UN chief: Israel and Palestinians must return to talks

UN chief: Israel and Palestinians must return to talks
3 min read
25 November, 2014
Ban Ki-moon urges Israeli and Palestinian representatives to return to the negotiation table, while EU countries continue to mount pressure on Israel over statehood recognition for Palestine.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Israel and Palestinians to "step back from the brink" and return to peace talks amid European moves towards recognising a Palestinian state.

"The Israeli and Palestinian people face a shared fate on shared land. There is no erasing the other," Ban told a UN committee on Palestinian rights.

His comments reflect international concerns over the increased attacks in occupied East Jerusalem and deadlock over peace talks.

The lack of progress in talks couples with Israel's ongoing settlement expansion enterprise in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem to threaten the UN goal of a two-state solution in which Israel and a new state of Palestine would co-exist.

     The Israeli and Palestinian people face a shared fate on shared land. There is no erasing the other.
- Ban Ki-moon, UN chief

Ban said Israelis and Palestinians appeared to be "losing any sense of connection" and that "when that goes, it is not far to the precipice".

With no political solution in sight, EU governments and parliaments - many forced by domestic pressure - are trying to put pressure on Israel by symbolically recognising a Palestinian state.

France's National Assembly is set to debate a non-binding resolution on Friday, followed by a vote on 2 December.

The move follows Sweden's announcement that it would recognise a Palestinian state and non-binding votes in British, Irish and Spanish parliaments in favour of recognising Palestinian statehood.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said there were more pressing priorities in the region.

"Do they have nothing better to do at a time of beheadings across the Middle East, including that of a French citizen?" he asked reporters in Jerusalem, referring to hiker Herve Gourdel who was executed by his captors in Algeria in September.

Mounting EU frustration

Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Israel's ambassador railed against European governments for "failing us again", singling out Sweden's "historic mistake".

EU criticism of Israel has become more focused in the wake of this summer's 50-day offensive by the Israeli army in Gaza that killed around 2,200 Palestinians and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless. 

Federica Mogherini, the new EU foreign policy chief, recently condemned the growing violence in Israel-Palestine relations, Israel's expropriation of land in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, and urged Israel to change its policy towards Gaza.

The secretly circulated document suggested imposing sanctions, including economic, on Israel if its thwarts the prospect of establishing a two-state solution.

Back in July, EU member states warned their citizens against engagement in business deals or investment in the illegal Israeli settlements, or bodies connected to them in the West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The EU is Israel's biggest trading partner, at about $37.4 billion a year, and provides it with tariff-free access to its 28 member states. For many EU countries Israel is an important partner in high technology, intelligence and defence sectors, including arms sales.

The Palestinians are still planning to formally submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council, calling for an Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territory by 2016.