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

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UNITED
NATIONS
A S

        General Assembly
        Security Council
Distr.
GENERAL
A/63/368
S/2008/612

22 September 2008

Original: English

General Assembly
Sixty-third session
Agenda items 15 and 16
The situation in the Middle East
Question of Palestine
Security Council
Sixty-third year

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 62/83 of 10 December 2007.

2. On 1 June 2008, pursuant to the request contained in paragraph 20 of the above-mentioned resolution, I addressed the following letter to the President of the Security Council:


3. On 1 July 2008 the following reply was received from the Security Council:
4. In a note verbale dated 28 April 2008 to the parties concerned, I sought the positions of the Governments of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization, regarding any steps taken by them to implement the relevant provisions of the resolution. As at 31 August 2008, replies had been received from Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The note verbale dated 30 July 2008 from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations reads as follows:
The note verbale dated 30 July 2008 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations reads as follows: II. Observations

5. During the reporting period, new hope for the achievement of a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine emerged, with the launch of the Annapolis process and regular bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. At the same time, the situation on the ground in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, remained difficult and hampered political efforts to achieve the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security. In the Gaza Strip, in particular, prolonged violence and a deepening humanitarian crisis prevailed.

6. The Annapolis conference, hosted by the United States on 27 November 2007 with the participation of all major parties, provided a new impetus to the search for a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the question of Palestine. Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister of Israel, and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, presented a joint understanding, agreeing to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, before the end of 2008. The two leaders also committed themselves to implementing their respective obligations under the road map and agreed to form a trilateral mechanism, led by the United States, to follow up on implementation.

7. Bilateral negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, led by Tzipi Livni, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, and Ahmed Qureia, the Palestinian Chief Negotiator, have taken place on a regular basis, with confidentiality maintained about the substance of those talks. Technical teams have also met in support of the bilateral talks. Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas have also continued to meet on a regular basis.

8. I welcome the diplomatic efforts exerted by the parties. I would also like to commend the United States for taking the initiative to convene the Annapolis conference. The international community has come together in support of the bilateral negotiations conducted by Israel and the Palestinians. The Quartet has been reinvigorated, and I was glad to take part in its meetings in New York in September 2007, in Washington, D.C., on 26 November 2007, on the eve of the Annapolis conference, in Paris on 17 December 2007, in London on 2 May 2008 and in Berlin on 24 June 2008.

9. I also welcome and commend the efforts of the League of Arab States and several Arab countries to advance regional efforts for peace in recent months. The League of Arab States, at its annual summit in Damascus on 29 and 30 March, expressed concern over developments on the ground, but reaffirmed the Arab Peace Initiative, which remains a central element in the search for a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.

10. The United Nations has remained engaged at a political level. The Secretariat has provided monthly briefings to the Security Council on developments in the Middle East, as well as whenever the situation on the ground demanded that the Council be kept urgently apprised, as was the case several times during the reporting period. I have continued to take part in the meetings of a reinvigorated Quartet, and I now look forward to the meeting of the Quartet I am hosting in New York in the margins of the general debate, in conjunction also with a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee and consultations with our Arab partners.

11. Regrettably, violence between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as among Palestinians, continued during the reporting period. Altogether, between 1 September 2007 and 19 August 2008, 35 Israelis, including four children, and 600 Palestinians, including 87 children, lost their lives in conflict-related incidents.

12. Road map implementation saw some arguable progress during the reporting period. I am pleased to note that the Palestinian Authority, under the leadership of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, has made significant strides towards imposing law and order, including disarming and arresting militants, in the reporting period. Palestinian security forces have redeployed in Jenin and Nablus, including personnel trained and equipped in Jordan with the assistance of the United States Security Coordinator, and Palestinian security operations are also taking place elsewhere in the West Bank. On 24 June 2008, the international community offered support to the further development of the Palestinian security sector and judiciary at the Berlin conference in support of Palestinian civil security and the rule of law, convened by Germany. The Quartet voiced its support for the outcomes of the meeting and called for speedy implementation of projects agreed and robust donor support in order to build the capacity of the Palestinian police and justice sector. The Quartet also urged Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in that respect, and emphasized the importance of unobstructed delivery of security assistance to the Palestinian Authority. In this regard, I am glad to note Israel’s facilitation of the reopening of 12 Palestinian police stations in the West Bank in recent months. I regret, however, that Israel Defense Force incursions into West Bank cities and towns have continued on a regular basis.

13. Violence continued to occur in Israel. A suicide bombing took place in the Israeli city of Dimona on 4 February 2008. I condemned this terrorist attack targeting civilians. I also strongly condemned the attack that claimed eight lives at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem on 6 March 2008. I further condemned the attacks utilizing bulldozers in Jerusalem on 2 and 22 July 2008.

