July 2015 Monthly Forecast


Expected Council Action

In July, the Council will hold its quarterly open debate on the Middle East, with a focus on the situation in Israel/Palestine. New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, is expected to preside.

Key Recent Developments

This July marks one year since the most recent round of conflict between Palestinian armed groups and Israeli forces, and the launch of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, from 7 July to 26 August 2014, which resulted in the worst escalation of hostilities in Gaza since 1967. Various UN reports on the conflict have recently been released.

According to the 22 June report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council (HRC), the scale of the devastation in Gaza was unprecedented, with substantial evidence pointing to serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by Israel and Palestinian armed groups, which in some cases may amount to war crimes. A total of 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462 Palestinian civilians, and 11,231 Palestinians were injured. In Israel, six civilians and 67 soldiers were killed, and up to 1,600 were injured. The report states that the Israel Defense Forces carried out more than 6,000 airstrikes in Gaza and fired approximately 50,000 tank and artillery shells, while Palestinian armed groups fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel. Israel condemned the inquiry as biased and released its own report on the conflict on 14 June, concluding that its military acted lawfully and that 761 Palestinian civilians were killed in Gaza.

According to the Secretary-General’s summary of the Board of Inquiry report into certain incidents affecting UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) schools, at least 44 Palestinians were killed and 227 injured at seven UNWRA schools that were used as emergency shelters, as a result of Israeli actions during the 2014 conflict. The report also found that Hamas militants had endangered UN facilities by storing weapons in three empty schools.

The Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict released on 5 June found that during the conflict at least 540 Palestinian children were killed and 2,955 were injured. At least 262 schools, 274 kindergartens and 17 hospitals in Gaza were damaged, while three schools were damaged in Israel. According to the report, the total number of children killed in 2014 in Palestine (557) was the third highest after Afghanistan and Iraq and ahead of Syria and Darfur. The total number of schools damaged or destroyed in Palestine (at least 543) was the highest recorded number in all situations in 2014. The report concludes, “The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of the impact on children in 2014 raises grave concerns about Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law, notably the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack, and respect for international human rights law, particularly in relation to excessive use of force.” Despite these findings, neither Israel nor Hamas were included in the annex to the report, which lists parties that, among other crimes, kill or maim children or attack schools or hospitals in situations of armed conflict.

The situation in Gaza remains desperate. According to a World Bank report presented to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (a forum of donors to the Palestinian Authority) on 27 May, Gaza’s economy is “on the verge of collapse”. The current unemployment rate is the highest in the world, at 44 percent (11 percentage points higher than before July 2014). The youth unemployment rate is 60 percent, and 40 percent of Gaza’s nearly 1.8 million Palestinians are living in poverty, even though around 80 percent receive some sort of aid. There has been limited progress in rebuilding Gaza since the blockade was put into effect in 2007. Last summer’s conflict exacerbated the lack of rebuilding efforts. According to UNWRA, not a single one of the over 12,000 totally destroyed homes in Gaza has been rebuilt.

In the West Bank, increased confrontations between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces continue, as do settlement expansion and the forced displacement of Palestinians in Area C and in East Jerusalem. After a period of relative calm, the beginning of June saw an increase in sporadic rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, with no casualties reported. A group of Palestinian militants, known as the Omar Brigades, a group that identifies with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), claimed responsibility for launching at least two rockets into Israel on 3 June and said it would not abide by an informal truce agreed between Hamas and Israel after the 2014 hostilities in Gaza. In response, Israel Air Force jets struck three “terror infrastructure” targets in Gaza on 4 June. Hamas has also initiated a crackdown against ISIS sympathisers in Gaza.

The Security Council last met on the issue on 24 June, when Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed, remarking that the recent reaffirmations by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his commitment to a two-state solution must be translated into action, including a halt to unilateral activities in the West Bank where homes continued to be demolished. Feltman also expressed hope that the Commission of Inquiry’s report would contribute to bringing justice to victims of the 2014 conflict.

At press time, a delegation from the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC was reportedly due to arrive in Israel as part of a preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine, announced by the OTP on 16 January, to establish whether criteria for opening a formal investigation had been met, following Palestine’s acceptance on 1 January of the jurisdiction of the ICC over alleged crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, since 13 June 2014. Palestine’s Foreign Minister, Riad Malki, travelled to The Hague on 25 June to present reports to the OTP focusing on Israeli settlement construction and the hostilities in Gaza last year. The government of Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute on 2 January and became a member of the ICC on 1 April.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Makarim Wibisono, issued a statement on 5 June reiterating his call for the Israeli government to abandon and desist from implementing plans that might result in the forcible transfer of Palestinian Bedouin communities in the West Bank. The statement expressed alarm at plans “which in their full effect are believed to entail the forced eviction and forcible transfer of thousands of people, contrary to international human rights law and international humanitarian law, now appears imminent”. The special rapporteur told the HRC in March that an estimated two-thirds of those affected by the transfer plans are children. In June, Israel blocked a visit to the Palestinian territories by Wibisono for a second time.

On 10 June, the Committee on the Rights of the Child published its concluding observations on the report submitted by Israel under article 12, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/ISR/CO/1). The Committee voiced concern that Israel did not provide information and data on children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The Committee noted the absence of a comprehensive policy and strategy on children that includes all issues covered by the Optional Protocol, insufficient programmes targeting children in vulnerable and marginalised situations and the need to establish an independent mechanism to monitor and evaluate progress under the Convention and the Optional Protocols.

The HRC considered the Commission of Inquiry’s report on 29 June. In its statement, Palestine said it will work with the HRC to adopt the report’s recommendations and conclusions and to have its implementation followed by the relevant mechanisms. Israel did not make a statement.

Key Issues

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

Other key issues include:

• Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank, which undermines prospects for peace;

• reconstruction in Gaza, which needs to be facilitated and accelerated; and

• alleged war crimes committed in Gaza during last summer’s conflict, which need to be investigated, with measures to ensure accountability.


One option is to revisit the idea of adopting a resolution outlining parameters for a final status agreement, an initiative that has been brewing behind the scenes among some Council members for a while.

Another option would be to explore other Council outcomes that could help advance prospects for a negotiated settlement.

Council Dynamics

Some Council members, such as France, Jordan and the UK, have been involved since late last year in efforts to negotiate a resolution that sets parameters for a final status agreement. On 30 December 2014, a draft resolution calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories by the end of 2017, failed to pass with five members abstaining and two voting against, including the US. Since the start of this year, movement on any further outcome was stalled due to US insistence that the Council should not act until after Israel’s election. Currently, Council members seem to be in agreement to wait until the anticipated conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal and US Congressional approval of that deal before reintroducing such an initiative.

It is generally accepted that the fate of any Council outcome on Israel/Palestine lies ultimately with the US, which has historically used its veto to protect Israeli interests. Recent developments between Israel and the US, particularly the fallout over Netanyahu’s pre-election comments repudiating a two-state solution could signal a shift in the US’s posture towards action on the issue. However, some members remain sceptical about whether this rhetoric will translate into concrete action in the Council.

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UN Documents on Israel/Palestine

Security Council Meeting Records
24 June 2015 S/PV.7470 This was the regular monthly briefing on the Middle East.
21 April 2015 S/PV.7430 This was the quarterly open debate on the Middle East.

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