UN Security Council passes unanimous resolution to send 30 unarmed military observers as advance team of monitors to Syria

The UN Security Council met with relative efficiency on Saturday afternoon at UNHQ/NY and voted unanimously [15-0] to send an advance team of some 30 unarmed military observers to Syria, as an advance team of monitors to observe compliance with a six-point plan by “Joint Envoy” Kofi Annan to stop the violence that has killed nearly 10,000 Syrians over the last year [as the current President of the UNSC, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice noted], and made at least 45,000 flee their country.

Some 5 or 6 of the observers were to arrive within hours — Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that one Russian would be coming from the Golan Heights [Syrian-claimed territory occupied by Israel since June 1967].

Another 20 military observers were supposed to be in Damascus within 24 hours.

Kofi Annan, former UNSG who now represents both the current UNSG BAN Ki-Moon and the Arab League, is due to present a more detailed plan by 18 April for a more substantial UN “supervising” mission in Syria.

Russia and China, who vetoed a previous proposed UNSC resolution on Syria, said that they could go along with this one because it respected Syrian government sovereignty…

Russia’s representative, Vitaly Churkin, complained at length however about hearing other representatives on the Security Council misrepresent the terms of the resolution — the

Syria’s representative Jaafari said that the resolution was not balanced, but added that his government would live with it because of the need to reestablish order in the country. Jaafari bitterly blamed outsiders — he named Saudi Arabia as one — for interfering, due to a long-standing rivalry between “Pan-Arabism and Political Islam”. And Jaafari blamed money coming from “Salafist and Wahhabi” sources for the acts of terror that he said have been committed by gangs operating throughout the country…

Danger ahead

It doesn’t take the UN to say it, but the UN Special Coordinator on the Middle East, Robert Serry, today told the UN Security Council that “The events of the past month demonstrate a dangerous combination of no political progress, instability and violence on the ground, especially in Gaza, and an increasingly precarious situation for the Palestinian Authority [PA] … The very viability of the Palestinian Authority is at stake, and ensuring its sustainability remains a fundamental priority”.

Right.

That has come to mean throwing money at it.

Twice a year, major Donors who keep the PA afloat meet to discuss the financial situation — and the spring meeting was held in Brussels this year, on 21 March.

Serry told the UNSC today that, in that meeting, “the primary concern of all AHLC members was the dire financial situation of the Palestinian Authority”.

Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz, just ahead of the meeting, that the between-the-lines significance of the report presented by Israel was: the Palestinians are not ready to have a state. A very self-serving message indeed. He wrote that:

    “Parts of the report are worded in a way that aims to make clear that the Palestinian economy is unable to support an independent state … ‘While the present fiscal crisis was caused by a shortfall in donor aid, there were also deviations in the execution of 2011’s budget’, the report said. ‘The public finance management system’s role in the current crisis may undermine its track record as a system that meets the requirements of a well-functioning state’. The report also indicated that the PA’s fiscal management contributed to the current crisis. ‘This demonstrates the need for further reform in order for the PA to meet the standards of a well-functioning state … The fiscal crisis is especially acute because much of the West Bank economy still depends on the public sector and on construction projects, both still heavily financed by foreign aid. It also serves as an alarming warning sign for the stability of the Palestinian economy … The current fiscal situation raises doubts about whether the PA will be able to reduce its dependency on foreign aid in the coming years’.”

Barak Ravid’s article, based on an insider briefing, is posted here.

Amira Hass took the Israeli report apart, in another article entitled Ignoring Israel’s complete domination, published in Haaretz here:

    “Who better than these delegates [the Donors, at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in Brussels last week] knows the great service the family of nations is doing to Israel by providing massive, ongoing aid to the Palestinians? Taxpayers around the world are the ones who are relieving Israel of its obligations as an occupying power and repairing the damage it is causing. It turns out it’s easier for the family of nations to fund the occupation than to force Israel to put an end to it. The guys in our finance and defense ministries – upon whose data the report is based – state, in fact, that the donor countries should get their checkbooks ready, because our policy this year won’t be different.

    With smug arrogance, the report’s authors ignore Israel’s complete domination over the resources essential to economic progress and expansion: land, water, time, a Palestinian population registry, currency, territorial expanse, air space, radio-frequency spectrums, territorial contiguity, banking services and television broadcasts, freedom of movement, border crossings, foreign nationals who are allowed entry and the duration of their stay, highways, and personal and communal security.

