle East
Question of Palestine
Security Council
Sixty-fourth year

Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine

Report of the Secretary-General

The present report is submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 63/29. It contains replies received from the President of the Security Council and the parties concerned to the notes verbales sent by the Secretary-General pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 21 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 2008 to August 2009.

*A/64/150 and Corr.1.

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 63/29.

2. On 1 July 2009, pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 21 of the above-mentioned resolution, I addressed the following letter to the President of the Security Council:

3. On 24 July 2009 the following reply was received from the Security Council:
4. In a note verbale dated 30 April 2009 to the parties concerned, I sought the positions of the Governments of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as of the Palestine Liberation Organization, regarding any steps taken by them to implement the relevant provisions of the resolution. As at 31 August 2009, replies had been received from Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The note verbale dated 20 July 2009 from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations reads as follows:
The note verbale dated 26 June 2009 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations reads as follows:

II. Observations

5. During the reporting period, diplomatic developments and events on the ground underscored the importance of a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. The past year witnessed the discontinuation of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations undertaken within the framework of the Annapolis process, a destructive conflict in Gaza and southern Israel, a deepening internal divide despite efforts towards Palestinian unity and the formation of a new Israeli Government following Knesset elections. In recent months, there have been renewed efforts by the international community to achieve the vision of two states living side by side in peace and security.

6. On 4 November 2008, Israel conducted a military incursion into Gaza for the purpose of destroying a tunnel allegedly used for abducting Israeli soldiers. After several months of relative calm, between 4 and 30 November, 138 rockets and 153 mortars were subsequently fired by Palestinian militants into Israel. I strongly condemned these rocket attacks by Palestinian militants as totally unacceptable and called upon all parties to fully respect the tahdiya , or calm, which had been brokered by Egypt between Israel and Hamas in June 2008.

7. Rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel and Israeli air strikes accelerated throughout December. On 27 December 2008, the violence sharply escalated with the commencement of Israeli military operation Cast Lead, which included the launch of massive, coordinated strikes by the Israeli air force in Gaza. Notwithstanding the Security Council’s press statement on 28 December calling for both sides to halt all acts of violence, in the following days Israel heavily bombed a large number of Gaza’s military and civilian installations, while Hamas launched rockets into southern Israel almost continuously. Throughout this period, I engaged in bilateral contacts with leaders from the region to urge a return to the calm and to avoid further escalation and bloodshed.

8. On 31 December, I briefed the Security Council, deploring the fact that the civilian population of Gaza was trapped between the irresponsibility displayed in the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas militants and the disproportionality of the continuing Israeli military operation. I also emphasized that life in southern Israel had become extremely difficult, with Israelis living in constant fear of rocket strikes. I called on all parties to fully respect international humanitarian and human rights law.

9. The conflict further escalated on 3 January 2009, when the Israel Defense Forces launched a major ground offensive into Gaza. The following weeks were marked by intense fighting, high numbers of civilian casualties and extensive damage to the civilian infrastructure in Gaza.

10. On 8 January 2009, the Security Council adopted resolution 1860 (2009), in which it called for a complete halt to the violence, an immediate and durable ceasefire, the unimpeded provision of humanitarian assistance, the sustained reopening of the crossing points and efforts to curb the illicit trafficking of weapons into Gaza.

11. Following the adoption of resolution 1860 (2009), I undertook an extended eight-country mission to the region to deliver the message that the fighting must stop and the resolution must be fully respected and implemented. I met with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Turkey, Lebanon, and the Syrian Arab Republic and, in the immediate aftermath of the end of major hostilities, I visited Gaza City and southern Israel. Throughout this mission, I sought to maximize coordination of the diplomatic efforts to end the crisis and to make clear the expectations of the United Nations as embodied in resolution 1860 (2009).

12. Major military operations ended on 18 January with the declaration of unilateral ceasefires by the Israeli cabinet and Hamas. Since January 2009, violence in Gaza has decreased significantly; however, sporadic firing from both sides has continued, underscoring the overall fragility of the situation. I believe it to be of the utmost importance that these unilateral ceasefires are translated into lasting arrangements based on the framework of resolution 1860 (2009).

