Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister rebuffs UN concern on East Jerusalem and Gaza

Concerns expressed by the UN’s high-level Special Representative for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, about recent and possible future evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and about the continuing blockade against Gaza, were rebuffed in a meeting on Sunday with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

UN Special Envoy Robert Serry and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon - 9 Aug 2009

UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry to the left, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on the right, photo by Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In a press summary sent to journalists by email, the Israeli Foreign Ministry reported that “The Deputy Foreign Minister emphasized that Jerusalem is an extremely important and sensitive issue not just for Israel, but for the Jewish people as a whole. Ayalon stressed that Jerusalem remains the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel and as such Israeli law is applicable there. There is a consensus view on this issue, not just in Israel but around the Jewish world. The Deputy Foreign Minister reemphasized the important humanitarian steps that Israel has taken in Judea and Samaria towards the Palestinian population there. ‘We would like to further alleviate the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and at the same time it is important that the international community will increase the pressure on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit’ Ayalon told Serry during the meeting”.

In other words, Serry received a resounding rebuff.

On the 2nd of August, the day two families of Palestinian refugees were evicted from their homes by Israeli Border Police at gunpoint and replaced by Jewish settlers, Serry issued a statement saying that “today’s totally unacceptable actions by Israel… to allow settlers to take possession of these properties.” And, he said, the evictions violated the International Quartet’s calls for Israel to “refrain from provocative acts in East Jerusalem.”

Hilary Clinton: the search for Israeli-Palestinian peace is "never-ending". Bernard Kouchner: France is "very anxious about the situation of the people of Gaza".

Here are excerpts from remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton and visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner after their meeting in Washington on Thursday 5 February

Clinton: “We will continue to coordinate closely in the Middle East and cooperate on Gaza, humanitarian aid, and the never-ending pursuit of a just and secure peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians”.

Kouchner: the talks were “mainly on Middle East”

Then Kouchner (but not Clinton), mentioned Gaza:
“[W]e are really very anxious about the situation of the people of Gaza, and we were in agreement together with Madame Secretary of State to make pressure on both side to open the crossing. The Gaza people, they need so-called humanitarian assistance. And we’ll do it together another time, even if this is difficult, because we are facing – all of us – the electoral process in Israel and the idea – very important idea of Abu Mazen, the president of the PLO, the Palestinian Authority, to set up – to try to set up a government of national unity. And we are, of course, supporting Abu Mazen, and we must strengthen him, but it will take some time. Meanwhile, we must access to the people – we must accede to the people – sorry. For the rest, we were at complete agreement to support the Egyptian initiative, and you know that some talks are now – have been developed in Cairo in between the Hamas delegation, the PLO delegation, and we are waiting for the result of that with a very great support to the Egyptian. And there is a meeting in the – I think the – yes, the 2nd [n.b. I think he must have said 22nd] day of February [or maybe he meant the 2nd of March?], yes, in Cairo, and I hope we’ll get better support to Gaza people before this date

In response to a question about Hamas from a journalist:
Kouchner: “Hmm. (Laughter.) Okay. Well, Hamas, you know, we said several times we have no official talk with Hamas. It is, for the time being, impossible. Why? Of course, we have indirect talk in supporting the Egyptian initiative. We were obliged to go through – I mean, the Turks, and the Norwegian people, the Russian, et cetera. And of course, the Egyptian, mainly the Egyptian, because they are talking to Hamas. Why aren’t we talking officially to Hamas? Because they are not part of the peace process. And we’ll certainly talk to them when they would start to talk to the Palestinian themself, to PLO, and certainly, when they would accept the peace process, the signatures of PLO on the Israeli-Palestinian documents and mainly the Arab initiative of peace. That’s the answer. But certainly, this is part — and Tony Blair was right in saying so. In Gaza, if you are not setting up a sort of common task force to get access to the people or this government of national unity, it will be difficult, I know – we know that.

Clinton: “And I would only add that our conditions respecting Hamas are very clear: We will not in any way negotiate with or recognize Hamas until they renounce violence, recognize Israel, and agree to abide by, as the foreign minister said, the prior agreements entered into by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority” …