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.