13. The three-week conflict in Gaza resulted in extensive suffering and hardship. While figures from different sources vary, an estimated 1,300 Palestinians lost their lives and 5,300 were injured in the conflict, and on the Israeli side, 14 Israelis were killed and more than 530 were injured. A large proportion of the casualties, particularly on the Palestinian side, were civilians. I deeply regret the loss of civilian life during the conflict.

14. The intensity and destruction of the conflict substantially exacerbated the existent humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with deterioration in food security, physical and mental health, and access to basic services and economic livelihoods all being observed. During the conflict, practical arrangements were put in place between United Nations humanitarian agencies and Israel for the delivery of some relief supplies to the beleaguered civilian population. Following the end of the hostilities, United Nations agencies estimated that 3,700 houses and two health-care centres had been destroyed, and that 48,700 homes, 15 hospitals, 41 health-care centres and 273 schools had sustained varying degrees of damage.

15. On 2 March 2009, I attended the conference for the reconstruction of Gaza in Sharm el Sheikh, where the Palestinian Authority presented the Palestinian Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan. The conference yielded pledges worth $4.5 billion. At the time of writing, only a small percentage of these funds have materialized, at least in part due to donor concerns about the ability to get the necessary reconstruction materials into Gaza.

16. The numbers of truckloads of goods entering Gaza have increased since the period immediately preceding and during Operation Cast Lead. However, the import of goods still remains less than one fifth of that which occurred as part of normal commerce and trade prior to the imposition of the comprehensive closure regime in May 2007. Today, the overwhelming majority of imports into Gaza are limited to food and sanitation items, with still little or no entry for all other goods, including items for early recovery and reconstruction.

17. Some seven months after the conflict, this situation is unacceptable. Consistent with resolution 1860 (2009), the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, and public statements made by the Quartet, I have repeatedly called for a sustained reopening of all crossing points in Gaza and for mechanisms to be put in place to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms into Gaza.

18. In addition, the United Nations has presented the Government of Israel with a proposal to begin a $77 million first instalment of early recovery and reconstruction by working to complete previously suspended United Nations projects to build housing, schools and clinics across Gaza. In implementing these projects, United Nations agencies will utilize their own monitoring, verification and quality assurance processes in order to ensure integrity of programming. I hope to receive a positive response to this reasonable proposal.

19. From the outset of the conflict in Gaza, I called on all combatants to respect the sanctity of United Nations premises. However, during the course of the conflict a number of incidents occurred in which United Nations personnel, premises or operations were affected. In response, I established an internal Board of Inquiry to review and investigate nine of these incidents.

20. On 4 May 2009 I released a summary of the Board’s report. The Board found that in seven incidents, the death, injuries and damages were caused by military actions of the Israel Defense Forces, using munitions launched from the air or fired from the ground. In one incident, the report concluded that damage to a World Food Programme facility was caused by a Palestinian faction, most likely Hamas, and in another incident, the Board was unable to reach any conclusions. The Board also made a number of recommendations, including with respect to pursuing claims for damages incurred by the United Nations and further improving coordination mechanisms between the United Nations and the Government of Israel in order to help ensure the safety and security of United Nations personnel and premises. I am actively pursuing these recommendations.

21. I have fully supported the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict led by Justice Richard Goldstone, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-9/1 (2009), and its broad investigation into all alleged human rights and international humanitarian law violations that took place before, during and after the military operations in Gaza between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009. I look forward to the report of the fact-finding mission.

22. I also support continuing mediation efforts to secure the release of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit in exchange for some of the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. I regret that three years after his capture, neither the International Committee of the Red Cross nor any other international body has been granted access to Corporal Shalit.

23. During the reporting period, Egypt convened six rounds of reconciliation talks between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian groups. Regrettably the talks have only yielded limited progress. I continue to fully support the efforts of Egypt on this vital issue and to urge the factions to quickly conclude an agreement to reunite within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority, as called for in resolution 1860 (2009) and by the Quartet and League of Arab States. The United Nations is ready to engage a government under the authority of President Abbas that unites Gaza and the West Bank within such a framework.

