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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
31 December 2014


Division for Palestinian Rights


DEVELOPMENTS RELATED TO THE MIDDLE EAST

PEACE PROCESS

Issue 29 • January-December 2014



Remarks by US Secretary of State Kerry at Munich Security Conference
Munich, 1 February 2014
·
Remarks by US President Obama and Palestinian President Abbas at the White House
Washington, D.C., 17 March 2014
·
Statement by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Ashton
Brussels, 27 April 2014
·
Readout of National Security Advisor Susan Rice's Meeting with Palestinian President Abbas
Ramallah, 8 May 2014

Remarks by Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Indyk
Washington, D.C., 8 May 2014
·
Press Release by the Office of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Ashton
Brussels, 12 May 2014
·
Press release by the Office of the Quartet Representative Blair
London, 19 June 2014
·
Statement by Quartet Representative Blair on the ongoing situation in Israel and the Palestinian territory
London, 24 June 2014
·
Press release by OIC on its Executive Committee’s Extraordinary Meeting on Grave Situation in Palestine
Jeddah, 9 July 2014
·
Remarks by UK Foreign Secretary Hague on the situation in Gaza
London, 8 July 2014
·
Readout of US President Obama’s Call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
Washington D.C., 10 July 2014
·
Readout of US President Obama’s call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
Washington D.C., 20 July 2014
·
Remarks by U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Samantha Power at a Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East
New York, 22 July 2014
·
European Union statement on the situation in Gaza
Brussels, 25 July 2014
·
European Council conclusions on the Middle East (Gaza)
Brussels, 15 August 2014
·
European Council conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process
Brussels, 17 November 2014
·
Press Availability by US Secretary of State Kerry
London, 16 December 2014
·
Press release by European Parliament on the Resolution on recognition of Palestine statehood
Brussels, 17 December 2014
·
Explanation of vote by US Permanent Representative to the UN Samantha Power at the Security Council Session on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
New York, 30 December 2014
·
Explanation of vote by Permanent Representative of France to the UN François Delattre at the Security Council Session on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
New York, 30 December 2014

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Remarks by US Secretary of State Kerry at the Munich Security Conference
Munich, 1 February 2014

On the side-lines of the Munich Security Conference held on 1 February 2014, US Secretary of State Kerry and US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel made remarks to the press. Excerpts of the remarks by Secretary Kerry are reproduced below:

/...

With the help of the EU and the Quartet, we are pursuing a long-sought and much-needed peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I have to tell you, the alternatives to successfully concluding the conflict, when you stop and list them, are or ought to be unacceptable to anybody. If you look at it hard, you ought to come out and say failure is not an option, though regrettably the dynamics always present the possibility.

And so together we need to help the parties break through the skepticism, which is half the challenge, and begin to believe in the possibilities that are within their grasp. As President Obama said on Tuesday, “In a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depend on all the elements of our power – including strong and principled diplomacy.” And it depends on harnessing the power of our strongest alliances, too. No one country can possibly hope to solve any of the challenges that I have listed on its own.

/...


I am willing to take risks, but I’m not willing to hang myself here. (Laughter.) So I’m not going to tell you how optimistic I am. I’m going to tell you that I’m hopeful. I believe in the possibility or I wouldn’t pursue this. President Obama believes in the possibility. I don’t think we’re being quixotic and un – I’m a little surprised by some of the articles that tend to write about an obsession or a fanatical effort to try to achieve this, et cetera. We’re just working hard. We’re working hard because the consequences of failure are unacceptable.

I mean, I want you all to think about it. Ask yourselves a simple question: What happens if we can’t find a way forward? Is Fatah going to be stronger? Will Abu Mazen be strengthened? Will this man who has been committed to a peaceful process for these last years be able to hold on if it fails? What is the argument for holding on? Are we going to then see militancy? Will we then see violence? Will we then see transformation? What comes afterwards? Nobody can answer that question with any kind of comfort.

By the same token, for our friends, I see good Minister Tzipi Livni here, who has been absolutely spectacular in this process, committed to it. Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken very tough decisions to move this down the road, very tough decisions, as has President Abbas, who had the right to go to the United Nations and has foresworn it in an effort to try to keep at the table and keep the process moving.

For Israel, the stakes are also enormously high. Do they want a failure that then begs whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community? What happens to the Arab Peace Initiative if this fails? Does it disappear? What happens for Israel’s capacity to be the Israel it is today – a democratic state with the particular special Jewish character that is a central part of the narrative and of the future? What happens to that when you have a bi-national structure and people demanding rights on different terms?

So I think if you – and I’m only just scratching the surface in talking about the possibilities, and I’ve learned not to go too deep in them because it gets misinterpreted that I’m somehow suggesting, “Do this or else,” or something. I’m not. We all have a powerful, powerful interest in resolving this conflict. Everywhere I go in the world, wherever I go – I promise you, no exaggeration, the Far East, Africa, Latin America – one of the first questions out of the mouths of a foreign minister or a prime minister or a president is, “Can’t you guys do something to help bring an end to this conflict between Palestinians and Israelis?” Indonesia – people care about it because it’s become either in some places an excuse or in other places an organizing principle for efforts that can be very troubling in certain places. I believe that – and you see for Israel there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?

So I am not going to sit here and give you a measure of optimism, but I will give you a full measure of commitment. President Obama and I and our Administration are as committed to this as anything we’re engaged in because we think it can be a game-changer for the region. And as Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed said – he’s here somewhere – to a Paris meeting of the Arab League the other day, spontaneously he said, “You know, if peace is made, Israel will do more business with the Gulf states and the Middle East than it does with Europe today.”

This is the difference of 6 percent GDP per year to Israel, not to mention that today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace. Last year, not one Israeli was killed by a Palestinian from the West Bank. This year, unfortunately, there’s been an uptick in some violence. But the fact is the status quo will change if there is failure. So everybody has a stake in trying to find the pathway to success.

The final comment I would say, Mr. Ambassador, is after all of these years, after Wye, after Madrid, after Oslo, after Taba, after Camp David, after everything that has gone on, I doubt there’s anyone sitting here who doesn’t actually know pretty much what a final status agreement actually looks like. The question is: How do you get there? That’s political courage, political strength, and that’s what we have to try to summon in the next days. And I’ll just tell you I am hopeful and we will keep working at it. And we have great partners of good faith to work with, and I’m appreciative for that.

/...
Remarks by US President Obama and Palestinian President Abbas at the White House
Washington, D.C., 17 March 2014

On 17 March 2014, during the official visit of Palestinian President Abbas to the US, President Obama and President Abbas made the following remarks to the press following a bilateral meeting:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I want to welcome President Abbas to the Oval Office. It was a year ago this week that I had the opportunity to visit the Palestinian Territories and very much appreciated the hospitality that President Abbas showed when I was there. I had a wonderful time meeting with a wide range of civil society and officials and business leaders in the Palestinian Territories, including young people who were inspiring and I think had great hope for the future.

Today, we’re going to spend the bulk of our time talking about something that we’ve been working on for a very long time and obviously President Abbas has been working on a long time, and that is how do we achieve a comprehensive peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

And I have to commend President Abbas. He has been somebody who has consistently renounced violence, has consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states, side by side, in peace and security; a state that allows for the dignity and sovereignty of the Palestinian people and a state that allows for Israelis to feel secure and at peace with their neighbors.

This is obviously an elusive goal, and there’s a reason why it’s taken decades for us to even get to the point where we are now. But we remain convinced that there is an opportunity. And I think everybody understands the outlines of what a peace deal would look like, involving a territorial compromise on both sides based on ‘67 lines with mutually agreed upon swaps, that would ensure that Israel was secure but would also ensure that the Palestinians have a sovereign state in which they can achieve the aspirations that they’ve held for so long.

Secretary Kerry is here today and has been working diligently with all sides. And as I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when he was here just a couple of weeks ago, I believe that now is the time for not just the leaders of both sides but also the peoples of both sides to embrace this opportunity for peace. But we’re going to have a lot of details that we’re going to have to discuss. It’s very hard; it’s very challenging. We’re going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we’re able to move it forward. And my hope is, is that we can continue to see progress in the coming days and weeks.