    With all the precision of a shopkeeper, the drafters of the report recount all of the measures that Israel, in its great magnanimity, has taken ‘to support economic growth in the West Bank’. But beyond all the means of support detailed in the report, there are the unmentioned hours wasted by Palestinian, American and European bureaucrats seeking to convince their Israeli counterparts to put them into practice

    The number of tourists coming to the West Bank city of Bethlehem last year, for example, was 1,174,280 (compared to 1,092,811 – note the precision! – in 2010), according to the report. Then there was the extension of the hours of operation at checkpoints; the agreement over the Palestinian police presence in Area B (which is under Israeli military control and Palestinian civil responsibility); construction of a visitors’ lounge for meetings between Palestinian and Israeli business people at one of the checkpoints; the drilling of four wells in a nature reserve’s eastern aquifer; 17 (again, note the precision!) preparatory meetings (regarding water infrastructure) with representatives of the U.S. State Department and USAID; one meeting with a Dutch representative over Israeli-Palestinian cooperation; 434,382 cars, owned by Palestinian citizens of Israel, that were allowed passage via the West Bank town of Jenin; consideration of a Palestinian request for a customs exemption for cars owned by foreign investors and the disabled; and approval of 2,777 requests for changes of address on ID cards from Gaza to the West Bank (of 3,857 people who sought approval).

    With a whiff of the theories of economist Milton Friedman, the report sneers at the size of the Palestinian public sector. But if there is anything that assures Palestinian social stability – and in turn quiet and prosperity for Israel – it is the regular (if unreasonably low ) salaries paid to that public sector. Since the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO were drafted in the 1990s, payment of wages has been a major means by which support of and dependence on the PA leadership has been buttressed. The adaptability of the Palestinian leadership to Israel’s policy of carving out Palestinian territorial enclaves was based in part on that very internal instability“…

The day after the UNESCO vote to admit Palestine as full member

Quiet satisfaction in Jerusalem — East Jerusalem, that is — the day after UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a full member state.

According to one adviser to UNRWA, the vote count has been revised to 114 votes in favor [not just 107, as was reported yesterday]… But, because my internet was down from morning till evening [apparently, a Washington Post blog reports that it was a hostile attack on Palestinian servers, and affected both the West Bank and Gaza], I haven’t had a chance to check who, how, or why…

A Swedish diplomat expressed shock and more at Sweden’s negative vote, in a conversation with a friend on the terrace of the Ambassador Hotel this evening.

A UN person said that he believes France’s decision to vote yes is because of the recent Tunisian vote, with an Islamist party taking the overwhelming majority, as well as changes in the air in Morocco and Algeria.

Personally, I think the explanation for the French “yes” is that UNESCO is based in the French capital Paris [where it would likely have received a rather mixed reception], and France is UNESCO host country…

Daniel Levy writes on FP’s Middle East Channel here that “France has stated that it would support Palestine at the UNGA but not at the UNSC”.

Yes, this is also a good explanation — it is, in so many words, indeed what French President Sarkozy said in his speech at the UNGA High Level Debate in September, before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally filed the Palestinian “UN bid” for full membership via the Security Council.

If you extrapolate a bit more widely, you could postulate, from factoring in the UNESCO vote, that France will support Palestine everywhere but in the UN Security Council …

What is clear is that the Europeans don’t have a common position, at least not yet — though I still suspect one may firm up by the time we come to the UNSC vote on the Palestinian vote. A common European position to abstain will mean that the Palestinian request will fail to get the necessary number of votes to pass — so the U.S. will not be obliged to exercise its veto power, as threatened. This is a slightly more gentle way of deferring the Palestinian request, and telling them to “come back later”.

Here on the terrace of the Ambassador Hotel in [East] Jerusalem, the consensus is that Saudi Arabia will pay any deficit in UNESCO’s budget due to the near-instantaneous U.S. announcement that it is withholding a $60 million payment in November.

