United Nations Special Coordinator
and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General
and the Palestinian Authority
Envoy to the Quartet
1. I was launched into my Middle East assignment on short notice, in order to accompany the Secretary-General, as this Envoy presumptive, at a meeting of the Quartet in
2. It has never been the strong suit of the UN to evaluate missions or draw lessons from them.(1) I wrote an unsolicited End-of-Mission report when my assignment in the
3. When I arrived, I inherited an office which, while it had some excellent people, bad been somewhat hollowed out by the departure of key staff and the lack of strong leadership for a prolonged interval. For over a year, I had to devote almost equal time to both aspects of my terms of reference, coordination of assistance to the occupied Palestinian territory and the peace process, with only barebones substantive staff for many months. I worked step-by-step to appoint top-notch people to unfilled positions in the mission and to empower key staff to re-establish internal working methods. I discovered that UNSCO [Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process]'s relationships with the UN agencies and the regional peacekeeping missions (including UNSCO's landlord, UNTSO [United Nations Truce Supervision Organization]), as well as OPRSG [Office of the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Lebanon] in Beirut (which reports through UNSCO on the MEPP), were uneven, and sometimes marked by hostility and mistrust. I sought to put an end to this, and to ensure that all dealings were conducted on a basis of partnership and mutual respect -- with, I believe, some success. All personnel of the agencies and programmes are highly motivated and work as a team, but I should like to single out for their particularly valuable contribution Karen Abu Zayd (Commissioner General of the hugely important UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East]), David Shearer (OCHA [UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territories]) and, more recently, Gen. Ian Gordon (CoS UNTSO), who were as keen as I was for the UN System to pull together. The change in tone was given added substance in mid-2006 when Secretary-General Annan's project of appointing a Deputy Special Coordinator responsible for the first aspect UNSCO's original mandate came to fruition. With the arrival of the creative, seasoned and energetic Kevin Kennedy, who is discharging his duties admirably, I devoted myself almost entirely to the peace process. I will therefore concentrate on the peace process in this report. Mr. Kennedy and the able team at UNSCO will be able to provide any newcomer with comprehensive briefing notes and ideas on the range of important issues not covered in this report.
4. My peace process-related terms of reference, pursuant to an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Security Council, encompasses Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel's neighbours, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. My Area of Operations comprises all five countries and the oPt. I traveled frequently to
5. The Israeli-Palestinian question triggers strong views, and third parties are rarely exempt. There is no sense denying that passion also pervades the UN internal policy debate; it could hardly be otherwise. It also fuels the latent tension between the UN's humanitarian and development roles and its conflict resolution role. Participants in policy discussions, whether in meetings or in drafting exercises, sometimes are unable to repress their views which are sometimes passionately advocated, and incendiary epithets are sometimes lightly bandied about. I have been encouraged to be candid in this report, and readers will observe that I have been just chat. Those who disagree with one, another or several of my Parthian shots may feel that I have tilted inappropriately one way or another. Portions of it may even be misconstrued, if malice is thrown into the brew, as unfair to one side or to one of the main international players. I am guided by what I believe the UN should be doing in furtherance of the goal of a two State solution in which
6. I wish to make clear that this report is entirely my own. It was almost entirely conceived on my laptop or my personal computer, and only shown to a very restricted few colleagues when it was far advanced. I am extremely grateful for their assistance in correcting facts and for making other valuable suggestions and pointing to omissions. But every single word in it is ultimately mine, and those who know my work will, I think, recognize my voice in it throughout.
THE CONFLICT TRANSFORMED
7. The first point I want to register is that, in the few months following my arrival, events affecting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fundamentally changed the situation on the ground, namely, the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the north West Bank (August 2005), Sharon's exit from the political scene (January 2006) and the electoral victory of Hamas (January 2006). Each of these events by itself would have had a far-reaching effect on prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace and the course of the "peace process". The three taken together, in merely five months, transformed the situation in far-reaching ways that affect not only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also the overall problematique in the region. While each of these events has been exhaustively reported on and analyzed by UNSCO, I will dwell on them so as to give those who come after me a good sense of what went on, and to provide background for the conclusions and recommendations sections toward the end.
8. Prime Minister Sharon's announcement of his intention to withdraw from
9. The Quartet designated James Wolfensohn to act as Quartet Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement, with a mandate to bring about the revitalization of the Palestinian economy which had gone stagnant since the closure system was tightened at the beginning of the second Intifada. The ensuing closure system that still smothers the West Bank, impedes connectivity between the West Bank and Gaza, blocks Palestinian exports particularly from Gaza and prevents Palestinian workers coming from Gaza from going to work in Israel, largely remains to this day. Wolfensohn devoted his considerable clout to bring about some semblance of coordination between
10. Wolfensohn's appearance on the scene was not without its drawbacks: the origin, as I understand it, was a call from
11. My own experience was that interlocutors on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides found the differences between the multifarious envoys and the overlapping mandates difficult to fathom, and tended to give pride of place to Wolfensohn who brought along not only his own unparalleled credentials and a high-level staff composed at the core of personnel appointed by each envoy, but also a robust and obtrusive State Department-provided security detail. Accommodating this rather large new building block into the architecture of international involvement in the
12. I cannot speak for other envoys to the Quartet, but in my case, coordination with Wolfensohn, not to mention with the envoys as a group, was good at the beginning, but as time passed dwindled to spotty at best. The fact that he had. borrowed personnel from each of the Quartet members and reported directly to the Quartet principals also tended to cross wires with us. However, we must be pleased that Wolfensohn took advantage of UN resources to useful effect, particularly the OCHA data on the Israeli closure system which the IDF could no longer dismiss and UNDP [UN Development Programme]'s creative involvement in the removal of the settlers' rubble. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement in terms of enhancing the role of the UN family.
13. In the event, Wolfensohn's mission began to run aground after his attempts to broker au agreement on access and movement were intercepted some would say hijacked at the last minute by US envoys and ultimately Rice herself. While the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) of 15 November 2005 was painstakingly cobbled together by Wolfensohn and his high-powered team in the previous months, key alterations were made at the eleventh hour and he was virtually elbowed aside at the crowning moment. From that moment on his star in the Middle East peace process firmament began to dim, and a few months later it disappeared altogether when he testified in the US Congress in a way that left little uncertainty as to his disgruntlement and who he blamed. In the event, he left the scene with a more jaundiced view of Israeli (and US) policies than he had upon entering. An attempt by Secretary-General Annan late in 2006 to revive his mission met with Russian support but was received with little enthusiasm in
14. The disengagement proper was pulled off with extraordinary efficiency first because of Sharon's larger than life stature in Israeli politics essentially he said what he was going to do and asked the people to trust him second by the smoothness of the Israel Defence Forces' operation on the ground, and third by effective coordination between Israel and the Palestinians and the restraint of Palestinian militant groups. Another contributing element was that the GoI was able to persuade a number of settlers in
16. Even so, I don't think the disengagement marked in any way a conversion by Sharon to the idea of an independent and viable Palestinian State on the contrary, it was a spectacular move that basically killed and put into "formaldehyde" the Road Map, Ito quote his key adviser.
