Once again, the situation in the Middle East calls for close attention. As the Security Council heard in the briefing of the Assistant Secretary - General on 24 November, “political efforts towards a negotiated two-state solution have reached a deep and worrying impasse.” The Assistant Secretary-General further warned that without a political horizon – where commitments are made, monitored and kept, destructive forces could fill the vacuum putting both the Palestinian Authority and the two-state solution at peril.
President Abbas’ decision not to seek re-election is a wake-up call. His decision reflects a situation on the Palestinian side where confidence in a process with meaningful negotiations taking place, has eroded.
An abrupt and disorderly change in the Palestinian leadership could seriously undermine the stability of the PA. It could also lead to a reassessment by the international community of its economic and political relations with the PA, thereby undermining the Palestinian state-building project itself. It is more important than ever that the international community stands united in its support for the Palestinian political forces devoted to peace.
At this time, our first and foremost challenge is to avoid a political vacuum in the Palestinian Territory. We should therefore strengthen our efforts to re-engage President Abbas politically, and send a clear message to the Palestinian people that a relaunch of the negotiations is the only way forward.
But in order to restore the Palestinians’ confidence in the political process, the situation on the ground must improve. This includes implementation of Road Map obligations in terms of settlement activity and security. The international community and Israel should also make concerted efforts to strengthen the economic development and institution-building as set out in the Fayyad Plan in order to improve economic growth and living standards.
This is however not enough. In addition there is an urgent need to establish a common understanding of the terms of reference for negotiations. Those terms of reference must be based on all earlier commitments and with a clear timeline as to ending the occupation and resolving the final status issues.
Let me briefly turn to Norway’s role as Chair of the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee. It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the motivation of donors to contribute the necessary funds to ensure that the PA is able to sustain its institution-building efforts. Donors have so far lived up to their commitments. But without a political horizon, without a credible political process, it is increasingly harder for donors to justify the high levels of contributions to the PA.
Prime Minister Fayyad’s two year plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, presented to the AHLC-meeting here in New York on 22 September this year, received strong and unanimous support from donors. In the current political situation, the plan is even more important as a platform for international support and political development on the Palestinian side. This is not the time to let the plan and Palestinian institutions falter due to lack of funding. But in a longer-term perspective only a credible political process can ensure donors’ continued support for the two-state solution.