But who will make up the shortfalls in funding to the Palestinian Authority? The U.S. has already — and since August — withheld some $200 million in money earmarked for USAID projects in the West Bank, in anticipation of the Palestinian “UN bid”. Now, again today, the Israeli government has once more decided, in response to the UNESCO vote, to suspend transfer of tax money collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday night that Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said that “The talk about freezing tax revenues belonging to the Palestinian Authority is a provocation and theft of our money … We call on the Quartet and the US administration to put an end to these practices, which will have a negative impact on the whole region”. This JPost report is published here.

Meanwhile, the estimable Craig Murray [a former career diplomat and former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, who now calls himself simply a “human rights activist”] has written here on his blog that, as a result of the UNESCO vote yesterday, “Palestine is now a state. Membership of the United Nations is not in international law a pre-condition of statehood, and indeed is not compulsory for states. The existence of states not members of the UN is recognised in international law, not least by the UN itself. Palestine has just joined UNESCO for example under a provision which allows states which are not members of the United Nations to join if they get qualified majority support – which Palestine overwhelmingly did. So the UNESCO membership is crucial recognition of Palestine’s statehood, not an empty gesture. With this evidence of international acceptance, there is now absolutely no reason why Palestine cannot, instantly and without a vote, join the International Criminal Court. Palestine can now become a member of the International Criminal Court simply by submitting an instrument of accession to the Statute of Rome, and joining the list of states parties … There is an extremely crucial point here: if Palestine accedes to the Statute of Rome, under Article 12 of the Statute of Rome, the International Criminal Court would have jurisdiction over Israelis committing war crimes on Palestinian soil. Other states parties – including the UK – would be obliged by law to hand over indicted Israeli war criminals to the court at the Hague”…

Continue reading “The day after the UNESCO vote to admit Palestine as full member”

The Quartet: Proximity talks + Positive thinking

Envoys from the Quartet met, separately, with Israeli and Palestinians at the UN’s lovely and venerable Government House — the seat of government built by the British during the Palestine Mandate period — on the southern edge of Jerusalem today.

The location seems to have been specially selected to please the Palestinian side, and was a gesture laden with symbolic significance.

Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair, who seriously irritated Palestinian officials recently in what they said was a heavy-handed attempt to dissuade them from pursuing their “UN bid” for full membership in the international organization, was also present. Despite some comments that Blair was “persona non grata”, etc, the Palestinian negotiators seemed to have little-to-no problem in dealing with him in these “proximity” or indirect talks, in which the two sides didn’t actually meet each other, but stayed in separate places while the Quartet envoys moved between them.

According to one news report [in the Wall Street Journal, here], Tony Blair was the essential actor in the Quartet meeting, shuttling in the meetings “between Israelis and Palestinians on Wednesday with an international blueprint for a return to negotiations” — which seems to be just ever so slightly misleading, particularly given the Palestinian anger and unease with his performance during the four+ years he’s held his functions, being present in Israel-Palestine less than one week a month in those four+ years, and meanwhile earning a fortune on the side …

The idea, according to a U.S. State Department official speaking ahead of today’s talks, was “to get each of them working on concrete proposals on security and borders / territories”.

Basically, the U.S. says it has heard “positive noises” from the two sides, and is determined to ignore anything else.

So, the Quartet has just passed the first stage of the plan [the two parties should have an initial meeting] proposed on 23 September, the day Mahmoud Abbas deposited the Palestinian “UN bid” at UN headquarters in New York.

In the second stage, which should last for approximately three months, the two sides must each work, separately, on their own proposals on the two issues [security + borders]. If there is no breakthrough at that point, the problems will become more acute. By six months, which is where the first real crunch will be, the two sides are supposed to have made “substantial progress” in their discussions, if not also on their overall relations with each other…

Two days ago, in a briefing to the UN Security Council, the UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry said: “We remind the parties that the Quartet reaffirmed the international legal basis for peace talks and called for the parties to overcome the obstacles and resume negotiations without preconditions. The Quartet further called for proposals within three months on borders and security, with a view to achieving substantial progress within six months and an agreement no later than the end of 2012. The Quartet stressed the need for the parties to refrain from provocations and reiterated their Roadmap obligations”.

Serry also told the Security Council that “The Palestinian application for United Nations membership is being examined by this Council, and is a matter for Member States. Also, the Palestinian request for membership in UNESCO is being reviewed before a vote by the General Conference. This step could have repercussions for the Organizations as it has legal and political implications for the funding provided by some Member States. The Secretary-General is increasingly concerned about ramifications of such a step for the United Nations and asks all to act wisely in determining a course of action”.

