The United Nations' new Middle East envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, said Tuesday that he and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would engage Israel's new government to explore "realistic options" for a return to talks with the Palestinians aimed at a two-state solution "within a reasonable timeframe."
Mladenov also urged Israel to freeze settlement construction, calling it damaging to peace prospects.
"There should be no illusions about the impact of these unilateral actions," Mladenov said.
"They not only undermine the collective hopes of those longing for a just resolution of the conflict, but they again call into question the viability of achieving peace based on the vision of two states," he said.
Mladenov also warned that the people of the Gaza Strip are desperate and angry about their plight and that it is up to Israel and Palestinian authorities to prevent an implosion of the enclave.
He said the area's 1.8 million residents were angry at everyone - including Israel for its blockade, Egypt for the closure of its Rafah border crossing, Hamas for imposing a "solidarity tax" and the international community for not honoring reconstruction pledges.
"There is a clear moral and humanitarian imperative not just for the United Nations and the international community, but primarily for the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to prevent the implosion of Gaza," Mladenov said. "Gaza is desperate and angry."
Mladenov also called for Palestinian unity between Gaza - controlled by Islamist movement Hamas since 2007 - and the West Bank - where Fatah, the more secular, Western-backed party runs the Palestinian administration.
The international community is looking for ways to revive talks after Netanyahu said shortly before his re-election in March that he would not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state on his watch.
A French-proposed council resolution setting a framework for negotiations has been on hold as Israel's new government formed. It likely will see little progress until world powers complete nuclear talks with Iran by a deadline they have set for the end of June.
Even if that text moves forward, the United States, Israel's closest ally, has traditionally used its veto power as a permanent council member to block resolutions on the issue that it considers unbalanced.
Two decades of talks brokered mainly by the United States have failed to produce a two-state solution. The latest effort fell short last year after nine months of negotiations. Gaps between Israeli and Palestinian positions remain vast.
Frustrated by the stalled progress, the Palestinians in April officially joined the International Criminal Court in hopes of prosecuting Israel for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 50-day Gaza conflict last year.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda this month told The Associated Press that prosecutors also will look at other issues, potentially including Israel's settlement construction on Palestinian lands.
Mladenov called for Israel's new government to take "credible steps" to help talks with the Palestinians resume.
"The coming period will be critical to the future of the peace process," he said, adding that any agreement will require a regional solution and "greater engagement with key Arab states."