17. As part of
18. During his tenure Wolfensohn forced a semblance of coordination between
19. Wolfensohn contributed greatly to highlighting the notion first put forward by the World Bank that the Israeli closure system was the determining factor in the decline of the Palestinian economy, and it is a source of satisfaction that the field office of MOCHA played a key role in highlighting this reality, as it continues to do to this day.
20. Unfortunately, the disengagement raised expectations that were not to be met. Palestinians expected that at last the people of
21. The Palestinians consider that Gaza remains an open-air prison controlled directly by Israel on all borders, including the sea which is tightly patrolled by the Israeli navy, and indirectly the border with Egypt through Israel's ability to prevent the opening of the Rafah crossing simply by blocking the European monitors from crossing into Gaza to assume their positions at the crossing. Passage through Rafah is sporadic, chaotic and, by many Palestinian accounts, a humiliating experience. While there has been some improvement lately at Karni, this follows months and months of patchy operations and massive rotting of agricultural produce because of Israeli security exigencies, not to mention the difficulties faced by UN programmes and agencies wishing to move material through. The Erez crossing, meant for persons going to and from
22. The conventional wisdom in
Sharon's exit, Olmert's tribulations
23. Toward the end of 2005, basking in the glory of what still seemed to be a successful disengagement, and looking ahead to elections in the first half of 2006, Sharon decided to rid himself of the ankle-biters in Likud by founding a new party, Kadima ("Forward"), and taking along with him the cream of Likud, leaving the carcass to Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. There was no doctrine for the new party other than Sharon himself and the unwritten understanding that he was trustworthy and would lead Israel to further unilateral disengagement from large parts of the West Bank while tightening his grip on the bits he wanted to keep a united Jerusalem, the big settlement blocs and (probably, in terms of security arrangements) the Jordan Valley. He was also joined by key Labour leaders including Shimon Peres and Haim Ramon, one of the shapers of disengagement. Ehud Olmert, a widely experienced former Mayor of Jerusalem and bolder of various ministerial portfolios, was his deputy, but future Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a "Likud princess" ,as the daughter of an early "freedom fighter" in Irgun during the British mandate, was prominently at Sharon's side. Then on 4 January, long ill and hugely overweight,
24. Olmert averted the disarray that might have ensued after the exit of the caudillo by moving quickly to take over as provisional leader and Acting Prime Minister. At the time of
25. The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections of 25 January 2006 was a severe setback for Olmert. Though he claims to share the consensus about supporting Abu Mazen, he has done little, grudgingly and late, to strengthen his hand. He has refused to negotiate on substance with Abe Mazen, even though, as head of the PLO, he is fully empowered to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. Olmert has also frozen the transfer of VAT and customs duties which
27. Olmert was already under a cloud for having allegedly obtained a sweetheart deal in the purchase of a house in a desirable section of
28. None of this is to say that Sharon was free of suspicions of wrongdoing to the contrary, he was constantly surrounded by the whiff of shady deals, and in late 2005 his son, a member of the Knesset, took the fall and was sentenced to prison. But the fact is that
29. While the nature of the coalition that Olmert has built has to date lingered in power against all conventional political norms, the Winograd committee report might throw a spanner in the works, as would Labor's withdrawal which has now beconie possible. It is not clear whether Olmert's tribulations and the likely changes will alter prospects for advancing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in any substantive way, because the other side of the equation is the historically low prestige of the US among Arabs in the region, the ideological predispositions of the Bush Administration (with the possible exception of Secretary Rice herself), as well as the US political cycle. It appears that the
The victory of Hamas
30. In March 2005, two months after his election to succeed Yasser Arafat in the presidency of the Palestinian Authority with an ample majority, Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) negotiated a three-part deal with the Palestinian factions, mainly Hamas, under Egyptian auspices, in
31. As even Israelis admitted, the hudna was by and large observed by Hamas, though some questions remained alout whether they were using surrogates to violate it, or, even if they weren't, they did little to stop therm The reform of the PLO is still a pending matter, which is repeatedly postponed, most recently at the Mecca summit at which it was agreed to create a National Unity Government (NU G). In the post-Arafat era, the PLO has become an even more squishy and fractious Cody than it was previously, and there is reluctance among many leaders, prominent among them the Tunis holdouts, to carry out a reform that would have the effect of reflecting a reality on the ground which is no longer favourable to the PLO dinosaurs.
32. The move to hold elections, however, had taken on a dynamic of its own by the time I took over on 1 June 2005. The importance of the elections could not possibly be underestimated, not simply because they were to be the first in over nine years, but more because of the participation of Hamas. Hamas is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, but by most serious and objective accounts it is first and foremost a resistance movement, with a strong religious foundation and a network of programmes of social assistance to the downtrodden. In contrast with the decay and corruption and fecklessness of the Palestinian Authority under Fateh, which has essentially lost touch with the people, Hamas was widely seen as attentive to their needs and largely untainted by corruption. Furthermore, Hamas' undisguised skepticism, if not outright rejection, of the
33. The decision of the political bureau of Hamas to participate in the legislative elections running as "Change and Reform" was also a notable turning point because they had refused to participate in the 1996 elections because they were taking place in the framework of the despised
34. While the elections were set for July, they were unilaterally postponed by Abu Mazen until January 2006, mostly to quell squabbling within Fateh about candidates for office and attempts to revisit the
36. It was clear that Hamas' participation in the elections four months ahead was the central issue as preparations got underway for the Quartet meeting which the Secretary-General hosts every year on the margins of the general debate of the General Assembly. Secretary-General Annan agreed with my assessment and, with his support, I put this to my Quartet colleagues, the other three Envoys, David Welch (US Assistant Secretary of State), Marc Otte (European Union, Javier Solana's Envoy) and Alexander Kalugin (
37. At the Quartet meeting on 20 September 2005, the Principals deliberated and, after consulting by telephone with Abu Mazen, agreed to a formula which consisted of Secretary-General Annan reading to the press, on behalf of the Quartet, a sentence not included in the written statement that was issued in which the view was expressed that the forthcoming Palestinian legislative elections should be seen as a stage in the Palestinian evolution toward democracy, and that the question of participation should be left to the Palestinians themselves, notwithstanding the "fundamental contradiction" between participation in elections and possession of militias. All (=
38. Abu Mazen moved toward the elections fairly confidently, reassuring visitors that they would see, in the new legislature, that he would bring about the disarmament of the militias. He predicted a good result for Hamas, but expressed no doubt that Fateh would retain its majority.
39. Well and good, but, of course, Hamas won. Or, rather, Fateh was defeated. It was routed at least partly because of its own blunders including in many cases fielding more than one candidate for the same seat, partly a reflection of Abu Maien's indecisiveness or perhaps powerlessness as party leader. The core of Hamas is generally estimated to be about 20% of the electorate, but it garnered the support of 43%, meaning that at least 23% of the electorate in addition to the card-carrying members rejected the usual suspects and voted for the candidates of a party which, in mayoral positions, had at least ended graft and established some semblance of order in the conduct of public affairs.
40. Be that as it may, an entirely new and unexpected dispensation, apparently a body blow to Abu Mazen's strategy, took the Palestinians, including, probably, Hamas itself, entirely by surprise. Much to the consternation of the Fateh establishment, Palestinians at large appeared to be elated that, behaving as the electorate might do in a European election, they had "thrown the rascals out". Moreover, there was an aggravating circumstance surrounding the vote: it had been conducted fairly and freely. Also, the run-up had been largely free of the kind of fecklessness generally expected of the Palestinians. Such incidents as there were could largely be attributed to Israeli disruption in the form of arrests and restriction of movement of Hamas candidates. Abu Mazen himself was philosophical and self-critical about it, even in public: Fateh had its own failings, and it must regroup, repent and rethink.
