U.N. Calls for Palestinian State, Israel Bites Back
As the world grows wary of the dormant Middle East peace process, Israel comes under pressure to commit to establishing an independent Palestinian state.
In a Monday meeting convened to discuss measures to breathe new life into the much-delayed Middle East peace talks, the U.N. Security Council adopted a non-binding statement calling for “vigorous diplomatic” action to reach an overall settlement and a two-state solution.
“The council reiterates its call for renewed and urgent efforts by the parties and the international community to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on the vision of a region where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, will live side by side in peace, within secure and recognized borders,” reads the statement.
Israel, which was not allowed participation in the council’s debate, objected to the meeting and argued that U.N. Security Council efforts would not contribute to the political process in the Middle East.
“This process should be bilateral and left to the parties themselves,” Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Gabriela Shalev said in a statement.
The push for reconciliation by the U.N. Security Council was followed by warnings from every speaker about more violence in the region should the two sides fail to renew negotiations.
The warning came in line with remarks the Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah II, made in an interview with The Times of U.K. to which he said that any further delays in peace talks would cause the world to be “sucked into another conflict.”
The call by the U.N. Security Council comes just days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a trip to Washington where the stalled Middle East peace process tops the agenda of talks.
Peace negotiations have stopped since Israel launched its devastating attack on Gaza in December and killed at least 1,350 natives of the land.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama also pledged commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the creation of “an independent, viable Palestinian state.”
“The United States is fully and unequivocally committed to working for a two-state solution,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters after the U.N. meeting. “We share a sense of urgency. This is a moment that should not be lost.”
While former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert claimed to be willing to work toward an independent Palestinian state, his right-leaning successor — Benajamin Netanyahu — has expressed misgivings about the establishment of a separate Palestinian state.
The hawkish Israeli premier has argued that turning over land to the Palestinians would only endanger Israel.
The call by the U.N. on Israel comes as earlier in March, Netanyahu played down the notion of any friction with the Obama administration over his policy toward the Middle East peace process and expressed doubt over the existence of any “pressure from the United States”.
“I think you are talking about something that I doubt existed for any length of time in the past and which I am convinced does not exist today,” Netanyahu said.
Presiding over a U.N. Security Council meeting, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged the new administration in Tel Aviv to endorse a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine immediately and restart negotiations.
On his last stop in the U.S., Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov chaired a meeting with the U.N. Security Council. Addressing the urgent need for an Israel-Palestine solution, his main concern was not to backtrack.
“There’s an alarming negotiation vacuum caused by a number of well-known reasons: outbreaks of violence, the Gaza crisis, first the election and then a long process forming an Israeli government. In these conditions the major thing is to renew negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians as soon as possible,” stated Lavrov in his address.
In an unusually unified voice, the Security Council’s finger pointed in the new Israeli government’s direction, whose hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to publicly endorse the idea of a Palestinian state.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon supported the idea that “the time has come for Israel to fundamentally change its policies, in this regard, as it has repeatedly promised to do, but not yet done. Action on the ground, together with a genuine readiness to negotiate on all core issues, including Jerusalem, borders, and refugees, based on Israel’s existing commitments, will be the true test of Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution.”
Russia called for the ministers of all major powers to fly in, but one face missing is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which raised a lot of questions at Lavrov’s press conference which he quickly shook off.
“We don’t see any political attitude in this, I was just in Washington three days ago and Hillary told me that she wouldn’t be able to make it. And she asked Susan Rice to represent the U.S.,” Lavrov said himself.
Fixing the crisis in the Middle East is going to take vigorous diplomacy, and to stress the time crunch, Russia is already making plans to hold a peace conference where all sides will be invited.
A Middle East peace settlement will be a top priority of the Obama administration and Washington does not want to see “a lengthy, drawn-out process” towards a two-state solution, Susan Rice, US envoy to the United Nations, said yesterday.
Ms Rice’s comments at the U.N. Security Council in New York were the latest in a series of telling statements by top U.S. administration officials that are raising the pressure on Israel to reactivate the peace process.
They came ahead of next week’s crucial first meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and the U.S. president, at which the two leaders are expected to lay the ground for a fresh attempt to end the Middle East conflict. >>>