Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, 30 June 1998:

(Original: Arabic)

Mr. President,

The Security Council meets today to consider an issue of great importance to us, in Palestine and in the Arab and Muslim worlds and to the international community as a whole, namely the issue of Jerusalem, the city holy to the three monotheistic religions. Since its inception, the United Nations dealt with the issue of Jerusalem in a manner commensurate with its importance and reflective of its special status. The United Nations adopted a special international regime (corpus separatum) for the city, and at a later stage refrained from recognizing the de facto situation resulting from the war of 1948. It then effectively dealt with the occupation resulting from the war of 1967, with the aim of preventing Israel, the occupying Power, from carrying out any measures aimed at changing the legal status or demographic composition of East Jerusalem, as an integral part of the territories occupied since 1967, and to which the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 is applicable. The Security Council has adopted sixteen resolutions with regard to Jerusalem, ten of which were adopted after the occupation of 1967. The Council reaffirmed in these resolutions its rejection of all the Israeli measures and considered them null and void and called upon Member States not to recognize them and not to move their embassies there.

Therefore, Mr. President, there exists what can be considered a clear international consensus concerning the issue of Jerusalem. This position is based upon a deep understanding of the important religious, historical and political factors of this issue. Israel, in return, has taken a position in direct opposition to the international position, persistent in ignoring the international will and in violating international law and Security Council resolutions. It is a position that refuses to recognize Palestinian and Arab rights and persists in monopolizing Jerusalem and considering it solely Jewish or Israeli. Such a position negates the possibility of achieving peace and guarantees the continuation of war and hatred in the region.

Throughout the years, Israel has undertaken a number of policies and carried out many measures to impose its position and to create certain facts on the ground. These are illegal, appalling and immoral policies and measures, such as the attempts to annex occupied territories, the confiscation of lands and the expansion of the municipal boundaries and isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; and such as bringing in 150,000 settlers, attempting to create a specific demographic composition, and the legal and practical discrimination between the Jew and non-Jew; and such as the direct oppression of Palestinian Jerusalemites and the confiscation of their identity cards, preventing them from living in the city of their ancestors and the demolition of their homes.

All of these actions have been repeatedly condemned by the international community, which has refused to recognize their results. All of these actions have been confronted by our people, who have succeeded in derailing part of the goals of these actions, including the fact that Palestinian Jerusalemites still constitute the dominant majority of the population of East Jerusalem within the legal boundaries of the municipality of the city. However, their suffering is immense and their feelings of injustice and pain are immeasurable. These Israeli measures have created and are still creating a situation that might lead to the explosion of the whole region at any moment.

Mr. President,

A few years ago came the peace process in the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli agreements within its framework, according to which the two sides agreed to negotiate the status of Jerusalem in the negotiations on the final settlement. Palestinian Jerusalemites have exercised their rights in participating in the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council within the Jerusalem electoral district. Furthermore, additional guarantees were given to the Palestinian side with regard to preservation of the Palestinian institutions in the city. All of this constituted a significant change, and it was expected that this would lead to a comprehensive change in Israeli policies and measures with regard to Jerusalem, based upon compliance with the goals of the peace process and the necessity that all the parties refrain from creating new facts on the ground that would preempt the forthcoming negotiations. This was not completely adhered to during the period of the former Israeli Government, but at least that government did not violate the above-mentioned in a comprehensive manner and did not undertake what might have destroyed the peace process in its entirety.

Then came the current Israeli Government, which reversed the situation to the period before the peace process and adopted and carried out the above-mentioned policies and practices, and even began intensifying these policies and practices. It opened the tunnel in the vicinity of Al-Haram Al-Sharif, following which the Security Council adopted resolution 1073 (1996). Then began the construction of a new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim to the south of occupied Jerusalem, which was the focus of the resolutions of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, which was convened after the Security Council failed twice to adopt a resolution in this regard because of the vetoes exercised by one of its permanent members. This was followed by a series of other illegal Israeli actions, particularly the escalation of the settler colonialism inside the Old City in Burj al-Laqlaq and outside it in Ras Al-Amud, Silwan and Mount of Olives, which we referred to in several letters addressed to your esteemed Council.