Despite this note of caution, or warning, Mahmoud Abbas said in Ramallah that the Palestinians will press ahead with their UNESCO bid, too.

Serry participated in today’s meetings.

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon reported on Saturday night here that the Quartet participants in the proximity talks were “David Hale from the US, Helga Schmid form the EU, Sergei Vershinin from Russia and Robert Serry from the UN”…

Keinon added that “Back in the early part of 2010, George Mitchell, who was then Obama’s hand-picked Middle East envoy, was doing the same thing that the Quartet representatives tried to do on Wednesday: meeting with the sides to urge, nudge, cajole, pressure them back to direct negotiations. There was even a name given to this whole exercise: proximity talks. Tellingly, more than a year later, we are pretty much at the same spot: trying to get the two sides once again to agree to direct talks, with the Palestinians saying they will only do so if Israel freezes settlement construction, and various types of pressure being exerted on Israel to stop the building. The Quartet, in its plan for renewing negotiations that was unveiled at the UN on September 23, called for a direct meeting between the sides within a month. Instead, what it got was a reincarnation of ‘proximity talks’, and even that three days late. What distinguishes late 2011 from early 2010 is that now the man in the middle is no longer the US represented by Mitchell, nor even Hale, his low-profile replacement (Mitchell handed in his resignation in May). The man in the middle is actually a grouping of men and women – the Quartet representatives. Is this another example of the US leading from behind? Blair, in an interview this week with the Los Angeles Times, said the Quartet’s more active role in the peace process was not due to the US stepping back, because, as he said, ‘the US is still very much there’. But, he said, the US is ‘also saying to the international community, “You’ve go to step up with us here”.’”

After the proximity talks, Serry’s office put out a statement claiming — with remarkable optimism — that “Both Parties expressed their readiness to engage with the Quartet, on the basis of its statement of 23 September, to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions. The Parties agreed with the Quartet to come forward with comprehensive proposals on territory and security within three months in the context of our shared commitment to the objective of direct negotiations leading toward an agreement by the end of 2012. Envoys reiterated the Quartet call of 23 September upon the parties to refrain from provocative actions if negotiations are to be effective. Quartet Envoys agreed with the parties to meet regularly for the next 90 days to review progress”.

However, the Chief Palestinian Negotiator, Saeb Erekat gave no indication that the meeting had been quite so positive. Erekat is back on the job despite having resigned [he now explains that his resignation was not accepted] after a series of unflattering revelations following a major leak of documents [the “Palestine Papers”] from his office and a few other places in Ramallah, and then were used as the basis for a series of explosive programs on Al Jazeera TV about the conduct of the negotiations in recent years. 

Instead, after the Proximity Talks hosted by the Quartet, a statement was issued in Erekat’s name saying that “We explained to the Quartet that we are prepared to sit at the negotiating table as soon as the Israeli government freezes all settlement construction and accepts clear terms of reference, specifically the 1967 borders. These are not favors that Israel is doing for us. These are its obligations in accordance with international law and the Road Map. Anything short of that will simply put us back on the failed track that we have been on for the last 20 years”.  The Palestinian participants in these meetings were, apparently Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyah.

Before these Proximity talks, Erekat issued a statement saying that the continuing Israeli settlement enterprise in occupied Palestinian territory was nothing other than “legalized looting”.

According to a press statement published by the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department, “Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said, ‘All Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal according to international humanitarian law. There are no exceptions to this well-established legal principle’. Dr. Erekat responded to attempts by the Israeli government to draw false distinctions between different kinds of illegal settlement construction, whereby Israel alleges that there is so-called private and public construction. ‘Looting is not made legal under any circumstance. International humanitarian law and relevant UN resolutions draw no distinction between different forms of settlement construction. These actions constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute’, said Dr. Erekat”. This statement is posted here.

According to Israeli media reports, the Israeli participant in the Quartet’s Proximity talks with the two parties was Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s aide, Isaac Molcho.

Continue reading “The Quartet: Proximity talks + Positive thinking”

Heightened drama at monthly UNSC debate on Middle East, ahead of possible Palestinian bid at UN

The tone in Robert Serry’s voice conveyed an urgency greater than the mere words on paper.