THE QUARTET AND THE PA GOVERNMENT
Reaction to the Hamas victory
41. Barely five days after the 25 January 2006 elections, however, the Palestinians received an icy shower in the form of a pre-programmed Quartet meeting in
42. Not that the Palestinians were totally unprepared for the shock: warning shots had been fired across their bow in two statements, both issued after teleconferences between the Principals, issued on 28 December 2005 and on 26 January 2006, the day after the elections. In the first, the Quartet called on all those "who want to be part of the political process" to "renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and disarm", and "expressed its view that a future Palestinian Authority Cabinet should include no member who has not committed to the principles of Israel's right to exist in peace and security and an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism." In the second, also issued after a teleconference, the Quartet said: "A two-state solution to the conflict requires all participants in the democratic process to renounce violence and terror, accept
43. Yet in a 13 January meeting, I had gathered the impression that, though the
44. What I had in mind was that the Quartet could adopt a common but differentiated approach towards Hamas and the new government, and I recommended to UNHQ that we avoid tying our hands in ways that we might come to regret later. I also said that, whereas we had to acknowledge that the US and the EU had real domestic constraints with regard to assistance to a government involving members of a movement listed by them as a terrorist organization, they should in turn acknowledge that a group that is likely to hold a high percentage of seats in the Legislature could not be effectively dealt with by pressure and isolation alone, that Hamas was evolving and could evolve still more, that if we are to encourage that evolution some channel of dialogue would be necessary, and that for the UN to play such a role, as it had done successfully in many cases elsewhere in the world, it had to be given some space. I also proposed that, regardless of what position it took regarding the new Palestinian dispensation, the Quartet should register concern about Israel's creation of facts on the ground, which impinges on the viability indeed, let's not beat around the bush, the very achievabiity of a future Palestinian state, and agree to become more explicit about the need for negotiations and convergence on the end-goal of the road Map process.
45. I was further handicapped by the fact that the Secretary-General was in movement on the Continent, wending his way toward
46. I could not erase what the Quartet had already said on 28 December. However, to me, it was one thing to take positions before the elections, when we all assumed an outcome that would preserve Fateh's majority, and another to take position in the face of an outright Hamas victory. The people had spoken in freer and fair elections whose holding had been encouraged by the international community, and their wishes should be respected. We had an entirely new, unforeseen situation before us, and we should adjust our reactions accordingly. The 26 January statement, which in effect echoed the one of 28 December, undercut me seriously in that respect.
47. On 29 January we received a draft statement prepared by the
48. I had arrived in
49. The Envoys met at 10 a.m. on 30 January in preparation for the Principals' meeting in the evening. I was subjected to a heavy barrage from Welch and Abrams, including ominous innuendo to the effect that if the Secretary-General didn't encourage a review of projects of UN agencies and programmes it could have repercussions when UN budget deliberations took place on Capitol Hill. This question was resolved when the US stepped back from insisting on a decision by the Quartet on the matter, and settled for language propoed, incidentally, by the US legal advisor, a veteran of Camp David and other US Middle East efforts under which the Quartet merely "concluded t be' it was inevitable that future assistance to any new government would be reviewed by donors against that government's commitment to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map".
50. Despite the constraints under which I was operating, I pleaded with the Envoys for an approach that would be more compatible with the United Nations playing the role which comes naturally to us as explained five paragraphs above. I was weakened by the willingness expressed by both my EU and Russian colleague, at the outset, to accept the language proposed by the
The impact of Quartet policy on the Palestinians and on prospects for a two State solution
51. The devastating consequences of the Quartet position have been well documented, concluding in UN Security Council briefings. Those consequences were, in fact, predicted by UNSCO in a paper that we circulated to Quartet partners before the
52. Beyond the damage wrought in terms of international assistance, which in the final analysis is voluntary, there is that which has been inflicted by Israel, notwithstanding its responsibilities to the population, under international law, as ocupying power: not just the killings of hundreds of civilians in sustained heavy incursions and the destruction of infrastructure, some of it wanton such as the surgical strikes on the only power plant, as well as bridges in Gaza; also the cessation of transfer to the PA, sint February 2006, of the VAT and customs duties which Israel collects, under the Parise Protocol signed with the PLO pursuant to the Oslo Accords, on behalf of them Palestinians. This is money collected from Palestinian exporters and importers. It is Palestinian money. In normal circumstances it adds up to a full one third of Palestinian income. It is the main source of payment of salaries to PA employees. While the international community demands from the Palestinian government that it should accept "previous agreements and obligations", Israel deprives the PA of the capacity to deliver basic services to the Palestinian population in violation of one such `previous agreement", as well as its IHL obligations regarding the welfare of the population whose land it occupies.
54. In general, the other consequence of Quartet policy has been to take all pressure off
Palestinian realignment and the formation of a National Unity Government (NUG)
Soon after the elections, Hamas expressed its desire to establish a broad-based
government. The reactions in Fateh were mixed, but before the idea could
advance any further the
56. Before going on, I want to stress that, in effect, a National Unity Government with a compromise platform along the lines of
In any case, toward the beginning of the summer of 2006, advisers close to Abu
Mazen set in motion an initiative whose purpose as underscored to us
privately was to bring about the untimely demise of the PA government led by
Hamas, through the convening of a referendum to ratify the adherence of the
Palestinians to Abu Mazen's programme of negotiating a two-state solution in
accordance with the Oslo Accords and the commitments centered by the PLO. They
wanted to get from the people what they had not succheded in getting from the
government in its programme. It reached the point at which Abu Mazen, despite
the strong opposition of the government, actually announced the convening of
the referendum, albeit shopping short of setting a date. Abu Mazen intimated to
me, however, that he was using this as leverage only to prod movement in the
direction of acceptance of a two-state solution by the government. It is my conviction
that Abe Mazen has throughout remained true to his strategy of co-optation and
that he was never seriously committed to the plot that his advisers tried to
foist on him. This includes the threat to convene early elections, which he was
pressed to do by the
In the event, the renewed effort at the beginning of 2007 to form a national
unity government overtook all such manoeuvres. A spate of interactional
violence between December and February, during which both sides came close to
the abyss of will war, raised widespread alarm which appears to have had a
bracing effects not just on the Palestinian leadership in Fateh as well as
Hamas, but also abroad. It seems to have inspired King Abdullah of
59. In the meantime, at the urging of the
THE QUARTET AS A DIPLOMATIC INSTRUMENT
Assessment of its value and methods of work
60. When I first learned of the creation of the Quartet some years ago, it struck me as an ingenious diplomatic experiment. I am credited with having invented the "Friends of the Secretary-General", in the 1990-1991 El Salvador negotiations, whose main purpose was to harness the diplomatic energies of would-be competing mediators. Be that as it may, as a practitioner I am always on the lookout for creative additions to the good officer's toolbox. The idea of a mechanism to harmonize disparate diplomatic efforts and to discourage potentially contradictory solo forays by important actors in the Middle East, where there is a crying need for some sort of mediators' traffic cop, had distinct appeal. Moreover, I could see the allure of the UNSG recovering, possibly for the first time since Ralph Bunche mediated the 1949 armistice after the first Arab-Israeli war, a UN diplomatic role in the region. Since I was totally absorbed in the Cyprus negotiation at that time, and therefore not privy to the nuts and bolts and rationale of tie Quartet, I only intuited through guesswork that the UN's membership in the Quartet was the vindication and culmination of SG Annan's risky but successful effort over several years to regain Israel's confidence by helping it to be welcomed in the UN regional group system, erase the Zionism=racism GA resolution from the books, and (though this would come later) getting the General Assembly to commemorate the Holocaust, thus marking its unique character in the annals of genocide.
