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Règlement pacifique de la question de Palestine - Rapport du Secrétaire général

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        General Assembly
        Security Council

4 September 2013

Original: English

General Assembly
Security Council
Sixty-eighth session
Items 35 and 36 of the provisional agenda*
The situation in the Middle East
Question of Palestine
Sixty-eighth year
Security Council
Sixty-eighth year


I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 67/23 .

2. On 26 July 2013, pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 26 of the above-mentioned resolution, I addressed the following letter to the President of the Security Council:

3. As at 2 September, no response had been received to that request.

4. In a note verbale dated 29 May 2013 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 2013, replies had been received from Israel, Lebanon and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

5. The note verbale dated 14 August 2013 from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations reads as follows:

6. The note verbale dated 2 August 2013 from the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations reads as follows:
7. The note verbale dated 19 June 2013 from the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations reads as follows:

II. Observations

8. Efforts intensified to achieve the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine during the latter half of the reporting period. Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, discontinued in September 2010, resumed on 29 July 2013. The situation on the ground remained challenging, in particular for the population living under closure in Gaza while Israel continued to face the threat of rocket fire. In the West Bank, tensions persisted while settlement activity continued to accelerate. The situation on the ground presented a growing cause for concern over the viability of the two-State solution. At the same time, the Palestinians continued to implement an ambitious State-building programme. They also briefly resumed their efforts towards reuniting the West Bank and Gaza, albeit with limited success at reconciliation.

9. In parallel to those developments in the peace process, on 29 November 2012 the General Assembly accorded Palestine non-member observer State status in the United Nations with the adoption of resolution 67/19 through a majority of 138 votes in favour. I reported on the steps taken regarding the change of status of Palestine in the United Nations, as well as the progress made, or lack thereof at the time of my report, in resuming the Middle East peace process on 8 March 2013 ( A/67/738 ). The application for full United Nations membership remains pending before the Security Council.

10. Quartet envoys met in Brussels on 12 December 2012 and again on 10 January 2013 in Amman. They discussed ways to help the parties avoid escalation diplomatically and on the ground in the short term, while also finding a way back to negotiations. Quartet envoys continued to work with the parties to encourage them to step up direct contacts and refrain from provocations, and reminded them of their road map obligations. I also continued to engage with the parties, as well as with key international and regional leaders, both in New York and on the margins of international conferences and events, in order to encourage concerted efforts to forge a way forward.

11. From 20 to 22 March 2013, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, visited the region with his Secretary of State, John Kerry. The visit by President Obama marked an important opportunity to reinvigorate efforts towards a two-State solution. During President Obama’s speech on 21 March in Jerusalem he called for an independent, viable Palestine, while emphasizing Israelis’ right to insist upon their security. The President also reiterated his earlier suggested principles on territory and security which he believed can be the basis for talks, and called for Arab States to take steps towards normalized relations with Israel. Secretary Kerry remained in the region to meet with Israeli leaders, and in five subsequent visits to the region he continued to meet with both the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships to discuss the resumption of dialogue leading to peace.

12. I met with President Obama on 11 April 2013 in Washington, D.C. We agreed that there is at least a window of opportunity for both Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations. I reconfirmed the commitment of the United Nations to support, including through the Quartet, a substantive initiative with a defined political horizon to achieve a two-State solution. I also spoke to the urgency of progress towards peace.

13. In a particularly important visit to Washington, D.C., on 29 April, the Follow-up Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative of the League of Arab States, a delegation of Arab Ministers and leaders including the then-Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al Thani, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Araby, reaffirmed the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative first proposed in 2002, and the Committee declared that a peace agreement should be based on the two-State solution on the basis of the 4 June 1967 line, with the possibility of comparable and mutually agreed minor swaps of land, reviving prospects that its promise of regional stability can become an important part of developing peace efforts.

14. On his sixth trip to the Middle East, Secretary Kerry secured the commitment of both sides, announcing on 19 July in Amman that the parties had established the basis to resume direct final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. It is against this compelling background that I welcomed Secretary Kerry’s intense diplomatic efforts in recent months. On 29 and 30 July 2013, Secretary Kerry hosted the first meeting between Palestinian and Israeli officials since September 2010. The Middle East Quartet and I welcomed and supported this engagement.

15. Some very tough choices were required from both sides in the period ahead. Both leaders had to win the support of their domestic constituencies for renewed negotiations. Prime Minister Netanyahu secured his cabinet’s approval to release 104 pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners during the course of an agreed nine month timetable for negotiations. On the eve of the first round of direct negotiations held in Jerusalem, the first group of 26 Palestinian prisoners was released on 13 August. However, I was deeply troubled by the announcement by Israel of approvals of some 3,000 housing units in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. A second round of negotiations was held on 20 August in Jericho.