On Tuesday [26 July], during the now-regular monthly meeting of the UN Security Council on the Middle East, Serry — who is the new UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and also Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General — Serry told the UN Security Council that “the political process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in profound and persistent deadlock“.

He spoke of the evident “differences and lack of trust between the parties”.

According to the logic of Serry’s statement, Israel maintains its military occupation that began with its conquests in the June 1967 war, some 43 years ago, because of Israeli leadership’s gnawing concerns for “lasting security”.

In the absence of a credible political horizon for ending the occupation that began in 1967, and of any framework for meaningful talks, and with Israeli settlement activity continuing, the Palestinian leadership is now actively exploring approaching the UN, Serry said — as a way to help preserve the two-state solution.

Israel has objected to any such move, calling it a “unilateral” action which violates — and might invalidate — the Oslo Accords negotiated with the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] in the early and mid-1990s. Various Israeli officials have threatened a number of possible difficult reactions, including an intensification of the difficulties [for Palestinians] of the Israeli occupation. Some Israelis have even threatened possible partial annexation of areas in the West Bank [parts of the West Bank in and around the Old City of Jerusalem have already been effectively annexed in the weeks following the June 1967 war, although UN member states have voted, in the UNSC and in the UN General Assembly and in other bodies and organs, to consider this unilateral Israeli act “null and void”].

This monthly UNSC debate, which has become rather routine, was described this time in Israeli media reports as a kind of a dress rehearsal for what might happen at the UN in September, when the Palestinian leadership has decided to make some kind of as-yet-undefined move towards functional statehood [unless, of course, they change their minds at the last minute, as they have with so many other things, including local and national elections…]

Serry told the Council that “the PA has in key areas reached a level of institutional performance sufficient for a functioning state … and is ready to assume the responsibilities of statehood at any point in the near future”.

Twenty years after the start of the inconclusive peace talks, starting with the multilateral Madrid Peace Conference in October 1991 [whose very slow progress lead to secret side talks, sponsored by Norway, between Israel and Palestinian figures, that resulted in the Oslo process that in 1994 instituted a transitional five-year arrangement including the establishment of a local Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza], “yet, again, we are reaching a point where the parties have failed to meet an agreed timeline for a permanent status agreement … [and] I cannot but describe the situation where Palestinian state-building has matured in the West Bank, but the political track has failed to converge, as dramatic”, Serry said.

Continue reading “Heightened drama at monthly UNSC debate on Middle East, ahead of possible Palestinian bid at UN”

Turkey disagrees with UN report on legality of Israeli naval blockade of Gaza

Özdem Sanberk, described as “one of Turkey’s most experienced diplomats”, said in an interview published in Turkey on Monday that his government does not agree with all of the still-unpublished conclusions in a 90-page report of a panel appointed by the UN Secretary General to look into the forceful Israeli interception of the Mavi Marmara on the high seas in the Eastern Mediterranean on 31 May 2010, during which 8 Turkish men and one Turkish American high school student were killed by Israeli forces.

An AFP story that appeared in the first week of July said that the UN report considered these deaths “unacceptable”.

And, Sanberk said today: “obviously we cannot be expected to accept nine deaths”.

The Turkish passenger ship, chartered by the Turkish humanitarian aid organization IHH, was carrying about 600 passengers and crew, and was sailing towards Gaza as part of a “Freedom Flotilla” with a number of other boats carrying international activists and cargoes of humanitarian aid.

The stated aim of the Freedom Flotilla was to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel declared a formal naval blockade of Gaza’s maritime space on 3-4 January 2009, as the IDF began the ground phase in its Operation Cast Lead against Hamas.

Sanberk is Turkey’s representative to the panel, which was assembled by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and headed by fFormer New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer. He spoke to the English-language Turkish newspaper, Today’s Zaman, in Istanbul, the paper said, after a week of closed-door negotiations in New York that started at the beginning of July. The paper added that “The report’s publication has been further delayed until the end of July in a [further] attempt to give Turkey and Israel a chance to resolve their differences”.

Sanberk noted that “it is probably the first time in Israel’s history that it is voluntarily taking part in a UN investigation”, and said that Israel seems to have “an attitude of making a diplomatic gesture by accepting the UN investigation. They have repeatedly expressed their demand for understanding in the face of their serious security problems, and expect the same understanding from Turkey, which they see as a friend”.

