9 October 1998 (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 52/52-GA/P), dated 25 August 1998, regarding General Assembly resolution 52/52 of 9 December 1997, 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 52/52 is the main political resolution on the Palestinian issue, and it was adopted by an overwhelming majority (155-2-3), a reflection of the strong convictions of the international community with regard to the content of the resolution. As stated in the Palestinian note of the 52nd session, 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 52/52, 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 Interim 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 commitment to the principle of land for peace and the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), which form the basis of the Middle East peace process, and the need for the immediate and scrupulous implementation of the agreements reached between the parties, including the redeployment of the Israeli forces from the West Bank and the commencement of the negotiations on the final settlement."

Since the adoption of resolution 52/52, the deadlock in the Middle East peace process has continued. No progress has been made with regard to the implementation of the agreements reached, the situation on the ground, including the economic and living conditions of the Palestinian people, has continued to deteriorate, and tension has increased in the region as a whole, all as a result of the policies and practices of the Israeli government. It is noteworthy that several letters of complaint regarding those policies and practices were sent by the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations during the past year to the Secretary-General, the President of Security Council and the President of the General Assembly.

In fact, 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. The Israeli government did not close that 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 and attempted to build a settlement in Ras al-Amud. From the above, it is clear that the government has continued its drive to judaize Jerusalem and to change its status and demographic composition. In this regard, the Israeli government recently announced the creation of an "umbrella municipality" that would expand the borders of Jerusalem and extend the administrative powers of the illegal municipality over nearby towns in Israel, as well as over some Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank.

In preambular paragraph 8 of resolution 52/52, 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 8 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. It should be affirmed that illegal Israeli actions in these fields and their results remain illegal regardless of the passage of time.

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 welcomes as well the work done by the Commissioner-General and the staff of UNRWA, including the work of UNRWA’s Headquarters in Gaza City. 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 contribute to the efforts being undertaken to salvage the peace process and to bring it back on track. 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 serious 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. Since the adoption of resolution 52/52, the Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement (S/PRST/1998/21) on the situation in the occupied Arab territories on 30 June 1998.

It is to be recalled that, 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 emergency special session produced extremely important resolutions, including resolution ES-10/5 of 17 March 1998, which will be subject to further serious follow up by the session, including by the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on enforcement measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967, including Jerusalem.

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 52/52 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. It is worth noting that during the past year, the Secretary-General visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the region, where he had a firsthand opportunity to experience the extremely difficult conditions of the Palestinian people.

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 mutual recognition between the two sides and 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.

It should also be recalled that under the same agenda item, Question of Palestine, the General Assembly, in its 52nd session adopted resolution 52/250, entitled "Participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations", on 7 July 1998. In this regard, the legal, political and practical significance of this resolution is emphasized.