16. It was against this background that I travelled to the region — to Jordan, Palestine and Israel — on 15 and 16 August to lend my personal support to the leaders on both sides. I was encouraged by the seriousness of efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table after a prolonged political stalemate. I was particularly heartened by the bold decision of President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu to embark on direct dialogue. I found both Palestinian and Israeli leaderships recommitted to the vision of a two-State solution, which is clearly in the best interest of both peoples. It is my firm belief that direct negotiations are the only way through which Palestinians can realize their rightful aspirations for an independent and viable Palestinian State and Israelis can meet their legitimate security needs and finally become a crucial partner in the development of a stable and prosperous Middle East. For the negotiations to have a chance at success, they need to be meaningful with a clear political horizon and yield early dividends in the immediate period ahead.

17. Palestinians continued to advance their State-building programme, albeit limited to the territory under the Authority’s control, which excluded Area C, East Jerusalem and Gaza. This formed an essential component of the political process. Despite strong international consensus that the Palestinian Authority was capable of running a State, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for the Coordination of the International Assistance to Palestinians was primarily concerned over the fiscal sustainability and economic viability due to the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal difficulties during the reporting period. They also maintained that concerted action was urgently needed to stabilize the fiscal position of the Palestinian Authority and rekindle private sector-led economic growth. Efforts by the Palestinian Authority towards structural reforms including fiscal containment, as well as adequate and predictable assistance to the Palestinian government by donors, were considered essential to manage the deficit projected at $1.7 billion.

18. Bearing in mind Security Council resolutions 1860 (2009) and 1850 (2008) , I continued to support efforts to advance Palestinian unity within the framework of the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the positions of the Quartet and the Arab Peace Initiative. Reconciliation on this basis and on the basis of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks need not be mutually exclusive, and a united Palestinian polity is necessary for the viability of the two-State solution. I welcomed the efforts extended to this effect, notably by Egypt.

19. Despite a series of meetings between members of Fatah and Hamas in Cairo to advance the implementation of existing reconciliation agreements, there has been little progress to date other than the successful voter registration drive conducted, from 11 to 20 February in both the West Bank and Gaza, for the first time since 2007. A total of 450,000 new electors were registered by the Palestinian Central Election Commission, including 350,000 in Gaza. On 2 April, Khaled Meshaal was re-elected Head of the Hamas Political Bureau.

20. The situation in occupied East Jerusalem remained tense. Clashes occurred on 7 and 8 May in East Jerusalem in and around the Old City in the context of what Israelis call “Jerusalem day”. Restrictions on access for Palestinians were imposed in connection to visits in the esplanade of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount by right-wing Israeli activists. This was coupled with the temporary detention of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem for interrogation over reported incitement. Jerusalem is a final status issue that requires a negotiated solution. I have consistently emphasized that a way must be found for the city to emerge, through negotiations, as a capital of two States, Israel and Palestine, with arrangements for holy sites acceptable for all. It is equally important that political and religious authorities on both sides continue to ensure that the cultural and religious rights of all are duly respected.

21. The expansion of settlements, which undermines the territorial basis for a future Palestinian State and the credibility of Palestinian moderates, is of particular concern. I have repeatedly stressed that all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. Over the reporting period, the Government of Israel approved tenders for the construction of approximately 18,109 residential units in settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and retroactively legalized others. In July the Government of Israel announced its intention to issue construction tenders for 854 housing units in the settlements of Har Homa, Nokdim and Modi’in Ilit. Construction in such sensitive areas is of particular concern, as it impedes the natural development of Palestinian urban centres. Moreover, the Israeli authorities did not act effectively against the construction of illegal outposts on private Palestinian land. A report of the Israeli State comptroller issued on 17 July noted that there was little to no criminal law enforcement in the settlements regarding violations of planning and construction law and that administrative procedures for demolitions are rarely implemented.

22. Settler violence decreased slightly from last year. It is deeply troubling that attacks by settlers on Palestinians and their property have become a systematic occurrence — often but not exclusively in the context of anticipated Government action against illegal settlement construction. Attacks by settlers on Palestinians and their properties resulted in 159 Palestinians, including 35 children, being injured during the reporting period.

23. The demolitions and evictions that took place in Area C over the reporting period are of deep concern and were condemned by the international community. Palestinians require access to a fair planning and zoning regime so as not to resort to the building of unauthorized structures that lead to unjustified demolitions, which often impact the most vulnerable people. Throughout the reporting period, demolitions have led to the displacement of some 907 individuals, including 458 children, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Overall, more needs to be done to ease access and movement throughout the West Bank, including Area C, the Jordan Valley and Gaza.

