What's In Blue

Posted Fri 24 Jun 2022

The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question: Briefing and Consultations

On Monday (27 June), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on: “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland will brief.

Wennesland is expected to focus on the implementation of resolution 2334 of 23 December 2016. In this resolution, the Security Council stated that the establishment of settlements by Israel “constitutes a flagrant violation under international law” and stressed that the cessation of settlement activities is “essential for salvaging the two-state solution”. The latest Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 2334, which was issued on 22 June and covers the period from 19 March to 16 June, says that the reporting period has seen the highest number of settlement units advanced since October 2020. This is due to the 12 May decision by the Israeli authorities to approve plans to advance over 4,000 units in various locations in the West Bank. On Monday, Wennesland and many Council members are likely to underscore that settlement advancement undermines the prospects for a two-state solution and call on Israel to immediately cease all settlement activity.

Wennesland and several Council members are expected to express concern at the risk of the forced eviction of about 1,200 Palestinians—including over 500 children—from a cluster of Palestinian villages in the West Bank known as “Masafer Yatta”. On 4 May, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected appeals against eviction orders issued to the residents of this area, which was designated by Israel in the 1980s as a firing zone for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). According to the Secretary-General’s report, on 1 June Israeli security forces demolished nine Palestinian structures in this area, displacing 38 Palestinians. In a 23 June statement, Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim for the occupied Palestinian territory Yvonne Helle said that additional demolition orders have been issued in the past two weeks and that a military exercise was recently launched close to residential areas. On Monday, Council members may stress the humanitarian impact of forced evictions and urge Israel to end this practice.

Resolution 2334 also called for immediate steps to prevent violence against civilians, including acts of terror, and called on both parties to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric. Wennesland is likely to provide an update on recent violent incidents and to express concern at the fact that daily violence throughout Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) has increased during the period covered in the Secretary-General’s report. Council members are likely to condemn all acts of terror, incitement and violence. Some members may call on Israel to promptly investigate all instances of alleged disproportionate use of force against Palestinians. Council members may also reiterate previous calls for the respect for the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Members may also refer to the high levels of settler-related violence noted in the Secretary-General’s report. In a recent such incident which took place on 21 June, a Palestinian man was fatally stabbed by an Israeli settler in the West bank town of Iskaka, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. An Israeli man was arrested the following day in connection with the stabbing. In a 22 June tweet, Wennesland condemned the stabbing and said that perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice.

Council members are likely to condemn the 18 June rocket launch from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel. The rocket, which was the first to be fired since April, was intercepted by Israel’s air defence system, “Iron Dome”. On the same day, the IDF said that, in response, it had targeted sites belonging to Hamas in Gaza. However, Al Jazeera reported that, according to Palestinian media, the strikes fell on agricultural land.

The 21st of June marked 15 years since the start of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. A recent Save the Children report analysing the effects of the blockade on children in Gaza has found that the 15 years of blockade “have resulted in fear and deprivation, which have taken a significant toll on the psychosocial wellbeing of children and young people in Gaza, as well as the capacity of their caregivers to support them to cope and recover”. The report says that lifting the blockade is the step most urgently required to improve this situation. The report also calls for the provision of comprehensive support for children and their families to increase their resilience and coping potential. On Monday, Wennesland may reiterate previous messages calling on Israel to fully lift the blockade.

On Monday, some members may refer to today’s (24 June) meeting of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security (IEG) on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. This meeting—during which Council members were briefed by Wennesland—was the first time that the IEG met to discuss the situation in Israel and the oPt.

Council members may also refer to the pledging conference for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which took place yesterday (23 June). Addressing the conference, Secretary-General António Guterres said that, at a time in which the Palestinian question is far from the headlines, UNRWA is at risk of financial collapse. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said that interruptions and a decrease in the funding provided to the agency, including from donors from the region, have contributed to UNRWA operating with an average $100 million shortfall for a decade. Moreover, changing “geopolitical priorities and regional dynamics, and the emergence of new humanitarian crises, have deprioritised the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, with the consequences of the situation in Ukraine further “strain[ing] the fragile financial situation of UNRWA”. At Monday’s meeting, Wennesland and Council members may call for increased financial support to make sure that UNRWA is able to carry out its mandate.

Although not a focus of Monday’s meeting, members may be interested in hearing Wennesland’s analysis on how recent political developments in Israel may affect the prospects for dialogue between the parties. On 20 June, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his coalition partner and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced their decision to hold a vote on dissolving the Knesset (parliament), effectively ending the coalition government formed in June 2021. The vote on the Knesset’s dissolution is expected to take place next week and Lapid is anticipated to assume the function of caretaker prime minister until the holding of parliamentary elections, likely in October.

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