In the 21 years that have passed since the beginning of the Oslo process, never has there been a situation similar to the current one between the Israelis and Palestinians: That is to say, total deadlock. There is no political or diplomatic horizon. No negotiations are underway or attempts to facilitate them. The two parties are barely in contact.
Palestinians take part in a rally while a speech of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations is projected in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Nov. 29, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
To date, there has been only one clear exception, to wit, the second intifada, which began in 2000. In response, the Israeli government eventually launched Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. At that time, it was war. Today, there is no war (as of yet), but there is nothing else either. As noted, never has there been such a situation since Oslo. Until today, there was always something in the pipeline: efforts, contacts, new ideas. Between 1993 and 1996, the Oslo process thrived and boomed before Labor’s Shimon Peres lost in elections to Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
I want to thank President al-Sisi for his initiative. This important event has helped lay the foundation for what we hope to be a durable ceasefire that must be further consolidated.
I also want to thank Foreign Minister Shoukri for his continuing leadership.
Foreign Minister Brende, thank you for your country’s leadership and commitment to lasting peace in the Middle East.
We are here to show our solidarity.
We are here to stand with the people of Gaza who have endured a terrible summer of suffering.
I want to convey my profound condolences to all those who tragically lost loved ones during the 51 days of conflict.
My thoughts are also with the many who were injured or made homeless.
It is in all their names that we must act.
In 2009, the international community gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh in the wake of another devastating war in Gaza.
We pledged our support. We expressed our commitment. We resolved to rebuild.
And yet here we are again.
The cycle of building and destroying has continued– only worse.
More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the most recent war, along with more than 70 Israelis.
Almost one-third of Gaza’s population was uprooted from their homes– with many no longer having homes to return to.
Entire neighborhoods were flattened.
Public infrastructure was demolished.
Blackouts continue up to 18 hours a day. More than 450,000 people cannot access the municipal water supply network.
Dozens of schools, hospitals and clinics were destroyed or damaged. UN facilities sheltering women and children were hit, resulting in many casualties. Eleven staff members of the United Nations were killed in the course of the conflict.
Meanwhile rockets fired by Hamas and other armed groups from Gaza continued to be fired indiscriminately causing fear, panic and suffering.
And, of course, the war exacted a toll that may be harder to measure– but that is equally devastating.
Families on both sides – especially children – have suffered deep psychological trauma.
The children of Gaza who have not yet reached grade three have already lived through three wars.
The United Nations and international partners have worked hand-in-hand with the Palestinian Authority to address Gaza’s urgent priorities.
But the needs are massive and time is short.
To effectively respond, the humanitarian community in Palestine has worked with the Palestinian Government to develop the “Gaza Crisis Appeal”.
Our “UN Support Plan for the Transformation of the Gaza Strip” amounts to about $2.1 billion for early recovery, reconstruction, and other efforts.
These initiatives deserve the most generous support.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ultimately, the successful reconstruction of Gaza requires a strong political foundation.
I am encouraged by the comprehensive reconciliation agreement reached in Cairo on 25 September. I urge all concerned to ensure that this time, deeds follow words.
The United Nations will continue to support the Government of National Consensus as it extends its functions and manages Gaza’s significant and urgent reconstruction needs. It is essential that our support benefit both refugee and non-refugee populations.
I welcome the temporary tripartite agreement brokered by the United Nations to secure entry of reconstruction materials into Gaza.
I am encouraged by the recent historic Palestinian unity government meeting in Gaza led by Prime Minister Hamdallah.
My message to all sides is clear:
First, promote an environment conducive for peace, mutual understanding and respect for human rights. This must include an investigation into potential violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict.
Second, make the most of the vital opportunity presented by the upcoming Cairo talks.
Third, strengthen the ceasefire which is crucial for the resumption of broader peace talks.
Fourth, refrain from unilateral actions which only exacerbate tensions and resentment.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Gaza remains a tinderbox.
The people desperately need to see results in their daily lives. Today. Now.
Leaders on both sides need to overcome their differences and demonstrate the courage and vision to end the conflict once and for all.
I welcome the inflow of funds, resources and staff into the beleaguered Gaza Strip to aid in its reconstruction.
Yet we must not lose sight of the root causes of the recent hostilities: a restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations.
I call on all parties to come together to chart a clear course towards a just and final peace — including achieving a full lifting of the blockade, ensuring Israel’s legitimate security concerns; and establishing two States living side by side in peace and security.
Going back to the status quo is not an option; this is the moment for transformational change.
I urge you to give generously to allow this important work to go forward.