I also want to point out that the Palestinian Authority has continued to try to build strong institutions in preparation for a day in which the Palestinians have their own state, and I will continue to emphasize the importance of rule of law, transparency, and effective reform so that not only do the Palestinians ultimately have a state on paper, but, more importantly, they have one that actually delivers on behalf of their people.

The United States obviously has been a strong supporter of the Palestinian Authority. We’re the largest humanitarian donor and continue to help to try to foster economic development and opportunity and prosperity for people, particularly young people like those that I met.

So, Mr. President, welcome. I look forward to a productive discussion, and continue to hope that you and Prime Minister Netanyahu, but, more importantly, the people of the Palestinian Territories and Israel are ready to move forward in a new spirit of cooperation and compromise.
Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (As interpreted.) Thank you very much, Mr. President, and thank you for allowing us this opportunity, which we consider to be historic, for us to come here to the White House so that the efforts that you and Mr. Kerry expend -- these are great efforts -- would be successful so that we can also reach a lasting peace to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

And I would like to also seize this opportunity to thank you, Mr. President, for the economic and political support that the U.S. is extending to the Palestinian state so that it can stand on its own feet.

I would also like to affirm what you have said, that we are working for a solution that is based on international legitimacy and also the borders -- the 1967 borders so that the Palestinians can have their own independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital and so that we can find a fair and lasting solution to the refugee problem.

We don’t have any time to waste. Time is not on our side, especially given the very difficult situation that the Middle East is experiencing and the entire region is facing. We hope that we would be able to seize this opportunity to achieve a lasting peace.

Since 1988 and into 1993, we have been extending our hands to our Israeli neighbors so that we can reach a fair and lasting peace to this problem. Since 1988, we have recognized international legitimacy resolutions and this was a very courageous step on the part of the Palestinian leadership. And in 1993, we recognized the state of Israel.

Mr. President, we have an agreement with Israel, that was brokered by Mr. Kerry concerning the release of the fourth batch of prisoners and we are hopeful that the fourth batch will be released by the 29th of March because this will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of these efforts to achieve peace.

Mr. President, I’m aware that you have several international concerns in various places around the world and we know that you are dedicating your time and effort for peace, and so are the teams that are working on this. We count on these efforts and we will build on them because we consider this to be a historic opportunity to achieve peace.

Thank you very much.

END
Statement by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Ashton
Brussels, 27 April 2014

On 27 April 2014, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission issued the following statement on the latest developments in the Middle East Peace Process:

I am extremely concerned at recent developments related to the peace process, which are putting into question the continued negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians beyond the original deadline of 29 April 2014.

I reiterate the EU's full support to the US-brokered peace efforts and I call on both parties to remain focused on negotiations and on the unprecedented benefits which peace can bring. Negotiations are the best way forward.
The extensive efforts deployed in recent months must not go to waste.

The EU calls on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid any action which may further undermine peace efforts and the viability of a two-state solution.

The EU has consistently supported infra-Palestinian reconciliation but on clear and certain terms. The EU reiterated that such reconciliation should take place behind President Abbas in line with the principles set out in his speech of 4 May 2011. The EU expects any new government to uphold the principle of non-violence, to remain committed to achieving a two-state solution and to a negotiated peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, accepting previous agreements and obligations, including Israel's legitimate right to exist.

Reconciliation on these terms is an important element for the unity of a future Palestinian state and for reaching a two-state solution and a lasting peace.

The EU welcomes the prospect of genuine democratic elections for all Palestinians. The fact that President Abbas will remain fully in charge of the negotiation process and have a mandate to negotiate in the name of all Palestinians provides further assurance that the peace negotiations can and must proceed.

Readout of National Security Advisor Susan Rice's Meeting with Palestinian President Abbas
Ramallah, 8 May 2014

On 8 May 2014, National Security Advisor Susan Rice met with the Palestinian President Abbas in Ramallah. The following is the text of the readout on the meeting issued by the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary:

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice met with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority today in Ramallah. On Israeli- Palestinian negotiations, Ambassador Rice underscored that while we have come to a pause in the parties’ talks, the United States believes the only way to achieve lasting peace is through direct negotiations that lead to two viable, independent states living side-by-side in peace and security. As she did in her meetings with Israeli officials, Ambassador Rice emphasized with President Abbas the importance of each side managing the current situation in a way that reduces tensions and preserves space to pursue a two-state solution when both sides are prepared to take the decisions necessary to resume substantive negotiations.

Ambassador Rice underscored the United States' strong support for the continued development of Palestinian Authority institutions that deliver effectively for the Palestinian people, as well as the U.S. commitment to support economic development and opportunity for the Palestinian people. Ambassador Rice was also clear about the principles that must guide a Palestinian government in order for it to play a constructive role in achieving peace and building an independent Palestinian state. She reiterated U.S. policy that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties. Ambassador Rice thanked President Abbas for his leadership and his longstanding commitment to these principles and his public statements that any government that is formed will be his government and represent his policies.

Prior to her meeting with President Abbas, Ambassador Rice had an opportunity to meet with Palestinian youth at an event hosted by the U.S. Consulate General to hear their views and underscore U.S. support for young Palestinians working for a more prosperous and hopeful future.



Remarks by Special Envoy for
Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Indyk on the Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
Washington, D.C., 8 May 2014

On 8 May 2014, Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk made the following remarks at the Washington Institute's Weinberg Conference in Washington D.C.:

Last July, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry launched a vigorous effort to reach a final status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Now it is early May, we have passed the nine-month marker for these negotiations, and for the time being the talks have been suspended. Some have said this process is over. But that is not correct. Asm y little story testifies. As you all know well— in the Middle East, it’s never over.

Think back to the spring of 1975, the year the United States brokered the Sinai II agreement. In March of that year, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger set out to the region to broker a second disengagement agreement between Israel and Egypt. After ten days of shuttling back and forth between the parties, the Secretary of State suspended his efforts and returned to Washington empty handed. The President, President Ford, and the Secretary announced they would step back. Kissinger vented his frustration. Maybe a David Ben-Gurion or a Golda Meir could lead Israel to a peace agreement, he fumed, but never a Yitzhak Rabin! We learned a little later what a peacemaker Yitzhak Rabin could be.

Everybody thought it was over. Of course, as we know now, everybody was wrong. A few months later the talks were restarted, and soon thereafter a deal was reached.

What was true then is possibly true today: this process is always difficult, but it is never impossible.

But in certain ways, things were more difficult in the Kissinger days and in some ways, they were easier. For an audience that loves Middle East history, I think it is interesting to take stock of what has changed and what has stayed the same since Henry’s time.

In some ways things are easier in the Israeli-Palestinian context today than in the past.

The international context for peacemaking is better today. The Cold War and fear that a conflict in the Middle East would trigger a nuclear superpower confrontation is no longer there.

The region has not faced an all-out Arab-Israeli war in 40 years. Peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan have held today despite very difficult circumstances—two intifadas, conflicts with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and of course the Arab Revolutions. Turmoil in the Mideast is bringing Israelis and Arab states closer together. Indeed, there is a virtual realignment taking place between the enemies of moderation on the one side and the proponents of moderation on the other that crossed the Arab Israeli divide. As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has noted, “many Arab leaders today already realize that Israel is not their enemy, that peace with the Palestinians would turn our relations with them and with many Arab countries into open and thriving relationships.”

In the Israeli-Palestinian domestic arena there is, in some ways, greater political realism than before. Back in Kissinger’s day, Golda Meir said there was no such thing as a Palestinian people. Now a Likud prime minister says there has to be two states for two people. Back then, Yasser Arafat was committed to Israel’s destruction. Today, his successor, Abu Mazen, is committed to living alongside Israel in peace.

