Palestinian-Israeli peace hopes ‘fading by the day’

UN Middle East peace envoy says prospect of a two-state solution is drifting away

TOPSHOT - Palestinian protesters wave their national flag near the Israel-Gaza border east of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis as they demonstrate against calls for the closure of UNRWA by the Israeli prime minister and cuts in Palestinian aid by the American president on January 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB
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The chances of peace between Palestinians and Israelis are “fading by the day” the UN's Middle East envoy said on Wednesday, leading several members of the Security Council to  attack the US for its defence of Israel.

Nickolay Mladenov's monthly briefing to the Council was especially stark because it came a week after Jared Kushner, joint author of a White House plan on Middle East peace, spoke to leading Arab states about economic elements of his proposals.

Mr Mladenov said the humanitarian and security situation in Palestine was deteriorating after the Israeli government decided last week to withhold $140 million (Dh514.2m) in Palestinian tax revenues.

“These are serious developments that put at risk the financial stability of the Palestinian Authority and ultimately the security of both Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.

Mr Mladenov said that the US aid cuts announced last year were being felt.

“The Secretary General (Antonio Guterres) has repeatedly warned that unilateral moves undermine the chances for peace," he said.

Mr Mladenov said that Israel's decision late last month not to renew the mandate of an international monitoring mission in Hebron, after 20 years, showed a worsening situation.

Political divisions between the Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas are also adding to the desperate plight of those living in the West Bank and Gaza, he said.

Since his last briefing in January, Mr Mladenov said 11 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli troops in Gaza and the West Bank, and that an Israeli teenager was killed in a park outside Jerusalem by a Palestinian.

Seven Palestinians, including three teenagers, were shot dead by Israeli rifle fire at the Gaza border fence on February 8, bringing the number of children killed there to 40 since protests began in March last year.

“As the Palestinian political dynamics evolve and we drift further away from the realisation of a negotiated two-state solution, I again call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to recommit to the principles and vision enshrined a quarter of a century ago, in UN resolutions and bilateral agreements,” Mr Mladenov said.

But Kuwait, Indonesia and South Africa criticised fellow members on the Security Council for failing to act or speak out over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to end the international observer mission in Hebron.

“We have no doubt that this decision by the Israeli government will be yet another step that has negative implications on the Middle East peace process,” said Jerry Matjila, South Africa's permanent representative to the UN.

“It is also unfortunate that we were not even able to adopt a press statement to support the mechanism that promoted peace and stability in Hebron."

The US, which under president Donald Trump has sided with Israel on Middle East peace, as a permanent member of the Security Council blocked the statement from being made.

Mr Netanyahu said that the mission was biased against Israeli settlers.

Dian Triansyah Djani, Indonesia's ambassador to the UN, said that such settlements were illegal.

“We again express our regret that the Council failed to express its position in the form of a presidential statement due to an objection by one member," Mr Djani said.

Having initially been promised last year, Mr Kushner's peace plan is scheduled for release after the April elections in Israel.