Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Before the United Nations Security Council, 15 April 1996:
At the outset, I wish to express our appreciation to the members of the fraternal Arab Group and to its Chairman for this month, the Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates, for their request to convene this important meeting to consider the dangerous situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and to express our appreciation to the members of the Security Council for their response to this request, as well as to all other member states which have shown interest and concern with regard to the situation. I would also like to thank His Excellency The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, for the interest he has expressed and for his efforts of goodwill in this regard, including his referral of the letter of His Excellency President Yasser Arafat to the Security Council, which is contained in document S/1996/233.
The Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, have been enduring a very difficult situation wherein their daily suffering has risen and become unbearable because of a set of policies and measures adopted by Israel, the Occupying Power in several fields.
The first field involves Israeli policy and measures with regard to the movement of persons and goods within the Palestinian territory, as well as movement into and out of the territory. These policies and measures represent a de facto siege of the Palestinian territory and the strangulation of the Palestinian people and their economy. The policy has various aspects, including the prevention of movement or restrictions upon movement between Palestinian cities and villages in the Palestinian territory itself, including some restrictions in the Gaza Strip. Another aspect is the division of the Palestinian territory as a result of the non-compliance of the Israeli side to establish the safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which represent a single territorial unit according to the Declaration of Principles of 1993. Also among such measures is the imposition of restrictions on the entry of the Palestinian people into occupied East Jerusalem, despite the special status of the city as the religious, cultural and economic center of the Palestinian people.
Another aspect of this Israeli policy is the closure of the Israeli border to the Palestinian people and to Palestinian goods and the prevention of the entry of Israeli goods into the Palestinian territory or some parts of it. These restrictions have also been applied to goods destined for, or originating from, a third party. The final aspects of this policy is the closure of the border of the West Bank and Gaza with Jordan and Egypt, respectively, or the imposition of serious restrictions on the movement of goods and persons through those borders.
The various aspects of the above-mentioned Israeli policy were presented in detail in the letter of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, addressed to the Secretary-General and contained in document S/1996/235. As is clear, this policy goes far beyond the prevention of Palestinian workers from earning a daily living after the many long years of the exploitation to which we were subjected by Israel in this regard. In truth, it represents the destruction of any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian economy, including the prevention of the development of external trade and a free market. Further, such a policy has amounted to the isolation of the Palestinian territory from the outside world, which has caused serious pain and suffering and has at times resulted in the deaths of ill persons and in severe shortages in certain goods and basic living materials. In addition, the above-mentioned measures were taken unilaterally by Israel, without consultation with the Palestinian side, and they were illegally imposed by military means.
The second field involves a set of Israeli measures with multiple aspects, which began with the return of the Occupying Power to the demolition of Palestinian homes and its threats to revert to deportation. It also includes several incidents of political assassination which occurred in different places including the territory under the control of the Palestinian National Authority and the territories of other countries as well. Also among these measures are the continuation by Israel of the confiscation of Palestinian land, continued construction of new bypass roads to serve Israeli settlements and the expansion of these settlements, which aim at the creation of more illegal facts on the ground.
The third field basically concerns the non-compliance of Israel with some of the relevant provisions of the agreements reached between the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Perhaps the most striking examples of this are the failure of Israel to implement the redeployment of its forces from the city of Hebron, which was scheduled to take place by 28 March 1996, the continued detainment and imprisonment of Palestinians in Israeli jails despite the agreements reached in this regard between the two parties, the failure to officially withdraw the Israeli military government and dissolve the civil administration after the inauguration of the elected Palestinian Legislative Council and, as mentioned above, the failure to implement the provisions concerning the safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza to connect the Palestinian territory.
The above-mentioned, in essence, briefly outlines the prevailing situation with regard to the Israeli policies and measures against the Palestinian people in the recent period. The intensity of these policies and measures has oscillated several times, but in the last few weeks it has reached an unbearable degree, which constitutes a real threat to the overall fragile situation.
At this time, we wish to express our strong condemnation of all these policies and measures, on the basis that some of these violate the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is applicable to all the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem; some of these violate provisions of the agreements reached between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization; and all of these constitute a violation of the spirit of peace and threaten the peace process and the prospects of its continuation.
