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Palestinians Seek U.N. Action on Closure of Gaza, West Bank

Members of the Palestinian permanent observer mission to the United Nations are pressing the U.N. Security Council to debate publicly the Israeli closure of Gaza and the West Bank and issue a formal statement calling for its end.

Backed by Arab states at the United Nations, the Palestinian diplomats have taken their initiative to focus the attention of the international community on the negative “effects of the closure on the Palestinian people, the economy and the peace process,” said Muin Shreim, a Palestinian U.N. consul.

For his part, Gad Yaacobi, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, has been lobbying Security Council members in recent days against a public debate for fear it would damage the peace process, said Daniel Ayalon, a member of the Israeli U.N. mission.

He said Y aacobi has been assured no debate will take place before Passover ends Thursday night and could be postponed even beyond this week.

Israel sealed off the territories about five weeks ago in response to a series of terrorist bombings which killed 58 victims. Some restrictions since have been eased in response to the consequent hardships suffered by the Palestinians.

Shreim described the statement his mission is seeking — called a presidential statement, which would become part of the official U.N. record — as a “very balanced” and “very modest action.”

He would not release the text but said it reaffirms support for the peace process and calls for its implementation at the same time that it “expresses concerns regarding Israeli policies and practices” in the territories, including the restriction of movement of people and goods, as well as the closure of borders between Gaza and the West Bank and Israel.

He also said the draft statement “condemns all acts of terror in all its forms.”

Shreim said the Palestinian mission was seeking a Security Council presidential statement rather than a resolution, which has more teeth to it, because “we understand the sensitivities of this question at this particular time in the region.”

But, he added, “we feel the need for the international community to do something” because the closure “is endangering the peace process and causing a high degree of hardship.”

For their part, the Israeli diplomats strongly believe any public debate on the issue will be “counterproductive,” Ayalon said.

“The matter of the closure is not a matter of collective punishment, it’s a matter of collective security, and we should not forget the context of its imposition,” he said, referring to the bombings.

“Measures have been taken to try to ensure the well-being of the Palestinian population is not compromised,” he added.

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