UN official speaks truth — Palestinians outraged
Two days ago, United Nations Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen briefed the UN Security Council on the Middle East Peace Process — i.e., Israel and Palestine. Roed-Larsen placed blame on both the Israelis and the Palestinians for the lack of progress. Here’s one relevant section from the press release: He said that the Palestinian Authority, ...
Two days ago, United Nations Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen briefed the UN Security Council on the Middle East Peace Process -- i.e., Israel and Palestine. Roed-Larsen placed blame on both the Israelis and the Palestinians for the lack of progress. Here's one relevant section from the press release:
Two days ago, United Nations Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen briefed the UN Security Council on the Middle East Peace Process — i.e., Israel and Palestine. Roed-Larsen placed blame on both the Israelis and the Palestinians for the lack of progress. Here’s one relevant section from the press release:
He said that the Palestinian Authority, despite consistent promises by its leadership, had made no progress on its core obligation to take immediate action on the ground to end violence and combat terror, and to reform and reorganize the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli Government had made no progress either on its core obligation to immediately dismantle settlements outposts erected since March 2001 and to move towards a complete freeze of settlement activities. Progress on the implementation of Palestinian reform remained slow and could not be explained except by the lack of political will to advance along that road, he said. The Palestinian Authority decided to begin holding local elections as early as this fall. The commitment to do so was a step towards creating more democratic local institutions and, as such, should be encouraged. However, the Palestinian Authority had not yet responded to repeated calls by the international community to reform its electoral institutional framework in line with minimal international standards. It had appointed a partisan body to supervise local elections instead of the existing Central Elections Commission, which should prepare and supervise voter registration. Instead, the Commission had been endangered by the Palestinian Authority’s intention to launch parallel registration without impartial supervision…. All those who yearned for peace had already and repeatedly urged President Arafat, in public and in private, to take immediate action to restore that diminished credibility, he emphasized. The Quartet, as well as the Arab peace partners, had also been active in trying to bring about the necessary reforms. The required elements of reform were clear to all: the consolidation of all security services into three main bodies; and rejuvenating its leadership by putting it under the authority of an effective interior minister, who reported to an empowered Prime Minister. The Palestinian Prime Minister and cabinet should be empowered in a way that enabled them to make the necessary changes and carry out the executive tasks entrusted to them by the Palestinian basic law. They must be given the power not only to make decisions, but also to implement them. Unfortunately, there was, so far, no sign of any of those measures being taken. The fact that, under those conditions, the Palestinian leader remained confined to his headquarters in Ramallah in difficult conditions was no excuse for passivity and inaction, he said. Decisive, robust and enduring action, particularly in the critical field of security reform, should lead to more vigorous international engagement in the process and to an environment conducive to more bold leadership, consistent with requirements of the Road Map and the Egyptian initiative. Unfortunately, there was no sign of constructive movement at present, far from it. Despite a well-intended Prime Minister, the Palestinian Authority’s paralysis had become abundantly clear, and the deterioration of law and order in Palestinian areas was steadily worsening. Continuing, he said that clashes and showdowns between branches of Palestinian security forces were now common in the Gaza Strip, where legal authority was receding fast in the face of the mounting power of arms, money and intimidation. Lawlessness and gang rule was becoming common in Nablus, the mayor of which resigned a few months ago in protest against the lack of Palestinian Authority support for the legal authorities. The perceived Palestinian Authority abdication of responsibility had led many Rafah residents to take matters into their own hands, up to the point where some of them had established a private checkpoint, preventing Palestinian Authority officials from crossing to Egypt or from entering Rafah. Jericho was becoming the only Palestinian city with a functioning police. That collapse of authority could not be attributed to the Israeli incursions and operations inside Palestinian towns. “The Palestinian Authority was in deep distress, and is in real danger of collapse”, he said.
Roed-Larsen then went on to blast the Israelis for “lack of compliance on the sensitive issue of settlements.” Again, go check out the press release for more on this. What interests me is the Palestinian reaction to Roed-Larsen’s honest assessment of the Palestinian Authority. Steve Weizman provides the Associated Press report:
Furious Palestinian officials said Wednesday that they banned the UN Mideast envoy from the West Bank and Gaza Strip after he lashed out at Yasser Arafat, but the Palestinian observer to the UN later said Terje Roed-Larsen was not barred from visiting. Arafat’s top adviser, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, described the UN envoy as “useless” and said he was no longer welcome in the Palestinian areas. Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian UN observer, echoed that anger at Roed-Larsen but said the UN envoy’s legal status has not been decided and would be discussed with Secretary General Kofi Annan when he returns to New York next week…. Al-Kidwa called the briefing unacceptable, saying it “reflects basically an amalgamation of Israeli and American positions.”
Eerily enough, the BBC reports that “The militant group, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades also said Mr Roed-Larsen was ‘banned’ from Palestinian territory.” The Palestinian Prime Minister’s reaction in a press conference echoed this rhetoric:
In his first official reaction to the latest remarks voiced by United Nations Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed-Larsen, in which the latter held the President Yasser Arafat responsible for the current peace deadlock, Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei’ expressed astonishment for the non-objective way Larsen had made his remarks…. Qurei’ called on the United Nations Secretary General to give instructions to UN staff in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) to work in an objective way and in accordance with the UN’s principles of law and justice, that have deemed the Israeli settlement expansion plans since 1967 illegitimate. President Arafat’s key advisor, Nabil Abu Rudaina, was quoted as saying that Larsen has become ‘persona non grata’ and that the United Nations was requested to dispatch an alternative representative to the oPt.
To Kofi Annan’s credit, he issued a statement through his spokesman backing Roed-Larsen to the hilt. The grand irony in all of this, as Agence-France Press observes, is that “Roed-Larsen has previously been something of a bete noire for the Israelis over his outspoken criticism of the occupation of the territories.” It’s not like the U.N. has been unfriendly to the Palestinian cause. So what does it say that the political entity Israel is ostensibly supposed to negotiate with responds like that to an honest appraisal of their situation by an impartial outsider? [Standard caveat when posting about the Middle East: This is not to exonerate the Israelis for their behavior on settlements.]
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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