24. The situation in Gaza remains precarious. In the wake of the political developments in Egypt, the Egyptian authorities took robust measures against the tunnels into Gaza. As a result of those actions against illegal activity, according to some estimates 80 per cent of the tunnels are now no longer functioning. Gaza experienced serious shortages of fuel and basic building materials for which the tunnels had become the primary entry point owing to severe restrictions on imports via the official crossings and the higher cost of fuel available from the West Bank and Israel. While the only Israeli crossing for goods, Kerem Shalom, has remained open and is handling increased quantities of consumer goods, I am concerned that already difficult economic and humanitarian conditions in Gaza will further deteriorate if access into Gaza through legal crossings of basic commodities such as building materials is not liberalized. I encourage all parties not to forget the precarious situation in Gaza and to take advantage of the improved context between the parties to further lift the remaining closures. These changes must be applied with due consideration for the legitimate security concerns of Israel. Of positive note is the liberalization by Israel of the entry of key construction materials into Gaza, to some extent, by allowing an average of 20 truckloads of construction material per day to enter Gaza for the private sector in December 2012. That has helped the private sector to legally procure those materials to address the infrastructural needs of Gaza.

25. The full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) and the recovery and long-term economic growth of Gaza remain fundamental objectives of the United Nations. Some significant progress was made towards that goal, but much more needs to be done. In this context, United Nations reconstruction work worth $450 million in Gaza has been approved by the Government of Israel. That has had a positive effect not only for those receiving services but also on short-term employment; however, the economic benefits of increased employment will end with the conclusion of those works. Deeper and more fundamental change is therefore required to enable a functioning Gazan economy, beginning with authorizing exports to Israel, as well as transfers to and from the West Bank. Without those essential steps, the future of Gaza will remain tenuous at best.

26. The reporting period witnessed alarming escalations of tension between Gaza and Israel. The fragility of the relative calm was once again demonstrated on a number of occasions throughout the reporting period, and a dangerous escalation took place from 14 to 21 November 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense. The Israel Defense Forces publicly reported that it had conducted strikes against more than 1,500 targets in Gaza. The devastating impact of the violence during the eight days of fighting includes an estimated 174 Palestinians killed, including 6 who may have been killed by projectiles fired by Palestinian armed groups that fell inside the Gaza Strip. Of the 174 killed, 101 were civilians, including 36 children and 14 women. In a particularly distressing example of civilians bearing the brunt of the suffering, 12 members of the Dalu family were killed in an Israeli air strike on their house on
18 November. A total of 1,046 Palestinians were reported injured. Six Israelis, including four civilians and two soldiers, were reported killed by Palestinian rocket fire. A total of 239 Israelis were injured, the vast majority civilians.

27. In retaliation to the Gaza offensive, a bomb attack took place in Tel Aviv, on 21 November 2012, injuring 29 people, 3 severely. I condemned the attack in the strongest terms. The calm in Gaza, brokered by Egypt on 21 November, has largely held, but it remains tenuous. Preserving calm in Gaza and southern Israel continues to be crucial for improvements there and for the overall political atmosphere.

28. In total, over the reporting period 331 rockets were fired from Gaza, including 43 medium-long-range rockets, as well as 141 mortar shells, separate from the 1,506 rockets and 138 mortar shells fired during the escalation that occurred from 14 to 21 November. Many rockets directed at populated areas in Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome system. The Israel Defense Forces conducted 62 incursions and 58 airstrikes into Gaza, resulting in the deaths of 121 Palestinian civilians. More than 1,253 Palestinian civilians were injured during the reporting period. Excluding the eight days of conflict in November 2012, a total of 207 Palestinian civilians were injured, including 47 children. Also during the period, 106 Palestinian militants were killed and 22 injured, excluding the November 2012 figures. Again, I unequivocally condemn these indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and call for their complete cessation. I also urged Israel to show maximum restraint. All concerned should fully observe their obligations regarding the protection of civilians.

29. There are more than 130 Palestinians being held under Israeli administrative detention, which should only be used in the most limited number of cases, for as short a period as possible, and in exceptional cases. Those detained must be charged and brought to trial or released without delay.

30. I remain concerned about the condition of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, especially those on hunger strike. International human rights obligations towards all Palestinian detainees and prisoners under Israeli custody must be fully respected.

31. Tensions and violent incidents in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continued throughout the reporting period. Citing security reasons, the Israel Defense Forces conducted 3,662 search and arrest operations in the West Bank, resulting in the injury of 202 Palestinians, including 51 children, and 4,341 Palestinians were arrested. Overall, during the period, Israeli forces injured 3,918 Palestinians, including 1,179 children. More than 64 Israel Defense Forces personnel were injured by Palestinians.

