posted on Mon 18 Jun 2018 5:28 PM
Middle East (Israel/Palestine): Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (19 June), Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov is expected to brief the Security Council during the monthly meeting on the Middle East (Israel/Palestine). The briefing will be followed by consultations. At press time, it seems that most members are not planning to speak in the open chamber.

Mladenov will present to the Council the sixth quarterly report on the implementation of resolution 2334, covering the period from 26 March to 12 June. Resolution 2334, which was adopted in December 2016, called for an end to all Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory and for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror. It further requested the Secretary-General to report quarterly on the resolution’s implementation, although it did not specify the format.

Tomorrow will be the first time that a written report has served as a basis for the briefing, as all previous reports have been provided orally. The Secretariat’s decision to produce a written report 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). In the letter, these members maintained that “standard practice” is for the Council to receive written reports and that “oral reports…should be reserved for exceptional circumstances”. It seems that many of the signatories believed that providing such reports in writing would provide a common basis of information with which to analyse developments, thereby strengthening members’ capacity to prepare for meetings. US Ambassador Nikki Haley reportedly discouraged her Council colleagues from lending their support to the letter. It remains unclear whether quarterly written reports on the implementation of resolution 2334 will now be the norm, and if not, what their frequency will be.

Consistent with past briefings, Mladenov will express concern at Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory. According to the Secretary-General’s report, “some 3,500 housing units in settlements in Area C of the occupied West Bank were advanced, approved or tendered” (S/2018/614). The report reiterates that: “all settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, constitutes a flagrant violation under international law…and must cease immediately and completely,” concluding that: “Israel’s settlement activities continue unabated and undermine the hopes and the practical prospects for establishing a viable Palestinian state”.

The need to deescalate the tensions along the Gaza-Israel border will likely be reiterated during the meeting. The Secretary-General’s report notes that 135 Palestinians in Gaza were killed by gunfire from the Israeli Defense Force in the reporting period, including 115 during the “March of Return” protests along the Gaza fence that began on 30 March. More than 60 Palestinians were killed on 14 May alone, the same day the US carried out its decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On 29 May, Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants launched nearly 200 mortars and rockets into Israel, which prompted Israel to attack targets belonging to the two groups in Gaza. Violence between the parties has continued since the beginning of June, although on a lesser scale. Nonetheless, Mladenov will probably reiterate the key messages that he has conveyed in recent Council meetings, namely that Israeli security forces must show restraint and use lethal force only as a last resort “under imminent threat of death or serious injury”, while Hamas must refrain from committing acts of violence and creating provocations.

Mladenov may update the Council on efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and promote economic development in Gaza. In his 23 May briefing, he told the Council that his priorities were: to prioritise projects agreed during the past two years by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (the international mechanism responsible for coordinating development assistance to Palestinians), to expedite the implementation of projects, and to strengthen “coordination with the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Egypt to overcome any political, administrative and logistical blockages that may emerge”. Members may be interested in hearing from Mladenov about his work in this regard in recent weeks.