January 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2014
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Israel/Palestine

Expected Council Action

In January 2015, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is expected to brief the Council during its quarterly open debate on the Middle East. Also in January, Council members are expected to consider and possibly vote on a resolution calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories by 2017.

Key Recent Developments

On 17 December 2014, Jordan, on behalf of the Arab Group, circulated a draft resolution affirming the need to attain, within 12 months of adoption, a just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful solution that “brings an end to the Israeli occupation since 1967” and fulfils the vision of two independent, democratic and prosperous states, Israel and a sovereign, contiguous state of Palestine. This Palestinian draft is based on an earlier text drafted by France with input from the UK and Germany (together, known as the E3) that outlined parameters for a negotiated solution to the conflict.

The parameters in the draft are: borders based on 4 June 1967, with mutually agreed, limited and equivalent land swaps; the establishment of security agreements, including through a third party, that respect the sovereignty of a state of Palestine and that ensure the security of both Israel and Palestine, “including through a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli security forces which will end the occupation that began in 1967 over an agreed transition period in a reasonable timeframe, not to exceed the end of 2017”; a just and agreed solution to the refugee question on the basis of Arab Peace Initiative, international law and relevant UN resolutions, including resolution 194; Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states; and an agreed settlement of other outstanding issues, including water. The draft recognises that the final status agreement would end the occupation and lead to immediate mutual recognition, looks forward to welcoming Palestine as a full UN member state within the timeframe defined by the resolution, and calls for a renewed negotiation framework.

An earlier Palestinian-drafted resolution was circulated to the Council in late September 2014 that called for the full withdrawal of Israel from all of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by November 2016, for an independent Palestinian state, Jerusalem as the capital of two states, and a solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees. The draft was discussed among Council members once at expert-level but did not have the support of a majority of Council members. Subsequently, France led the E3 initiative on a parameters resolution that could be more palatable to Council members. The E3 entered negotiations with the US, Israel and Palestine on the draft, which formed the basis for the current draft in blue.

Speaking a day after the resolution was put in blue, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Israel would not accept unilateral moves and warned that such an initiative would result in a Hamas takeover of the West Bank. On 15 December 2014, US Secretary of State John Kerry had met with Netanyahu in Rome as the US and Israel developed their responses to the draft resolution. Speaking to reporters after meeting with Kerry, Netanyahu said that he had earlier spoken with French President Francois Hollande by phone and asked him to halt their initiative, warning that “such a move…will thwart all future negotiations and bring about an escalation”. He did not to divulge whether Kerry had assured him of a US veto during their meetings. Also on 15 December, Kerry met with the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany in Paris. The following day, he met with top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Arab League head Nabil al-Araby in London.

The initiative in the Council comes amid a wave of largely symbolic European recognitions of the state of Palestine. On 17 December, the European Parliament voted, with a large majority, to recognise “in principle” a Palestinian state. The move followed similar recent declarations by the parliaments of the UK, France, Spain, Ireland and Portugal.

The Council was last briefed on Israel/Palestine by Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry on 15 December 2014. It was his last regular monthly Middle East briefing of 2014, a year that he described as “dramatic”. Serious efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement stalled, there was a devastating 51-day war in Gaza and violence and tension increased throughout the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, where he described the situation as “explosive” and expressed worry that the conflict seems increasingly inspired by religion.

Speaking about Gaza, Serry reported that while there were some initial setbacks, the delivery of construction material via the temporary reconstruction mechanism continues and had recently been scaled up. He noted, however, that the situation remains fragile, with up to 80,000 families living in houses that have sustained varying degrees of damage. He reported that 18 school buildings belonging to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees continue to house some 19,000 internally displaced persons.

Also, on 29 October 2014, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed the Council at a public meeting, held following an urgent request by Jordan, on rising tensions in East Jerusalem and continuing Israeli settlement expansion.

