UN envoy highlights urgent need for reform

The United Nations

Urgent action is required to prevent further deterioration of the economic, security and political situation across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the UN’s Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, told the Security Council on Wednesday.

The fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to be dire, he said, threatening its stability and putting service delivery at risk.

Meanwhile, ongoing violence affecting both Palestinians and Israelis, as well as settlement activity, demolitions and evictions, further diminish the prospects of a negotiated solution between the sides.

End unilateral action

Mr. Wennesland warned against “piecemeal approaches and half measures” which will only prolong the underlying issues fuelling the conflict.

“Unilateral steps and conflict drivers must stop. Political and economic reforms must be implemented to ensure the PA’s continued ability to function effectively, while boosting donor confidence and support,” he said.

“Above all, efforts by the parties and the international community to stabilize and improve conditions on the ground should be linked to a political framework.”

Mr. Wennesland, officially the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has welcomed recent high-level engagement between Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Expand engagement

Following a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in late December, Israel announced several measures including updating the registration of some 9,500 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel will also provide 100 million Shekels, or roughly $32 million, as an advance against tax revenues that it collects on the PA’s behalf. Additional entry permits for Palestinian officials and businesspeople will also be issued.

“I urge both sides to continue and expand this engagement to encompass underlying political issues,” said Mr. Wennesland.

Turning to Gaza, he said this month Israel issued some 10,000 permits for merchants and traders there, out of roughly 12,000 approved documents, representing the highest number in years.

While welcoming steps to increase the movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip, he encouraged the sides to engage with the UN to further enhance access and trade.

Palestine united

Returning to his central point, Mr. Wennesland stressed the need for a coordinated approach to address the political, economic and institutional obstacles blocking the way to a meaningful peace process.

Alongside key reforms and action by all parties to defuse tensions, he stressed that “we must focus on providing a political context that will ensure that the positive engagement we have witnessed in recent months is not squandered.”

Efforts must also continue to encourage all Palestinian factions towards political consensus and bringing Gaza and the occupied West Bank under one legitimate, democratic Palestinian authority, he added.

“Short-term challenges and urgent crises must be addressed,” he said. “Yet, at the same time, we must ensure that the solutions put in place advance our ultimate goal: an end to occupation and the achievement of a two-State solution on the basis of UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements.”

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