Statement by: Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, 12 May 1995:
The Security Council is meeting today to address a dangerous Israeli action concerning the recent ordering by the Israeli authorities of the confiscation of 53 hectares of land located in the area of occupied East Jerusalem, an action which constitutes a flagrant violation of relevant Security Council resolutions and of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, as well as the Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993. Moreover, this action has been taken in the city of Al Quds Al Sharif which is of central importance to the Arab and Islamic worlds, is at the heart of the Palestinian cause, which is the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Arab and Islamic anger in response to the action took shape clearly in the reaction by the general public and in the official Arab position taken in the emergency meeting of the Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo on 6 May 1995, and in the common Arab stance here within the United Nations, as well as the action taken by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Al Quds Committee. We are pressing forth at the United Nations because this international organization has dealt with issue of Jerusalem from the very beginning and gave it special attention at the same time when it began dealing with the Question of Palestine.
Allow me now, Mr. President, to quickly review the stages through which this central issue has gone both within the United Nations and outside.
On 29 November 1947, the General Assembly, in exercise of its authority towards Palestine as one of the areas under the mandate system of the League of Nations, adopted resolution 181 (II), commonly referred to as the "partition resolution". This resolution partitioned mandated Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, and a demilitarized Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under the aegis of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. The following year the General Assembly reaffirmed this principle with regard to Jerusalem in its well-known resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948.
As a result of the 1948 war, the city, as is known, was subject to a de facto division. Nevertheless, by 1950 the General Assembly reaffirmed the principle of a corpus separatum, a principle which was repeated in its later resolutions despite the de facto division. In implementation of resolution 181 (II), the Trusteeship Council effectively adopted the statute of Jerusalem on 4 April 1950, which unfortunately was not implemented.
At the time during which Israel applied for membership in the United Nations, and during the tense discussions which occurred regarding this request, Israel gave assurances with regard to its commitment to implementing General Assembly resolutions 181 (II) and 194 (III). These assurances were actually referred to in General Assembly resolution 273 (III) of 11 May 1949, which granted membership to Israel. However, despite the commitment made, Israel almost immediately violated these assurances when the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel on 23 January 1950, and by 1951, the Israeli ministries moved to the city. The reaction of member states to this illegal and unfortunate action was correctly in line with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. No nation recognized Israeli sovereignty over the part of Jerusalem under its control at the time, which is known as Western Jerusalem. Further, no countries established or transferred their embassies to Western Jerusalem.
With the outbreak of the 1967 war, Israel occupied the other part of Jerusalem, including the walled city with its religious sites, along with its occupation of the rest of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Syrian Golan and the Egyptian Sinai. The Israeli Government immediately annexed East Jerusalem and, with the authorization of the Knesset, it expanded the municipal border of the city to approximately 7005 hectares, which is equivalent to almost ten times the original area of the city, and imposed Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration upon it.
The Israeli government then began fervently implementing a comprehensive and integrated policy aimed at achieving the highest degree of settler colonialism in the occupied city through the confiscation of lands and the intensification of construction for settlers on those confiscated lands and, in turn, at decreasing the existence of the Palestinians of the city by making life harsher for them by all means and in all areas. In summary, it was a policy which aimed at the judaization of the city and the achievement of a Jewish majority in it.
Through the years, up until the present, the area of land confiscated by Israel in the expanded East Jerusalem has totaled 2,400 hectares, which represents 33% of the area of East Jerusalem, upon which 35,000 units for settlements have been built. These units have all been allotted to Jewish settlers. Also, Israel has confiscated other lands, totaling 3,100 hectares and referred to as "green area", upon which there has been no construction. The net result of such measures is that the Palestinians have been left with a minimal area of land, which is equal to only about 14% of East Jerusalem in its expanded municipal boundaries.
On 30 July 1980, the Israeli Knesset adopted the basic law of Jerusalem, reaffirming the de facto annexation of 1967 and declaring "the complete and united Jerusalem" as the capital of Israel. It is also worth mentioning that all this colonial expansion differs from what some Israeli circles refer to as "Greater Jerusalem"; a goal for which far more annexation and confiscation are projected.