The U.S.-Israel relationship has also changed in quite dramatic ways. Only those who know it from the inside – as I have had the privilege to do – can testify to how deep and strong are the ties that now bind our two nations. When President Obama speaks with justifiable pride about those bonds as “unbreakable” he means what he says. And he knows of what he speaks. Unlike the “reassessment” Kissinger did in the Ford Administration, there is one significant difference: President Obama and Secretary Kerry would never suspend U.S.-Israel military relations as their predecessors did back then. Those military relations are too important to both our nations.
However, in many respects, when it comes to peace negotiations, things have proven to be much harder today than in the 1970s.

Kissinger faced Israelis and Egyptians who were coming off the painful 1973 war. I was an Australian student in Israel at the time. I remember well the sense of existential dread in the country brought on by the scope of Israeli casualties, and I remember also a willingness to consider withdrawals from Sinai that had previously been ruled out. Few of you remember Moshe Dayan stated before the 1973 war that he would rather have Sharm el Sheikh than peace. Egypt also had a sense of urgency, generated by Sadat’s belief that only peace with Israel could change Egypt’s dire circumstances and only U.S. diplomacy could achieve that peace.

Yet, where is this sense of urgency today? To be absolutely clear, I am not for a moment suggesting that violence is necessary to produce urgency and flexibility. That is abhorrent. We are very fortunate to have two leaders, in President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, who are committed to achieving a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through peaceful means.

But one problem that revealed itself in these past nine months is that the parties, although both showing flexibility in the negotiations, do not feel the pressing need to make the gut-wrenching compromises necessary to achieve peace. It is easier for the Palestinians to sign conventions and appeal to international bodies in their supposed pursuit of “justice” and their “rights,” a process which by definition requires no compromise. It is easier for Israeli politicians to avoid tension in the governing coalition and for the Israeli people to maintain the current comfortable status quo. It is safe to say that if we the US are the only party that has a sense of urgency, these negotiations will not succeed.

Kissinger also had the advantage of being able to pursue peace incrementally – what he labeled the “step-by-step” approach. He told me recently that he introduced that idea because, after the trauma of the Yom Kippur War, he believed Israeli society could not handle the big jump to a total withdrawal from Sinai. It took six years from war to peace on the Israeli-Egyptian front. On the Israeli-Palestinian front, the Oslo Accords provided for an interim process that was supposed to last five years. It has now been twenty years since Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House south lawn. Since then, thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have died and the interim process is now thoroughly stuck, with further redeployments and road maps turned into road kill along the way.

An interim period that was designed to build trust has in fact exacerbated mistrust: suicide bombings, the second intifada, and continuous settlement growth have led many people on both sides to lose faith. This is why Secretary Kerry, with the full backing of President Obama, decided to try this time around for a conflict-ending agreement.

There are other differences too. Egypt is a state with a five thousand year history, capable of living up to its commitments. The Palestinians are just now in the process of building their state and given the bitter experience of the second intifada and the consequences of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Israelis don’t trust them to live up to any of their commitments. Even now, after a serious U.S.-led endeavour to build credible Palestinian security services, after seven years of security cooperation that the IDF and the Shin Bet now highly appreciate, and Abu Mazen’s efforts to promote non-violence in the face of pressure from extremists, the fundamental mistrust remains.

The geographic context is different too. The Sinai Peninsula is a 200 kilometre buffer zone between Israel and Egypt. Israelis and Palestinians live virtually on top of each other. Moreover, the geographic issues are at the heart of what it means to be a Palestinian or an Israeli. The core issues – land, refugees, Jerusalem – have defined both peoples for a very long time. It is part of their identity in a way that the Sinai desert was not.

Now, as back in 1975, we face a breakdown in talks, with both sides trying to put the blame on the other party. The fact is both the Israelis and Palestinians missed opportunities, and took steps that undermined the process. We have spoken publicly about unhelpful Israeli steps that combined to undermine the negotiations. But it is important to be clear: We view steps the Palestinians took during the negotiations as unhelpful too. Signing accession letters to fifteen international treaties at the very moment when we were attempting to secure the release of the fourth tranche of prisoners was particularly counterproductive. And the final step that led to the suspension of the negotiations at the end of April was the announcement of a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement while we were working intensively on an effort to extend the negotiations.

But it is much more important to focus on where we go from here. And it is critical that both sides now refrain from taking any steps that could lead to an escalation and dangerous spiral that could easily get out of control. Thus far since the negotiations been suspended they have both shown restraint and it is essential that this continue.

We have also spoken about the impact of settlement activity. Just during the past nine months of negotiations, tenders for building 4,800 units were announced and planning was advanced for another 8,000 units. It’s true that most of the tendered units are slated to be built in areas that even Palestinian maps in the past have indicated would be part of Israel. Yet the planning units were largely outside that area in the West Bank. And from the Palestinian experience, there is no distinction between planning and building. Indeed, according to the Israeli Bureau of Census and Statistics, from 2012 to 2013 construction starts in West Bank settlements more than doubled. That’s why Secretary Kerry believes it is essential to delineate the borders and establish the security arrangements in parallel with all the other permanent status issues. In that way, once a border is agreed each party would be free to build in its own state.

I also worry about a more subtle threat to the character of the Jewish state. Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has made clear, the fundamental purpose of these negotiations is to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state − not a de facto bi-national state. The settlement movement on the other hand may well drive Israel into an irreversible binational reality. If you care about Israel’s future, as I know so many of you do and as I do, you should understand that rampant settlement activity – especially in the midst of negotiations – doesn’t just undermine Palestinian trust in the purpose of the negotiations; it can undermine Israel’s Jewish future. If this continues, it could mortally wound the idea of Israel as a Jewish state – and that would be a tragedy of historic proportions.

Public opinion was another element that we found very challenging over the past 9 months. Kissinger focused very little on this element, because while the Israelis and Egyptians fought wars with each other, their societies were not physically intertwined. The peace between two states mediated by Dr. Kissinger was not psychologically difficult. Israelis and Palestinians by contrast are both physically intertwined and psychologically separated and terrorism and occupation have added to the trauma between the peoples, making everything harder.

Consistently over the last decade polling on both sides reveals majority support for the two state solution. But as many of you know neither side believes the other side wants it and neither seems to understand the concerns of the other. For example, Palestinians don’t comprehend the negative impact of their incitement on the attitudes of Israelis. When Palestinians who murdered Israeli women and children are greeted as “heroes” in celebration of their release, who can blame the Israeli public – parents who lost children, and children who lost parents – for feeling despair. On the other side, Palestinians feel that Israelis don’t even see their suffering any more, thanks to the success of the security barrier and the security cooperation. One Palestinian negotiator told his Israeli counterparts in one of our sessions: “You just don’t see us; we are like ghosts to you.”

Israelis don’t seem to appreciate the highly negative impact on the Palestinian public of the IDF’s demolition of Palestinian homes, or military operations in populated Palestinians towns that are supposed to be the sole security responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, or the perceived double standard applied to settlers involved in “price tag” attacks. Palestinians cannot imagine how offended and suspicious Israelis become when they call Jews only a religion and not a people. Israelis cannot understand why it took a Palestinian leader 65 years to acknowledge the enormity of the Holocaust; Palestinians cannot understand why their leader should have been denigrated rather than applauded for now doing so. And the list goes on and on.

The upshot of these competing narratives, grievances and insensitivities is that they badly affected the environment for negotiations. While serious efforts were under way behind closed doors, we tried to get the leaders and their spokesmen to engage in synchronized positive messaging to their publics. Instead, Prime Minister Netanyahu was understandably infuriated by the outrageous claims of Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator no less, that the Prime Minister was plotting the assassination of the Palestinian president. And Abu Mazen was humiliated by false Israeli claims that he had agreed to increased settlement activity in return for the release of prisoners.

So, why then in the face of all of this, do I believe that direct negotiations can still deliver peace? Because over the last nine months, behind the closed doors of the negotiating rooms, I've witnessed Israelis and Palestinians engaging in serious and intensive negotiations. I’ve seen Prime Minister Netanyahu straining against his deeply-held beliefs to find ways to meet Palestinian requirements. I’ve seen Abu Mazen ready to put his state’s security in American hands to overcome Israeli distrust of Palestinian intentions. I have seen moments where both sides have been unwilling to walk in each other’s shoes. But I have also witnessed moments of recognition by both sides of what is necessary. I have seen moments when both sides talked past each other without being able to recognize it. But I have also seen moments of genuine camaraderie and engagement in the negotiating room to find a settlement to these vexing challenges.