61. I was therefore particularly interested to see how the Quartet could, in practice, reconcile the previously differing, frequently clashing policies of the US, the European Union and Russia, as well as the UNSG as a sort of guardian of the legitimacy enshrined in international law and particularly in Security Council resolutions, having regard also to the very large UN role in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Quartet, I was to learn, functions in a flimsy framework of ritual and tradition passed orally from person to person. Unfortunately, it is a bit like the children's game of "Chinese Whispers", here the message transmitted at one end reaches the other end in a manner that doesn't necessarily resemble the original.
62. With this latter caveat, I regret to conclude, after two years, that the Quartet, with all its promise, may well epitomize, in the field of diplomacy,
63. In my experience, the nature of the Quartet lies somewhere between a "contact group" and "group of friends", concepts familiar to UN veterans. Contact groups are frequently used by chairpersons of the UN General Assembly to bring together the main players, including the most recalcitrant ones, on a given issue; there is also the Afghanistan contact group which gathers t he country's neighbours plus the US and Russia, and the one on the former Yugoslavia, etc. Members of a contact group are usually not like-minded, and they operate as rather loose mechanisms. A "group of friends" presupposes that the members of the group have in common a friend who is in the lead and shared goals. Whatever the Quartet was at the inception, let us be frank with ourselves: today, as a practical matter, the Quartet is pretty much a group of friends of the
64. Be that as it may, as a group of US friends, the Quartet's shared goal is a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, at least since the end of 2005, even though there has developed a generally agreed approach on some aspects of what should be demanded of the Palestinian side, this is not the case as regards
65. I will come back to the Middle East beyond
66. The Israelis joke that the Palestinians would be quite content if negotiations were to be held in a replete stadium, which is unfair to Abu Mazen, who has a predilection for back-channels, but otherwise not entirely untrue, judging from the list of speakers at open debates on the MEPP in the Security Council. The Palestinians, or at least the PLO/Fateh players, have gotten quite used to, and indeed crave, a strong
67. The question in the Quartet is whether the
68. The closest thing to a spokesman for the Quartet is the Secretary-General, to the extent that he traditionally performs the function, usually discharged by a Rapporteur or a Master of Ceremonies, of reading to the press, sometimes verbatim, the statement just agreed (usually as it is being distributed to the press). (I don't know how this task came to fall on the Secretary-General - this bit of the petite histoire of Quartet diplomatic history has yet to be written up. Perhaps it is because in terms of diplomatic precedent the Secretary-General comes before all the other members, who are merely at the Ministerial or equivalent level. He is thus treated as something like primus inter pares. To my mind, such a rapporteurial function should be left to the ultimus inter pares.)
69. I have always felt uneasy at this liturgy. Even if the Secretary-General's role has been accorded to him on protocol grounds, the other side of the coin is that he is being used to provide the appearance of an imprimatur on behalf of the international community for the Quartet's positions. This in itself is awkward since the Secretary-General participates in the Quartet not by delegation or mandate from any UN body, leave alone the Security Council, but in his semi-stand-alone capacity. There are large segments of the international community not represented in the self-appointed Quartet, including the Arab shareholders. Nevertheless, I could live with the arrangements until the point came when the Quartet started taking positions which are not likely to gather a majority in UN bodies, and which in any case are at odds with UN Security Council resolutions and/or international law or, when they aren't expressly so, fall short of the minimum of even-handedness that must be the lifeblood of the diplomatic action of the Secretary-General.
Lack of normatively based and even-handed positions
70. Take as a sample the Quartet statements issued since the start of 2007. The first was issued at the Washington, D.C. meeting on 2 February, the second on 9 February pursuant to a Principals teleconference, the third at the Berlin meeting on 21 February, and the fourth, also pursuant to a Principals teleconference, on 21 March.
71. The 2 February meeting was the first since the 20 September meeting hosted by Secretary-General Annan at UNHQ, which itself was the first since the Israel-Hizballah war. Strenuous UN efforts in the months following to organize another meeting led to nought. All of us could sense Washington's reluctance to another meeting with the outgoing Secretary-General probably confirmed when he submitted to the Security Council, motu proprio, a comprehensive report on the handling of the Middle East during his time in office, and delivered a speech that raised some of the concerns which I am delving into in this report. The 2 February Washington meeting was the first hosted by the US in over two years, and it was designed as a launching pad for the Rice initiative to set in motion monthly trilateral meetings with Olmert and Abu Mazen, the first of which was scheduled for 18 February.
73. Yet the 2 February statement was, by comparison, the
74. I should make clear that I do not for a nanosecond condone the failings of the Palestinian side, notably its incapacity or unwillingness to comply with its obligations under the Road Map. Abba Eban is famously quoted as having observed, decades ago, that the Palestinians (in his time, Yasser Arafat) never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The Palestinian record in stopping violence directed at Israel and, unforgivably and cruelly, Israeli civilians, with only occasional glimmers and ephemeral springtimes, is patchy at best, reprehensible at worst. Arafat's legacy in the form of a dysfunctional PA saddled with competing security bodies who don't act effectively to ensure minimal public security hangs heavy over all efforts to advance the political process. The arrival of Hamas on the scene, with its abominable Charter and alleged links to an Iranian regime which makes blood-curdling statements about
75. But it is also true that Israeli policies, whether this is intended or not, seem frequently perversely designed to encourage the continued action by Palestinian militants. The occupation/resistance dynamic may be a textbook example of the chicken/egg quandary, and it is difficult to refute
76. None of this excuses the actions of cold-blooded masters, frequently based abroad, who dispatch these shaheed to their deaths and those of dozens of Israeli civilians with promises of quick access to paradise and a better life in this world for their families. One can only weep for the Israelis who have lost their lives or have been maimed as a result of terrorist acts as they go about their daily lives, and mourn with their families. One must also view with scorn the actions of outside powers who continue to fund and encourage militant groups in the oPt to send rockets or suicide bombers against the Israeli population. There is no doubt, moreover, that Palestinian terror strengthens the hardliners and weakens the peace camp in
"Terrorists thrive on despair. They may gain recruits where peaceful and legitimate ways of redressing grievance do not exist, or appear to have been exhausted By this process, power is taken away from people and placed in the hands of small and shadowy groups. But the fact that a few wicked men or women commit murder in its name does not make a cause any less just. Nor does it relieve us of the obligation to deal with legitimate grievance. On the contrary, terrorism will only be defeated if we act to solve the political disputes and long-standing conflicts which generate support for it. If we do not, we shall find ourselves acting as a recruiting sergeant for the very terrorists we seek to suppress."
