Statement by H.E. Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, Foreign Minister of Palestine, Head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization, before the United Nations Security Council, 27 September 1996:

(Original: Arabic)

Mr. President,

For the past three days, the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have been brutally assaulted by the Israeli army and police forces, which are using armored vehicles and helicopters against them. This Israeli attack has resulted in the deaths of over 86 martyrs and the injury of more than 1,000 people. It would seem from these developments that these brutal Israeli measures were planned in advance with the aim of undermining the achievements of the political process on the Palestinian track and of sending a warning concerning the other Arab peace tracks.

Following the declaration of its political programs, the current Israeli Government took many provocative actions, including the resumption of settlement activities and the building of thousands of housing units. It has confiscated ever more Palestinian land in order to construct side roads to protect the security of the established settlements, which now number 124 in the West Bank.

Using bulldozers, the Israeli authorities destroyed the Burj al-Laqlaq community center for retarded persons in East Jerusalem. It closed down a number of educational and cultural institutions, including Jerusalem University. It isolated the city of Jerusalem from the other Palestinian territories and restricted the housing developments in Arab neighborhoods.

This has occurred despite Israel’s pledges not to touch the Palestinian institutions, as indicated in Mr. Peres’ letter to Mr. Holst, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, in which he stated:

"Dear Mr. Holst,

I wish to confirm that the Palestinian institutions of East Jerusalem and the interests and well being of the Palestinians of East Jerusalem are of great importance and will be preserved. Therefore, all the Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, including social, economic, educational and cultural, and the holy Christian and Muslim place, are performing an essential task for the Palestinian population. Needless to say, we will not hamper their activities. On the contrary, the fulfillment of this important mission is to be encouraged. This is a part of the agreements."

The letter is signed by Mr. Peres.

Israel has also withdrawn the identity cards of Palestinian citizens in Jerusalem and prevented the citizens of Gaza from attending Palestinian universities in the cities of Jerusalem and Hebron. This Council has received several letters that underscored these facts and practices.

The current Israeli Government announced its political program to strengthen settlement activity and to develop and expand settlements in order to receive more new immigrants. It also endorsed the use of force and repressive power by the army and security apparatus to secure, as it claims, the security of Israel. The political program of the Israeli Government has emphasized the preservation of a united Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel under total Israeli sovereignty. This contravenes the rules of international law and resolutions adopted under international legality, which reject the annexation of Jerusalem and any change to its status.

Moreover, the political program of the Israeli Government is based on a number of negative positions, including no return to the 4 June 1967 borders; no withdrawal from the Syrian Golan; no discussion of Jerusalem, which is a foregone conclusion and not open to debate; and no establishment of an independent Palestinian State. That political program has indicated that the Israeli Government will define zones for security and settlement, along with self-rule zones, in which it will build more and more settlements for the protection and safety of Israel. Israel has made such threats more than once. As this political program was followed by acts of provocation, ominous clouds have started to gather over the region. As soon as Israel announced the opening of the tunnel in Jerusalem, the spark of conflagration was set off.

Furthermore, the economic siege that was set against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories is still in place, intensifying the psychological pressure on the people and aggravating living conditions. Unemployment has reached 56 percent. Israel has restricted the movement of imports and exports, weakening the economy of the Palestinian people, which it had destroyed in the first place.

Thus, the Palestinian people continue to suffer heavy losses. 4,500 Palestinian prisoners continue to languish in Israeli jails. To this day, Israel has refused to allow the return of displaced Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes as a result of Israeli aggression in 1967. Security Council resolutions and the accords reached with Israel provide for a four-member committee composed of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Egypt, Israel and Jordan to discuss modalities for the return of displaced persons to their homeland. Yet that committee has failed to make any progress due to the procrastination of the Israeli authorities.

The Israeli Government’s slogan is "Peace for the sake of peace." That means emptying the negotiations of their political contents, denying international legality and ignoring the political provisions contained in President George Bush’s initiative. It deliberately ignores the land-for-peace formula. Mr. Netanyahu has called for negotiations without preconditions, as if he thought political negotiations could be founded on shifting sands, without any principles or guidelines to govern them. That in itself is enough to create a vicious circle of events and means nothing other than an attempt to kill time.

Following Israel’s economic siege of the Palestinian territories some thought that the issue was purely economic and that it had no political foundations. The fact is that the root cause was political, not economic, even though, owing to the vast suffering inflicted upon the Palestinian people as a result of increasing unemployment and the decline in per capita income, its results have been economic indeed. The Israeli occupation is the primary cause for these woes since that occupation is the culmination of terrorism and a source of tension because of the brutal, oppressive and harassing measures Israel has enacted and its continuing blockade of Palestinian territories, not to mention other violations.