24. A key achievement during the reporting period has been the beginning of Palestinian self-empowerment, which has taken place in the West Bank under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad and has included important reforms in fiscal management, development planning and the security sector. This positive momentum must not be imperilled by the financial crisis facing the Palestinian Authority. When the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee met in Oslo on 8 June 2009, Prime Minister Fayyad reported that the Palestinian Authority faces a critical budget crisis and still has great difficulty paying monthly salaries, which has a severe impact on its planning processes and undermines its reform agenda.

25. In July 2009, the International Monetary Fund reported that in 2009 the recurrent budget deficit for the Authority was approximately $1.6 billion and that $900 million in external financing was required for the remainder of the year. I very much welcome the recent transfers of funds by major donors to support the Palestinian Authority and I appeal to other donors to urgently fulfil pledges of budget support.

26. The Israeli system of creating physical obstacles to movement in the West Bank and imposing elaborate permit requirements on Palestinians has continued to be entrenched during the reporting period, including for movement in and around East Jerusalem. However, I welcome recent measures by the Israeli Government to ease movement restrictions around Nablus, Jericho, Qalqiliya and Ramallah. The positive steps taken by Israel, if sustained and expanded, would have a significant impact on Palestinian freedom of movement and economic development. As at August 2009, 613 obstacles to movement remained in the West Bank, 68 of which were permanently staffed checkpoints. According to the International Monetary Fund, if Israel continues easing restrictions, real growth in the gross domestic product in the West Bank could stand at 7 per cent in 2009. This would represent the first significant improvement in living standards in the West Bank since 2006.

27. I appreciate the work of Quartet Representative Tony Blair in his efforts to support continued economic development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and encourage the parties to work with him to bring about transformative change on the ground.

28. During the reporting period, the Palestinian Authority continued to make real strides in the implementation of its security plan with considerable international assistance, in particular from the United States of America. I urge the Palestinian Authority to continue to make every effort to improve law and order and to fight violent extremism in accordance with its Road Map obligations. In line with the increasing capabilities of the Palestinian security forces, I also encourage Israel to further ease movement restrictions, as well as to reduce search and arrest operations in the West Bank.

29. In Gaza, Hamas has extended its de facto control over institutions and society. Actions taken to impose internal order, including the violent confrontation with the radical group Jund Ansar Allah on 14 August 2009, have taken place outside a legitimate legal framework. There is little accountability of the de facto authority towards the population regarding such actions. In recent months, despite sporadic incidents, Hamas has largely enforced a state of calm vis-à-vis Israel and it is vital that this is built upon. The only sustainable future for Gaza is for the Strip to be reunited with the West Bank within the framework of Palestinian, regional and international legitimacy. Hamas has key responsibilities in this regard which have not yet been met and I continue to call on the Hamas leadership to respond positively to the urgings of the international community.

30. The reporting period has also been one of political transition in Israel. A Likud-led coalition Government headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu was sworn into office on 31 March 2009 following Israeli elections held on 11 February. I welcomed the formation of the new Israeli Government and stated my expectation that it would adhere to Israel’s previous commitments regarding the peace process.

31. On 14 June 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a speech in which he stated that the Israeli Government would accept a Palestinian state, but under several significant conditions related to final status issues. It is, however, actions on the ground, together with a genuine readiness to negotiate on all core issues based on existing commitments, that will be the true test of Israel’s commitment to the two-State solution.

32. In this respect, I am concerned by the failure of the new Israeli Government to commit to its obligation under the Road Map to freeze all settlement construction, including natural growth, as well as to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001. I note that the Israeli organization Peace Now reported that in the first half of 2009, the building of 596 new structures had begun in West Bank settlements, outposts and industrial areas and that there had not been any evacuations of “real” outposts.

33. Israeli actions in support of settlers in the heart of East Jerusalem are a matter of particular concern. Most recently, on 2 August 2009, Israeli security forces forcibly evicted nine Palestinian families, amounting to 53 people, from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. Under the protection of Israeli security forces, the property was handed over to a settlement organization. I repeat here the Quartet’s position that such unilateral actions cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community.

34. On 29 October 2008, following a five-month suspension of demolitions obtained by Quartet Representative Tony Blair, the Israeli authorities resumed the demolition of houses lacking building permits in East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank. I reiterate my call on Israel to adhere to international law and its Road Map obligations, and to cease and reverse provocative actions such as demolitions and evictions.

