Years after the two-state paradigm was declared obsolete, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has informed the Security Council that, “The possibility of establishing a viable, contiguous Palestinian state has been systematically eroded by facts on the ground.” The statement is an attempt to transform what has been patently obvious for years into a new predicament, while striving, as much as possible to refrain from asserting Israel’s responsibility for this situation, apart from a reference to plans for settlement expansion and “decades of occupation”.
Nickolay Mladenov is correct in stating that the Palestinian people are suffering the humanitarian consequences of political decisions, yet the UN needs to acknowledge its role in this. Instead, he affirmed that the international community is working with the Palestinian Authority “to address some of Gaza’s most pressing needs, such as maintaining an electricity supply, delivering essential medicines and implementing cash-for-work programmes.” Of the PA’s own imposition of punitive measures against Palestinians living in Gaza, the UN Envoy made no mention.
Reversing UN discourse is important to arrive at the plans that the international community has for Palestine. The elimination of accountability is the first step which enables the UN to decide its working partners with reciprocal impunity. If the organisation was ever serious about the Palestinians in Gaza and their rights, it would not be collaborating with PA President Mahmoud Abbas to determine their needs; certainly not when the PA is determined to use deprivation as a weapon to force Hamas to cede political control.
Likewise, the UN has expressed alarm at arrests by Hamas in Gaza but has largely turned a blind eye to the arrest and torture of Palestinians by the PA security services in Ramallah. The UN has established a pattern of working with all acceptable leaders who endorse human rights violations, as long as the diplomatic channel conforms to the international strategy of distinguishing between the infliction of violence and rhetoric about preventing violence.
Just as the two-state compromise has long become a required slogan and little else, Israel’s colonial settlement expansion, from a UN rhetorical viewpoint, is going the same way. Every time Israel unveils new settlement plans, the UN resorts conveniently to calling them “obstacles” to peace, which they undoubtedly are. However, the raison d’être of settlements is Israel’s colonial presence in Palestine, which is a fact that the UN ignores altogether in order to manage the conflict, rather than find means to remove the colonial power. This is something that the organisation should be prioritising if it is genuine about wanting to eliminate colonialism altogether.
The UN has two political partners – Israel and the PA – which it considers above all others and neither of them affirms that the rights of the Palestinians are a priority. Hence, there is no chance that the institution can even attempt, or pretend, to address humanitarian needs as a first step towards political autonomy. When the imagined autonomy is still constructed within the two-state narrative, it becomes even clearer that the UN holds no aspirations for a Palestinian state. Independent, viable and contiguous are meaningless terms — as the international community intends them to be – divested of any meaning or possibility of implementation solely to ensure the survival of colonial Israel. In persisting with obsolete frameworks for the mythical “peace process”, the UN is working for Israel’s benefit, when it should actually be focusing on the victims of Israel’s colonial occupation.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.