The real issue is not the volume or intensity of these policies, which causes some to express satisfaction when the severity of these policies is lessened, but rather the real issue is the mere existence of such policies and measures in principle and the necessity to put an end to them for once and for all if we want to be consistent with ourselves and the peace process and its essence and if we want to respect the contractual obligations of the parties.
Some parties have said that these Israeli policies and measures have come as a result of Israeli security requirements following the recent bombing attacks in Israel. While we understand Israeli concerns in this regard, we do not agree with their diagnosis of the situation or their remedy for it and we reject the basis of these policies. Some of these measures have absolutely no relation whatsoever to security considerations, some of them were in practice even before the bombings and others of them cannot be justified even from an Israeli security point of view.
We believe that what is more important is the political understanding of the matter, and we believe that maintaining security should involve the security of all the parties and that under no circumstances should one party take unilateral measures and impose them by force. Further, we believe that Israel cannot separate itself from the Palestinian territory and at the same time impose the isolation of that territory from the rest of the world as if this territory and its people are its hostage. In other words, if Israel chooses separation, regardless of its reasons and despite its obligations and commitments, it should bear the consequences of such a decision and accept complete political separation at the same time. In all circumstances the basis should remain the commitment to the agreements between the two parties, to international law and to the relevant Security Council resolutions.
Some parties have said that these measures and policies are connected to the upcoming Israeli election and its complexities. We are cognizant of the importance of the election and the various sensitivities in this regard and, of course, we do have our political preference, which is the preference for the continuation of the peace process and for stability in the region. However, we cannot accept that the suffering of our people become a commodity in the fever of the Israeli election or in any other form. Once again, what is crucial here is the basic commitment to the agreements reached between the two parties, to international law and to the relevant Security Council resolutions.
Now what about the Palestinian position? Since the Palestinian side chose the peace process as a strategic option, it took a clear position against all acts of terror and violence. The Palestinian side expressed its clear condemnation of the recent bombings in Israel and all similar operations. Similarly, the Palestinian side condemned terrorist acts that were committed by Israelis, such as the massacres at Al Haram Al-Ibrahimi and Al-Haram Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
The Palestinian National Authority has chosen a clear course towards securing the Palestinian national interest in this regard, which consists of the maintenance of security and order and the rule of law and the barring of any illegal groups from operating in its territories. The Authority took definitive measures to guarantee the implementation of this course within its available resources. The Authority is doing this based on overwhelming popular support which was crystallized in the historical election process conducted by the Palestinian people in January of this year during which our people determined their political choices clearly in favor of the peace process and at which time they gave a vote of confidence and constitutional legitimacy to the Palestinian leadership. We will fulfill our duties in return for our people's confidence and in order to preserve the peace process and to fulfill our contractual obligations towards the achievement of our national goals in building the independent Palestinian state with Holy Jerusalem as its capital.
At the same time, we want to stress our belief that a complete and fundamental solution to the problem of extremism and terrorism is linked to bringing an end to the unfair and unjust practices against our people, to the achievement of further political progress in the peace process and to the improvement in the living conditions and the difficult economic situation of our people.
The peace process has generated several significant achievements and it has brought many important changes to the landscape of the region. We believe that we should work to maintain these achievements and that we must not allow their destruction or the interruption of the process' continuity, whether as a result of actions by those forces against peace or as a result of policies and measures which are not compatible with this peace and its essence and which cause a great deal of damage.
We came to the Security Council because we believe that the Council bears responsibility towards the situation in the Middle East and towards the Question of Palestine as part of its permanent and constant responsibility for international peace and security. We believe that the Council should not be prevented from assuming its responsibilities in this regard. The engagement of the Council cannot but serve the goal of achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace and cannot but support the ongoing peace process. We had hoped that the Council would be allowed to express an official position with regard to the situation in the Palestinian territory. Nevertheless, despite the lack of such an achievement, the convening of the Council in this official meeting is a clear indication of the serious concern of the international community with regard to the existing situation and the negative impact it has on the peace process. It is our duty, particularly in light of continued Israeli policies and measures against our people and our inability to change the prevailing situation through the available mechanisms provided for in the agreements between the two parties, to bring before you, and through you before the international community, the true picture of the dangerous situation prevailing in our land and to ask your help to bring an immediate end to this situation, in support of right and justice and in support of the peace process and its continuation.
Thank you, Mr. President.