Mr. Netanyahu appears to believe that an arrogant use of power is an effective means of bringing the Palestinians under control and safeguarding the security of Israel. The entire world can bear witness to the fact that the Palestinian police forces have maintained law and order in the areas under their control in spite of all the difficulties and odds they face. Today, Israeli tanks are assaulting towns from which it had withdrawn and attacking the Palestinian police forces that are maintaining order in those towns. They are also using helicopters and heavy machine-guns. Instead of invading towns, Israel should have withdrawn its forces from Hebron, implemented the redeployment plan and completed its withdrawal from other Palestinian territories.

Yesterday in the General Assembly Hall we heard several statements by heads of delegations that emphasized time and again the need to preserve peace in the Middle East. The thrust of those statements was that the peace process must be kept on track. At the same time, the rights of that region’s people’s to self-determination, independence and security were also stressed. We reaffirm the belief that peace cannot be attained unless the Palestinian people realize their right to self-determination and to build an independent State. However, if the Israeli measures continue, the peace process is in mortal peril and deaths would be inevitable.

An Israeli witness has said that current Israeli practices do not lead to peace but, rather, serve to create a vacuum in the Middle East region. We have heard Mr. Peres himself say this on American television. Yet listen to the words of Mr. Netanyahu addressing the Israeli Knesset, words reminiscent of that 1940s European leader who called for racial supremacy and spoke of security and settlement:

"Zionism is not dead, even though in some circles it has been relegated to quotation marks, we have a wonderful youth waiting to mobilize for national tasks. We will encourage the spirit. We will encourage pioneering settlements in the Land of Israel, in the Negev, in Galilee, in Judea and Samaria and in the Golan. The settlers are the real pioneers of our day, and they deserve support and appreciation.

Is that not reminiscent of a similar speech delivered some 50 years ago? That is the true nature of the political program adopted by the Netanyahu Government of Israel. Those are the measures that have led to this explosion inside the occupied Palestinian territories.

I have just outlined the most recent developments in the occupied Palestinian territories since the election of Mr. Netanyahu, which has led to a greater number of seats in the Knesset being occupied by increasingly radical and extremist forces following the assassination of Mr. Yitzhak Rabin, an assassination that demonstrated the depth of fundamentalism and terrorism within Israeli society itself.

When U.S. President George Bush put forward his initiative on 6 March 1991, after the Gulf War, the Palestinian National Council agreed to enter into the peace process. We participated in the Madrid Peace Conference in the hope that it would be a historic opportunity, on that might not recur. The Palestinian National Council’s approval revealed a genuine desire to achieve its goals. It also underscored the Palestinian people’s genuine desire for peace, which was also evidenced by the ensuing widespread demonstrations throughout the entire West Bank in which the populace placed roses in the bayonets and gun barrels of the Israeli forces to express their hopes for peace and coexistence.

After 22 months of political talks in Washington, D.C. with Mr. Shamir’s delegation, no progress had been achieved. Then came the Oslo Agreement, which broke the deadlock and roused hopes that the peace process would achieve tangible and concrete progress on the ground.

The Palestinian people, hundreds of thousands of them, received Chairman Arafat in Gaza when he came to the occupied land in the hope that that day would be the beginning of the end of the Palestinian diaspora and the turning point for the Palestinian people’s return to its usurped homeland. Months passed in which we saw stalling and procrastination on many occasions, and efforts to back out of the implementation of obligations under the agreements reached. But the souls of the Palestinian people held the fervent hope that change would come in the near future.

Alas, today we see all doors closed in the path of peace, and the proof of that is the intransigent stance and the provocative acts of the Israeli Government. We have come here to put the whole case before this Council, which is the supreme organ responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. We reiterate our hope and desire for the establishment of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace that would ensure legitimate Palestinian rights, including the right to self-determination, the establishment of its independent state and the return of the Palestinian refugees to the homeland from which they were evicted.

We also wish to reiterate and emphasize our commitment to the underpinnings of the peace process, which calls for Israel’s withdrawal form all occupied Arab territories and Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, under the resolutions adopted by this Council and in keeping with the principle that rejects the acquisition by force of the territories of others.

The final stage on the Palestinian track was a litmus test of the intentions and credibility of both parties to implement the agreements concluded. Next, we should start negotiations on the final status, including the central issues in the question of Palestine. These central points include the question of Jerusalem, of the dismantling of settlements, of the return of refugees and of voters. All these issues are governed by international treaties, as well as by resolutions adopted by this august Council.

Allow me to say that the painful events that have taken place in the occupied Palestinian territories are very disturbing. They sprang from the accumulation of simmering tensions, and Israel alone bears the full responsibility for these events. The Council should condemn these events and demand that Israel put an end to its provocative acts and close the tunnel in order to defuse the escalating tensions. We recommend that the Council dispatch a fact-finding mission to call for peace in the occupied territories and to examine in full detail the situation there. Following that fact-finding mission, the Council should take measures to ensure peace and security there.

In closing, the resolutions to be adopted by the Council must emphasize the principles and tenets underpinning the peace process and on the basis of which the Madrid Peace Conference was convened.