32. During the reporting period, a total of 338 Palestinians were killed, including 232 civilians, while 5,193 Palestinians were injured throughout the occupied Palestinian territory; 8 Israelis were killed and more than 90 Israel Defense Forces personnel were injured, while 282 Israeli civilians were injured, illustrating the continuing cost of the ongoing conflict. All figures represent a significant increase from the previous reporting period.

33. A final area of concern is the Sinai peninsula, where there have been a growing number of incidents. At least four rockets fired from the Sinai were targeted at the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat during the November 2012 escalation. On 17 April 2013, two rockets fired from the Sinai peninsula exploded in open areas of Eilat, causing no casualties or damage. The attack, claimed by the Salafist jihadist group Mujahedeen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, was the first such rocket firing at Eilat since the November 2012 escalation. On 13 August 2013, the same group fired at least two other rockets at Eilat from the Sinai, of which one was intercepted by the Iron Dome system and the other struck open area. They also conducted a cross-border attack near the Har Harif area on the Israeli-Egyptian border on 21 September 2012, killing an Israel Defense Forces soldier. On 4 July 2013, two explosions were heard in Eilat, without any casualty or damage, reportedly resulting from rockets fired from the Sinai. A Salafist group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, took responsibility for the shooting.

34. I recognize that Israel has legitimate security concerns and believe that sustainable security will best be achieved by intensified cooperation, the continued empowerment of the Palestinian Authority’s security efforts and performance, the further curtailment of Israel Defense Forces 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 in economic development.

35. I continue to worry about the state of human rights and freedoms in Gaza. Of particular concern are the reports of arbitrary detention being carried out by Palestinian security forces and the reports of ill-treatment in detention centres in Gaza. I am also deeply concerned about five death sentences passed by military courts in Gaza, between 9 May and 14 July 2013, and two executions carried out on 22 June, without the approval of President Abbas, as is required by Palestinian Basic Law. I call on the de facto authorities in Gaza to refrain from carrying out further executions. I also urge the Palestinian Authority to ensure that it fulfils its responsibilities with full respect for international human rights laws.

36. The Palestinian Authority has achieved what it set out to do three years ago, and this must be noted, preserved and built upon. I am concerned, however, over the ability of the Palestinian Authority to maintain these gains in the light of its increasingly dire financial situation.

37. I strongly encouraged the Government of Israel to take all necessary measures to facilitate economic growth, including the further easing of access and movement within, into and out of the West Bank for both goods and people. In a positive development, Israel provided a considerable number of permits for Palestinian residents of the West Bank to visit Jerusalem and Israel during Ramadan and applied more flexible regulations at checkpoints and points of passage during the holy month.

38. I would like to express my deep thanks and 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. I also pay tribute to all United Nations staff who work under difficult, at times dangerous, circumstances in the service of the United Nations.

39. I remain hopeful, in the light of recent progress during the latter half of the reporting period, in the search for a negotiated solution which would bring Israel and the Palestinians closer towards durable peace and security, including the realization of the legitimate aspiration of Palestinians to a State of their own, and of Israel to live within recognized and secure borders. What is important now is for the parties to engage seriously on substance. I call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to show vision, courage and determination to reach a historic peace agreement that would meet the legitimate aspirations of their peoples. I remain convinced that direct and meaningful negotiations are the main avenue towards a comprehensive, fair and lasting solution, including an end to occupation, an end to conflict and a just and agreed solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees.

40. To that end, it is my sincere hope that the parties pursue vigorously all efforts to sustain an environment conducive for the peace process to move forward. In particular, I urge Israel to cease all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and to take concrete steps to further ease the numerous restrictions in place both in the West Bank and Gaza. I also strongly encourage all Palestinians on the path of non-violence and unity in line with past PLO commitments, and call on them to pursue their efforts to improve law and order and combat extremism and incitement against Israel, and to continue building strong and democratic institutions that are essential to a viable, independent Palestinian State. In a highly volatile environment, it is crucial that any outbreaks of violence that could undermine political efforts are prevented, and that the parties refrain from provocative steps on the ground. The international community must also play its role by shaping a legitimate and balanced framework that offers a credible political path forward, combined with far-reaching steps on the ground. The international community should understand that its own efforts in pursuit of this goal will increasingly lack credibility if it continues to fail to take the steps necessary to enable an environment conducive to serious engagement.

41. As Secretary-General, I will continue to ensure that the United Nations works towards the establishment 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.


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