UNITED NATIONS - The UN envoy to the Middle East wrapped up his seven-year stint on a bleak note, saying the Quartet -- the United States, Russia, the UN and European Union -- "has largely failed to live up to expectations" in building peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Robert Serry, whose leaves his post as special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process at the end of the month and delivered his last briefing, said the 15-member Security Council may have to step in to achieve a lasting peace between the two sides.
"Security Council 242 embodying the key principle of 'land for peace' is nearly a half-century old," he told the council Thursday at UN headquarters in Manhattan. "During my tenure -- in my first year, actually -- the Security Council passed only two resolutions on Israel and Palestine and neither of these provided a strategy. Hasn't the time come ... for the council itself to lead?"
His comments come in the wake of statements from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, Serry said, seemed to raise "serious doubts about Israel's commitment to the two-state solution."
Netanyahu's comments, delivered during his campaign to be re-elected prime minister, surprised President Obama's administration, which said this week it would be "re-evaluating" its policy in light of what White House Spokesman Josh Earnest described as "legitimate doubt" about Israel's sincerity in achieving a two-state solution. The statement runs counter to decades of stated U.S. objectives in that direction.
"Upon leaving this position I cannot but express an overriding feeling that I have been part of a peace process in which a can is kicked down an endless road," he said. "During the past seven years, three U.S.-led peace initiatives remained inconclusive and did not bring us any closer to the urgently needed political foundations for a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution. This is why the remarkable progress achieved in Palestinian state-building, pursued vigorously under the leadership of President [Mahmoud] Abbas and former Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad, has started to turn into a 'failed success.'"
Serry said both parties should remain committed to a two-state solution but he added that the conditions in Gaza, which is still devastated after the 50-day war between Hamas and Israeli Defense Forces, must become a priority for negotiations.
Serry called Gaza "our collective failure, and the people of Gaza continue to suffer the consequences," Serry said.
Israel's ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said direct talks between the parties is the only way to achieve peace, recalling the peace treaties Israel has reached with Egypt and Jordan over the decades.
"The Palestinians want a state without making compromises, making concessions, or making peace," he said, suggesting Hamas, the militant group that has launched rockets into Israel from Gaza is akin to Islamic State. "Just imagine what this state would look like ... The very last thing Israel can afford is another terror state in its backyard."
Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour thanked Serry for his work.
"He summarized very important experiences and concluded ... the importance of the Security Council to assume its role and to adopt whatever is needed in order to try to save the two-state solution. We totally agree with him in that assessment and we hope the Security Council will rise up to that level and take that responsibility very seriously."