In response to the deteriorating situation on the ground, Council members recently issued two press statements. On 19 November 2014, Council members issued a US-proposed press statement on “the despicable terrorist attack in a synagogue in Jerusalem” that occurred a day earlier, in which four civilians worshipping and a police officer were killed. In a 12 December statement proposed by Jordan, Council members expressed their sorrow at the death of Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein, which occurred after a demonstration in the village of Turmus Ayya.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 28 October 2014, the special rapporteur for the Human Rights Council on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Makarim Wibisono, presented his report to the General Assembly (A/69/301). Wibisono also provided details on his first official visit to the region from 20 to 28 September. Israel refused to grant him access, but he gathered evidence in Jordan and Egypt and via video tele-conference from Gaza. In his address, he highlighted that tens of thousands of children continue to live with injuries and psychological trauma, that more than 200 schools in Gaza were damaged and that tens of thousands of people continue to live in overcrowded temporary shelters with inadequate sanitation facilities. A final report will be presented in March.

The Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, published its concluding observations on the fourth periodic report on Israel on 30 October 2014 (CCPR/C/ISR/CO/4). The Committee noted areas of concern, including that Israel continues to maintain the non-applicability of the Covenant to the Occupied Territories, the need for accountability for alleged human rights violations committed during Israel’s military operations in Gaza, excessive use of force by Israel’s security forces and violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

The independent commission of inquiry appointed by the Human Rights Council in July was denied entry to the West Bank and Gaza by Israel in November 2014. The commission is charged with investigating violations of international humanitarian and human rights law arising from Israeli military operations carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territories beginning on 13 June. As a result of being denied entry, representatives of the commission have embarked on their investigation in Jordan, collecting evidence and testimonies of victims’ families and civil society organisations.

In a 25 November 2014 press release, the special rapporteurs on the Occupied Palestinian Territory and on the right to adequate housing called on Israel to end its punitive demolition of Palestinian homes in response to alleged acts of violence by Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Key Issues

The overarching issue is determining how to move forward on a two-state solution in light of the breakdown of US-brokered negotiations in April 2014.

A related issue for the Council is Israel’s continuing settlement expansion in the West Bank, which undermines prospects for attaining a peace agreement.

Continuing to encourage and facilitate emergency humanitarian and reconstruction assistance for the devastated Gaza Strip remains a key issue.

Another key issue regarding Gaza is ensuring that investigations into alleged war crimes committed during the conflict are impartial and that those found accountable are prosecuted.

Options

The main option for the Council at this time is to adopt a resolution on the conflict to bolster efforts towards an expedient resolution to the conflict in the absence of any viable negotiations.

Another option, in lieu of an agreement on a resolution, could be to explore other Council outcomes that could help advance prospects for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.

Council Dynamics

Given the political sensitivities surrounding the issue, Council decisions on Israel/Palestine are generally negotiated outside New York, at capital level. Elements of the resolution tabled by Jordan in December 2014 had been negotiated by the E3, along with the US, and the parties; however, it had not been presented to the wider Council membership for consultations before being put into blue, and it is generally accepted that the draft’s fate lies with the US, which has historically used its veto to protect Israeli interests in the Council.

Kerry has publicly stated that the US would not necessarily veto a proposed resolution, but finding language that would be palatable to the US while still maintaining the spirit of the proposed resolution could be difficult. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on 16 December that if the wording of the resolution included terms of reference for negotiations on the core issues, the US would accept it, as long as it contains “no unilateral measures” that would predetermine the outcome of diplomatic negotiations. A day after the draft was put in blue, Psaki told reporters that it was not something the US would support. At press time, negotiations on the text were expected to continue to ascertain whether consensus could be reached.

In January, the dynamics in the Council will change when the new elected members—Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela—join the Council. Australia, which is largely supportive of Israel, will be leaving the Council, while two incoming members, Malaysia and Venezuela, will join Chad as Council members that have no formal diplomatic relations with Israel. With this new composition, Palestine and its supporters may pursue a stronger strategy in the Council in 2015.

UN Documents

Security Council Meeting Records
15 December 2014 S/PV.7339 This was a briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
29 October 2014 S/PV.7291 This was an urgent public briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman on rising tensions in East Jerusalem and continuing Israeli settlement expansion, held at the request of Jordan.
Security Council Press Statements
12 December 2014 SC/11699 This was a press statement on the death of the Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein.
19 November 2014 SC/11660 This was a press statement on the terrorist attack in a synagogue in Jerusalem in which four innocent civilians worshipping and a police officer were killed.
General Assembly Document
11 December 1948 A/RES/194 This was a resolution calling for a right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Other
17 December 2014 S/2014/916 This was the was the draft resolution put into blue by Jordan.