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Update Report No. 2: Israel/Palestine

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Expected CouncThe Middle East 1947-2007: Sixty Years of Security Council Engagement on the Israel/Palestine Question of December 2007.)

The stalemated peace process is expected to be the focus of discussion but the significance of the backdrop of upheavals that are playing out across the region is also likely to receive attention.

The final report of the Panel of Inquiry into the 31 May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, originally expected in February, now seems unlikely to be completed before late May.

Key Recent Developm242 of 1967 and 338 of 1973. Palestinian recognition of the state of Israel was formalised in an exchange of letters between Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the lead-up to the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993, thereby giving more specificity to the territorial scope in the context of a peace process which was designed to agree exact boundaries.

On 8 April, in informal consultations, Lebanon proposed that the Council approve elements to the press on the escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel. The Council was not able to agree on the matter. (In recent months a much increased level of mortar and rocket attacks against Israel has occurred along with Israeli air strikes in Gaza.) Media reports indicate an increase in Israeli targeting of Hamas military capabilities citing the 15 March seizure of the Victoria—a ship allegedly carrying arms bound for Gaza. An air strike in Port Sudan on 7 April killing two passengers in a car, reportedly Hamas members, has been blamed on Israel by Sudan. Israel has not commented on the accusation. Analysts note that Israel suspects there is weapons smuggling to Gaza via Sudan.

During informal consultations on 22 March it seems there was discussion of Russia’s 8 February proposal for a Council visiting mission to the Middle East. On 28 March Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria in a letter to the Security Council endorsed Russia’s proposal of a visiting mission to their countries and encouraging a revitalised Security Council role in achieving a comprehensive solution on the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab tracks.

On 24 February, UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry briefed the Council and called for credible and effective international intervention in the peace process.

On 18 February, a draft resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity was vetoed by the US. The other 14 members of the Council voted in favour. In the days leading up to the vote, the US proposed a three-pronged package to the Palestinians in lieu of the resolution: a presidential statement broadly along the lines of the draft resolution, taking up the 8 February Russian proposal for a visiting mission to the region and stronger language on 1967 borders coming out of the next ministerial-level Quartet meeting. The incentives were not sufficient for the Palestinians to withdraw the draft resolution originally tabled on 18 January with 122 co-sponsors. At the time of the vote, a month later, the draft had a very different and much smaller set of 79 co-sponsors (18 countries, mainly European joined the list, while some 61 others, mainly from the Non-Aligned Movement, dropped out). Some states formally withdrew sponsorship. However, it seems that much of the reduced number was due to the fact that the US raised a procedural objection to the co-sponsorship list claiming that many states had not followed the correct procedure in attaching their names to the draft.

At press time, the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry into the 31 May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident was expected to meet 26-28 April to continue examining the national reports of Turkey and Israel. (The Panel previously met 14-16 March.) Its draft report and recommendations are expected to be submitted to the parties with a final report submitted to the Secretary-General in late May. In the event that a consensus report acceptable to both Israel and Turkey is impossible then the co-chairs of the Panel may exercise their role under the Panel’s terms of reference to submit their own conclusions. On 1 April Netanyahu expressed concern to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon regarding reports of a new international flotilla being organised for May to break the Gaza blockade. (For further background on the Gaza flotilla incident and subsequent developments, please see Security Council Report’s July, August and September 2010 and February 2011 Monthly Forecasts.)

Human Rights-Related Developments

In a 1 April op-ed for the Washington Post Richard Goldstone wrote that had Israel cooperated with the fact-finding mission he headed for the Human Rights Council then the conclusions of the mission’s report regarding the targeting of civilians as a matter of Israeli policy might have been different. The status of the original report remains unaffected by this turn of events. The Human Rights Council’s Committee of Independent Experts—tasked with following up the Goldstone Report—said that Israel had investigated over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza but the mechanisms were inadequate to genuinely ascertain the facts and any ensuing legal responsibility. The Committee also said that Hamas had not carried out any investigations. On 25 March the Geneva-based body adopted a resolution urging the General Assembly to reconsider the Goldstone Report and submit it to the Security Council with the recommendation of referring the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the ICC.

Also on 25 March the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution following-up the report of the independent international fact-finding mission on the Gaza flotilla incident. The resolution welcomed the establishment of the UN Panel of Inquiry, expressed concern at Israel’s lack of cooperation and requested a follow-up report at the Human Rights Council’s next session in June 2011. The US opposed the resolution as it regarded the Panel of Inquiry as the primary mechanism for addressing the issue

On 21 March, the High Commissioner for Human Rights gave a presentation on the situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories. In the general debate that followed a number of speakers noted that the Middle East and the world were witnessing an important transformation with potentially historic consequences and wondered if this transformation would have a positive impact leading to a just and comprehensive peace.

Key Is1850 and 1860, both of which were adopted during the administration of former US President George W. Bush.)

Issue of Admission to thpresidential statement requires the final report to be transmitted to the Council.

UN DocumS/RES/1860 (8 January 2009) called for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and unimpeded humanitarian assistance.

  • S/RES/1850 (16 December 2008) declared Council support for the Annapolis peace process and its commitment to the irreversibility of bilateral negotiations.
  • S/RES/338 (22 October 1973) called for a ceasefire and the comprehensive implementation of resolution 242.
  • S/RES/242 (22 November 1967) was a British sponsored compromise calling on all parties to end territorial claims, respect sovereignty, and for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories.
  • Security Council Presidential Statement

    • S/PRST/2010/9 (1 June 2010) called for an impartial investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident and stressed that the situation in Gaza was not sustainable.

    Security Council Press Statement

    • SC/10001 (3 August 2010) welcomed the establishment by the Secretary-General of his Panel of Inquiry into the Gaza flotilla incident.

    Security Council Letters

    • S/2011/148 (18 March 2011) was the letter from Israel regarding the seizure of the Victoria—a ship allegedly carrying arms bound for Gaza.
    • S/2011/24 (18 February 2011) was the draft resolution on settlements vetoed by the US. The other 14 Council members voted in favour.
    • S/2010/414 (2 August 2010) was on the establishment of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry into the Gaza flotilla incident.

    Security Council Meeting Records

    • S/PV.6501 (22 March 2011) was the briefing by DPA’s Oscar Fernandez-Taranco on the Middle East.
    • S/PV.6488 (24 February 2011) was UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry’s briefing on the Middle East.
    • S/PV.6484 (18 February 2011) was the meeting record of the US veto of the draft settlement resolution.
    • S/PV.6325 (31 May 2010) and S/PV.6326 (1 June 2010) was the Security Council meeting on the Gaza flotilla incident.

    Human Rights Council

    • A/HRC/RES/16/32 (25 March 2011) urged the General Assembly to reconsider the Goldstone Report and submit it to the Security Council with a recommendation to refer the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the ICC.
    • A/HRC/RES/16/20 (25 March 2011) regretted non-cooperation by Israel with the fact-finding mission into the Gaza flotilla incident and decided to follow-up at its 17th session in June 2011.