14. I also deplore the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank by the Government of Israel, which negatively impacts the ongoing bilateral political process. Continued settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, stands in contradiction to international law, Security Council resolutions, the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel’s obligations under the road map and its commitments under the Annapolis process. I have called upon Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, to dismantle all outposts erected since March 2001, and to reopen Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, and have emphasized that a halt to settlement expansion is a necessity for the creation of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State.

15. Construction work on the barrier also continued within occupied Palestinian territory, in deviation from the Green Line and contrary to the International Court of Justice advisory opinion of 9 July 2004. I continue to note with concern that the route of the barrier results in the confiscation of Palestinian land and the isolation of Palestinian communities and agricultural areas. In accordance with the provisions of General Assembly resolution ES-10/17, I have continued efforts to establish the United Nations Register of Damage caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with the constitution and assumption of operations of the Office of the Register of Damage at the United Nations Office at Vienna and the first meeting of the members of its Board.

16. On 17 December 2007, a significant donor meeting was held in Paris in support of the Annapolis process and with the aim of securing financial support for the Palestinian Authority over the next three years. Donors commended the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan presented by Prime Minister Fayyad and pledged $7.7 billion in assistance. Two new financing mechanisms were launched in 2008 to support the implementation of the Plan, namely the World Bank trust fund and the European Commission’s Palestinian European Aid Mechanism.

17. The Government of Prime Minister Fayyad also undertook significant measures of economic and fiscal reform, successfully containing the Palestinian Authority’s wage bill and reactivating the budget process. On 2 May, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee met in London to assess progress in Palestinian institutional and economic development since its previous meeting in September 2007. The donor community responded to Palestinian reform efforts and generously supported the Palestinian Authority with over $1.1 billion in budget support from the beginning of 2008 until August. However, the Authority still faced renewed budgetary shortfalls. I have called upon those donors who have not yet fulfilled their pledges from the Paris donor conference to provide budget support to fill a gap of $400 million for the period from August to December 2008.

18. From 21 to 23 May 2008, the Palestine investment conference convened by Prime Minister Fayyad took place in Bethlehem. Hundreds of foreign representatives and Palestinian businesses, including from Gaza, attended. Prime Minister Fayyad announced that investors pledged $1.4 billion for Palestinian business projects. Earlier the same month, on 13 May, Tony Blair, the Quartet Representative, had announced a package of measures to stimulate economic development, ease movement and access restrictions, develop the 60 per cent of the West Bank in Area C and build Palestinian security capability. Quartet Representative Blair continues to follow up on his plan.

19. Unfortunately, the Government of Israel did not significantly relax the closure regime in the West Bank. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the number of Israeli-imposed obstacles to Palestinian movement in the West Bank grew from 532 in August 2007 to 608 as of 18 August 2008, with negative political and economic implications.

20. Palestinian economic growth was flat and the economy continued to hollow out. This put the Palestinian Authority on the path of increasing aid dependency. While the economy stagnates and the population grows, per capita income continues to fall. The International Monetary Fund estimated that real gross domestic product growth in 2007 was only about 0.5 per cent. Results from the first quarter of 2008 suggest that growth was slightly negative. Unemployment remained high in the West Bank and Gaza.

21. Following the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas in June 2007, the launching of rockets and mortars from Gaza against Israeli civilian targets intensified. I condemn the indiscriminate rocket and mortar firing from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli civilian population centres and against crossing points, which is totally unacceptable and has detrimental effects on humanitarian conditions.

22. The Government of Israel declared the Gaza Strip an enemy entity on 19 September 2007 and imposed a stringent closure regime, halting all exports from Gaza and severely restricting imports, including electricity and fuel. I called upon Israel to reconsider and cease its policy of pressuring the civilian population of Gaza for the unacceptable actions of Hamas and other militants.

23. In response to the rocket fire against Israeli civilian targets, Israel launched military incursions into the Gaza Strip and targeted militants with air strikes, often causing civilian casualties. I called for the strict observance of international humanitarian law by Israel and its armed forces. While cognizant of Israel’s security concerns and of its assertion that in using military force it does not target civilians and takes care to avoid civilian casualties, I emphasized that Israel is obliged not to take disproportionate measures or to endanger civilians, and must thoroughly investigate incidents leading to civilian casualties and ensure adequate accountability.

24. Following several Israeli military incursions and heavy fighting in Gaza during the month of January, as well as the imposition of a four-day comprehensive closure on 23 January, Palestinian militants destroyed entire sections of the border fence with Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans crossed the border and purchased food, medicine and other supplies. The border was resealed six days later.

25. In February 2008, after the firing of rockets and mortar on Israel included the launch, for the first time, of longer-range rockets against Ashkelon, the situation escalated again. The Israel Defense Force operation named Hot Winter, beginning on 29 February, lasted five days and caused dozens of civilian casualties, including the deaths of 31 children, while Hamas rocket attacks, with increased capability, threatened nearly a quarter of a million Israelis. In subsequent months, rocket and mortar fire continued, and a number of attacks also targeted crossings between Israel and Gaza.