"Paradoxically, terrorist groups may actually be sustained when, in responding to their outrages, governments cross the line and commit outrages themselves-- [Such acts] may be exploited by terrorists to gain new followers, and to generate cycles of violence in which they thrive.... To compromise on the protection of human rights would hand terrorists a victory they cannot achieve on their own. The promotion and protection of human rights, as well as the strict observance of international humanitarian law, should, therefore, be at the centre of anti-terrorism strategies."(3)
77. But the Quartet, I regret to say, can't escape its share of responsibility for feeding despair. What the Palestinians Abu Mazen as much as Hamas refer to as the "siege"(4) that has befallen them since the January 2009 elections is widely seen in the occupied Palestinian territory and in the "Arab street" as collective punishment for their democratic choice, and the Quartet is seen as the punisher. There is plenty of empirical evidence that the siege has served only to radicalize Palestinian sentiment, and create the kind of institutional chaos and social suffering that strengthens radical elements.(5)
78. Strictly speaking it is not the Quartet as such which has reviewed assistance, circumvented the PA and shifted aid to the preponderantly humanitarian, imposed stifling banking restrictions or deprived the Palestinians of their main source of income. It is, respectively, the
79. Another public misunderstanding is the characterization of the principles laid down by the Quartet as "condition which, until they are met, stand in the way of contacts with and assistance to the Palestinian Authority government. I have personally jumped through hoop after hoop in encounters with the press to explain that the Quartet has never once referred to the principles nonviolence, recognition of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map as "conditions", and that while they appear to be conditions for two Quartet members the US and the EU this is due to their own legislation rather than to a Quartet decision. For their part, the Russians host Hamas in
80. Many EU member governments have felt uncomfortable with the existing state of affairs for quite some time. They have tried to find ways around it. The adoption of the TIM (Temporary International Mechanism) was an attempt to address their growing unease. (The TIM was initially strongly opposed by the
81. In respect of the recognition of
82. My verbal acrobatics to dissociate the UN from the decisions of two Quartet members while avoiding an outright break with our partners were performed in the framework of Secretary-General Annan's compatible positioning. I have already made clear that he was squarely behind my language contortions in January 2006. On the question of contacts, there was less decisiveness. My stance was clear: the UN is not in the business of recognizing governments; we deal pragmatically with whoever are the authorities. In good offices, we deal with the players who need to be part of peace agreements. We should practice realpolitik in the purest sense, by removing the politik and dealing with reality. I will come back to this later.
The UN and the Quartet
83. The Middle East has substituted the
84. The UNSG fits awkwardly in the Quartet. His partners are a powerful permanent member of the Security Council, another hyper-powerful one, and the most powerful regional grouping in history. Whether by design or default, the EU, institutionally the closest to the UN, approaches the Quartet in a completely different way. The EU is, of course, a rather unwieldy animal, and there is much Quartet corridor snickering about the embarrassment of the
85. The Secretary-General's handicaps and constraints don't necessarily mean that be shouldn't participate in the Quartet, but rather that he must be clear in his mind about them and act within the parameters: the Secretary-General has the duty to uphold international law and more particularly UN resolutions he does not have the independence of policy direction or the political latitude of a government leader or foreign minister.
86. The positions taken by the Quartet since the end of 2005, and particularly as of the Palestinian elections of January 2006, have led the UN onto thin ice, and put personnel in the field in the uncomfortable position of trying to alleviate the effects of the 'siege' while being seen as one of those who have imposed that siege, or at least having condoned it, and also as part of the international effort to maintain it.
87. If the UNSG strays, or is seen to stray, from the parameters within which he should operate, the mix between the twofold mandate of UNSCO coordination of assistance and promotion of the MEPP will be difficult to sustain.
88. Reasonable people may disagree with my contention that the Quartet is, as a practical matter if not de jure, more like a group of friends of the
89. In fact, there would be considerably more usefulness in a Quartet that isn't expected to issue statements. The UNSG might advocate such a line. In that case there would be less need for meetings of Principals and more at the level of Envoys, who in my time have never issued any statements (though they have done previously). This would gradually make the Quartet a forum for comparing notes and consulting on policy, i.e. more like a contact group, thus avoiding to place its members in difficult situations.
90. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps we got carried away somewhat by our desire to be in the political game, after a fashion, in the
The Palestinian Authority Government
91. As one of my official Israeli interlocutors said to me early in my mission, asking about Syria even before I could explain my five-country + one territory mandate: "Yes, I know, (foolish of me to ask) the UN talks to everybody". Since the late 1980s the UN has become rather adept dealing with groups that most governments can't or won't touch. If this ability is removed we would seriously weaken our hand as a peacemaking tool. A lot rests on our freedom to do what we have done in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mozambique to name but a few which is to take groups that have gone wayward and, leading them by the hand, explain how the world works and what it expects of them and what would best assist their people, and bring them in from the cold as we have done world-wide.(8) I am acutely aware that times have changed and that 9/11 has made it more difficult to sustain the distinction between freedom or resistance fighters and terrorists. But I see these new conditions as a challenge to us to argue our case for dealing with whoever it is necessary to deal with imaginatively, in the interest of the peaceful solution of disputes which is at the heart of the UN Charter. On this I strongly believe that the UNSG must be prepared to take a stand. He should not yield the ground gained by his predecessors since the late 1980s. If he does, he will unavoidably contribute to the post-9/11 polarization rather than help to bridge it. There are signs that the polarization may be on the wane; we should not concede our acquis.
92. Moreover, my terms of reference, as included in my (embarrassingly) long title, include that of "Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestlnian Authorlty". No one has suggested any qualification to those terms of reference, yet we have allowed them to become dead letter. How could I abruptly cut off contacts with the executive branch of the PA with whom my predecessors and I had dealt routinely until then, and to which the international community had forced the transfer of authority over the years to circumvent Arafat, and which is the result of elections in which we played an important role? To me the answer seemed obvious. Yet besides two telephone calls on specific instructions from Secretary-General Annan and a fortuitous encounter under the auspices of Abu Mazen, I have had no contact with the Prime Minister of the PA, Ismail Hanniyeh, or any other member of his cabinet before the NUG was put in place.
93. After much internal deliberation, Secretary-General Annan issued guidelines regarding contacts by the UN with members of the PA government. These guidelines made clear that there was no impediment to continued contacts by UN programmes and agencies in the field as necessary for the conduct of their work, while the Secretary-General retained for himself the power to authorize higher-level (i.e. political) contacts. (As authorized by SG Annan, UNSCO maintains discrete working-level contacts with the PA government, but not at the level of the Special Coordinator.)
94. To put it mildly, I was less than satisfied with these guidelines. While they did not close the door on meetings with the PA government leadership, they certainly foreclosed my latitude to have such contacts, and they made it plain that no such contacts were; taking place at least not at a senior level. In the event, as I have earlier stated, my repeated appeals to Secretary-General Annan to allow me to initiate such contacts did not elicit an authorization.