With regard to the illegal settlers, the first settlers to inhabit occupied East Jerusalem arrived in 1969, and their numbers continued to grow over the years, reaching 50,000 by the year 1979 and totaling approximately 150,000 in 1993, a figure almost equivalent to the total Arab population of the city.
In addition to all of the above, Israel, the occupying Power, alongside the armed settlers, has many times attacked the sanctity of Islamic holy places. The most dangerous of those actions was the attempt to burn Al Masjid Al Aqsa Al Mubarak in 1969.
All of this has been done in spite of the clear positions taken by the international community, in total defiance of the United Nations and in violation of a series of Security Council resolutions regarding the situation in Jerusalem, such as resolutions 250 (1968), 252 (1968), 267 (1969), 271 (1969), 298 (1971), 476 (1980), 478 (1980) and 672 (1990).
These resolutions declared, inter alia, that all of the measures and arrangements taken by Israel, including the legislative and administrative ones, aimed at changing the legal status of the city are null and void and without any legal validity. These resolutions also condemned Israel's attempts to change the character of the city and its demographic composition and pronounced that the basic law of Jerusalem constituted a violation of international law and should be rescinded. They further called upon member states to abide by that position; all of this in addition to a large number of Security Council resolutions which repeatedly affirm the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to all the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, as well as those demanding that Israel, the occupying Power, cease its settlement activities and comply with the provisions of the Convention.
Once again the position of the member states of the United Nations was clear and in line with international law and the Council's resolutions. Not one single country recognized the annexation or the sovereignty of Israel over East Jerusalem and, with the unfortunate exception of two countries, no country moved its embassy to Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, and in spite of what has been previously mentioned, Israel persists with such plans, policies and practices, imposing their power in a show of force above and beyond the law, totally ignoring Security Council resolutions.
Recently, we became convinced that a new era had dawned in the Middle East and in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship as a result of the important and fundamental development with the signing of the Declaration of Principles between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Government of Israel. In the Declaration, the two parties agreed on a transitional period and they also agreed to postpone the negotiations on several difficult and complex issues, including Jerusalem, until the second phase, which is to commence as soon as possible but not later than the beginning of the third year. As such, the two parties agreed to negotiate the issue of Jerusalem and they agreed on a specific time frame within which to conduct these negotiations. Also, the Israeli side also made a commitment with regard to the Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, recognizing their great importance and stating that they would be preserved during the transitional period.
The minimum level of compliance with the contractual obligations of the parties, and negotiation in good faith, requires that the parties do not make changes on the ground that prejudge the results of the negotiations or influence it. Neither one of the parties should undertake hostile actions which cause extreme damage to the other side and which is considered one of the basic symptoms of occupation. Such acts violate the Hague Regulations of 1907 and its Annexed Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. This is exactly what Israel has recently done with its announcement of new confiscation orders of 53 hectares of East Jerusalem land and the announcement of plans for the construction of residential units for settlers and another unit for police use. In addition, many Israeli officials reiterated the intention of the government to confiscate more lands for the establishment of more new settlements.
We cannot speak about Israeli policies and practices in Jerusalem without speaking about their horrible practices with regard to the closure of the city in the face of the Palestinian people, preventing them from entering it despite the importance of Jerusalem as a religious, cultural, economic center for the whole population. So the whole thing did not stop at the expansion of the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and the confiscation of its land as now the city is also closed in the face of its people and its real owners, with all the consequential harm to them.
Then there are the illegal excavations in the vicinity of Al Haram Al Sharif, which recently reached to areas very close to Al Masjid Al Aqsa Al Mubarak, threatening the integrity and foundation of the mosque, something which could cause a real upheaval in the Arab and Islamic worlds.
All of the above-mentioned issues concern only Israeli policies and practices in Jerusalem. We can add to that list many other practices, some of which relate to it as an occupying Power, such as the continuation of its plans of colonial settlement in other areas of the occupied territory, and others which relate to it as a partner in the peace process, such as delaying the implementation of the second phase of the Declaration of Principles, which calls for the redeployment of the Israeli forces in the rest of the West Bank and the holding of the general Palestinian election, and also the breaching of the economic agreement and taking specific steps which have led to the choking of the Palestinian economy and increasing the suffering of our people in the occupied territory and in the territory of the Palestinian National Authority.