I do not want my successors or yours to make conferences such as this a ritual: building and destroying– and then expecting the international community to foot the bill.
The parties to the conflict must finally make the tough but necessary decisions to enable a brighter future.
Let us each do our part.
Let us commit to make this the most successful conference to rebuild Gaza.
And let it be the last.
I thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this crucial session on the tragic situation in Gaza.
As we meet this morning, it seems that the long-overdue ceasefire is holding.
For the moment, the near constant firing of Hamas rockets and Israeli missiles and mortars has subsided. We expect the parties to fully respect the ceasefire.
I thank all who contributed to the agreement – including Egypt, the United States, Qatar, Turkey, the League of Arab States, the European Union and many other international actors. We have all been working day and night.
But, of course, we cannot rest as the suffering continues. This ceasefire has come at a price that is almost too much to bear.
The massive death and destruction in Gaza have shocked and shamed the world.
More than 1,800 Palestinians have been killed – the vast majority civilians, including hundreds of women and children. Three civilians in Israel were also killed as well as 64 Israeli soldiers. People on both sides have the right to life but also the right to a life free from fear.
Of course we understand the legitimate security right to defend Israeli citizens from the threat of rocket attacks by Hamas.
At the same time, the fighting has raised serious questions about respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality in international humanitarian law.
Perhaps nothing symbolized more the horror that was unleashed on the people of Gaza than the repeated shelling of UN facilities harbouring civilians who had been explicitly told to seek a safe haven there. These attacks were outrageous, unacceptable and unjustifiable.
Yes, we uncovered cases in which weapons were stored in a small number of abandoned buildings.
Yes, there were reports that Hamas rockets were fired from near UN premises.
Yet, let me be clear: Mere suspicion of militant activity does not justify jeopardizing the lives and safety of many thousands of innocent civilians.
International humanitarian law clearly requires protection by all parties of civilians and civilian facilities, including UN staff and UN premises.
Our UN flag must be respected and assure protection to those in need.
UN shelters must be safe zones, not combat zones. Those who violate this sacred trust must be subject to accountability and justice.
In the most recent case of shelling on a UN facility, the Israelis were informed of the coordinates 33 times.
Attacks against UN premises, along with other suspected breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated.
Here, before the General Assembly, I want to convey a personal and direct message to the many UN colleagues serving the people of Gaza under these gruelling circumstances.
Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for saving lives. I join you in mourning our fallen colleagues – and pay them my highest tribute. Tomorrow, the UN flag will be flown at half-mast in their memory. We will carry on their work.
You will soon hear from UN senior officials about the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. I urge all Member States to respond swiftly and generously to the emergency appeals by UNRWA and OCHA to address these most pressing humanitarian needs.
The immediate task before us is meeting the dire and urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza: providing care to the many wounded and traumatized, ensuring that people have food and water, housing the many homeless families, and repairing vital infrastructure.
We now face an enormous reconstruction task in the shattered rubble of Gaza where homes, schools and hospitals have been destroyed and damaged.
But we must do even more.
We must spare no effort to turn the current calm into a durable ceasefire that addresses the underlying issues of the conflict: ending rocket fire from Gaza, weapons smuggling, opening the crossings, lifting the blockade and bringing Gaza back under one Palestinian Government that accepts and adheres to the PLO commitments.
I urge the parties to heed the international community’s call to return to negotiations in order to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, ultimately through a viable two-state solution.
The nightmare of the last four weeks has been a terrible reminder that only a negotiated political settlement can bring security and peace to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
I repeat: only a negotiated political settlement will bring sustainable peace and security to Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Only through the exercise of moral and political leadership will both sides enjoy the better future that their people yearn for and deserve.
As Secretary-General, I have made repeated visits to the region, including to Gaza. I have seen the scourge of war etched in the faces of women and children.
In 2009, I stood before an UNRWA warehouse still smouldering from the aftermath of an Israeli attack. And yet the attacks happened again, and again.
Before my most recent trip, I had already travelled to the region twice before to help end hostilities in Gaza. And yet the attacks happened again – then and now.
The senseless cycle of suffering in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in Israel, must end.
Do we have to continue like this: build, destroy, and build, and destroy? We will build again – but this must be the last time to rebuild. This must stop now. They must go back to the negotiating table. We must not repeat this, [from happening] periodically. Why [are] both parties putting all of the international community’s citizens always at unease and concerned, looking helplessly at many people being killed?
The United Nations stands ready to make this the last time, and we have to do everything possible to help those in need and support the peace process. I count on the engagement of all of you – and I urge the parties to accept their responsibility for peace and for future generations of their people.
Thank you very much.