Recognizing serious differences between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as they transition to new governments, a United Nations political official today called on both sides to keep the plight of residents of Gaza and the West Bank from deteriorating, as he briefed the Security Council on developments in the Middle East.
“Despite the gulf between the parties, they and the international community share a common interest and duty to prevent a security or humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory,” said Tuliameni Kalomoh, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.
While acknowledging Israel’s security concerns, he observed that “the extended closure of Gaza has caused real hardship.”
Mr. Kalomoh said that the programme of the new Palestinian Government did show some signs of evolution from “Hamas’ deeply disturbing record and covenant.”
However, he said the Government should reassess its position on the Quartet’s principles and President Abbas’ platform of peace, “if the aspirations of the Palestinian people for peace and statehood are to enjoy the strong international support they deserve.”
On the Israeli elections earlier this week, he said that it remained to be seen whether “Israel will adhere to its stated policy that the entire Palestinian Authority, including the Presidency, has become a terrorist entity.” That policy had recently been cited to justify a freeze on Palestinian tax revenues.
Mr. Kalomoh also described the “convergence plan” of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose new Kadima party won the greatest share of legislative seats, in which Israel would unilaterally set permanent borders by 2010 if it could not negotiate with Palestinians, withdrawing from much of the West Bank but annexing major settlement blocks.
He said that if such unilateral actions diminish the prospect of a viable Palestinian State, it will become even more difficult to persuade Palestinians that there is anything to be gained from moving toward compromise.
He added that, as the formation of a new Israeli government is awaited, the recently expressed interest of both Acting Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in negotiations should be seriously explored.
Meanwhile, he reported that both Israelis and Palestinians suffered from violence in the past month. Several Palestinian youths died as a result of Israeli security operations while a number of Israelis were killed and injured in shootings. Rockets continued to be launched from Gaza into Israel, including, for the first time, a Katyusha; Israel continued to fire artillery at rocket launching sites.
Mr. Kalomoh also touched on the issue of Lebanon, calling the start of the national dialogue there a positive, and historic, development in the Middle East. “Let us hope that their efforts will bear fruit, thus sending a message throughout the region that peaceful dialogue is, indeed, the only way forward,” he said.