95. At no point was it ever explained to me why this was so. My appeals were met with promises to consider the matter. There were dark hints to the effect that for the UN to have contacts with the PA government would somehow place it in contravention of Quartet policy. My clarification that there is no Quartet pollcy on contacts went unheeded. The most feedback I ever really got usually referred to how "difficult" it would make things with our Quartet partners if we took this step. No-one as I recall seriously challenged my contention that talking to the government would actually be, objectively, good policy for the UN to follow, in the sense that it could assist in pushing along the evolution toward democracy and peaceful resistance of the new government and of Hamas, and thus help to solve the conflict we were there to help solve. A UNSG and his envoys should be able honestly to say that, whatever he or she has done in a conflict zone, it was guided by the best interests of the people the UN was there to assist. I don't think even the defenders of the approach we have taken could argue that the UN's policy would measure up to this standard.
96. My predecessor frequently highlighted, as part of the UNSG's comparative advantage in the MEPP, the fact that his Envoy to the Quartet was the only one of the four who was based in the field. I don't doubt that this was the case in his time. However, it is no longer the case, because being on the ground is only useful if the Envoy speaks to all the players. So much for the value added. Contrast what we do in Lebanon talking to Hezbollah, which is not the elected government (as Hamas was) or the majority party (as Hamas still is) , and which started an international war last summer (unlike Hamas, whose restraint over the last two years is undeniable). If we really tied our diplomatic boycotts to behaviour, we'd talk to Hamas and boycott Hezbollah. But we talk to Hezbollah, and rightly so, because they are important and no solution to
97. As best I can fathom, at almost every policy juncture, a premium is put on good relations with the
98. Just as I had put my views on these matters to Secretary-General Annan with all clarity(9), I put them to Secretary-General Ban even before he took office, and I have done so again repeatedly, both in writing and in those policy discussions in which I have been included. I regret that my advice has gone unheeded. I noted with particular dismay that at the press conference that followed immediately on the Secretary-General's meeting with President Abbas (Abu Mazen) when he visited him in Ramallah on 25 March 2007, he introduced explicitly, for the first time, the notion of conditionality i.e. that meeting in future with the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority would depend on the position and actions of that government. I fail to see why it was necessary to escalate the UN's position, and more so to cross the conditionality line. On the contrary, given that this was post-Mecca, we should, I felt, have been loosening, not tightening, our policy. His taking that position effectively buried my consistent efforts to salvage the significant role which the UN might have played in assisting the evolution of Hamas in government, and even as a movement, and with it the search for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My decision to leave the UN was reached for a number of reasons, and cumulatively, but, in retrospect, that was probably the tipping point the point at which I concluded that my uphill effort was not going to succeed.
99. There is an old saying that in the Middle East you can't make war without
100. I am gobsmacked. If indeed they did reply in the affirmative, it must be because of a desire to tell their interlocutors what they want to hear. Such an approach would be highly divisive amongst the Arabs, and it could seriously undermine that Arab unity which is behind the Arab initiative and is one of its main attributes. I don't believe they can seriously believe that it is possible to neatly compartmentalize the various fronts and deal with them sequentially, bestowing the favour of attention on well-behaving parties first.
101. In much the same way, does anyone seriously believe that a genuine process between
102. The conventional wisdom is that
103. While, as I say, no one ever gave me a cogent reason why I should have shunned Damascus for two years, I sometimes heard on the grapevine the idea that, since the main business with Syria related to its role in Lebanon, and in particular the implementation of SCRs 1559 and, lately, 1701, it would be distracting if anyone from the UN were to talk to Syria about anything else. Let me record that, in two years, I received not one report of the meetings or work of the Special Envoy for SCR 1559, even though I was informed that he regularly received the material I shared with HQ, and I was aware that he had certain contacts with the Syrian government (as well as the Palestinian and Israeli ones, of course which I usually learned about from them rather than the UN). He had a narrow and confined mandate. I had a broad and over-arching one. Were the UN's house in order, EO[Executive Office?]SG and DPA would have ensured that the envoy charged with taking a broad view would have been kept fully abreast of the work of the one working on a narrower front. And it would not have been at all difficult for a well-briefed Special Coordinator, when in
104. Given my constant efforts, opposed by HQ, to ensure that the UN had a good channel to Syria on the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is ironic that on the eve of my departure, the US Secretary of State is meeting the Foreign Minister of Syria, and members of the Quartet are meeting Syria as one of the members of the follow-up committee of the Arab League Initiative, in Sharm el-Sheikh. The UN played little or no role in bringing this about, but devoutly hope that we will no longer isolate
UNITED NATIONS ARCHITECTURE ON THE MEPP
The UNSG's value as a diplomatic actor
105. Members of the Policy Committee will recall that the question of how the UN is equipped at Headquarters and in the field to tackle the
106. As part of those prior determinations, I would advise the UNSG to bear in mind that he is not just one more common-and-garden actor on the international scene. My predecessor, in explaining the Quartet's value added, argued that it brought together synergistically the US's power, the EU's economic leverage, Russia's historic role in the region, and the legitimacy represented by the UN. Well and good, so long as the UN does indeed represent that legitimacy, and is in a position to ensure that it is respected in the Quartet's positions and actions. While all states are bound by international law to the same principles and law as the UNSG, the UNSG has a responsibility to uphold that legitimacy that is unique and puts him in the spotlight in a way that is not the case for a major or even middle power or a regional organization or, for that matter, an NGO. The Secretary-General is the normative mediator par excellence. It follows that the Secretary-General's diplomatic action in the
107. This is not only a matter of principle; it has practical consequences which can impact on the role of the Secretary-General and his representatives at large. Bear with me while I explain, taking a slight detour.
108. Many draw attention to Article 99 as the most important article of the UN Charter in terms of the Secretary-General's role. Sir Henry Drummond, the last Secretary-General of the
109. Be that as it may, my contention is that the most important provision in the Charter, for the Secretary-General as a peacemaker, is in fact the second paragraph of Article 100 which, though it is placed in Chapter XV, "The Secretariat", in fact places an injunction on member States: "Each Member undertakes to respect the exclusively international character of the Secretary-General and the staff and not to seek to influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities". This isn't just the basis for fending off pesky pressure-wielders: this is the provision which guarantees to the weaker members of the Organization the assurance that in entrusting themselves to the Secretary-General's good offices, they will be treated fairly. A Secretary-General who compromises the independence of his role as enshrined in the Charter by ignoring Article 100.2 will do so at the peril of the continued exercise of that role and the cause of peace in conflicts where he can actually make a difference.
110. The practical translation of the above and this is my point is that if the Secretary-General is swayed, or seen to be swayed, by one or the other Member State, other members, and indeed any party to a conflict susceptible of being entrusted to the Secretary-General's good offices, will justifiably hesitate to deposit that trust in him. What we do in the
111. Let me be more precise and concrete: the Secretary-General's so-called "Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process" is prevented from even talking to the PA government leadership (to which he is the "Personal Representative of the Secretary-General"). Since the UN traditionally talks to every player to whom it needs to talk (examples abound), and there is no Quartet policy barring contacts by its members, since the Secretary-General has a personal representative accredited to the PA, and since only one member of the Quartet actively discourages contact with it, the leadership of the PA government might justifiably wonder whether that member isn't behind the decision of the Secretary-General to ostracize that government.