The reality is that aside from Camp David and Annapolis, serious permanent status talks have been a rarity since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. For all of its flaws, this makes the past nine months important. In twenty rounds over the first six months, we managed to define clearly the gaps that separate the parties on all the core issues. And since then we have conducted intensive negotiations with the leaders and their teams to try to bridge those gaps. Under the leadership of General Allen, we have done unprecedented work to determine how best to meet Israel’s security requirements in the context of a two state solution -- which Secretary Kerry has emphasized from Day One is absolutely essential to any meaningful resolution to this conflict. As a result we are all now better informed about what it will take to achieve a permanent status agreement.

One thing that will never change and is as true today as it was during Kissinger’s time is that peace is always worth pursuing, no matter how difficult the path. Indeed, until the very last minute it may seem impossible, as it did in Kissinger’s day. The cynics and critics will sit on the sidelines and jeer. They will say I told you so. They are doing it already. They will even claim that the United States is disengaging from the world, even as we have been deeply engaged in this issue that matters so much to so many of our partners around the globe. But we will make no apologies for pursuing the goal of peace. Secretary Kerry certainly won’t. And President Obama won’t. To quote Secretary Kerry “the United States has a responsibility to lead, not to find the pessimism and negativity that’s so easily prevalent in the world today.”

And the benefits are just too important to let go. For Palestinians: A sovereign state of their own. A dignified future. A just solution for the refugees. For Israelis: A more secure Jewish and democratic homeland. An opportunity to tap into the potential for a strategic alliance and deep economic relations with its Arab neighbors. For all of us. For all of the children of Abraham. An opportunity for a more prosperous, peaceful, and secure future.

Whether we get there or not, however, ultimately comes down to leadership. After a five months pause, Kissinger was able to resume the negotiations with Rabin and Sadat and bring them to a successful Sinai II Disengagement Agreement because Rabin was eventually capable of overcoming his political constraints and Sadat was prepared to make positive gestures that made it possible for Rabin to do so. As Dr. Kissinger has noted, “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been before.”

Let’s hope it won’t take a five month pause this time. Let’s hope that President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu are able to overcome the hurdles that now lie on that path back to the negotiating table. When they are ready, they will certainly find in Secretary Kerry and President Obama willing partners in the effort to try again – if they are prepared to do so in a serious way. The obvious truth is that neither Israelis nor Palestinians are going away. They must find a way to live together in peace, respecting each other, side-by-side, in two independent states. There is no other solution. The United States stands ready to assist in this task, to help the leaders take their peoples to where they have never been, but where they still dream of going.

Thank you very much.


Press release by the Office of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Ashton
Brussels, 12 May 2014

Following the European Council’s meeting on foreign affairs held on 12 May 2014, the Office of the EU High Commissioner Ashton issued the following statement on the Middle East Peace Process:

/...

Middle East peace process

The Council discussed the state of play in the Middle East peace process and adopted the following conclusions:

“1. The EU is extremely concerned at recent developments related to the peace process. The EU has fully supported and praises US peace efforts deployed by Secretary of State Kerry and his team. The extensive efforts deployed in recent months must not go to waste.

2. A negotiated two-state solution remains the best way to resolve the conflict once and for all. The EU regrets that despite US efforts, greater progress has not been made by the parties to date in the talks. The EU urges the parties to use the coming weeks to find the common ground and political strength needed to resume this process and to make the necessary bold decisions. The EU remains determined to do all it can to support that goal, including through the offer of a Special Privileged Partnership, which will ensure unprecedented economic, political and security support for both parties in the event of a final status agreement.

3. The European Union recalls previous Council conclusions which have laid down its vision for a two-state solution resulting in an agreement on all final status issues, ending all claims, and fulfilling the legitimate aspirations of both parties. A one state reality would not be compatible with such aspirations.

4. The EU calls on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid any unilateral action which may further undermine peace efforts and the viability of a two-state-solution, such as continued settlement expansion. The European Union will continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.

5. The EU has consistently supported intra-Palestinian reconciliation on clear and certain terms. The EU looks forward to continuing its support, including through direct financial assistance, for a possible new Palestinian government composed of independent figures that commits to the principles set out in President Abbas' speech in Cairo on 4 May 2011. Such a government should uphold the principle of non-violence, and remain committed to achieving a two-state solution and to a negotiated peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accepting previous agreements and obligations, including Israel's legitimate right to exist. The EU's engagement with a new Palestinian government will be based on its adherence to these policies and commitments. Reconciliation on these terms is an important element for the unity of a future Palestinian state and for reaching a two-state solution and a lasting peace. The EU welcomes the prospect of genuine democratic elections for all Palestinians.

6. The EU underlines that Mahmoud Abbas, as President of the PLO, remains fully in charge of the negotiation process and is mandated to negotiate in the name of all Palestinians and that the peace negotiations can and must be resumed.

/...


Press release by the Office of the Quartet Representative Blair
London, 19 June 2014

Following the visit of Quartet Representative Tony Blair to Jerusalem, where he met with Israeli PM Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas, the Office of the Quartet Representative issued the following press-release on 19 June 2014:

Quartet Representative Tony Blair was in Jerusalem this week to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and discuss recent developments.

Mr. Blair met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and condemned the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frankel and Gil-ad Shaar. He also met with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
In Ramallah, he met Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Mustapha, as well as additional Palestinian figures.

PM Hamdallah briefed the Quartet Representative on the latest Palestinian political developments, as well as the initial efforts to reintegrate the Palestinian Authority institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hamdallah also raised the issue of the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinians held in administrative detention in Israel. Mr. Blair’s meeting with Deputy PM Mustafa focused on the continuing efforts to roll-out the Initiative for the Palestinian Economy.



Statement by Quartet Representative Blair on the ongoing situation in Israel and the Palestinian territory
London, 24 June 2014

On 24 June 2014, commenting on the ongoing situation in Israel and the Palestinian territory, Quartet Representative Tony Blair made the following statement:

“I am deeply troubled by the ongoing events in Israel and the Palestinian territories, including the deaths of Palestinian civilians, and the wide-scale arrests. Israel must act with restraint when operating in populated Palestinian areas – including Gaza – and ensure that civilians are not harmed. Steps must also be taken to limit restrictions on movement and access in the West Bank.

“As I stressed last week in my meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the international community utterly condemns the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. I welcome President Abbas’s condemnation of this heinous act."


Press release by OIC on its Executive Committee’s Extraordinary Meeting on Grave Situation in Palestine
Jeddah, 9 July 2014

Ahead of its Executive Committee’s Extraordinary Meeting on Grave Situation in Palestine on 10 July 2014, the OIC issued the following press-release:

The General Secretariat of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah will host an expanded extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee at the level of foreign ministers on Thursday 10 July 2014 over the grave situation in the occupied State of Palestine, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

The Secretary General of the OIC, Mr Iyad Ameen Madani, extended invitations to foreign ministers of OIC Member States to attend the meeting. This is coming in light of the escalating sinister Israeli campaign in the entire Palestinian territories, the collective punishment of the Palestinian people and the burning of the Palestinian boy Muhammad Abu Khadir.

A final communiqué is expected to be issued at the end of the OIC Executive Committee meeting containing line of action for the concerned ministers at regional and international fora.

The Executive Committee consists of the Islamic Summit troika – Egypt, Senegal and Turkey, the Council of Foreign Ministers troika – Saudi Arabia, Guinea and Kuwait, and the OIC Secretary General.


Remarks by UK Foreign Secretary Hague on the situation in Gaza
London, 8 July 2014

On 8 July 2014, speaking after the separate phone calls to Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague made the following remarks on the need for an immediate de-escalation and restoration of the November 2012 ceasefire:

I spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman today.

I stressed the need for an immediate de-escalation and restoration of the November 2012 ceasefire, our deep concern about the number of civilian casualties and the need for all sides to avoid further civilian injuries and the loss of innocent life.

