Special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Robert Serry’s final briefing to the Security Council revealed the deep frustration of man who’s spent seven years on the frontline of ‘one of the most spectacular deceptions in modern diplomatic history‘.
‘Upon leaving this position’, Serry explained, ‘I cannot but express an overriding feeling that I have been part of a peace process in which a can is kicked down an endless road’. ‘Gaza is our collective failure, and the people of Gaza continue to suffer the consequences’, while in the West Bank, ‘[n]umbers’ – of settlement units constructed, of house demolitions – ‘hide the grim reality of entrenched occupation leading to growing despair’.
Diplomatically, we now face ‘the biggest crisis to date to our joint efforts to achieve a two-state solution’.
Serry urged the Security Council to break the deadlock by setting out its own parameters for resolving the conflict. Worryingly, he appeared to call for replacing UN Resolutions 242 & 338 with a ‘new peace architecture’ for resolving the conflict:
[T]he parties are heading towards an outcome which I can only describe as a one-state reality.
As the parties do not appear at this point ready to recommence negotiations, we should not rush them back to the table. If indeed we believe that they do continue to seek an outcome of two neighbouring states living in peace and security, but are unable themselves, at this juncture, to agree on a meaningful framework to resume negotiations, the international community should seriously consider presenting such a framework for negotiations, including parameters to achieve this. This may be the only way to preserve the goal of a two-state solution in the present circumstances.
[The] Quartet has largely failed to live up to expectations, although recent efforts to reinvigorate it, including through an enhanced role for regional stakeholders, may have a positive impact. It remains the primary responsibility of this Council to play its role in developing a new peace architecture for resolving the conflict at long last. Security Council Resolution 242, embodying the key principle of ‘land for peace’, is nearly half a century old. During my tenure, in my first year actually, the Council passed only two resolutions on Israel and Palestine, and neither of these provided a strategy. Hasn’t the time come, Mr. President, for the Council to lead?
It is unclear what this means. But when asked afterwards about why 242 & 338 could no longer serve as the legal framework for negotiations, Serry refused to answer. (approx. 12m50s)
In fact, we don’t need a new ‘peace architecture’ – we have one already, endorsed every year by virtually the entire General Assembly of the United Nations:
20. Reaffirms its commitment, in accordance with international law, to the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, based on the pre-1967 borders;
21. Stresses the need for:
(a) The withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem;
(b) The realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination and the right to their independent State;
22. Also stresses the need for a just resolution of the problem of Palestine refugees in conformity with its resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948;
We have the parameters; what we need are substantive measures to enforce them.
At a time when US officials are considering tabling a Security Council resolution that would ‘update’ 242 – very possibly by endorsing Israel’s annexation of large chunks of the West Bank – Serry’s comments are another reason for concern.