UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take "courageous steps" toward peace on a farewell visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Ban visited the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, met Netanyahu and later held talks in the occupied West Bank with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.
He condemned a recent wave of Palestinian attacks, which he called "terrorism", and said the Gaza blockade was "collective punishment".
Speaking alongside Netanyahu at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Ban called for efforts to keep the possibility of a two-state solution alive.
While acknowledging the threats facing Israel, Ban said "we must not allow difficulties to become excuses for inaction".
"I encourage you to take the courageous steps necessary to prevent a one-state reality or perpetual conflict that is incompatible with realising the national aspirations of the Israelis and Palestinian people," he said.
"We cannot ignore key underlying causes of violence: growing Palestinian anger, the paralysis of the peace process, the nearly a half-century of occupation."
Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank along with the lack of any progress in peace efforts have helped feed a wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks since October, many analysts say.
"Stabbings, vehicle rammings and shootings have only one name: terrorism," said Ban.
"Incitement to such acts and glorification of their perpetrators are unacceptable and must be stopped," he added.
Violence has declined in recent weeks, though attacks continue to occur, including a gun attack at a Tel Aviv cafe on June 8 that killed four Israelis.
Ban specifically mentioned the Tel Aviv, but said security measures would not be enough.
"You need a political horizon," he said. "You need a leadership that is committed to peace and a just and a lasting solution."
Netanyahu called for an end to what he referred to as bias at the United Nations against Israel, citing repeated condemnations of his country.
Israel "does more to promote and protect human rights and liberal values than any other in the blood-soaked Middle East," said Netanyahu.
In Gaza, Ban said the blockade of the Palestinian enclave "suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts."
"It is a collective punishment for which there must be accountability," he said.
Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fought three wars since 2008, and Israel says the blockade is needed to keep out materials that could be used for military purposes.
Later in the evening Ban met Abbas at the Palestinian leader's Ramallah headquarters and again spoke of the need for peace and the difficulties Palestinians face.
"I'm aware that many Palestinians question the feasibility of reaching a just and lasting peace with Israel. They hear talk of peace but they see violence," he said.
"They still live a life of checkpoints, permits, blockade, demolitions and profound economic hardships faced with growing indignities and the humiliating occupation that will soon enter its 50th year."
Abbas said Palestinians seek peace based on a two-state solution and called for "international protection" for his people.
Jerusalem, Undefined | AFP |