I told Minister Lieberman that continuing rocket attacks from Gaza are completely unacceptable. Israel has a right to defend itself against such attacks, but the whole world wanted to see de-escalation.

I welcomed President Abbas’s call for a ceasefire agreed by both sides, and urged him to do all he could to help bring this about. I offered my condolences for the loss of civilian lives in Gaza.

It is clear that we need urgent, concerted international action to secure a ceasefire, as was the case in 2012. I will discuss this with John Kerry, Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier tomorrow in Vienna. When I spoke to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on 10 July, I stressed our strong support for an active Egyptian role in working for a ceasefire.

The current crisis only underlines the need for a fundamental transformation of the situation in Gaza, including the restoration of Palestinian Authority control, the opening up of legitimate movement and access and a permanent end to the unacceptable threat of rocket attacks and other forms of violence from Gaza against Israel.

It is also a stark reminder of the need to make progress toward a permanent peace, based on the two-state solution. However difficult that looks at this time, there is no alternative that can deliver peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. This is a time for bold leadership. Both sides should take the necessary steps towards a lasting peace and to address the underlying causes of the conflict and instability in Gaza. I stressed that the UK
stands ready to do all it can to support this goal.

Readout of US President Obama’s Call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
Washington D.C., 10 July 2014

On 10 July 2014, the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary issued for immediate release the following readout on the phone conversation between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu:

President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke today by phone. The President reiterated the United States’ strong condemnation of continuing rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks. The President expressed concern about the risk of further escalation and emphasized the need for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians and restore calm. The United States remains prepared to facilitate a cessation of hostilities, including a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.

The President once again expressed condolences to the people of Israel on the kidnapping and murder of teenagers Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach, and Naftali Fraenkel, who was an American and Israeli citizen, and urged that the perpetrators be brought to justice. The two leaders also discussed the situation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The President welcomed the arrest of suspects in the abduction and murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir and expressed appreciation for the Prime Minister’s determination to see that they be brought to justice. He expressed concern about the beating and detention of teenage American citizen Tariq Khdeir and acknowledged Israel’s efforts to resolve this case. The two leaders discussed the P5+1 negotiations with Iran and the President reiterated that the United States will not accept any agreement that does not ensure that Iran's nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes.

Readout of US President Obama’s call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
Washington D.C., 20 July 2014

On 20 July 2014, the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary issued for immediate release the following readout on the phone conversation between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu:

President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke again this morning by phone, their second call in three days to discuss the situation in Gaza. The President discussed Israel’s ongoing military operation, reiterated the United States’ condemnation of attacks by Hamas against Israel, and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself. The President also raised serious concern about the growing number of casualties, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers.

President Obama informed the Prime Minister that Secretary of State John Kerry will soon travel to Cairo to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. The President underscored that the United States will work closely with Israel and regional partners on implementing an immediate ceasefire, and stressed the need to protect civilians—in Gaza and in Israel.

Remarks by US Permanent Representative to the UN Samantha Power at a Security Council open debate on the Middle East
New York, 22 July 2014

On 22 July 2014, US Permanent Representative to the UN Samantha Power made remarks to the UN Security Council Open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. The text of the remarks is reproduced below:

Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to thank Secretary-General Ban for his briefing and for his efforts to secure peace and protect civilians in the Middle East. My remarks today will address two areas: Israel and Gaza, and Syria.

First, in Gaza, the United States is working intensively to secure an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. This is the message President Obama gave in his public remarks yesterday. It is the purpose of Secretary of State Kerry’s trip to Cairo, where he met with Egyptian leaders and the Secretary-General, and is conferring regularly with other allies and partners.
And it is a goal that the President of the Security Council embraced on behalf all of the Council’s members when we met this past Sunday. We also recognize that as we work toward the short-term goal of a ceasefire, we also have to solve the underlying issues that led to this conflict, and ultimately build a long-term peace through a two-state solution.

Throughout the hostilities, we have consistently recognized Israel’s right to defend itself, whether through attacks by rockets overhead or tunnels below. No country in the world would tolerate a relentless barrage of attacks on its citizens. Yesterday, in a single day, militants fired 155 rockets into Israel. In the two weeks of fighting, more than 2,000 rockets have been launched on Israel. On Sunday, Israel foiled another attempt by armed militants to use tunnels to sneak into the country and launch an attack. And then again, yesterday militants from Gaza entered Israel and killed four Israeli soldiers.

In Gaza, the toll of the violence has been devastating. More than 600 Palestinians have been killed, the large majority civilians, including at least 59 women and more than 121 children. More than 3,700 more have been injured. Thousands of homes have been damaged, many totally destroyed. And more than 100,000 people have been displaced. As the destruction mounts, some 35,000 Palestinians who need food have not yet been reached. 1.2 million people have little or no access to water or sanitation. And behind every number is a real person, perhaps even a child. The suffering is immense.

Yet, even the most determined efforts to reach those in need have fallen short. The UN is near its capacity to take in those without shelter. Relief services are overwhelmed. In short, the situation is unsustainable. That is why a ceasefire as soon as possible is essential, as both Secretary Kerry and Secretary-General Ban have emphasized from Cairo.

When we convened on Sunday, the Council President expressed our shared concern about the growing number of casualties and underscored the need to protect civilians. Yet, the violence continues to rise, as does the number of people who suffer from it. Yesterday, Secretary Kerry announced the United States is providing $47 million to help address the immediate humanitarian emergency in Gaza. These funds will provide critical humanitarian aid, including shelter, food, and medical supplies for Palestinians in Gaza. And we encourage all of our partners in the international community to respond to the humanitarian needs of the people in Gaza and the appeal issued by the United Nations.

All parties to the conflict must comply with international humanitarian law. That means respecting and protecting civilians and humanitarian and medical facilities. By the most recent tally, 77 UN structures had been damaged so far in the fighting. Militants in Gaza have repeatedly used civilian facilities for military purposes. Yesterday, a hospital in Gaza was struck by a tank shell, killing at least four people inside.

The humanitarian cease-fires brokered by the UN and the ICRC, on July 18th and July 20th, had potential to provide a reprieve from the violence and enable those in need of food, water and medicine to receive assistance. And yet, given a chance to help alleviate the suffering of Palestinian civilians, Hamas balked.

During both cease-fires, rockets and mortars were launched from Gaza at Israel. And Hamas has so far refused to agree to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which could halt the fighting and ease the suffering of innocent people on both sides. The United States supports Egypt’s initiative.

As grave as the situation is now – and it is indeed grave – it can get worse. If the fighting persists, it will. Humanitarian conditions will continue to deteriorate. More civilians will suffer. And more innocent lives will be lost. The only solution is an immediate ceasefire. This could not be more urgent or more important, given the devastating consequences of the violence for civilian populations. That is why the United States will not rest until a ceasefire is achieved and the underlying issues fueling the conflict are addressed.

/…

In Yarmouk, UNRWA was only recently allowed to resume distributing food and other aid to Palestinian refugees, after several months of being denied access by the regime. Anyone who has seen photos of the Yarmouk refugees knows that this population’s survival hangs by a thread. We are monitoring the situation there, in Aleppo, and in other sites closely and we call on the regime to fully implement Resolution 2139 and to comply with its obligations under Resolutions 2139 and 2165, as well as its basic obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

This is a snapshot of two places in the home of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Yet, as the cases of Aleppo and Yarmouk demonstrate, these humanitarian problems stem from a political crisis, and the barbaric tactics of a regime that has lost the legitimacy to lead. Fixing that crisis will ultimately demand a political solution that Syrians can embrace.

To this end, we welcome newly-appointed Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Deputy Envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy. They have agreed to take on the daunting task of providing good offices toward bringing an end to the violence and human rights violations that plague Syria, and promoting a peaceful solution to this long-standing crisis. They have our full support.

Thank you.

European Union statement on the situation in Gaza
Brussels, 25 July 2014

On 25 July 2014, the European Union issued the following statement on the need for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip:

We call on all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. We welcome the ongoing efforts by regional partners and in particular by Egypt to this end.