Lastly, came the decision of the Israeli Government on 21 June 1998 to approve a plan aimed at strengthening the illegal hold of Israel on Jerusalem. This is the direct reason for the meeting of the Council today. The plan would expand the municipal boundaries of the city and would establish an ‘umbrella authority’ to include a number of illegal settlements in the West Bank. This represents a concrete step towards the illegal annexation of more occupied Palestinian lands to the already illegally expanded Jerusalem municipality and towards maintaining a specific demographic composition with the aim of furthering the process of the judaization of the city.

The Israeli Prime Minister said, on 18 June 1998, when he was announcing the plan, "I think this is a basic change in Jerusalem’s status which will be remembered as a turning point." The Prime Minister also said, "The first thing we are doing is to link ‘Greater Jerusalem’ and the second thing is strengthening the Jewish majority in Jerusalem." With regard to the illegal settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim, he stated, "Write it down. You will see houses at ‘Har Homa’, many houses, by the year 2000." Is there anything more blatant than these outrageous statements to reveal the nature of the plan and its dangerous and malicious goals. This plan constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and several Security Council resolutions and those of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly. It represents contempt for the values which these laws and resolutions represent and for the will of the international community and its collective position.

What will the Security Council do in the face of all this? We hope that the Council will have the sufficient will to finally undertake the necessary measures to guarantee the rescinding of this plan and to prevent Israel, the occupying Power, from undertaking any further illegal actions in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories, beginning with the adoption of the draft resolution which was sponsored by the Arab Group in this regard. We believe that the Council is under obligation to do this in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law.

Mr. President,

Here I will also have to recall that the Israeli plan and the other Israeli policies and practices in Jerusalem mentioned above also gravely violate the agreements reached between the two sides within the framework of the peace process in the Middle East. I say I will have to recall because there is not much left of this peace process anyway thanks to Mr. Netanyahu and his government. The policies and practices of the Israeli Government not only violate the agreements, but also clearly aim at the systematic destruction of these agreements and discarding the entire peace process. Suffice it to refer to the Israeli rejection, for a long period of time, to the American proposals, aimed at revitalizing this process, which were accepted by the Palestinian side despite our understanding that these proposals are incomparably closer to the Israeli position than the Palestinian position. The Prime Minister and the Israeli Government do not hesitate to use old and new gimmicks in an attempt to cover-up the reality of this Israeli position. So we witness them immersed in coordinated propaganda campaigns to direct accusations against the Palestinian side, and we witness them invent, for example, the idea of the illegal ‘popular referendum’ with regard to the recent American proposals, and finally the idea of a new peace conference, as if the Israeli side complied with the results of the first Madrid Conference in order to discuss another conference. All of this is no longer useful in covering up the reality, and the Israeli plan related to Jerusalem is a stark reminder of this reality. This plan constitutes another basic step towards the final divorce of the Israeli Government from the peace process.

It is not possible to imagine the revitalization of the peace process and its continuation with the existence of such a plan. It is unacceptable for the Israeli violations in Jerusalem to continue, even if somehow there is a sudden Israeli change with regard to the American proposals. For our Palestinian people, Jerusalem is a red line – we cannot give it up. This is a firm reality that all the parties need to understand.

Mr. President,

Israel says that our coming forth and complaining to the Security Council violates the agreements. This is, of course, a ridiculous claim that does not even deserve to be addressed. But there is another party that says that this action is counterproductive and that consideration by the Council of these Israeli violations will harm the peace process. This is really very unfortunate. How can anyone legally, politically or morally say something like this? How can it be said that, despite the responsibilities of the Council in accordance with the Charter, the Council should not intervene in Middle East affairs? How can it be said that, not only in the face of Israel’s violations of international law and the agreements reached, but also its persistence with these violations, the Council handling this will be counterproductive? How can it be said that the Palestinian complaint against these violations, the mere complaint and seeking to stop these violations, which were not stopped by the continuous efforts of the sponsors of the peace process, would harm this process? How can anyone make a comparison between illegal actions against international law and the reactions to those actions, which are totally based upon international law? It is unreasonable and unacceptable, and it is our hope that this position will soon be changed, if not for the sake of fairness and credibility, at least for the sake of the Charter and the United Nations.

Mr. President,

In spite of everything, the Palestinian people have high hopes that this time all members of the Council will enable the Council to exercise its responsibilities, at least on the basis of an understanding of the great importance of the issue of Jerusalem and the wish to contribute in salvaging the peace process and to preserve the United Nations Charter, international law and Security Council resolutions. Thank you, Mr. President.