UNITED NATIONS — Political leaders on both sides of the Israeli Palestinian conflict continue to shy away from the steps needed for peace, further eroding the prospect of a two-state solution, the United Nations’ Mideast envoy said Monday.
Nicolay Mladenov told the Security Council that illegal settlement expansion by Israelis and the lack of Palestinian Authority control in Gaza remain among the biggest obstacles to peace.
Mladenov called for a “radical overhaul of how we deal with the problems of Gaza,” and said the area “remains in the grip of militants, and dependent on aid and humanitarian assistance.”
He also flagged “a surge in Israeli settlement-related announcements and demolitions,” since the Quartet of Mideast peace negotiators — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the U.N. — issued their report which aimed to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations which have been dormant since 2014, when a U.S. peace initiative failed.
“It has been nearly two months since the Middle East Quartet spoke clearly of the threats to the two-state solution and offered practical recommendations to enable an eventual return to meaningful negotiations to end the occupation that began in 1967,” Mladenov said. “Its recommendations continue to be ignored.”
Since July 1, Israel has advanced the construction of over 1,700 housing units in the occupied West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, Mladenov said.
The Israeli government is also undertaking a survey to identify potential “state land” in sensitive areas, something Mladenov said could “enable the establishment of a new settlement on the outskirts of Bethlehem.”
“All these plans would essentially create new illegal settlements and I call on Israel to cease and reverse these decisions,” he said.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said Mladenov’s comments on the illegality of Israeli settlements merely restated the obvious.
“We are sick and tired of repeating positions without suggesting practical steps in order to remove these obstacles from the path of peace,” Mansour said.
Mladenov also expressed concern over the apparent extrajudicial execution of a man by Palestinian security forces in Nabulus on August 23 and called for a thorough independent investigation. And he denounced rocket attacks by Gaza militants on August 21 and the Israeli response, firing missiles and shells at suspected military installations in the territory.
He said one positive development has been the signing of an electoral code of conduct to which all parties must adhere ahead of the Palestinian local council elections scheduled for October 8.
“Conducting local elections in line with established international standards can contribute to advancing Palestinian reconciliation,” the envoy said. “The lack of unity however, or any attempt to influence the outcome of the elections, including through intimidation, threats, violence or coercion, risks widening divisions and undermining the Palestinian national cause.”