United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Israel to lift all restrictions on moving goods and people in the occupied Palestinian territory and on Palestinians to take firm measures to cease rocket fire and other indiscriminate attacks against Israeli civilians as necessary steps to revive the peace process.
“Without bold steps to guarantee security of the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations, and without tangible measures that will enable the Palestinians to lead a normal economic and social life, the political process will not succeed,” he said in a message delivered by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane to the UN Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People in Doha, Qatar.
Mr. Ban said Israeli restrictions, ongoing settlement activities and barrier construction continued to have a devastating effect on the precarious economy and the serious humanitarian emergency in the occupied Palestinian territory, and complicate efforts to achieve a two state solution to the conflict.
“Internal Palestinian tensions are further compounding an already dismal situation,” he added in a reference to the fighting between the Fatah and Hamas organizations in Gaza. But he also renewed international efforts by the Quartet - the UN, United States, Russia and the European Union - revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the resumption of direct dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
“It is vital to build on these steps with a credible political process that is supported by the world community,” Mr. Ban declared. “We must all focus on resolving the conflict, and on improving the socio-economic situation, not merely managing its inevitable crises.”
In comments to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban said he fully supported a trilateral meeting later this month between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Palestinian Authority and Israeli leaders.
In his message, he welcomed Israel’s recent release of some of the withheld tax revenues and urged it to take further steps in this direction without delay, including the lifting of all restrictions on the movement of goods and people in order to breathe life into the Palestinian economy.
“A concerted effort by the international community, including donor countries, will be crucial,” he said, noting that the UN has substantially increased its efforts to provide humanitarian aid but this, by itself cannot offset the continuing deterioration of the situation. “I appeal to all international donors to be generous and step up their efforts at delivering emergency and other forms of assistance to the Palestinians people,” he added.
“Only a permanent political settlement, which ends the occupation, can provide a sustainable solution to the economic and humanitarian problems of the Palestinian people and lasting security for Israel,” he concluded.
The two-day meeting, sponsored by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, will assess the scope of the socio-economic and humanitarian emergency in the occupied Palestinian territory, examine international and regional response to the needs of the Palestinian people and explore what is needed to ensure Palestinian economic recovery.
Committee Chairman Paul Badji stressed that attempts to punish the Palestinian people collectively would not bring security to Israel. He called on Israel to become a partner in the rehabilitation of the Palestinian economy. As long as the Palestinians did not have a sound economy that provided jobs and food, peace would remain elusive, he said.
The Head of the UN Development Programme’s Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People, Khaled Abdel Shafi, told the seminar the Israelis had made life miserable for the Palestinian people while preventing the Palestinian Authority from achieving or receiving credit for any positive results. By their actions they created the perfect environment for Hamas, which rejects Israel’s right to exist, to win elections.
The Chief of the Information and Advocacy Unit at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Jerusalem, Allegra Pacheco, said child deaths had increased by 200 per cent and there had been a dramatic rise in injuries. Most of the deaths had been in Gaza but one could not ignore the West Bank where the Israeli army was very active in terms of arrests, she added.