35. Contrary to the 9 July 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, the Barrier deviates 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 the provisions of General Assembly resolution ES-10/17 of 15 December 2006, on 9 April 2009 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. At the time of writing, the Register of Damage had collected over 1,100 claim forms in the West Bank and had approved 268 claims for inclusion in the Register.

36. Violence between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as among Palestinians, continued. Excluding casualties during Operation Cast Lead, between 1 September 2007 and 17 August 2009, 5 Israelis were killed and 125 injured, while 89 Palestinians were killed and 1,212 injured in conflict-related incidents. A total of 80 Palestinians were killed and 200 wounded in internal violence. I once again unequivocally condemn all acts of violence and hostilities directed against civilians and remind all parties of their obligations under international law.

37. Moving now to international diplomatic activity in support of the peace process, the latter half of 2008 witnessed regular bilateral negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams within the framework of the Annapolis process. On 9 November 2008, President Abbas and the then Minister for Foreign Affairs Livni briefed the Quartet on their progress, which they described as substantial and promising. While noting that a comprehensive agreement would not be reached by the Annapolis target of the end of 2008, the parties committed themselves to continuous, uninterrupted negotiations on all core issues. On 16 December 2008, the Security Council passed resolution 1850 (2008) reaffirming the basic principles upon which Israeli-Palestinian peace must rest as well as the irreversibility of bilateral negotiations undertaken through the Annapolis process.

38. Talks were initially suspended during the Israeli electoral period and were then discontinued owing to Operation Cast Lead, and no negotiations on core issues have taken place in 2009. However, an important new impetus to peace efforts was given by the early and welcome initiative of United States President Obama to vigorously pursue the creation of a Palestinian State as part of a comprehensive regional peace strategy. I also welcomed President Obama’s appointment of Senator George Mitchell as United States Special Envoy for the Middle East. President Obama’s speech in Cairo on 4 June 2009 challenged Israelis and Palestinians alike and demonstrated the importance which the United States Administration places on a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

39. On 26 June 2009, the Quartet met in Trieste and affirmed its determination to work with the parties to create the conditions necessary for the prompt resumption and early conclusion of negotiations on the end goal of a two-State solution. There was strong agreement among Quartet members that both Israelis and Palestinians should implement their obligations under the Road Map, and they urged the Government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, and called upon the Palestinian Authority to continue to improve law and order and to fight violent extremism.

40. During the reporting period, the Quartet also continued its valuable practice of consulting with the League of Arab States. I welcome the renewed commitment of the Arab League to pursue a just and comprehensive regional peace in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative, as expressed most recently in its ministerial communiqué of 24 June 2009. I continue to believe strongly in the potential for activating the regional tracks of the peace process, alongside a rejuvenated Palestinian track, on the basis of land for peace. I also support the convening of an international conference in Moscow to support this effort.

41. I want 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, Karen Koning AbuZayd, and all United Nations staff who continue to provide indispensable service in the Occupied Palestinian Territory under difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. Palestinian and international United Nations staff members 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.

42. I am particularly indebted to the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza and his staff for bravely continuing their work throughout Operation Cast Lead. I want to pay special tribute to the UNRWA staff member killed and the 11 others injured while serving the Palestinian people during the Gaza conflict.

43. I call on the parties to honour all existing agreements and previous commitments and pursue an irreversible effort towards the two-State solution, including by fully implementing their obligations on the ground and by resuming, vigorously pursuing, and concluding negotiations to resolve all core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Jerusalem, borders and refugees. A true end to violence and lasting security for both Palestinians and Israelis will only come through a just, comprehensive and peaceful settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict. After the failure of efforts in 2008 to secure an agreement and the difficulties encountered in 2009 in securing a resumption of negotiations, it is vital that meaningful progress is now made towards the goal of a negotiated agreement, that the parties live up to their responsibilities in this regard, and that there is coordinated and effective international engagement in support of these efforts.

44. The United Nations will continue to work towards the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine. The framework for peace remains unchanged: the establishment of two States, an independent and viable Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel, on the basis of the principle of land for peace and a just and comprehensive regional peace consistent with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1850 (2008), the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.


Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter