UN Security Council Plots Path Forward on the Israeli-Palestinian File
Blame game, humanitarian access and reviving the dormant peace process among points of discussion
The United States took a beating at the UN Security Council during this month’s 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas. To the dismay of the other 14 members of the body, the Americans blocked three council statements on the matter, then stalled on a French-led resolution, preferring instead to work behind the scenes with Egypt, Qatar and others to bring about an expedited end to the violence.
Diplomacy won out, with the duration shorter and the casualties lower than in past flare-ups. Still, pushback from the US on Security Council action during the height of tensions was still, apparently, up for debate.
“It’s absolutely crucial that the council speaks with one voice on issues like these. We have the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. And people on the ground listen not only to what the council says, but what it does not say,” Norwegian Ambassador to the UN Mona Juul told The Media Line.
Norway chairs the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee − a body whose primary function is to coordinate the delivery of international aid to Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority − and will coordinate expert meetings and recommendations on financing and reconstruction as soon as possible, she said.
“The council has to live up to its mandate. I will continue Norway’s efforts to find solutions,” Juul, who along with her husband, Terje Rød-Larsen, played a key role in the 1990s Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, said.
The Security Council returned to its chambers in New York on Thursday for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian file, marking the body’s first in-person discussion on the subject since the coronavirus pandemic began.
A major focus, of course, was on who was to blame for the latest round of violence. But nearly every party spoke of the need not just for urgent humanitarian aid, but for a solution to the conflict outside of the political considerations of the day.
“It starts with respect for international law. Without it, you get the same cause and effect. The Security Council was fully engaged throughout this most recent crisis and now we must support all efforts to revive the political process to reach a real solution,” French Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Rivière told The Media Line.
Martin Kimani, Kenya’s envoy to the UN, told The Media Line, “We have to encourage a new, different way of thinking about this conflict. It can’t just be about humanitarian efforts. We need to integrate that with peacebuilding and sustainable development, and build despite the extremists on both sides. There are international mechanisms in place to do it, including Security Council resolutions. It’s time to show the political will power to move forward.”
Just before the session, the UN announced a $95 million “flash” humanitarian drive for Gaza relief.
Concerns are running high about money flowing into the Strip going for its intended purposes, rather than to help Hamas re-arm.
Noa Furman, deputy Israeli ambassador to the UN, said during her council briefing, “We are seeking reassurances that fresh humanitarian assistance to Gaza will not fall into the hands of terrorists. There are some parties, including UNRWA [the UN Relief and Works Agency], that give Hamas a pass for its war crimes, which encourages fresh violence.”
UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini also briefed the council on Thursday, laying almost exclusive blame for the conflict on Israel, days after Matthias Schmale, UNRWA’s head of operations in Gaza, came under fire from Hamas and its supporters for saying that Israeli air strikes in Gaza were “precise,” “sophisticated” and “did not hit, with some exceptions, civilian targets.” He later backtracked and blamed the press for misconstruing his quotes.
Tor Wennesland, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, however, speaking via teleconference from Jerusalem, said that “Palestinian national unity and the return of a legitimate Palestinian government to Gaza is needed to move forward sustainably,” even as he noted that evictions of Palestinians in Jerusalem neighborhoods and continued expansion of Jewish settlements have the ability to light another fire in the region.