We are extremely concerned about the continued escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip and the deplorable increase in the number of civilian deaths, among them more than 190 children. We reiterate the condemnation of the loss of civilian lives in particular the most recent deaths of 16 Palestinians seeking shelter in the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun which came under fire. We call for an immediate and thorough investigation into this incident. This is the fourth occasion on which an UNRWA shelter has come under fire. We call on all parties to respect the inviolability and the integrity of UN premises. These latest events underscore the importance of establishing humanitarian corridors in Gaza as a matter of urgency. Civilians who wish to leave conflict zones must be allowed to do so.

Israeli military operations must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law. We reiterate our condemnation of the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas and other militant groups.

The recent tragic escalation of hostilities underlines the unsustainable nature of the status quo in Gaza and the need to address the humanitarian and socio-economic situation there without further delay.

European Council conclusions on the Middle East (Gaza)
Brussels, 15 August 2014

On 15 August 2014, the European Council, at its Foreign Affairs meeting, adopted the following conclusions:

1. The EU is extremely concerned about the fragile situation on the ground following the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip. It strongly welcomes the ceasefire which has been in place since 11 August and calls on all the parties concerned to agree on and abide by a durable ceasefire. The EU commends the considerable efforts and commitment of Egypt to broker this and earlier deals.

2. The EU remains concerned about the disastrous humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip particularly the conditions of the displaced population, water supplies, electricity services, unexploded ordnance as well as destroyed and uninhabitable homes. The EU calls for increased efforts to facilitate, in accordance with international humanitarian law, immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access into the Gaza Strip including for humanitarian personnel and supplies, and for the mobilisation of humanitarian aid for the population of Gaza.

3. The situation in the Gaza Strip has been unsustainable for many years and a return to the status quo prior to the latest conflict is not an option. A durable ceasefire must lead to a fundamental improvement in the living conditions for the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip through the lifting of the Gaza closure regime, and it must end the threat to Israel posed by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza as demonstrated by rocket attacks and tunnel construction. All terrorist groups in Gaza must disarm.

4. In this context and subject to the requests of our partners based on the outcome of the Cairo talks, the EU reiterates its readiness to contribute to a comprehensive and sustainable solution enhancing the security, welfare and prosperity of Palestinians and Israelis alike. The EU will develop options for effective and comprehensive action in the following areas: movement and access, capacity building, verification and monitoring, humanitarian relief and post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation through international donor efforts including the eventual organisation of a donors' conference. The EU is ready to support a possible international mechanism endorsed by the UNSC, including through the reactivation and possible extension in scope and mandate of its EUBAM Rafah and EUPOL COPPS missions on the ground, including the launch of a training programme for Palestinian Authority customs personnel and police for redeployment in Gaza.

5. In line with UNSCR 1860, the EU is prepared to contribute to arrangements that prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition to the Gaza Strip and which can ensure the sustained re-opening of Gaza's crossing points. The EU will also study options for an internationally-supervised mechanism to enable full access and movement through all Gaza ports of entry.

6. The EU recalls that the situation in the Gaza Strip has to be seen within the broader context of the Middle East Peace Process and the prospect of comprehensive peace where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and recognised borders. This remains our ultimate objective. The Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967 and will be part of a future State of Palestine. The situation in the Gaza Strip cannot and must not be seen separately from the broader challenges and developments on the ground that continue to make the prospect of the two-state solution increasingly difficult to attain.

7. The EU has demonstrated its commitment to working with the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu and with the Palestinian consensus government comprised of independent personalities under the leadership and expressed commitments of President Abbas, which must exercise its full government responsibilities in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip including in the field of security, civil administration and through its presence at Gaza's crossing points. The EU reiterates that commitment today.



Remarks by US President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu
Washington D.C., 1 October 2014

On 1 October 2014, the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary issued for immediate release the following remarks made by US President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu before a bilateral meeting:


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it’s good once again to welcome the Prime Minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu. Obviously, he’s no stranger to the White House. I think I’ve met with Bibi more than any world leader during my tenure as President.

We meet at a challenging time. Israel is obviously in a very turbulent neighbourhood, and this gives us an opportunity once again to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel, and our ironclad commitment to making sure that Israel is secure.

Throughout the summer, obviously all of us were deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza. I think the American people should be very proud of the contributions that we made to the Iron Dome program to protect the lives of Israelis at a time when rockets were pouring into Israel on a regular basis. I think we also recognize that we have to find ways to change the status quo so that both Israeli citizens are safe in their own homes and schoolchildren in their schools from the possibility of rocket fire, but also that we don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well.

And so we’ll discuss extensively both the situation of rebuilding Gaza but also how can we find a more sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

/…

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Mr. President, first I want to thank you. I want to thank you for the unflinching support you gave Israel during our difficult days and difficult summer we had -- expressed in so many ways, but also in an additional instalment of support for Iron Dome, which has saved so many lives, saved many lives across the border. And I thank you for that, and for the continuous bond of friendship that is so strong between Israel and the United States.

I also want to thank you for this opportunity to meet with you and to discuss the enormous challenges facing the United States and Israel in the Middle East. There’s definitely a new Middle East. I think it poses new dangers, but it also presents new opportunities.

/…

Equally, I think that there are opportunities. And the opportunities, as you just expressed, is something that is changing in the Middle East, because out of the new situation, there emerges a commonality of interests between Israel and leading Arab states. And I think that we should work very hard together to seize on those common interests and build a positive program to advance a more secure, more prosperous and a more peaceful Middle East.
I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples based on mutual recognition and rock solid security arrangements on the ground. And I believe we should make use of the new opportunities, think outside the box, see how we can recruit the Arab countries to advance this very hopeful agenda. And I look forward to our discussions on these and many other matters.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much, everybody.

European Council conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process
Brussels, 17 November 2014

On 17 November 2014, the European Council, at its Foreign Affairs meeting, adopted the following conclusions:

“1. The EU is gravely concerned at the growing tension and increasing violence on the ground. It condemns all recent terrorist attacks and expresses its condolences for the loss of life. It urges all parties to refrain from any action that would worsen the situation by way of incitement, provocation, excessive use of force or retaliation. The EU calls on political leaders from all sides to work together through visible actions to de-escalate the situation. In this regard, the EU is particularly concerned at worrying developments and recurrent violent clashes at the Haram al- Sharif / Temple Mount. The EU appeals for full respect of the Holy Sites. Any change of the status quo would have deeply destabilizing effects. The EU fully acknowledges the role of Jordan as Custodian to the Muslim Holy Shrines in Jerusalem and welcomes the tripartite meeting in Amman on 13 November between King Abdullah, Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu where concrete steps towards a calming down of the situation were agreed upon. The EU looks forward to a swift and effective implementation of such measures.

2. Actions which call into question stated commitments to a negotiated solution must be avoided. The EU deeply deplores and strongly opposes the recent expropriation of land near Bethlehem, recent announcements of plans for new settlement construction, in particular in Givat Hamatos, Ramat Shlomo, Har Homa and Ramot, as well as plans to displace Bedouins in the West Bank and the continued demolitions, including of EU and Member States funded projects. It urges Israel to reverse these decisions which run counter to international law and directly threaten the two state solution. Recent settlement activity in East Jerusalem seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both states. Recalling that settlements are illegal under international law, the EU and its Member States remain committed to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products. The EU closely monitors the situation and its broader implications and remains ready to take further action in order to protect the viability of the two state solution.

3. The EU underlines its concern at the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which still remains to be adequately addressed, by urgently restoring basic infrastructures and services. It welcomes the international community pledges towards the reconstruction of Gaza. In light of the urgent needs of the people in Gaza, all these pledges should be swiftly honoured. The EU urges the parties to fully implement the temporary mechanism for monitoring and verification of reconstruction materials negotiated by the United Nations, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as an important step towards the necessary urgent opening of all crossing points. Whilst taking positive note of the recent one-off transfers of agricultural products and fish from Gaza to the West Bank, the EU stressed the importance of a change of the Israeli policy allowing Gaza to trade normally and on a permanent basis.

