As Robert Serry, the Dutch diplomat who has served as the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the UN Secretary-General's Personal Representative to the PLO and Palestinian Authority for the past seven years, ended his tenure this week, he warned Israel that continued settlement building will have disastrous consequences for the peace process.
"The Palestinian Authority is in a very fragile state," said Serry in a farewell speech, addressing Israeli students. "If you do not restrain the growth of settlement building – the Oslo process will end, and with it the security coordination."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Serry would be ending his tenure on Wednesday, and presented Bulgarian politician Nikolay Mladenov as his replacement, an appointment which was unanimously approved by the UN Security Council.
Mladenov, 42, previously served as Bulgaria's foreign minister and is considered an Israel ally.
Serry shared his position on matters in the Middle East in a speech at the Netanya Academic College on Thursday and said, "I leave Israel and Palestine with a heavy heart. If we do not advance matters in the coming months – we will reach despair and a reality of one state. I believe you (Israel) have a partner in Ramallah. You must formulate a strategy regarding the topic of Gaza."
Last June, a conflict erupted between Serry and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman after Serry requested the transfer of $30 million from Qatar in order to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority workers in Gaza.
Lieberman claimed that Serry was cooperating with Hamas and considered declaring Serry a persona non grata, but never went through with the threat. Serry continued to fulfill his position as the UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East, playing an important role in coordinating projects with Gaza.
According to Serry, the current Palestinian government is only a unity government in appearance. "Gaza is the elephant in the room. A truce must be thought of in terms of Gaza. If (Israel) continues to repeat the same experiment three times with the same bad results (the negotiation paradigm), as Albert Einstein said – you are probably insane," said Serry.
Serry added: "It is impossible to have a Jewish and democratic state without defining your eastern border. I encourage (US Secretary of State) Kerry to put his proposal out on the table. Israel must define where it wants to go. If you have a government that will do something meaningful with the settlements, we will be able to demand that the Arabs do something regarding the Arab peace initiative. Confidence-building measures with no end to the conflict will not suffice. Leave it to the international players."