Prospects for a peaceful two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians are “increasingly remote” as long as current trends continue, the Middle East Quartet said in a report issued Friday.
Violence, terrorism, Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and the situation in the Gaza Strip are severely undermining peace prospects, said the group, made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
“The Quartet stresses the urgent need for affirmative steps to reverse each of these trends in order to prevent entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict,” the report said.
The group urged Israelis and Palestinians to demonstrate “through policies and actions” their genuine commitment to a two-state solution.
Saeb Erekat, the Palestine Liberation Organization's secretary-general, said the report "attempts to equalize the responsibilities between a people under occupation and a foreign military occupier.” He said the Palestinian Authority leadership would meet in the coming days to analyze the situation and respond officially Sunday.
“The Quartet’s report provides conclusive proof of official Palestinian Authority incitement against Israel,” said Danny Danon, Israel's U.N. ambassador.
Israeli settlement construction and expansion “is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution,” the Quartet warned. “This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state.”
The report noted that 60 percent of the West Bank is part of land known as “Area C” — and that 70 percent of that section has been unilaterally appropriated for Israeli use. The remaining 30 percent is effectively off-limits to Palestinian development because it requires virtually unobtainable Israeli military permits. That means the Israeli military has full authority over development in Area C, the report said.
The Quartet noted that there are more than half a million Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Violence and incitement
The Quartet said Palestinian acts of terrorism and incitement to violence intensify mistrust between the parties and are incompatible with advancing a peaceful two-state solution.
At least 30 Israelis have been killed in more than 250 attacks and attempted attacks since October 2015, the report said. During this same period, at least 140 Palestinians have been killed while carrying out attacks, and 60 more have been killed by Israeli security forces during demonstrations, clashes or military operations.
A senior U.S. State Department official said Friday that Washington was very concerned about Palestinian incitement to violence, urging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn terrorist attacks.
“We call on him specifically here to condemn terrorist attacks. I don’t know why he doesn’t do that, but obviously it’s something we feel like should be done,” the official said.
The report offered recommendations on the way forward, including urging both sides to de-escalate tensions and refrain from provocative actions and words.
Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the peace process, told reporters Thursday after briefing the Security Council on the report that it was not a “scorecard for assigning blame to each side.” He said he expected criticism of the document, but that he hoped all sides would “find the strength to go beyond the criticism and engage with the Quartet.”
In its recommendations, the Quartet called on Israel to “cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion,” as well the denial of Palestinian development. The group also urged the lifting of movement and access restrictions to and from the Gaza Strip.
The Quartet called on the Palestinian Authority to “act decisively” to combat terrorism and stop incitement to violence, and it urged reunification of the West Bank and Gaza under a single, legitimate Palestinian authority.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office said he strongly encouraged the parties to engage with the Quartet on implementing the report’s recommendations, to restore hope for a political solution and create the conditions to return to meaningful negotiations.