4. The EU calls for a fundamental change of the political, security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip, including the end of the closure. The parties should urgently make progress towards a durable ceasefire, based on their agreement in Cairo on 26 August, to reach an agreement that ends the Gaza closure and addresses Israel's legitimate security concerns. A return to the status quo prior to the latest conflict is not an option. The EU stands ready to play a key role in international efforts to support a durable ceasefire, including through the rapid reactivation and possible extension in scope and mandate of its EUBAM Rafah and EUPOL COPPS missions. The EU urges all the relevant parties to create the conditions to allow it to play such a role.

5. The EU supports the efforts of the Palestinian national consensus government and President Abbas and strongly encourages the Palestinian Authority to progressively assume its government function in the Gaza Strip, including in the field of security, civil administration and through its presence at the Gaza crossing points. The EU welcomes the convening of the first cabinet meeting in Gaza as a positive step and urges all Palestinian factions to end internal divisions. The EU is concerned by the recent bomb attacks against leading Fatah figures in Gaza.

6. The unsustainable situation in Gaza, the recent increase of violence in Jerusalem, and the deteriorating regional context underline the need for a comprehensive peace, ending all claims and fulfilling the legitimate aspirations of both parties, including those of Israelis for security and those of Palestinians for statehood. The EU welcomes Secretary of State Kerry's renewed efforts to help the parties return to the table and calls on the parties and on all major stakeholders, including the Quartet, the League of Arab States and the UNSC, to take the necessary steps to that end. In this regard, the EU reaffirms its strategic interest to see an end to the conflict and is willing to play a major role and actively contribute to a negotiated solution of all final status issues; it recalls parameters agreed in July 2014 Council conclusions. The EU welcomes the early visit to the region of the High Representative/Vice President of the Commission Federica Mogherini, underlining her engagement and that of the EU on this priority issue.

The EU recalls that the future development of the relations with both the Israeli and Palestinian partners will also depend on their engagement towards a lasting peace based on a two state solution."

Press Availability by US Secretary of State Kerry
London, 16 December 2014

At his encounter with the press on 16 December 2014 in London, US Secretary of State Kerry made the following remarks:

/…

Over the past few days, I’ve had very candid and constructive conversations with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, Secretary of State of the Holy See Cardinal Parolin, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday in Rome, with EU High Representative Mogherini, and with my counterparts from Jordan, Egypt, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. And I will do the same today, the same kinds of conversations today, with Palestinian leaders who are here in London, with the Arab League Secretary-General Elaraby and his delegation who have come on behalf of the Arab League.

Now obviously, a focus of these conversations has been our deep concern about the situation on the ground in Israel and in the West Bank and the mounting calls from the international community to pursue diplomatic measures to try to address it. I want to be very clear: This isn’t the time to detail private conversations or speculate on a UN Security Council resolution that hasn’t even been tabled, no matter what pronouncements are made publicly about it. Many of us share a deep sense of urgency about this, given the constant threat of escalation and the dangers of a downward spiral of violence.

But we’re also very mindful that we have to carefully calibrate any steps that are taken for this difficult moment in the region. We all understand the challenges that are presented by this conflict. We all understand that there are pent-up frustrations on both sides and they run deep. We all know the risk of escalation. It’s constant and it’s real. And that is why it is imperative to lower the temperature, end the tension, so that we have an opportunity to find a path that Israelis and Palestinians both want so desperately, which is a path that leads out of the current predicament and actually provides people with an opportunity to touch, to feel, to see and know that there really is a prospect for genuine peace.

They want – everybody that I have talked to keeps talking to me – all the leaders on both sides keep talking to me about how they want a safe and secure future, and obviously, more hope for their people. All of the reasons that we engaged so intensely one year ago, a little more than that, and all the reasons that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas were willing to engage – those reasons are even more compelling today. The status quo is unsustainable for both parties and for the region.

And no people should have to endure a barrage of rockets in the thousands or the threat of a terrorist jumping out of a tunnel armed with a tranquilizer, drugs, and handcuffs in order to snatch them out of the night and drag them back into another place where they can hold them hostage. No one should have to endure either of those things. But the Israelis saw that firsthand during the course of the Gaza conflict. And likewise, no community should have to endure the loss of thousands of its citizens, including hundreds of women and children, as the Palestinians experienced during the same conflict, during – due to the choices that Hamas made that led them nowhere.

The ongoing unrest of the last weeks has brought new tensions to all sides. And earlier this month, two Israelis were stabbed as they shopped for groceries in the West Bank. Two more were axed to death while praying. And we were all devastated and shocked by the acid attack against an Israeli family last week. Palestinians have mourned the death of a Palestinian official, Ziad Abu Ein, and they have suffered indefensible price tag attacks, so-called price tag attacks, including the recent burning of a mosque near Ramallah.

The cycle of violence leads to more violence and to nowhere. Peace is the only prospect, and people need to fight for it. Getting to a better place is obviously not easy, but the alternative is more of the violence and the suffering that no people anywhere should have to accept as the daily fare of their lives, as the price of being born Israeli or Palestinian. And we are focused – we, the United States, and our allies and our friends in Europe and in the Arab community are all focused on a different path. Our friends are focused on a path that could lead to a different future, and we will never hesitate to fight to go down that path.
And that is why the United States and our partners will remain deeply engaged not just with the Israelis and the Palestinians, but on the other conflict – conflicts, plural, that dominated our discussions during the course of this week.

/…

But even as we look down this difficult road that’s before us and consider the complicated choices that we face, we simply cannot lose sight of the fact that that hard road leads to a better place. I’m convinced of that. The United States recognizes the deeply felt aspiration for peace shared by the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, and we will continue to work with our friends and partners to find a path to the goal that we all share for a more peaceful and stable region.

So with that, I’d be happy to take some questions. And I don’t know who’s up or --

/…

QUESTION: Thanks for giving us this time, Mr. Secretary. In the past, the U.S. has simply blocked resolutions at the UN that it feels threaten or undermine Israel. This time, you’ve made this trip to Europe to discuss various proposals with your counterparts. Can you tell us what has changed that’s led you to do this? And mindful of your concern about discussing details about resolutions, could you tell us what the U.S. would like to see or would need to see in a resolution to support it?

And finally, given the challenges that the U.S. has faced in trying to broker a Mideast peace deal over these many years, is it time for the process to become more of a multilateral affair? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me answer the last first. It’s always been a multilateral affair. There were always countries that are involved in it, but the United States clearly has a unique role to play as a result of our longtime friendship and relationship with Israel, and the role that we have played historically with respect to Camp David, Oslo and so forth. In the end, though, this isn’t up to the international community or others. This has to be decided by the parties. The parties have to want this more than anybody outside, and the parties have to make key decisions that can lead to the resolution.

Now, coming back to the first part of the questions, right now, what we’re trying to do is have a constructive conversation with everybody to find the best way to go forward in order to create the climate; the atmosphere; the political space, if you will, to be able to go back to negotiations and resolve this politically. Now, clearly, in the beginning of an election and in the middle of an election, it’s very difficult and complicated because we believe very deeply that nobody should somehow interfere or do something that might be perceived of as interfering in the course of that election, and we want to find the most constructive way of doing something that therefore will not have unintended consequences, but also can stem the violence.

It’s a particularly sensitive moment because we understand the frustrations of Palestinians. We understand the frustrations of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and those who are pushing hard, because they don’t see another course at this moment. So the key is to try to find out whether or not there are other options, other ways, other courses; could something be done that helps to respect the process that the Israelis are about to undergo, simultaneously respecting the needs of the region to de-escalate the tensions and avoid confrontation?

That’s what we hope to achieve, that’s what these discussions are all about, and we will continue to have these discussions this afternoon and on into the next days. But we’ve made no determinations other than that about any – about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that. We haven’t made any determinations.

Press release by European Parliament on the Resolution on recognition of Palestinian statehood
Brussels, 17 December 2014

On 17 December 2014, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on recognition of Palestinian statehood. The text of the Resolution follows:

The European Parliament supports "in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced", it says in a resolution passed on Wednesday. To support EU diplomatic efforts in the Middle East peace process, it also decided to launch a “Parliamentarians for Peace” initiative to bring together MEPs and MPs from the Israeli and Palestinian parliaments.

