Statement of: Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, 28 February 1995:
The Palestinian people have been subject to grave injustices throughout their recent history, including the uprooting of a large portion of this people from their land and their homes, the subjugation of those who remained to occupation and repression, and the denial of their right to self-determination, a right due to all peoples of this earth. For many years, the international community, along with the United Nations, has been dealing with the Question of Palestine, in all its aspects, in an attempt to bring an end to the injustice that has been wrought upon the Palestinian people and to allow for the achievement of just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, no great success has been attained in this regard despite important steps which have been taken and despite some accomplishments towards the achievement of the goals for which we strive.
One of the harshest things being endured by the Palestinian people, which also constitutes one of the most grave violations of their inalienable rights, is the campaign of settler colonialism being waged on Palestinian land, which was occupied by Israel, the occupying power, since 1967, including Jerusalem. This policy was carried out in the past and continues to be carried out to this day before the eyes of the international community and in opposition of its will and of the stated positions of the United Nations, as set forth in various relevant resolutions. The fact is that Israel, since the early days of the occupation, under both Likud and Labor-led governments, has confiscated Palestinian land and state-owned land for the purpose of constructing many settlements, and has transferred large numbers of Israeli settlers to those settlements, in an obvious campaign to colonize the land it occupies and to change its demographic structure in preparation to annexing this land, totally or partially.
All this has been done by means of different methods and at different rates throughout time, in accordance with the prevailing domestic, as well as international, situation at any given period of time. Nevertheless, it has always been carried out in a way in which each step complements the preceding step, amounting to a calculated policy with clear goals. This has always constituted a clear violation of international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, as well as of the resolutions of the various bodies of the United Nations. The General Assembly has adopted tens of resolutions, which reaffirm the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to all the occupied territories since 1967 and call upon Israel to abide by the provisions of the Convention. These resolutions also consider the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be illegal and demand that Israel, the occupying Power, immediately cease its policy and practice of settlement building.
Further, this august Council has adopted a large number of resolutions with similar content with regard to the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the Council has adopted more than five resolutions primarily dealing with the settlements and the confiscation of land. Some of these resolutions, in addition to the above-mentioned provisions, have called for the dismantlement of the settlements. Also, the Council formed a committee of three of its members to examine the matter and, accordingly, to present reports to the Council, which has been accomplished.
We are witnessing a rare case in the history of the United Nations, as well as in contemporary international relations, when a member state has, for over twenty-five years, continued a specific policy and action, creating facts on the ground, in spite of, and in contempt of, the persistent and clear positions of the Security Council and General Assembly. The failure of the Council to impose its will in this case, compared with some other cases, has allowed Israel to continue pursuing its policy up until the present date, resulting in the existence of approximately 140 settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory with approximately 300,000 settlers living in them, including those settlers brought to East Jerusalem. The settlers represent a major source of repression and injustice against the Palestinian people. This has ranged from the stealing of their lands and their water; infringement upon their daily lives, and at times even destroying it, as in the case of the city of Hebron, where the existence of about 400 settlers has led to the destruction of the normal life of 80,000 Palestinians; and finally to the repression and direct harassment by the armed settlers, who in reality constitute an armed militia in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Is there any comparable situation in the world? Has anything like this happened in the current history of the twentieth century? Your august Council has a fundamental responsibility in this regard, including the preservation of the integrity of international law, as well as international humanitarian law, and the integrity of previous Security Council resolutions, to ensure the achievement of justice and to return hope to the Palestinian people by bringing a final and comprehensive end to any and all settlement activities in the occupied territories.
Then came the peace process, as well as the historic handshake at the Whitehouse upon the signing of the Declaration of Principles, which was followed by many agreements, the most important of which has been the first implementation agreement of the Declaration of Principles on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area. No one imagined, at least not from the Palestinian side, that the Israeli government would actually continue carrying out its settlement policy while at the same time seeking to move forward in the peace process. Mr. President, the two things simply cannot be reconciled.
The Declaration of Principles has postponed negotiation on some important issues, including that of the settlements. That, of course, does not mean, and should not mean, any change in our position or the position of the international community in this regard or, for that matter, in the status of the settlements themselves as illegal and as a real obstacle to the achievement of a comprehensive peace. The same logic and methodology must also be applied to the issue of Jerusalem and to other issues for which negotiations have been postponed. The minimum level for negotiation in good faith requires the negotiating parties to desist from the creation of facts on the ground, which affect the negotiation process and preempt the results of that process. Unfortunately, however, the Israeli government is doing exactly the opposite with regard to the settlements, particularly around Jerusalem, and also with regard to Jerusalem in general and some other matters such as Hebron. This situation requires the full and accurate implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions, the latest being Security Council resolution (904) 1994.