In the interview, Sanberk said that “The report clearly indicates the responsibility of the Israeli soldiers, while also acknowledging that Israel has security concerns and the Gaza blockade is legal. However, we know that the Israeli blockade of Gaza amounts to collective punishment as it includes civilians, women and children who bear no responsibility for the perceived threat to Israel”.

According to Today’s Zaman, Sanberk “also said that even though these details are not clearly stated in the [UN] panel’s report, another UN body, the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission in Geneva, had said last October that Israel’s military violated international law during the raid”.

“It is interesting to note that two bodies, both under the UN, have conflicting results in their reports”, Sanberk said.

Continue reading “Turkey disagrees with UN report on legality of Israeli naval blockade of Gaza”

Nabil ElAraby named Foreign Minister of the new Egypt

Nabil El-Araby (ElAraby) has been named the Foreign Minister of the new Egypt.

A brilliant choice.

See his separate opinion on the Advisory Opinion on the Wall, here, written when he served as a Judge on the International Court of Justice:

“What I consider relevant to emphasize is that this special responsibility [of the United Nations for Palestine, as mentioned in the main body of the Advisory Opinion of July 2004] was discharged for five decades without proper regard for the rule of law. The question of Palestine has dominated the work of the United Nations since its inception, yet no organ has ever requested the International Court of Justice to clarify the complex legal aspects of the matters under its purview. Decisions with far-reaching consequences were taken on the basis of political expediency, without due regard for the legal requirements. Even when decisions were adopted, the will to follow through to implementation soon evaporated. Competent United Nations organs, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, have adopted streams of resolutions that have remained wholly or partially unfulfilled. The United Nations special responsibility has its origins in General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, hereafter the Partition Resolution”…

UN Security Council unanimous resolution on Libya

In the UN Security Council meeting on Libya on Saturday (26 Feb.) the French put their foot down,  and insisted that the violence being carried out by loyalists and agents of the current regime in Libya against the people of Libya must be referred to the International Criminal Court.

UNSC resolution 1970 was adopted unanimously. It also freezes assets of Colonel Muammar Qaddhafi and his children, and imposes a travel ban on approximately 22 Libyans connected to Qaddhafi.

The full implications of this decision will only become clear through time…

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UN says Palestinian Authority reducing reliance on donors, but "can't meet expenses" — in both Gaza + West Bank

In a monthly report to the UN Security Council today, the UN political affairs department has just reported that:
(1) “[Palestinian] Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad briefed AHLC [Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, meaning major donors] members as well as Arab League Foreign Ministers that commitments of donor funding for 2010 remain critically below what is necessary to ensure that the Palestinian Authority can meet expenses. Reforms have steadily lowered the budget deficit, reducing PA reliance on donor funding for budget support. However, despite continuing generosity from some donors, commitments for 2010 remain insufficient to ensure that the PA can meet expenses in both Gaza and the West Bank, and the Palestinian Authority faces increasing difficulties to borrow from domestic banks to cover this shortfall”.

(2) Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are “at an impasse”.

(3) “The Quartet envoys have been in regular contact and Principals are discussing a proposal to meet soon to review developments”.  Oh, yes, and on the settlements:  the  UN  report noted that the UNSG had recently “reaffirmed that settlement activity is illegal under international law and contrary to the Roadmap”, and also “expressed disappointment that the moratorium had not been renewed”.

(4) “Despite Palestinian efforts, Israeli security forces, citing security concerns, conducted 353 operations in the West Bank during the reporting period, in which 6 Palestinians were killed, including two leaders of Hamas Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades allegedly involved in the killing of four Israelis near Hebron on 31 August. Also 157 Palestinians were injured and 330 arrested. Incursions on this scale weaken efforts to build genuine security cooperation. One Palestinian laborer [n.b. – the UN report to the Security Council did not characterize him either as a “terrorist” or an “infiltrator”] was killed while trying to reach East Jerusalem through the barrier, and another suffered a fatal heart attack. A total of 44 violent incidents were recorded between local Palestinians and settlers, in which 6 Palestinians and 4 Israelis were injured”.