112. Similarly, there is no Security Council resolution prohibiting contact with the Government of Syria. Syria's territory remains occupied in contravention of international law and Security Council resolutions, and the Security Council advocates a comprehensive settlement to the Middle East conflict that between Israel and its neighbours thus making an end to the occupation of Syrian territory part and parcel of such a comprehensive settlement. Given all these circumstances, the Syrian government, in light of the truncation of the exercise of the terms of reference of the UN "Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process", might be forgiven for wondering whether the Secretary-General's policy is inspired not by international law including Security Council resolutions but by the bidding of one or two permanent members of the Council.(10)
113. It almost goes without saying that the impression that both the PA government and that of
114. I have one further point of a starkly practical nature, which I raise at the risk of sounding like an alarmist. Like anyone from the UN who works in the Middle East or perhaps anywhere the
A new envoy?
115. For the many reasons cited above I have concluded that unless there is a determination by the Secretary-General to take a stand on the issues and on matters which are unquestionably under his jurisdiction, such as who he and his representatives deal with, and stick to it sine qua non, he should at least play down his political role, such as it is, in the Middle East Peace Process until more propitious times come.
116. In any case, if the Secretary-General's representative for the region me, in title, until now is not allowed to talk to everyone, there is no comparative advantage whatever to placing him in the region. I gather from occasional, sporadic notes of the Secretary-General's meetings that the possibility is still under consideration of appointing a Middle East Envoy based at UNHQ. In my view, for the reasons given above, the UN should resist the natural temptation of almost every governmental and intergovernmental institution to throw a committee or a czar or, in this case, an envoy, at a problem. I believe that a sober examination should lead to the conclusion that there isn't a role for the Secretary-General that would justify the appointment of such an Envoy. We are not in the lead, and the role we play is subsidiary at best, dangerous at worst.
117. Please note in this regard that neither the EU nor Russia have high-level Envoys on the ground in the Middle East Solana's Envoy imes and goes from Brussels, and Russia's Envoy, a former ambassador to the UAE, doesn't even report directly to the Foreign Minister, and is based in Moscow the person really in charge is the Deputy FM. Both Solana and the DFM go to the region frequently. I surmise that if either the EU or
118. I don't see the case for a higher profile involvement by the UNSG. But in any case, I would strongly advise a review of the substantive policy and prospects and take a considered position. I just don't see anything developing any time soon, given the travails of the Israeli government and the policies of the indispensable power. Would the UN attempt to substitute the indispensable power? One is reminded of Brian Urquhart's admonition against jumping into an empty pool. Would the UN be John the Baptist? Would it be a spear carrier for the indispensable power (with all the perils that that entails)? None of these options seem particularly promising, let alone alluring or a fitting role for the UN.
119. I note that the Secretary-General continues to repeat that things are moving in a positive direction the NUG, the revival of the Arab initiative, the Olmert-Abbas talks, the re-energization of the Quartet. This enumeration was in fact initially coined by my resourceful staff at UNSCO, and it is an understandable way of trying to send an encouraging message. But we shouldn't fall for our own propaganda. We obviously should hope that these efforts lead somewhere, but we should also be aware that they are not likely to, because they don't rest on the sturdy foundations of proper situation analysis and even-handedness. It may be better to be the one who raises questions about the Emperor's new clothes than to be ridiculed as the naked Emperor oneself.
120. Absent a sharp change in policy taking a stand on UN positions to the point of making agreement to Quartet statements conditional on them, and lifting all restrictions on contacts with the likes of the PA government and, indeed, with Hamas itself, as well as, of course, Syria the UNSG should take a good, hard look at UN Middle East diplomacy, before be takes any further steps including personnel decisions. In particular the question of the UN role in the Quartet needs to be seriously reviewed. We have seen large chunks of 2006 go by without Quartet meetings, mostly due to the
121. I certainly do not believe it would be advisable to appoint someone to succeed me as Head of UNSCO, either at the present level (USG) or at a level below, unless the present constraints are totally removed, or unless all pretence is removed about the person in the field being the "Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process". Also, it should be quite clear that you can't have both a high-level Envoy based at UNHQ and a Special Coordinator nominally responsible for the MEPP in the field. If there is one at HQ the one in the field would be eclipsed I can cite concrete examples of this happening; it's only natural that the local players will ignore the person in the field and keep their powder dry for when the knight in shining armour rides in from Camelot enveloped in the SG's aura. Perhaps it would be best to limit the Special Coordinator in Gaza/Jerusalem to assistance coordination duties, which the Deputy Special Coordinator is doing today. This would be the most sensible way to proceed if an HQ-based envoy is appointed. In that case the medium-level, intellectually high-powered "Regional Affairs" Unit, as the political bit of UNSCO is called, should be kept so as to run interference and keep tabs on the region without restrictions, of course, as to whom they deal with.
122. One final point on this. If indeed he does decide to send an envoy, without the policy adjustments I have suggested above, on another hapless assignment, the Secretary-General and those around him should be prepared to back him implicitly and unflinchingly, and defend him stoutly in the face of the almost inevitable perfidious attempts by one or more of the parties to circumvent him and his staff. The envoy and members of his/her staff should not be left out of the Secretary-General's entourage at any stage of the Secretary-General's travels in the region, or at key meetings during those travels, as was the case on the three trips he has undertaken to date. The leadership at Headquarters should enforce discipline in the Secretariat to cease external airing of internal debates and observe proper channels of communication and decision-making. The lack of such discipline has been a serious constraint on UN effectiveness daring my time. There is no point in denying this: one of the beauties of dealing with the Israelis is that they are not very good at keeping secrets, so we go through the needless humiliation of receiving from them versions of discussions with Headquarters colleagues about which we hadn't heard from our own colleagues. It was sad to discover that often these conversations involved airing the UN's dirty laundry and undermining colleagues rather than serious dialogue with
123. The Palestinians took a very important step in forming the National Unity Government (NUG), but it has yet to prove its worth. The danger of civil war between the factions seems to have been averted for the moment, but the family-based, mafia-type militias are rearing their ugly bead. It remains to be seen whether the PA will have the ability and the will to follow through with the promise of the NUG and to establish law and order in the territory that comes under the PA, not to mention to enforce a ceasefire with IsraeL The work of the National Security Council which is meant to ensure that all security bodies work together is meant to be the focus of these efforts; this should be carefully watched. There will also be a need to watch carefully the effort underway by the US, apparently with Arab partners, to beef up the capabilities of the security bodies under Alm Mazen's lead, using like-minded Palestinians close to the President a precautionary measure in case of interfactional strife, we are told, but one which holds the potential of a self-fulfilling prophecy and doesn't address the need for the disparate security bodies to work in harmony. It would not be surprising if there were an attempt to get Quartet support for this attempt; this should be studiously avoided. A far greater contribution to security stability would be made by easing the siege so that the security forces tens of thousands of armed men, to be precise were actually paid.
125. On the other hand, it is difficult to be sanguine about Patch. They seem to have lost their compass long before their rout in the January 2006 elections. Abu Mazen does his level best to keep things on track and to rebuild the broad pre-existing Palestinian consensus in favour of
126. The Palestinian palette of players on the political scene is most varied and complex, and has acquired an entirely new texture as of the loss of power of Patch and the advent of Hamas to government. This poses serious problems for the UN's dealings with the various bits and pieces of the PA, which almost require a bathymetric chart to navigate.