The government of Israel had implied that their policy on settlements would be different from that of the previous government, but the facts are inconsistent with that. Some sources have estimated that the units that have been built under the current government have increased by 10 percent, which has been accompanied by a 15 percent increase in the number of settlers. Further, it is a fact that the Israeli Cabinet Committee, which has been overseeing the matter, has recently taken specific decisions in favor of continuing settlement activities, as we indicated in our letter of 31 January 1995, contained in document A/49/842-S/1995/95.
We firmly believe that any settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, constitutes a flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of the Declaration of Principles, of the Fourth Geneva Convention and of the relevant Security Council resolutions. What is now needed is the immediate and total cessation of any settlement activity, regardless of the type and volume, period. The alternative is capable of seriously undermining the peace process. Clearly, the Palestinian situation has reached a point wherein the average man on the street can no longer accept any other position or practice. Therefore, Mr. President, your august Council has a basic responsibility in this regard, in addition to the responsibilities referred to earlier, which consists of guaranteeing the continuation of the peace process and its integrity, as the Council previously did when it adopted resolution 904 (1994), which helped to salvage the peace process and set it back onto the right path.
We cannot continue to talk about our main subject without reference to other Israeli practices violating the human rights of the Palestinian people or to those which are not compatible with the peace process and which endanger it. Included among such practices are the repeated closure of the occupied territory, the isolation of Jerusalem and the delays in the implementation of the agreements that have been reached between the two sides. Some quarters of the media are presenting the closure issue in the same manner as the Israeli side, as though it were only a means to prevent the Palestinians, including the laborers, from entering Israel and vice versa. If this were the case, we would have accepted it, on the grounds of our national pride and dignity, despite the full Israeli responsibility for the situation that has resulted from its policies, which destroyed the Palestinian economy during the prolonged occupation.
But the matter is much worse than that. The closure also results in the separation of the Palestinian land by means of isolating some parts from the others: Gaza from the West Bank, the West Bank from Jerusalem and even parts of the West Bank from each other, as well as the isolation of the whole Palestinian territory from the outside world. How can this issue be connected to Israeli security concerns? Further, how could Israel, unilaterally, and without any warning, close the border passages agreed upon in the Declaration of Principles? The closure is a matter completely different from separation. It represents an act of revenge and punishment against the Palestinian people and it violates many articles of the agreement reached between the two sides. This could also be said about the isolation of East Jerusalem from the Palestinian people and from the rest of the West Bank, in spite of the fact that it clearly represents the religious, cultural and economic center of the Palestinian people.
The other outstanding issue is the that of the Israeli delays with regard to the completion of the implementation of the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area, in all its provisions, including that which provides for the safe passage and those which relate to commercial activities and Palestinian financial rights. In addition, there have been delays and procrastination in the implementation of the second phase of the Declaration of Principles, which was due more than seven months ago, especially in relation to the redeployment of the Israeli army outside of populated areas and the convening of the Palestinian elections.
We are not speaking here about mistakes or shortcomings. Mistakes can happen. Further, we are not speaking about reactions, such as reactions to the attacks which have been carried out by radical elements against Israeli targets. Those are acts which we have condemned forcefully and which we, within our limited resources, have tried to deal with, as well as with their underlying causes, with the aim of putting an end to such acts, maintaining law and order and achieving peace and security for both sides. We remain convinced that the fundamental solution for this phenomenon is a political solution, and it is directly connected with socio-economic and political progress.
We are speaking here about some Israeli positions and practices, some of which have been interpreted differently, which, nevertheless, all together represent what we believe is a policy aiming to delay the implementation of the agreements reached. What is most striking is that these positions and practices continue as is, in spite of several important meetings, such as the recent Cairo Summit and the Foreign Ministers Meeting at Blair House in Washington and despite all other efforts exerted by parties concerned about the peace process.
The peace process is going through a critical stage. Actually, it is not an exaggeration to say that it is experiencing a real crisis. The process must be salvaged, and this can only be done through the complete fulfillment of the contractual obligations of the parties, emanating from the agreements reached between them, including the time framework, which is an integral factor in these agreements. What is additionally required is the total cessation of the policies and practices which violate these agreements and which are not compatible with the letter and spirit of the agreements. It is also necessary to negotiate in good faith to implement these agreements.
From our side, we confirm our strategic commitment to the achievement of peace and to the process underway, and we would like to believe that this is also the position of the Israeli side as well. We are confident that the cosponsors of the peace process will fulfill the duties which they have been endowed with in this regard, and we are also confident that the other important and active parties, like the European Union and Egypt, will not spare any efforts in assisting in this process.
To achieve the ultimate goal of peace, it is imperative to take the first important step which can open the way and prove good intentions, namely the full and total cessation of all settlement activities. Here, it is obvious that we need the backing and support of the Security Council to achieve this, and we are confident that the Council will take the necessaryactions in this regard.