The resolution was drawn up by five political groups and passed by Parliament as a whole, by 498 votes to 88, with 111 abstentions.

Parliament reiterates "its strong support for the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the right of self-determination and full respect of international law". MEPs also condemn in the strongest terms all acts of terrorism or violence.

Palestinian factions urged to end internal divisions

MEPs stress the importance of consolidating the authority of the Palestinian consensus government and urge all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to end internal divisions.

Illegal settlements

The resolution reiterates that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, calls on the EU to become a genuine facilitator in the Middle East peace process and asks the EU’s foreign policy High Representative to facilitate a common EU position to this end.

Explanation of vote by US Permanent Representative to the UN Samantha Power at the Security Council Session on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
New York, 30 December 2014

On 30 December 2014, a draft resolution S/2014/916 of 30 December 2014, presented by Jordan at the Security Council, received 8 votes in favour, 2 votes against and 5 abstentions. After the vote, US Permanent Representative to the UN Samantha Power made the following statement in explanation of the US vote on the draft:


Thank you Mr. President,

In recent years, no government has invested more in the effort to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace than the United States. Peace – however difficult it may be to forge – is too important to give up on. As we were reminded this summer in Gaza, and as we’ve been reminded too painfully recently in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the human consequences of ensuing cycles of violence are too grave. The United States every day searches for new ways to take constructive steps to support the parties in making progress toward achieving a negotiated settlement.


The Security Council resolution put before us today is not one of those constructive steps; it would undermine efforts to get back to an atmosphere that makes it possible to achieve two states for two people.
Regrettably, instead of giving voice to the aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis, this text addresses the concerns of only one side. It is deeply imbalanced and contains many elements that are not conducive to negotiations between the parties, including unconstructive deadlines that take no account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns. In addition, this resolution was put to a vote without a discussion or due consideration among Council members, which is highly unusual, especially considering the gravity of the matter at hand. We must proceed responsibly, not take actions that would risk a downward spiral.

We voted against this resolution not because we are comfortable with the status quo. We voted against it because we know what everyone here knows, as well – peace will come from hard choices and compromises that must be made at the negotiating table. Today’s staged confrontation in the UN Security Council will not bring the parties closer to achieving a two-state solution.

We voted against this resolution not because we are indifferent to the daily hardships or the security threats endured by Palestinians and Israelis, but because we know that those hardships will not cease and those threats will not subside until the parties reach a comprehensive settlement achieved through negotiations. This resolution sets the stage for more division – not for compromise. It could well serve to provoke the very confrontation it purports to address.

For decades, the United States has worked to try to help achieve a comprehensive end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we remain committed to achieving the peace that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable, and independent Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.

The United States does not just acknowledge the tremendous frustrations and disappointments on both sides over the years in pursuit of peace; we share them. And we understand the immense challenges the parties need to overcome to make peace a reality. Yet at the same time, we firmly believe the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians is unsustainable.

The United States recognizes the role that this Council has played before in advancing a sustainable end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including through resolutions 242, 338, and 1515, which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with both states “living side-by-side within secure and recognized borders.” In a May 2011 speech, President Obama elaborated further that “the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine…based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” He made clear that the “Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.”

The United States will continue reaching out to the parties in an effort to find a way forward, and we are ready to engage and support them when they are ready to return to the table. And we will continue to oppose actions by both sides that we view as detrimental to the cause of peace, whether those actions come in the form of settlement activity or imbalanced draft resolutions in this Council. The parties have a responsibility to negotiate and to own the hard choices that will be needed if they are to bring real and long-overdue change to their region to benefit their people.

Today’s vote should not be interpreted as a victory for an unsustainable status quo. Instead, it should serve as a wake-up call to catalyze all interested parties to take constructive, responsible steps to achieve a two-state solution, which remains the only way to bring an end to the ongoing cycle of violence and suffering. We hope that those who share our vision for peace between two states – Israel and Palestine, both secure, democratic, and prosperous – will join us in redoubling efforts to find a path forward that can rally international consensus, advance future negotiations, and provide a horizon of hope for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Thank you.


Explanation of vote by Permanent Representative of France to the UN François Delattre at the Security Council Session on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question
New York, 30 December 2014

On 30 December 2014, a draft resolution S/2014/916 of 30 December 2014, presented by Jordan at the Security Council, received 8 votes in favour, 2 votes against and 5 abstentions. After the vote, Permanent Representative of France to the UN François Delattre made the following statement in explanation of the France’s vote on the draft:


(Unofficial translation)

Jordan presented Tuesday December 30th a Palestinian draft resolution at the Security Council. Put to the vote, the draft failed to pass: 8 votes in favour, 2 votes against and 5 abstentions. After the vote, François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, pronounced the following explanation of vote:

Mr. President,

Since the end of peace talks last April, the situation has deteriorated. We are facing two threats:

First, the necessary two-state solution is on the verge of becoming a mirage. The illegal continuation of settlement-building is straining the viability of a Palestinian state on the ground. In both Israel and Palestine, public
opinion is becoming radicalized.

Second, the violence is escalating, from Gaza to the West Bank by way of Jerusalem. The conditions are ripe for a general conflagration.

We are aware of the crux of the problem: the lack of a political future that meets the legitimate needs of both the Israeli and Palestinian people. For the Palestinians, the aspiration to a sovereign, independent state; for the Israelis, the guarantee of lasting security. These two legitimate demands can be resolved only by moving toward the solution familiar to us all: sharing territory in a way that makes it possible to forge two states for two people.

Mr. President,

France believes in the possibility of a fair and definitive for both parties. We must give ourselves the means to achieve it. These means are collective. The successive failure of negotiations over the past 20 years reminds us that the peace process as we are conducting it must change. For largely domestic reasons, the parties cannot take alone the difficult decisions required to conclude negotiations. The United States cannot alone bear the burden of seeking this difficult peace. After more than 25 years of negotiations, the international community must share the weight of these negotiations and bear its share of the political and historical responsibility.

France is determined to help a method emerge that provides greater support for negotiations by the concerned international partners – i.e., the European Union, the Arab League and the permanent members of this Council – along with and in support of the major role played by Washington.

This collective effort must be based on the indisputable foundation that only the Security Council can provide, in order for the negotiations to be credible. It is up to us to determine internationally recognized parameters to resolve the conflict, and negotiations that lead to the satisfaction of the various claims.

That is what the Council and its members are here to do today. To fully exercise their responsibilities in the area of peacekeeping and international security.

Mr. President,

It is for this purpose that we have constantly urged this Council to act, in order to establish a credible basis for peace. France wanted to offer – in the form of a draft resolution – a constructive, reasonable and consensual alternative to the initial Palestinian draft, in order for the Security Council to become a positive actor in the conflict rather than the theater of protests, theoretical declarations and successive vetoes.

Unfortunately, despite this positive approach and goodwill, no credible negotiations have gotten under way, while the deteriorating situation on the ground makes it imperative to act without delay.

Motivated by the urgent need to act, by the profound necessity to change our methods, by the responsibility incumbent upon each member of the Security Council, we therefore voted in favor of the resolution presented by Jordan.

That does not mean that this text is ideal. We have reservations about some of its formulations, and about the method adopted to present it. We would have preferred, and continue to wish for, an approach based on consensus in order to rally all the members of this Council around a clear and recognized vision: that of an independent, sovereign, democratic Palestinian State living in peace and security alongside Israel, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

While the modalities of a solution that is fair to Palestinian refugees, or the details of security arrangements – notably the withdrawal of Israeli forces – fall within the scope of the agreement to be concluded by the parties, we can and must collectively establish the broad parameters of these negotiations. We must also establish a clear timetable for their completion – for how can negotiations be credible if they never end? The draft presented by
France provides for that.

Mr. President,

France regrets that it isn’t possible to reach a consensus today on the points that should have the international community’s backing. But our efforts must not stop here; it is our responsibility to try again. Before it’s too late.
France will therefore continue its efforts.

Thank you.

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