UN chief redoubles criticism of Israel’s ‘stifling’ occupation

‘You can count on me’ to speak up, achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace Ban Ki-moon says, but Palestinians ‘losing hope’

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefs the Security Council during a meeting on the situation in the 'Middle East and Palestine,' January 26, 2016, at the UN in New York. (AFP/United Nations/UN Photo/Loey Felipe)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefs the Security Council during a meeting on the situation in the 'Middle East and Palestine,' January 26, 2016, at the UN in New York. (AFP/United Nations/UN Photo/Loey Felipe)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday criticized Israel’s “stifling” occupation of the Palestinian territories, ignoring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s condemnation of his remarks earlier this week.

Ban sparked Israeli outrage Tuesday with his comments about the terror attacks of the past four months, in which more than 25 Israelis have been killed, by saying it was “human nature to react to occupation.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused the United Nations chief of “stoking terror.”

“After nearly 50 years of occupation — after decades of waiting for the fulfillment of the Oslo promises — Palestinians are losing hope,” Ban told a UN committee on Palestinian rights. “Young people especially are losing hope. They are angered by the stifling policies of the occupation.”

“You can count on me to continue to speak up and speak out — to push and to prod — to do all in my power to achieve long-overdue Israeli-Palestinian peace,” he said.

Ban reiterated that “nothing excuses terror,” but added that a security clampdown will not succeed in settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The UN chief called for a return to negotiations, saying it was the “one and only path to a just and lasting solution — an end to the occupation that began in 1967” and a Palestinian state.

Ban said Palestinians had heard “half a century of statements” condemning Israel’s occupation, but that their lives had not improved.

“We issue statements. We express concern. We voice solidarity. But life hasn’t changed. And some Palestinians wonder: Is this all meant to simply run out the clock?

“They ask: Are we meant to watch as the world endlessly debates how to divide land while it disappears before our very eyes?”

Ban earlier rebuffed Israeli claims that his comments about “Palestinian frustration” stoke terrorism, his spokesman said, adding that Ban believes “nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify terrorism.”

“Stabbings, vehicle attacks, and shootings by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians – all of which I condemn — and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, have continued to claim lives,” Ban had told the UN Security Council, adding: “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process.”

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that Ban stands by “every word of his statement” to the Security Council.

Palestinians and Israelis must understand that “the status quo is untenable,” he added.

“There is no justification for terrorism,” Netanyahu said in response to Ban’s earlier statements. “The Palestinian terrorists don’t want to build a state; they want to destroy a state, and they say that proudly. They want to murder Jews everywhere and they state that proudly. They don’t murder for peace and they don’t murder for human rights.”

The UN has “lost its neutrality and its moral force, and these statements by the Secretary-General do nothing to improve its situation,” he said in a furious video statement. Ban’s remarks, said Netanyahu, “stoke terror.”

In response to Ban, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the UN chief’s comments “harm the global fight against terror, that Israel is leading, and gives legitimacy to those murderers to continue attacking.”

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid also rushed to denounce Ban’s remarks.

“Terrorism against innocent civilians can not be justified. No one should provide excuses for it, especially not the UN Secretary-General. Terrorism against innocent civilians is the result of nothing except the murderous insanity of the perpetrators,” he said.

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