(5) “Despite efforts to ease restrictions on movement and access, the number of obstacles [n.b. – a nice word. Not “roadblocks”, not “checkpoints” — maybe including a number of dirt mounds or boulders blocking roads?] in the West Bank remained at 508“.  Personally, I think the UN monthly report should contain a special chapter on the disgraceful and scandalous conditions at Qalandiya Checkpoint…

(6) “There were renewed confrontations in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem during the reporting period, underscoring the tensions caused by the presence and expansion of settler communities in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods”…

(7) “The status of the four Palestinian lawmakers from the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform bloc [they are facing “deportationfrom Jerusalem] remains unresolved. This unsustainable situation needs a sensible resolution that ensures they are not expelled from Jerusalem.

(8) Despite “modest gains”, it was reported that “the situation in Gaza remains a source of serious concern” … and “the current imports still represent a third of the June 2007 pre-blockade weekly average. We reiterate that the appropriate way to meet needs in Gaza is through the further opening of legitimate crossings”.

(9) At the moment, construction materials are allowed only for projects under UN supervision, and the report stated that “the UN will present additional programmes of work, before the end of the year and will also continue to work with the Government of Israel to streamline implementation arrangements. One immediate step would be for Israel to expand the working hours and days for which the Karni crossing is open”.

(10) The UN report called for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit, as well as “humanitarian access [to him] without further delay” — and it noted “reports of a resumption of efforts to conclude an agreement that would secure his release in exchange for the release of a number of the more than 9000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails”.

(11) And, “the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident will discuss and review the interim reports, once it had also received a report from Israel. The Israeli Commission to examine the maritime incident of 31 May 2010 continues its proceedings which are now at an advanced stage”…

Also, on Lebanon:
(12) “The Secretary-General expressed his support for the work of the Special Tribunal stressing that it is independent, with a clear mandate from the Security Council, through its resolutions 1664 (2006) and 1757 (2007), to uncover the truth and end impunity, and that no one should prejudge the outcome”.

(13) During the past month Israeli air violations took place on an almost daily basis.

Israeli international law expert discusses naval blockade of Gaza

If Israel was ambivalent (or of several minds) about the applicability of international law, prior to the Israeli naval assault on the Freedom Flotilla in the pre-dawn hours of 31 May, the Israeli government has now rediscovered its value.

Professor Ruth Lapidot, a former legal adviser to Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is one of — if not the – preeminent Israeli expert on international law [also known as public international law]. Her views are taken extremely seriously in official Israeli circles.

She recently [on 16 June] discussed Israel’s announced naval blockade of Gaza’s maritime space in a meeting with diplomats and journalists at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs [run by Israel’s former Ambassador Dore Gold.

Some of the more interesting things she said are: Israel has declared a formal naval blockade of Gaza’s coastline, in January 2009 [as we have reported here]. The area which is blockaded has to be clearly defined, and there has to be clear notification. The blockade must be applied without discrimination (though limited specific exceptions can be permitted).  Humanitarian assistance must be permitted — but not goods which may increase the war capacity of, in this case, Hamas.  If there is a suspicion that a ship is carrying arms or personnel to , in this case, Hamas, Israel may capture, visit, or search a ship that enters the blockaded zone, and can try to persuade them to leave. But, if a ship tries to run the blockade, there is a clear difference between how it is possible to treat a merchant ship (military force can be used) or a warship (only protests are allowed).

Those who oppose this blockade only say that it’s against international law, without saying why, Professor Lapidot said.

UPDATE: In a just-published interview, Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza movement said that “Israel has no right to stop us under international law UNLESS it wants to admit that it occupies Gaza. Since Israel says it no longer occupies Gaza and Gaza is free, they have no right to stop us. In addition, the blockade is collective punishment against a civilian population that is WAY out of line. International law, Amnesty International and the International Red Cross have all said the same thing. Israel’s blockade is illegal”… This is published here.

Professor Lapidot explained at the JCPA discussion that she believed Gaza is a sui generis entity, a special case. Because Gaza was never annexed by Israel, and because Israel does not control the entire territory of Gaza, she argued, it is not occupied. However, since Israel controls the air and sea space [criteria that many if not most other international law experts say are confirmation of an occupation], it has a special responsibility in case of accidents. She noted that the former Israeli Supreme Court head Justice Barak ruled that Israel also has a moral responsibility because it did previously occupy Gaza for so long.

Continue reading “Israeli international law expert discusses naval blockade of Gaza”