A day before the release of a report on the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian peace process by the Middle East Quartet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take steps to prevent Israel from becoming a bi-national state. The two leaders met in Jerusalem on Tuesday, during an official visit by Ban in Israel.
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"I encourage you to take the courageous steps necessary to prevent a one-state reality of perpetual conflict," Ben told Netanyahu. This should be done, Ban said, "in a way the is compatible with the national aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians."
Senior Israeli sources privy to the content of the meeting between Netanyahu and Ban said the UN chief informed Netanyahu that the Quartet report would be released Wednesday. Western diplomats told Haaretz that while the release of the report on Wednesday is a possibility, it has not yet been completed and that publication could also wait until Thursday or Friday.
The report, compiled by the Quartet - the United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union - is expected to include criticism of both Israel and the Palestinians and warn that the two-state solution is in danger due to policies on both sides.
In his meeting with Netanyahu, Ban condemned attacks committed by Palestinians against Israelis, but also stressed that security measures alone will not bring an end to the current wave of violence.
"You need hope. You need a political horizon," Ban told Netanyahu. "We can't ignore the causes of the violence – growing Palestinian anger the paralysis of the peace process the half century of occupation – they don’t justify terror but will only be solved by political action."
The UN secretary general also implicity addressed a resolution that was passed made a few months ago at UNESCO, which ignored a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and stirred anger in Israel.
"Finding a solution to the conflict will be impossible without recognizing that both Palestinians and Jews have an undeniable religious historic connection to this land," said Ban, hinting at the controversial decision. "No solution can come through violence. No solutions can be imposed from the outside it must be based on direct negotiations on the final status issues."
Ban, who arrived in Israel as part of a his farewell trip in several countries marking his last year in office, said that he understands Israel's security needs and Israeli frustration at the treatment it receives in the UN, where Israel is sometimes held to a higher standard than other countries in the world. The UN chief also praised Netanyahu for the rapproachment deal with Turkey, formally signed on Tuesday, and said that the normalization of relations between the two was important for the entire region.
For his part, Netanyahu criticized treatement of Israel in the UN - particularly in the Human Rights Council (UNHRC). He called on Ban to take advantage of his last year in office to fix the distortions in the organzation's administration. Netanyahu said that this would be the only way to save the UN's credibility.
At the begining of the meeting, the prime minister asked Ban to use his influence to pressure Hamas to return the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held in Gaza and the return of two Israeli citizens also in Hamas' custody.
"This is a humanitarian issue," Netanyahu told Ban. Toward the end of the meeting between Netanyahu and Ban, the two were joined by the families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, the two soldiers whose bodies are being held in Gaza, and Avera Mengistu, one of the Israeli citizens held by Hamas. They also discussed with Ban the future of their sons.