If we look at the whole picture, we can see the dangers of the situation before us and the destructive impact of the Israeli practices on the peace process, particularly those related to Jerusalem, including and foremost the confiscation orders. Israel must understand that it cannot continue to go on with its occupation mentality and it must understand that the Declaration of Principles was reached between two parties representing two equal peoples and therefore both of their rights and aspirations should be respected, not only those of one side at the expense of the other.
Israel must also understand that it cannot achieve peace while continuing to hold the land at the same time and that it is not possible to continue seizing Jerusalem while it demands normal relations with its neighbors and their friends. Finally, Israel must choose: either there is agreement with the Palestinian side or there is no agreement because the status of half-agreement is not acceptable and is absolutely untenable. From our side, we are committed to the agreement and the peace process and we are ready to go forward on the basis of implementing what was agreed upon, with complete respect for international law.
What about the cosponsors of the peace process and their respective roles in this regard? We believe that the cosponsors have to intensify their efforts to rescue the process and to guarantee its progress by persuading Israel not to continue pursuing these policies and practices and by pushing towards the implementation by the parties of their contractual obligations. The American cosponsors carry a larger responsibility in this regard because of their special relationship with Israel and because of the assurance letters they provided to the parties participating in the process, including the assurance letter to the Palestinian side, which represented an integral component of the basis for Palestinian participation in the whole process.
The letter of assurances, dated 24 October 1991, states the following in specific about the issue of Jerusalem: "The United States is opposed to the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and the extension of Israeli law on it and the extension of Jerusalem's municipal boundaries. We encourage all sides to avoid unilateral acts that would exasperate local tensions or make negotiations more difficult or preempt their outcome". We are now witnessing exactly such actions, and we hope that the United States will take a clear position in line with its assurances in this regard.
We would like to say a word regarding recent attempts currently underway in the U.S. Congress to move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which means an attempt to cancel U.S. policy which has prevailed over forty years in this regard. Under normal circumstances, we would not be dealing with the proceedings in the parliaments of member states, but this specific case has exceeded the mere hypothetical on the one hand and it touches upon the vital interests of our people and it represents a violation of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions on the other hand. We appreciate the position of the current administration with regard to these new attempts, as well as the positions of previous administrations. But, at the same time, we want to warn of the catastrophic consequences which these attempts might cause if they are successful.
In this regard, if such attempts actually materialize, we will work to build an Arab-Islamic position on it and we will be obliged to fight it despite our slight capabilities. In part, our response will be within the framework of the United Nations system, including the Security Council, within the meaning of Article 27, paragraph 3 of the Charter of the United Nations, and including the International Court of Justice, requesting its advisory opinion or some other form of involvement.
Now what is required from your august Council? What is required with regard to this specific issue is for the Council to assume its duties to guarantee the rescinding of the Israeli confiscation orders through the adoption of a clear resolution by the Council. What is also required is for the Council to make the Israelis understand the importance of not repeating such acts in the future. This, of course, falls within the framework of what is required in general from the Council, namely to guarantee the respect of international law and to provide the necessary support for the peace process.
It is truly our hope that the Council will succeed this time in assuming its responsibilities, as opposed to what recently happened on 29 February 1995, when the Council did not resume its task after the general debate. Probably, had we succeeded then, we would not have had to come before the Council today. We hope that we will succeed this time so that we will not have to come before the Council again in the future.
Jerusalem, the Holy City for the three monotheistic religions, was and will remain the key to war and peace. It is the first qiblah for Muslims and the third of Islam's sacred mosques and it is the destination of the Prophet's divine journey. It is the burial place of Jesus Christ. Throughout history it has been a theater for both conflict and peace. It is not like any other city and it has always maintained an Islamic and Arab identity, and it will remain so. All Israeli attempts to change its character, falsify its history and denying the rights of the Palestinians in it is extremely dangerous and touches upon the dignity and the convictions of the Islamic and Arab worlds.
The Palestinian people, under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, will continue their struggle to achieve their legitimate rights, including the right to establish their independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital.