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Middle East (Israel/Palestine) Briefing

Tomorrow (20 September), Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov is scheduled to brief the Security Council in the monthly meeting on the situation in the Middle East (Israel/Palestine). Mladenov is expected to discuss recent political, humanitarian and security developments in Israel/Palestine and the surrounding region. The briefing is not expected to be followed by consultations, in keeping with the US presidency’s goal of holding as many meetings as possible in the open chamber this month. This means that most, if not all, members are expected to make statements in the open chamber.

At tomorrow’s meeting, the Council is also scheduled to receive the quarterly report on the implementation of resolution 2334 of 23 December 2016, which focuses largely on Israeli settlements.

When Mladenov last briefed the Council on the implementation of resolution 2334 on 18 June, a written report served as the basis of the meeting for the first time. Resolution 2334 does not specify whether the reports should be presented in writing or just orally, which has been a point of controversy among Council members. No written report has been provided in advance of tomorrow’s meeting.

The Secretariat’s decision to produce a written report in June was prompted by a letter submitted by 10 Council members—Bolivia, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, France, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru and Sweden—on 14 May requesting the quarterly reports to be in writing (S/2018/454). It seems US Ambassador Nikki Haley discouraged her Council colleagues from lending their support to the letter.
Tomorrow, some of the members who requested these quarterly reports in writing may reiterate their call for this to become standardised. They may maintain that written reports would provide a common basis on which to analyse developments, thereby strengthening members’ capacity to prepare for meetings.

While Mladenov is likely to express ongoing concern about settlement activities and the demolition of Palestinian structures in the occupied territories, he may criticise, in particular, the planned demolition by Israel of Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village of 180 people in the West Bank. At the last Middle East (Israel/Palestine) meeting on 22 August, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo reiterated “UN calls on Israel to cease the demolition of Palestinian property and efforts to relocate Bedouin communities in the occupied West Bank”, adding that “[s]uch actions are contrary to international law and undermine the two-state solution”. On 4 September, Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition to prevent the demolition of the Bedouin village.

EU and other Council members may reiterate their view that settlements are illegal under international law. They may further maintain that the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and the displacement of its residents further undermine prospects for a two-state solution. In this regard, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said in an EU meeting in Strasbourg on 11 September that the planned demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, located in an area near Israeli settlements, threatens the possibility of “preserving the contiguity of a future Palestinian state”.

As in recent months, the heightened tensions and ongoing violence along the Gaza-Israel border fence will be raised in the meeting. Since 30 March, over 180 Palestinians have died in violent encounters with Israeli forces along the fence separating Gaza from Israel, according to OCHA and the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. One Israeli has also been killed in these clashes. Yesterday (18 September), the Gaza Ministry of Health reported that two more Palestinians were shot and killed by the Israeli military during protests near the Erez crossing in Gaza. Mladenov may call on the Palestinians to refrain from provocative acts along the fence, while urging Israel to exercise restraint in its use of force. Some members are likely to express similar views emphasising the need for both sides to take actions to de-escalate tensions and violence. The US, on the other hand, will probably place the blame for the violence and the casualties along the fence solely on Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group.

Mladenov and some members may highlight the importance of international assistance in helping to improve the welfare of Gazans, especially in light of the funding deficit facing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). They may emphasise that this assistance is critical not only for human welfare but also because it acts as a stabilising measure that promotes peace. In this regard, it appears that the EU, Germany, Japan, Jordan, Sweden and Turkey are organising a ministerial-level meeting on 27 September on the margins of the General Assembly debate that highlights UNRWA’s importance to regional stability and seeks to generate greater support for the agency. At tomorrow’s Council meeting, Mladenov may also cover recent activities of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, the international mechanism responsible for coordinating development assistance to Palestinians.

Other matters that may be raised in the meeting tomorrow are the importance of intra-Palestinian reconciliation, the need for the parties to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric, and the need to renew efforts to promote a two-state solution. With regard to the last point, Mladenov and others may refer to the importance of rekindling the spirit of the Oslo Accords, which recently marked its 25th anniversary.

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