13 October 1997 (Not distributed)

Note from Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., to the Secretary-General of the United Nations: (Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine Resolution) 

The Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations presents his compliments to the Secretary-General of the United nations and has the honor to refer to His Excellency’s note verbale (Res. 51/26-GA), dated 9 September 1997, regarding General Assembly resolution 51/26, entitled "Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine", and seeks to convey the position of the Palestinian leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian National Authority on this matter.

General Assembly resolution 51/26 was adopted by an overwhelming majority (152-2-4), a reflection of the strong convictions of the international community with regard to the content of the resolution. The resolution recalls several principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, provides support for the peace process and implementation of the agreements reached and also provides the basis for the just settlement of the question of Palestine, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The resolution emphasizes as well the importance of a more active and expanded role for the United Nations in this process. As such, the resolution should serve as an acceptable basis for all parties to work on these important issues.

In operative paragraph 2 of resolution 51/26, the General Assembly once again "expresses its full support for the ongoing peace process, which began in Madrid, and the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements of 1993, as well as the subsequent implementation agreements, including the Israeli-Palestinian Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip of 1995, and expresses the hope that the process will lead to the establishment of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East." In operative paragraph 3, the Assembly "stresses the necessity for the immediate and scrupulous implementation of the agreements reached between the parties and the commencement of the negotiations on the final settlement."

Since the adoption of resolution 51/26, the Middle East peace process has unfortunately deteriorated critically due to the policies and actions of the Israeli government, which appear to aim at burying the existing agreements between the parties. The transitional agreement has not been implemented, with the exception of the part related to Al-Khalil, the negotiations on the final settlement have not been started and the economic and living conditions of the Palestinian people have dramatically deteriorated. Several tragic bombing attacks in West Jerusalem have also contributed to the exacerbation of the situation.

As indicated in the note of the 51st session on this resolution, the Israeli government, since taking office, adopted guidelines contradicting the letter and spirit of the agreements reached, made it clear that the timetable agreed upon would not be respected, resumed colonial settlement activities in the occupied territory and opened a tunnel in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem. Since then, the Israeli government has not closed the above-mentioned tunnel in flagrant violation of Security Council resolution 1073 (1996) and has continued with, and even intensified, its colonial settlement activities, including the building of a new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim to the south of Occupied East Jerusalem. The government has continued its drive to judaize Jerusalem and to change its status and demographic composition.

In preambular paragraph 7 of resolution 51/26, the General Assembly affirmed "the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the territory occupied since 1967 and of Israeli actions aimed at changing the status of Jerusalem." Further, the Assembly, in operative paragraphs 5 and 6 stressed the need for "the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination; the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967"; and also stressed the need for "resolving the problem of the Palestine refugees in conformity with its resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948."

The Palestinian side believes that preambular paragraph 7 and operative paragraphs 5 and 6 are of great importance as they reflect established positions of the international community consistent with international law. The Palestinian side believes that the international community, represented by the General Assembly, should always uphold the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law, international humanitarian law and the validity of Security Council resolutions. As such, the General Assembly has to uphold its positions related to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and it should maintain its positions related to the elements of the final settlement (final status issues), including Jerusalem, settlements and refugees, with regard to which Israel has already created illegal de facto situations, until negotiations on those issues take place and the final settlement is effectively achieved.

Operative paragraph 8 of the same resolution, "emphasizes the importance for the United Nations to play a more active and expanded role in the current peace process and in the implementation of the Declaration of Principles." The Palestinian side welcomes the progress made in this regard, especially in the fields of providing economic, social and other assistance to the Palestinian people. It welcomes in particular the work of the "United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories" in the field of coordinating United Nations, as well as international, assistance to the Palestinian people. It also welcomes the transfer of the headquarters of UNRWA to Gaza City and the presence of the Commissioner-General and his important contribution. It affirms the need for the continuation of the valuable and important work of UNRWA in other fields of operation outside of the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as the continuation of all field offices, including the field office in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian side hopes that the United Nations will be involved in bringing the peace process back on track and in keeping it alive and in assisting in the achievement of serious progress in this regard. The involvement of the Security Council would also be a very important factor in the interest of the peace process. Indeed, the Security Council has contributed to the salvaging of the peace process by responding to some recent events in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, by adopting resolution 1073 (1996) of 28 September 1996 and before that by adopting resolution 904 (1994) on the massacre in Al-Khalil (Hebron) in Al-Ibrahimi Mosque.

Unfortunately, the Council was prevented twice from playing the same positive role and from discharging its responsibilities for the maintenance of peace and security as a result of the two vetoes exercised by the United States of America on 7 and 21 March 1997 on two draft resolutions dealing with the illegal Israeli settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim. The two vetoes led to the convening of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly on illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The convening of the emergency special session indicated the determination of the membership of the United Nations to remain engaged and to adhere to the Charter of the United Nations and international law and to protect the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian side reiterates its appreciation to the Secretary-General for his substantial and accurate report presented pursuant to resolution ES-10/2 and, as it has in previous years, would like to underscore the request made by the General Assembly in resolution 51/26 for the Secretary-General to continue his efforts with the parties concerned, and in consultation with the Security Council, for the promotion of peace in the region and to submit progress reports on developments in this regard.

Finally, the Palestinian side believes that for the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine to be achieved through the current Middle East peace process, it is necessary to respect the basis upon which the process was initiated, namely the principle of the return of land for peace and the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). It is equally important for the parties to comply with the agreements reached and to implement those agreements in good faith and without delay. Furthermore, all actions which violate international law, relevant Security Council resolutions and those agreements must be ceased completely. The international community, especially the cosponsors of the peace process, have a great responsibility in this regard.