A senior UN official warned the Security Council on Tuesday that if the Palestine issue is left unaddressed, the prospects of a two-state solution "will only deteriorate further."
"Immediate steps to reverse negative trends and support the Palestinian people are essential," stressed Lynn Hastings, the deputy head at the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Speaking on behalf of Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland, Hastings added, "There is no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the conflict. We must focus on reaching the ultimate goal: two States, living side-by-side in peace and security, in line with UN resolutions, previous agreements and international law."
She pointed out that "for years, illegal settlement expansions in the occupied West Bank have been steadily shrinking Palestinian land and eroding the prospects for a viable Palestinian State as violence against civilians exacerbate mistrust and trigger a growing sense of hopelessness that Statehood, sovereignty and a peaceful future is slipping away."
The UN official cited the number of Palestinians killed and wounded by the Israeli occupation during the period of her report. At the same time, she recounted that the bullet used to kill Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh underwent forensic testing overseen by a senior US security official. However, although the tests "could not reach a definitive conclusion" due to the bullet's damaged condition, "it appeared the gunfire from Israel Defence Forces (IDF) positions was likely responsible."
Hastings also cited a lack of Israeli-issued building permits for Palestinians, pointing out that Israeli demolitions have recently displaced 61 Palestinians, including 31 children. In fact, so far this year, there have been, "Three hundred and ninety-nine demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures and evictions… [leaving] over 400 Palestinians displaced."
Building permits are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain, said Hastings. She also noted that the recent ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice allowing evictions in the southern West Bank hamlets of Masafer Yatta to proceed means that Israeli forces continue to adopt restrictive measures affecting Palestinian communities and humanitarian actors. "I remain deeply concerned by the potential implications of the High Court's ruling and the humanitarian toll on the communities in question if eviction orders are carried out," she stated.
Settler-related violence is also an issue and is of particular concern in the West Bank community of Ras Al-Tin. "I reiterate that perpetrators of all acts of violence must be held accountable and brought swiftly to justice."
The senior official concluded: "The UN remains committed to supporting Israelis and Palestinians to move towards a just and lasting peace and we will continue to work with the parties and with regional and international partners to achieve this objective."