26. The violence, as well as the humanitarian distress the civilian population of the Gaza Strip endured as a result of Israel’s closure policy, convinced me that a new and more constructive strategy on Gaza was required. I called for such an approach, emphasizing, in particular, the need to end the violence and reopen the Gaza crossings in a sustained manner. The Quartet endorsed my call in its meeting in London on 2 May, strongly encouraging Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt to work together to formulate a new approach on Gaza that would provide security to all Gazans, end all acts of terror, provide for the controlled and sustained opening of the Gaza crossings for humanitarian reasons and commercial flows, support the legitimate Palestinian Authority Government and work towards conditions that would permit implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.

27. Egyptian efforts led to the agreement of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which entered into effect on 19 June and has largely held since. I welcomed the ceasefire. Building on the ceasefire, Egypt has continued its efforts to reach an agreement to exchange the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, for a number of Palestinian prisoners currently held by Israel. I repeatedly expressed my dismay at the fact that the International Committee of the Red Cross was not provided with access to Corporal Shalit, in contravention of international humanitarian law, after more than two years of captivity.

28. The situation in the Gaza Strip during the reporting period was characterized by prolonged humanitarian crisis. The Gaza crossings remained largely closed, except for imports to meet minimal humanitarian needs. Israel also instituted restrictions on the supply of fuel, with broad socio-economic effects, including extensive electricity cuts. While humanitarian assistance continued to enter Gaza, most of Gaza’s industrial capacity was suspended and more than 70,000 workers were laid off. About 76 per cent of the population in Gaza became reliant on assistance from the United Nations. United Nations agencies were also severely affected and had to prioritize projects. Following the entering into effect of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, there has been some improvement in humanitarian conditions.

29. Gaza also witnessed the consolidation of Hamas’s rule, with institutions increasingly falling under the direct control of Hamas. Factional violence occurred, and in November 2007, internecine fighting left 18 people dead. Renewed bloody clashes between Hamas and Fatah loyalists left 11 Palestinians dead in August 2008, and nearly 200 Palestinians sought refuge in Israel before being returned to Gaza or transferred to West Bank cities. Overall, between 1 September 2007 and 19 August 2008, 136 Palestinians were killed in internal violence.

30. I would stress that the Palestinian Authority remains the sole legitimate authority and that Gaza and the West Bank comprise one single Palestinian territory. Dialogue for the purpose of making progress towards the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority is vital to sustain the efforts to revitalize the peace process. Accordingly, I welcomed President Abbas’s statement of 5 June 2008, during which he called for the holding of a comprehensive national dialogue in order to implement the initiative on Palestinian reunification taken by the President of Yemen and endorsed by the Foreign Minister of the League of Arab States in March 2008.

31. In Israel, the Government also faced difficulties throughout the reporting period. Prime Minister Olmert’s resignation on 21 September 2008 opened up the prospect of the new head of the Kadima party, Foreign Minister Livni, taking over the premiership and forming a new Government, or of new elections, with possible effects on the peace talks.

32. I regret that Palestinian and international United Nations staff members have faced growing restrictions as concerns their free movement and access in the service of the United Nations. I have discussed these restrictions with the Government of Israel and look forward to improvements in this regard. In Gaza, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and other United Nations agencies face significant challenges to their operations. The security and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has made their work both more important and more difficult.

33. In this challenging context, I want to praise the courage and dedication of the United Nations personnel serving in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. I wish to express my deep appreciation to Robert H. Serry, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and my Personal Representative to the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, to the staff of his Office, as well as to the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Karen Koning AbuZayd, and the staff of the Agency and all other United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, who continue to provide indispensable and remarkable service in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

34. Over the past year, there have been important steps towards a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, and I call upon the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to undertake every effort to achieve the goal of the Annapolis process. Time is now running short until we reach the benchmark of the Annapolis process, and there reportedly remain significant gaps. Should the parties not be able to reach a peace agreement by the end of the year, it will be essential that the process not be disrupted and instead continues, with the aim of leading to the long overdue peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine as early as possible.

35. The situation on the ground, both in Gaza and in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has deteriorated in many instances. Much more needs to be done to build the necessary foundations for a successful political process and for the eventual and sustainable implementation of any agreement reached. Settlement activity needs to stop completely, and movement and access restrictions need to be lifted. The Palestinian Authority needs to make further progress to impose law and order.

36. The question of Gaza remains critical. I am glad that the ceasefire in effect since June 2008 has held so far. At the same time, I am acutely conscious that the ceasefire is by definition a temporary arrangement that needs to lead to further steps: a reopening of the Gaza crossings, the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and dialogue for the purpose of the reunification of the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority.

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


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