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

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        General Assembly
        Security Council

19 September 2011

Original: English

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

Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine

Report of the Secretary-General


    The present report is submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 65/16. It contains replies received from the parties concerned to the notes verbales sent by the Secretary-General pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 26 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 2010 through August 2011.

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 65/16.

2. On 1 July 2011, 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 of 19 September, no response had been received to that request.

4. In a note verbale dated 11 May 2011 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 2011, replies had been received from Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The note verbale dated 5 July 2011 from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations reads as follows:

5. The note verbale dated 27 June 2011 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations reads as follows:
II. Observations

6. Efforts to achieve the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine made little progress during the reporting period, and confidence between the parties and in the political process reached a new low. Hopes raised by the start of direct talks on 2 September 2010 faltered rapidly. Negotiations were discontinued and have remained in an impasse since October. The Palestinians nevertheless advanced their State-building programme. They also resumed their efforts towards reuniting the West Bank and Gaza. On the ground, the situation 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 accelerated.

7. Following the proximity talks, facilitated by the United States since May 2010, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas met in Washington, D.C., on 1 and 2 September under the auspices of President Obama and Secretary Clinton to launch direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. A second round of talks was held on 14 and 15 September. Prime Minister Netanyahu affirmed that President Abbas was his partner for peace, while President Abbas stated his desire to see a permanent end to the conflict. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a two-State solution and agreed to seek a solution based on two States for two peoples. They agreed that the negotiations could be completed within a year, and that their aim was to resolve all final status issues, including borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem. I called upon both sides to show leadership, courage and responsibility to realize the aspirations of both peoples, and encouraged the efforts of the United States in that regard.

8. However, negotiations came to a halt after Israel’s 10-month moratorium on new construction in settlements expired on 26 September. President Abbas indicated that he would not continue direct negotiations unless Israel froze settlement activity. Growing mutual distrust worked against the resumption of direct bilateral talks. I expressed disappointment that the moratorium was not renewed and reiterated that settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, was contrary to international law. I urged Israel to fulfil its road map obligation to freeze settlement activity. The Middle East Quartet regretted the discontinuation of the moratorium and strongly reaffirmed that unilateral actions by either party could not prejudge the outcome of negotiations and would not be recognized by the international community.

9. On 9 October, at its summit in Sirte, Libya, the League of Arab States expressed support for President Abbas’ position not to continue negotiations unless Israel froze settlement activity. In the following months, the League held several meetings in support of the Palestinian efforts. The Palestinian leadership launched a diplomatic campaign to secure bilateral recognition of an independent State of Palestine within borders that conform to the ceasefire lines in existence before 4 June 1967. Several States, notably in South America, announced such recognition. The Government of Israel continued to call for a continuation of negotiations, stating that settlements would be resolved as part of a final status agreement.

10. The United States continued to engage the parties in indirect talks after it announced in December the end of its attempts to reinstate the settlement moratorium. In February, Quartet members started diplomatic efforts to engage the parties in separate consultations, giving serious consideration to their views on how to bring about resumed negotiations on all core issues, including borders and security. I fully supported this process, based on the conviction that internationally agreed parameters were needed to provide a basis for the resumption of meaningful negotiations. I also gave my full support to the tireless work of Senator Mitchell until he resigned on 13 May from his post of United States Envoy for the Middle East.

11. On 19 May, President Obama put forward important principles as a foundation for negotiations, particularly regarding borders, which should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, and security arrangements, which should be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security, and allow a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized State.

12. Along with the other Quartet principals, I supported the vision outlined by President Obama and encouraged Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to respond positively. In its statement of 20 May, the Quartet appealed to the parties to resume direct bilateral negotiations. The Quartet principals met in Washington, D.C., on 11 July, to discuss how to translate President Obama’s speech into an internationally agreed framework for the resumption of talks. However, in view of the persisting differences between the parties regarding what terms should frame negotiations, Quartet members agreed to work on narrowing that gap before issuing a statement that could help bring both sides back to negotiations. Quartet discussions and efforts continued over the summer in the context of a deteriorating situation on the ground and deepening mistrust between both sides.

13. In August, with no political breakthrough and with Israeli settlement activity continuing, the Palestinian leadership, with the support of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee, confirmed its intention to approach the United Nations at the beginning of the new session of the General Assembly to call on Member States to recognize a Palestinian State within the 1967 lines and to apply for full membership in the United Nations. The Government of Israel expressed its strong opposition to such Palestinian action.

14. The Charter of the United Nations is clear that the issues of recognition of a State and membership in the United Nations are for Member States and the United Nations intergovernmental bodies to decide. My role as Secretary-General would be to transmit the Palestinian request for membership to the Security Council.

