UN envoy celebrates rewards for Israel as Gaza starves

Palestinians queue for soup during Ramadan in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiyeh.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Middle East peace envoy, called on the Palestinian Authority to resume coordination with Israel during a briefing to the Security Council on Monday.

He pointed to the Palestinian refusal of tax revenue transfers from Israel as a factor exacerbating “an economic and fiscal crisis” that threatens the viability of the PA.

The Palestinian Authority began refusing tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel in early 2019.

The refusal is a protest of a law that allows Israel to deduct payments made to Palestinian prisoners and their families from Palestinian Authority tax revenue, which Israel controls.

Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax revenue is a violation of its obligations under the Oslo accords’ Paris Protocol.

Mladenov displays his bias by calling on the PA to accept tax revenue transfers without asking Israel to change its behavior that prompted the Palestinian protest.

It is part of his general tendency to badger Palestinians into accepting an unjust status quo while making little to no demands on Israel.

During his Security Council briefing, Mladenov once again failed to unequivocally call on Israel to lift its 13-year siege on Gaza, where two million Palestinians have seen their economic situation go from worse to disastrous with the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions.

Another UN official, Philippe Lazzarini, stated recently that Palestinians in Gaza are experiencing unprecedented poverty, with some forced to rummage through trash for food.

Child malnutrition has increased, as have deaths by suicide, with young people in Gaza seeing no glimmers of hope on the horizon.

Mladenov stated that understandings preventing a military confrontation between Israel and resistance groups in Gaza “have largely held.”

Unfortunately, so has Israel’s siege of collective punishment on the territory.

Coordination

Mladenov called on the PA to resume “civilian and security” coordination with Israel, which was suspended earlier this year in protest of the latter’s plans to formally annex occupied West Bank land.

The suspension of civilian coordination has meant that patients in Gaza are unable to access medical treatment in Israel and the West Bank – treatment that isn’t available in the besieged Strip.

Human rights and health organizations have stressed that as the occupying power, Israel is ultimately responsible for Palestinians’ right to health. The demand should be on Israel to provide unfettered access to care, rather than normalizing its cruel permit regime.

And while de jure annexation in the occupied West Bank has been put on hold following an international outcry, Israel’s de facto annexation proceeds apace.

Mladenov rightly pointed out that Israeli moves to build more settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law.

“Settlement-related activities should cease as they undermine the prospect of achieving a two-state solution,” Mladenov said.

However, he has not recommended any action that would hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law.

Mladenov did finally speak out over Israel denying visas to UN staff members to punish them for the publication of a report on business activities in West Bank settlements.

“I am deeply concerned that critical mandated work on human rights by the United Nations is obstructed in this manner,” Mladenov said.

“I urge Israel to facilitate the return of international staff members,” he added.

Normalization for nothing

While Israel obstructs the work of his UN colleagues, Mladenov welcomed the normalization of ties between the apartheid state and Sudan, saying that he hoped it would help “advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

The Sudan-Israel normalization deal, and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreements before it, are all about dictatorships shoring up favor with Washington.

They have nothing to do with the Palestinians.

If anything, they are rewards for Israel that further relieve what little international pressure already exists for it to end the very violations of international law that Mladenov regularly reports to the Security Council.

On Saturday, AP reported that Israel had given its blessing for the US sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE.

The Gulf country has played a prominent role in the ongoing conflict in Yemen, where an estimated 100,000 people have been killed since 2015.

On Tuesday, UN agencies warned that almost 100,000 children under the age of 5 in Yemen are “at high risk of dying without urgent treatment for severe acute malnutrition.”

“If the war doesn’t end now, we are nearing an irreversible situation and risk losing an entire generation of Yemen’s young children,” Lisa Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said.

Instead of building peace, the UAE deal aims to “accelerate the militarization of the Middle East and the subjugation of its people,” the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee stated on Monday.

The acceleration of militarization – and the entrenchment of Israeli impunity – are not the kinds of frameworks that a UN peace envoy should welcome or enforce.

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Biden will have the same policy for the Palestinians and Israelis as Trump if he is elected.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.