127. Prior to the
128. It is worth being aware that the combination of PA institutional decline and Israeli settlement expansion is creating a growing conviction among Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, as well as some Jews on the far left in
129. It is the view of many that the only way out is to end the occupation in stages first remove the outlying settlements and create a
130. At this writing, the Israeli government, not for the first time, is showing its organic flaws in the form of the seeming inability of the electoral system to produce strong leaders, and, with the eclipse of the generation of largerthan-life leaders, its tendency to turn to military heroes or to fall prey to machine politicians. The Israeli electoral system does not lend itself to governments with strong mandates; indeed coalitions are a permanent feature. It is anybody's guess whether the present government, headed by a Prime Minister whose support today is near zero, will survive the current travails. Nor is it at all clear that a successor government, should he go, will have either the clarity of vision or determination to actually move ahead.
131. In the meantime,
135. A case in point is an incident which took place at a very sensitive moment before the advent of the new PA in March 2006, when the UK and the US, who did not want to interface at all with the government or any of its representatives including prison wardens, decided that the time had come to remove their monitors in place at a penitentiary near Jericho, who were there as part of a deal some years before to ensure the continued imprisonment of some of the Palestinians who had taken hostages in the Church of the Nativity. They also guarded PFLP leader Ahmed Sa'adat, alleged mastermind of the 2001 assassination of Israeli minister Rehavem "Gandhi" Zeevi.(11) The British and Americans gave advance notice to
136. I took Abu Mazen's request with a grain of salt, and requested a meeting with the newly minted Foreign Minister, the minimum level, I thought, to pursue a presidential demarche. The Minister despite a good relationship that we had established earlier, when she was holding the Justice portfolio did not receive me, and I was referred not to her second in command, the Director General of the Ministry, but to the Deputy Director General for the United Nations. I decided instead to write the Foreign Minister a rather antiseptic letter in which, without taking a position on the question, or even pleading for the release of Sa'adat, I merely queried what was the legal basis for
137. I got back from the Deputy Director General a vitriolic two-page reply which, however, failed to answer my query, and I learned that there was a strong demarche carried out by the Israeli mission in the Secretary-General's office. I got no feedback of that demarche or of how EOSG reacted to it. What I do know is that some time later, when, at my request, Secretary-General Annan appealed to the Foreign Minister during a telephone conversation for her to have a fluid dialogue with me, she demurred, and the matter was not pursued further. In the event, my staff had very good relations with the Israeli MFA, and I had a broad spectrum of contacts in the Prime Minister's office, the Defence Ministry, the National Security Council, internal security establishment, Knesset, etc., but there did not seem to be at Headquarters any particular concern about the absence of a fluid relationship between its envoy and the Foreign Minister. It seems to have simply been taken as a given that that was the last word, despite the handicap that this entailed.12
138. Reasonable minds can differ on whether I should have written the letterin retrospect, it may have been a mistake, and I'm sure this isn't the only one I made while serving in this difficult post. But my point remains that if it aspires to play a role of any significance the UN must get over this tendency to allow itself to be pushed around. This will require not just a steel-spined envoy but also the determination of Headquarters, from the Secretary-General on down, to close ranks and back him up.
139. While this cannot be proven, I also feel strongly that if I had been allowed to talk to the PA government and Hamas and Syria I would have earned greater respect from my Israeli interlocutors, and the UN could have played a far more authoritative and useful role in the Quartet. Whatever Israel might say about UN dialogue with Syria and the PA government, they rely on us to have channels when it really counts as it did during last summer's war when the Secretariat played a role in developing, through consultations with all players, elements that then found their way into the hands of the US and French for them to finalize SCR 1701; and as it does, for example, on Goldwasser and Regev. Were a crisis to break out over the Golan, for instance, the UN Special Coordinator should have already established the relationships he needs with all parties to be able to have direct high level contact to defuse tensions and handle the political aspects.
140. I welcome and encourage the efforts to improve UN-Israeli relations in general, particularly on issues such as the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, which are issues the UN should have a strong and clear position on because it is the right thing to do. But I don't honestly think the UN does
141. I also regret that I have not followed through with a project that I have had for a long time, which is to stage a presentation by OCHA on the Israeli closure system for the Security Council in the framework of a monthly briefings. Since before my arrival, OCHA has been tracking, using satellite imagery and on the ground, the combination of checkpoints, roadblocks fixed and floating, earth mounds, trenches and other obstacles which strangle the West Bank and stifle the economic life and social fabric of the Palestinians, and providing updates on which the Secretariat and many others rely. The OCHA, presentation is a regular feature of officials visiting
142. Though I have no intellectual doubt, and therefore no regret, about the correctness of my decision to leave the United Nations, I cannot deny that I do so with a heavy heart. My UN career has been longer by far than my first, as a Peruvian diplomat, and I have had the good fortune to work almost intimately with one Secretary-General, very closely with another, and, at key moments in UN diplomacy, hand in glove with a third.
143. This past quarter century has spanned the doldrums of the cold war, the explosion of UN activity that followed it, the skyrocketing of expectations, the dashed illusions and many setbacks. The United Nations is, in a sense, still finding its way after having emerged from that gloomy forest. I joined the UN with a great illusion because of my sense that the UN is in itself a milestone in human progress as it attempts to go beyond the creaky state system that followed the Treaty of Westphalia, to create something that is more than the sum of its parts, the member states.
144. The Secretary-General can and, fortunately, frequently has been be a crucial component in this endeavour, and that is what has made involvement in it so thrilling for me at key moments paraphrasing what King Gustav III of Sweden wrote in a letter to Catherine the Great, I have basked in the UN Secretary-General's immortality. It has always been the case that some member states have considered the notion of the Secretary-General rising somewhat over and above the milling crowd of world leaders ahead of its time. The Secretary-General's refusal to accept this and to forge on tenaciously, with dexterity and imagination, pushing at the envelope, is what ultimately will determine whether this experiment will succeed over time and whether humankind will indeed cross this threshold. This places a heavy burden of responsibility on the Secretary-General, to which he will accountable in history.
(1) At the UN, no wheel shall go reinvented, goes
(2) By the way, when it talks to the
(3) Address to TPA Conference on "Fighting Terrorism for Humanity", 22 September 2003, organized, among others, by Elie Wiesel.
(4) The word "siege" is hardly an exaggeration; it is not just a question of suspension or diversion of aid, but more of the combination of Israeli restrictions on movement of people and goods, the suspension of transfer of their money to the Palestinians and the US banking restrictions which would penalize any bank engaged in transferring any funds to the PA through regular channels. Because of the banking restrictions, a decision by
(5) The most serious public opinion researcher in the oPt confirms that support for Hamas has remained consistently at around 40%. His evidence shows that Hamas benefits from external pressure, because when economic conditions worsen and political structures degrade, people resort to traditional politics, while perceived injustice strengthens radicalism. Only a credible peace process delivering tangible results could alter that.
(6) A good case can and has been made by the peace camp in
(7) I would recommend, in this regard, the passages from Chris Patten's book, Not Quite the Diplomat, about the Quartet.
(8) In the
(9) Indeed, I had hoped that my
(10) Indeed, I wonder whether we have failed in our duty to the Council in briefing them every month on the conflict without ever consulting a key State party to it whose territory happens to be occupied.
(11) Gandhi, incidentally, was a major advocate throughout his career of transferring Arabs from the West Bank and
(12) Mr. Sa'adat has as of now not been charged, nor has