15. As an active proponent of the two-State solution, it remained my strong view that the Palestinians should have an independent and viable State of their own, living side by side with the State of Israel in peace and security. Resuming substantive negotiations to resolve all permanent status issues must therefore remain our collective priority. As we moved into September, I continued to hope that the international community would be able to shape a legitimate and balanced way forward to help the parties achieve the goal of ending the conflict and establishing a viable and sovereign Palestinian State.

16. The situation in occupied East Jerusalem remained tense. I expressed concern at new settlement construction, house demolitions and evictions of Palestinian families, and I deplored the demolition in January of the Shepherd’s Hotel in a Palestinian neighbourhood. The reporting period also witnessed violent clashes in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem, which underscored the tensions caused by the presence and expansion of settler communities in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods, including Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and Ras al-Amud. In a development that is the source of serious concern, the Government of Israel announced in August new constructions in several settlements in East Jerusalem. I also remained concerned about the human rights of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and continued to oppose any measures towards their forcible transfer out of the city, including revocation of residency rights. In August, in contravention of their obligations under the road map, the Israeli authorities extended the closure of Orient House and the Chamber of Commerce in East Jerusalem pursuant to their ongoing ban on Palestinian government institutions in the city. The status of three Hamas-affiliated Palestinian legislators from East Jerusalem, who were threatened with forcible transfer, has been unresolved since June 2010.

17. On 23 March, a bomb exploded adjacent to a bus stop in West Jerusalem, killing one female civilian and injuring 30 Israelis. I strongly condemned this act of terrorism and called for an immediate cessation of acts of terrorism and violence against civilians in order to prevent further escalation and loss of life.

18. 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.

19. In the West Bank, the implementation of the State-building programme launched by the Palestinian Authority in August 2009 was completed during the reporting period, although it was limited to the territory under the Authority’s control, which excluded Area C, East Jerusalem and Gaza. It formed an essential complement to the political process.

20. In April, the Office of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process reported to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee that in the six areas where the United Nations is most engaged, governmental functions were sufficient for a viable government of a State. 1 The achievements of the State-building programme should be further supported, in line with the objectives of the Palestinian Authority’s National Development Plan (2011-2013).

21. Despite financial constraints, the growth of the real gross domestic product (GDP) continued, reaching 8.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2011 as compared to the first quarter of 2010. This was supported by ongoing institutional reforms with donor support and earlier measures to facilitate movement and access.

22. I continued to call on donors to provide timely assistance to sustain this agenda. Donor support for the Palestinian Authority was grossly insufficient during 2011, affecting the Authority’s ability to meet its financial obligations, including payment of salaries. I also strongly encouraged the Government of Israel to take all necessary measures to facilitate growth, including further easing of access and movement within, into and out of the West Bank for both goods and people.

23. The Palestinian Authority remained constrained by the occupation and settlement activity. In this regard, I reminded Israel of its commitments under the road map to freeze all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001. Settlements are contrary to Security Council resolutions, the Fourth Geneva Convention and Israel’s obligations under the road map. They complicate the path towards a two-State solution and prejudice final status issues.

24. The Palestinian Authority continued to make commendable efforts to maintain law and order in areas under its control and to strengthen its security capacity. The sixth and seventh battalions of Palestinian National Security Forces were trained in Jordan and deployed in the West Bank during the reporting period.

25. As of August 2011, the number of obstacles to movement was approximately 523, of which 62 were permanently staffed, compared to 509 in August 2010, of which 64 were permanently staffed. My concern has grown over forced displacement of Palestinians due to demolitions, especially in Area C, where 470 structures were demolished during the reporting period.

26. I appreciated the efforts of the Quartet’s Special Representative, Tony Blair, to support economic development throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. I welcomed the package of measures he announced in February with Prime Minister Netanyahu, for both the West Bank and Gaza, which must be implemented in full and supplemented by additional steps.

27. Violence in or emanating from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continued, manifesting itself in terror attacks and settler violence against Palestinians — also in retaliation to Government of Israel action, including against illegal outposts — as well as in the context of Israeli security operations. In total, 14 Palestinians were killed, including three militants, and 1,398 injured by Israel Defense Forces. Settler violence against Palestinians increased, killing 3 and injuring 182 during 366 settler attacks on Palestinians and their property, including the uprooting of thousands of olive trees. Four Muslim holy sites were also desecrated during the reporting period, including two arson attacks on West Bank mosques in October and June. There was a slight decrease in Israeli incursions and arrests in the West Bank, which however remained at a very high level despite improved Palestinian security performance and cooperation with the Israeli Defense Forces. In the same period, there were also 63 Palestinian attacks on settlers, in which 6 Israelis were killed and 27 injured in the West Bank. On 12 March, a family of five were murdered in the West Bank settlement of Itamar in a shocking act of violence, which I and the Quartet strongly condemned. On 29 August, eight Israelis were wounded when a Palestinian from the West Bank ran a car into a group of youth and police in Tel Aviv. I consistently condemned all attacks that indiscriminately targeted civilians and called for international humanitarian law to be upheld in all circumstances. I also urged the parties to seek out those responsible for such violent incidents and bring them to justice.

