Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Before the United Nations Security Council, 21 March 1997:

(Original: Arabic)

Mr. President,

I would like to convey my gratitude and appreciation to all members of the Council who supported the draft resolution, particularly to the members who sponsored the draft resolution and supported the Arab initiative to call for the convening of the Council.

Mr. President,

Today, the United States exercised the right of veto for the second time in less than two weeks, and for the third time in less than two years, with regard to the same issue, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular in occupied East Jerusalem. Consequently, for the second time, the Security Council failed to carry out its responsibilities and duties for the preservation of international peace and security in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

This has come at a time when Israel, the occupying Power, persists in its violation of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions and persists, at the end of the 20th Century, in continuation of its settlement system, which is a combination of classic colonialism and horrid apartheid-like arrangements. It persists in its unrelenting pursuit of changing the legal and demographic status of Jerusalem, ignoring the natural and historical rights of the Palestinian people there and scorning the feelings and interests of Arabs, Muslims and Christians all over the world. This is also happening at a time when Israel is violating the agreements reached with the Palestinian side within the framework of the Middle East peace process and is violating the very foundation of this process, seriously threatening its accomplishments thus far and the possibility for its continuation and success.

It is extremely regrettable that this veto has been cast today in the aftermath of Israel's actual commencement, on 18 March 1997, of the building of the new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim to the south of occupied East Jerusalem; and in the aftermath of the General Assembly resolution (51/223), which reflected a decisive and near-unanimous position of the members of the international community; and in the aftermath of the escalating tension in the region and the increasing sense of outrage and anger among the Palestinian and Arab sides as a result of Israel's conduct and policies as well as the statements made by Israeli officials.

Mr. President,

It is difficult to accept that this veto has been cast "to protect the peace process" and it is also difficult to accept that the bilateral negotiations are the only solution at a time when one of the two parties is imposing new facts on the ground, which is the opposite of negotiations. The bitter reality is that this veto has been cast to shield Israel from the will of the international community and to exempt Israel from the provisions of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Using the veto, as a matter of "principle", regardless of the text of the draft resolution submitted, seems to elevate to an official position the suspension of the functions and powers of the Security Council when it comes to Israel and with regard to the situation in the Middle East. We believe that this seriously violates the provisions of the Charter and is definitely not in the interest of the Security Council and its credibility and not in the interest of the peace process and its continuity.

The existence of bilateral agreements between the parties on the nature of the transitional stage, as well as the postponement of negotiations on important second stage issues, do not and should not negate the provisions of international law and Security Council resolutions. It is the duty of the international community to reject any attempt to exploit the peace process to neutralize the law and to leave the Palestinian side subject to the occupier and the existing imbalance of power on the ground. International legitimacy is our sole weapon, in addition to our faith in God, the will of our people and our confidence and trust in our brothers and friends. We will resist any attempt to set international legitimacy aside and we affirm that any such attempt is illegal, illegitimate and even immoral and will not succeed.

Mr. President,

We believe that members of the Council must try to solve this serious problem, which has been highlighted today, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter and on the basis of its respect. From our behalf, we will remain persistent with regard to the necessity for the Security Council to exercise its responsibilities. It is our hope that this will be realized, because we will not vanish and we will indeed return to you in the future whenever the situation requires. At the same time, we will resort to other United Nations organs, particularly the General Assembly since, we must not forget, it was the General Assembly that partitioned Palestine and bears special responsibility within the framework of the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine until it is solved in all its aspects.

Mr. President,

A final word to the Israeli government, our assumed partner in the peace process: Do not misunderstand what has happened today as they might have in the past. The fourteen votes cast for the second time bear great importance and deep significance. It reflects the honest position of the Council. Also, the international position has been expressed and it will also be expressed in the General Assembly in a democratic and decisive manner.

The Palestinian and Arab position will not yield. Despite everything, we are still committed to the peace process and to the agreements reached and the necessity to work for their implementation. At the same time, however, we are more determined to protect our historic and legal rights, particularly in Holy Jerusalem, the first of the two Qiblahs and third of the Holy Sanctuaries, and every inch of our land, in accordance with the historical reconciliation between the two sides. If you are committed to this, we are as well. I thank you, Mr. President.