28. I believe that legitimate Israeli and Palestinian security concerns can be best addressed by intensified cooperation, continued empowerment of the Palestinian Authority’s security efforts and performance, further curtailment of incursions by the Israeli Defense Forces into Palestinian areas, full respect for legitimate non-violent protest, determined action by the Government of Israel to curb settler violence, Palestinian action against incitement, economic development and, most importantly, the resumption of a credible political process of negotiation.

29. Although plans to hold 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.

30. Contrary to the 9 July 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, the barrier continued to deviate significantly from the 1967 Green Line into occupied Palestinian territory. It restricts Palestinian access to East Jerusalem, key social services and agricultural land. Protests against the construction of the barrier by Palestinian, Israeli and foreign activists continued during the reporting period, resulting at times in clashes with Israeli security forces.

31. In accordance with General Assembly resolution ES-10/17 of 15 December 2006, on 27 June 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. During her visit in February, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted the intensely negative impact that the fragmentation of the West Bank by the Wall, settlements and checkpoints was having on human rights, peace, development and the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

32. The Government of Israel continued to maintain a regime of closure of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas continued to exercise de facto control.

33. The reporting period witnessed alarming escalations of tension between Gaza and Israel, most notably in January, March, April and August. In April, an anti-tank guided missile hit an Israeli school bus killing a teenage passenger and injuring the bus driver. Israel retaliated by launching heavy military operations. Calm was restored on 10 April. The calm was broken when, on 18 August, coordinated terrorist attacks killed eight Israelis, including six civilians in southern Israel. The attacks were followed by retaliatory strikes by Israel on targets in Gaza. I immediately strongly condemned the 18 August terrorist attacks and called for all to act with restraint. Both in April and August, Egypt and the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process played an important role in defusing the tension.

34. Overall during the reporting period, Palestinian militants fired 961 rockets and mortar shells, in which 2 Israeli civilians were killed and 36 injured. With respect to Israeli military personnel, one was killed and two were injured in Gaza during the same period. The Israel Defense Forces carried out 224 air strikes and 122 incursions. In total, 43 Palestinian civilians were killed and 350 injured in Gaza. Seventy militants were also killed and 70 injured. The United Nations consistently expressed concern at actions by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza to escalate violence, endangering civilians on both sides. The United Nations also consistently called for maximum restraint from Israel and urged full observance by all parties of their obligations regarding the protection of civilians.

35. Addressing the dire conditions of the civilian population and rebuilding a viable economy in Gaza, including by reviving the legitimate private sector, remained major priorities for the United Nations. To that end, the United Nations engaged intensively with the Government of Israel and within the Middle East Quartet to promote reconstruction, to further liberalize imports, in particular of construction materials, and to allow exports.

36. In this regard, I welcomed further measures taken by the Government of Israel during the reporting period to ease the closure. Egypt also eased the movement of persons at the Rafah crossing point. However, the closure continued to have a serious humanitarian impact on civilians and perpetuate an unsustainable and unacceptable situation for the population of Gaza. I consistently urged the Government of Israel to lift the blockade within the framework of resolution 1860 (2009), while also recalling that Israel’s legitimate security concerns should be addressed, including by putting in place mechanisms to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms into Gaza.

37. The United Nations continued to call for free movement of people into and out of Gaza and a full reopening of all official land crossings, as well as an expansion of their capacity. The United Nations also put forward programming aimed at revitalizing the private sector and rehabilitating public health infrastructure. Israel approved a total of $265 million in United Nations reconstruction projects as of the end of August, which was a welcome and significant start to address Gaza’s basic needs.

38. However, construction materials were still not allowed free entry and were approved only for international projects. As a consequence, they were imported through the illicit tunnel trade to Gaza’s markets. This only empowered those who control trafficking at the expense of the legitimate commercial sector.

39. Overall during the reporting period, economic recovery continued in Gaza — albeit from a low base — driven in part by public expenditure, donor aid, tunnel traffic, increased imports from Israel and limited exports. However unemployment remained high, at 26 per cent in the second quarter of 2011. As of the end of the reporting period, 38 per cent of Gazans were living in poverty, and 75 per cent of the Gaza population remained dependent on humanitarian assistance.

40. Reports of increasing human rights abuses, extrajudicial executions and political arrests in the Gaza Strip remained a source of deep concern. The United Nations noted with alarm attempts by the Hamas de facto authorities to undermine the independence of local human rights organizations, in particular their decision to close down a number of civil associations, including the Sharek Youth Forum, which had been an important partner of the United Nations. Also alarming was the storming by Hamas security forces on 15 March of international news channel offices. The Hamas de facto authorities should allow both civic and media organizations to carry out their activities in full respect of the freedom of the press, as well as the freedoms of association and expression. Equally important is to ensure full respect for the work of United Nations agencies, some of whose activities in support of Palestinian beneficiaries have been misrepresented.

41. Other incidents in Gaza continued to underline the challenging security environment facing the humanitarian community and the United Nations. On 15 April, Italian citizen Vittorio Arrigoni was abducted and murdered, reportedly by a Salafist group. I deplored this crime. On 25 June, a bomb was detonated near the compound of the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, causing only material damage to the perimeter wall.

42. I remain deeply concerned by the fate of Israeli Staff Sergeant Shalit, who has been in Hamas captivity for more than five years. I reiterated my call for humanitarian access and for his unconditional and immediate release. I also continued to support efforts for the completion of a prisoner exchange agreement. Approximately 5,500 Palestinian prisoners remain in Israeli jails, and while their number is decreasing at a rate of about 800 to 1,000 each year, I continue to follow their situation with concern, including that of women, children and other persons held without trial. I continued to call for the release of Palestinian prisoners to the Palestinian Authority.

43. In an effort to enable Gaza’s society to engage with the world, the United Nations facilitated the visit to Gaza of United Nations Messenger for Peace Daniel Barenboim and musicians from leading European orchestras who performed a concert on 3 May. On 16 June, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) summer games were launched, providing thousands of Gazan children with recreational and learning activities.

44. The Panel of Inquiry into the 31 May 2010 flotilla incident concluded its work and submitted its report on 2 September. The Panel was an independent body tasked with making findings about the facts, circumstances and context of the incident that took place in the Mediterranean Sea on 31 May 2010 and with recommending ways of avoiding similar incidents in the future.

45. Bearing in mind Security Council resolutions 1850 (2008) and 1860 (2009), I continued to support efforts to advance Palestinian unity within the framework of the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the positions of the Quartet and the Arab Peace Initiative. I welcomed efforts made towards bringing the division to an end, notably by Egypt.

46. Following popular calls, President Abbas and the Hamas leadership accelerated discussions on unity. On 4 May, Palestinian factions signed a reconciliation agreement under Egyptian auspices. Discussions over the implementation of the accord continued during the following months, with little progress so far.

47. Popular demonstrations demanding political change and social justice have swept across the region since December. The Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel were not immune to the fallout of this movement. On 15 March, demonstrations were held in major West Bank cities, calling for an end to the Israeli occupation and to Palestinian division. Larger demonstrations were held in Gaza, which were regrettably suppressed by the security forces of Hamas. On 15 May, referred to by Palestinians as “Nakba Day”, demonstrations along the disengagement line in the occupied Golan, the Blue Line, in the West Bank and in Gaza resulted in numerous casualties following violent clashes with the Israeli forces. Demonstrations had traditionally occurred on this day in the past, but on a smaller scale. Both the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force remained in close contact with the parties in order to restore calm. I expressed deep concern at the significant number of people killed or injured and called on all concerned to exercise restraint. On 5 June, demonstrations again took place in the West Bank and in the occupied Golan, which resulted in the deaths of 23 persons.

48. In Israel, large scale popular demonstrations against rising costs of living were held in July and August.

49. 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 in the service of the United Nations under difficult, at times dangerous, circumstances, marked by restrictions on their free movement and access. I have repeatedly protested these restrictions to the Government of Israel and look forward to improvements in this regard.

50. Peace and Palestinian statehood are long overdue. I am acutely conscious of the unsustainable status quo, which is only thrown into sharper relief by the profound political changes now under way in the region. I remain convinced that direct and meaningful negotiations are the main avenue towards a comprehensive, fair and lasting solution that fulfils the aspirations of Israel and the Palestinians, including an end to occupation, an end to conflict, and a just and agreed solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees.

51. I am seriously concerned at the lack of progress, during the reporting period, in the search for a negotiated solution which would bring Israel and the Palestinians closer to 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. The failure of the parties to meet their target of September 2011 to conclude a final status agreement, or even to resume negotiations, is a serious setback. I therefore call upon all parties to show leadership, courage and responsibility to arrive at a mutually agreeable and lasting peace that would resolve all final status issues. To this end, it is my sincere hope that the parties pursue vigorously all efforts to create an environment that is conducive to the resumption of direct and meaningful negotiations. 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, and call on them to pursue their efforts to improve law and order, 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 provide effective help by shaping a legitimate and balanced framework that offers a credible political path forward, combined with far-reaching steps on the ground.

52. 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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