Statement by H.E. Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization, before the General Assembly Plenary, Agenda item: Question of Palestine, 29 November 1995: (Original: Arabic)

 It gives me pleasure, at the outset, to congratulate you on your election to the presidency of the fiftieth session of the General Assembly. We have great faith in your sagacity and your ability to conduct successfully the work of this historic session of the General Assembly.

It also gives me pleasure to greet, through you, your country, Portugal that has always been a friend of the Palestinian people.

I should like also to pay tribute to your predecessor, Ambassador Amara Essy, who presided over the forty-ninth session of the General Assembly. My thanks and greetings go also to the members of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and, in particular, to its Chairman, Ambassador Kéba Birane Cissé. We also deeply appreciate the efforts of the Secretary-General, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in the service of the peace process.

Fifty years have passed since the establishment of the United Nations years full of problems, of issues, of events and of incidents which have witnessed the solution of many conflicts, have contributed to the defusing of many war situations and have witnessed strides in the areas of development, rehabilitation and the upholding of human rights while the Palestinian question remained a permanent item on the Organization's agenda.

The Palestinian question has gone through very tense periods, has witnessed many wars that claimed tens of thousands of victims.

Recently, the peace process was launched in the region. The Madrid Conference was convened on the initiative of President Bush. The Palestinian people felt optimistic because of this initiative. They saw at last a glimmer of hope that they may be able to return to their land Palestine and looked forward to sovereignty and stability on their own land, in their own homeland. They became hopeful that their life as refugees would come to an end and that the end of their trials and tribulations was at hand.

After very difficult negotiations, the first agreement was signed with Israel in 1993 in Oslo and was followed by other agreements. Then began the implementation of those agreements. Unfortunately, however, Israel did not respect the texts of the agreements nor did it abide by the dates set for their implementation.

In fact, Israel declared that there was nothing sacred about dates or appointed time frames and thus the process faltered and became plagued with prevarication. It became stalled on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. On the Palestinian-Israeli track there has been a great deal of bloodshed, in Hebron and in other Palestinian cities. All this has caused people to lose hope in ever achieving the promised comprehensive just political solution. The rulers of Israel, meanwhile, continued to use the question of security in justifying their prevarication, their hesitation in implementing the agreements and their disregard for the texts, their meaning and their time frames. By contrast, Palestinian commitment has shown that we have no intention of playing into Israel's hand. Then came the tragic assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin proof of the fact that terrorism has grown and developed in an Israeli climate that has been nurtured by Israeli parties. It is to be remembered that the Israeli Mossad has in past years assassinated several Palestinian leaders.

If we make mention of such facts and incidents, it is only to show that the difficulties faced by the Middle East peace process stem from the racist upbringing and repressive practices espoused by the extremist organizations and political parties in Israel.

The Palestinian people want peace. They are a people that needs peace more than any other nation on earth after 48 years of displacement and life in refugee camps. No one should ever doubt this. When the Madrid peace conference was convened, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians rejoiced, marched in peaceful demonstrations and put olive branches in the muzzles of Israeli guns in order to express their ardent desire for peace. However, when the negotiations faltered, when agreements were brushed aside, when corridors were repeatedly closed, when the policy of starving the Palestinians was pursued together with the policy of land expropriation, and building of settlements, when the agreement about Al-Quds was abrogated and the city was declared the eternal unified capital of Israel, together with the decision of the late Yitzhak Rabin to confiscate 53 hectares of neighboring land, our Palestinian people lost much of their hope in a just and comprehensive settlement.

Our question today is as follows: will the conscience of humanity ever awaken? Will the leaders of Israel and its parties finally become convinced that peace is essential for them as well as for others? Will they realize that such peace will be achieved only through the search for a comprehensive and just solution that would guarantee the withdrawal of Israel from all the Arab- and Palestinian-occupied territories, including Al-Quds, in keeping with the resolutions of international legality and in response to the need to entrench the principles of peaceful coexistence on a basis of balanced interests between the parties concerned.

Israel's might and dominance at this point in time seem to have clouded its view of the future implications of the present changes in the international situation. This seems to have entrenched in Israeli minds concepts that are not in keeping with the behest of peace and security for all, for Israel as well as for its Arab neighbors. What seems to have become entrenched in those minds is the logic of force and the use of violence in imposing the solution such minds see as appropriate for the Middle East crisis.

Since the end of the Second World War the peoples and States of the world have striven for freedom and independence. The Charter of the United Nations has affirmed the right of peoples to self-determination. However, certain small peoples have not yet gained their freedom and independence and are still languishing under the yoke of foreign hegemony. Our Palestinian people are a case in point. Despite the many resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council calling for the withdrawal of Israel and reaffirming the right of the
Palestinian people to self-determination, the Palestinian people still languish under Israeli occupation.

The problem of the Palestinian refugees is at the very heart of the Palestinian question. Peace in the Middle East cannot become a reality without the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes to live in peace with their neighbors. The right to return was recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in the Declaration of Human Rights, and the United Nations must see to it that those principles are respected, in keeping with its Charter.

The position adopted recently by the United States has caused the Palestinian people much concern. The American Government has always been the first to affirm General Assembly resolution 194 (III) on the return of the Palestinian refugees, but recently it has appeared to be denying it. The American Congress has decided, a few days ago, to transfer the American embassy to Al-Quds and thus has contravened Security Council resolutions, complicated further the peace process between the PLO and Israel, and went against the Declaration of Principles signed on 13 September 1993 in Washington, which Declaration called for the return of the persons displaced in 1967 and for the setting up of a committee of the PLO, Israel, Egypt and Jordan to look into the ways and means of implementing this return, in keeping with Security Council resolution 237 (1967).

The Palestinian problem is at the very heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A comprehensive and just peace cannot become a reality without a just solution to that problem. It is our belief that the United Nations has an abiding responsibility to continue to search for a just solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees, on the basis of internationally recognized rights. We call on the General Assembly to reaffirm those rights and to maintain the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), so that it may continue to discharge its responsibilities and carry out its duties towards the Palestinian refugees. We also call upon all States Members to continue to make their contributions to UNRWA's budget so that the Agency may continue to do its work.

The Oslo Declaration of Principles underscored the need for the holding of democratic elections in the course of the transitional period and affirmed the right of the displaced Palestinian people who were forced out of Palestinian territories in 1967 to return and to exercise their rights both as electors and as candidates. None the less, Israel continues to refuse the return of those people who number more than 750,000 Palestinian citizens and thereby deprives them of exercising their civil rights. Israel also continues to hold thousands of Palestinian people prisoners in its jails and refuses to set them free in order to exercise those rights. Israel also refuses to implement the withdrawal and redeployment of its forces from all the towns, villages and Palestinian camps, and continues to keep the city of Hebron under siege. So, is it really possible to stage such democratic elections under conditions of Israeli occupation and continuing siege?

We agreed to the peace initiative proposed by the former American President, Mr. George Bush, in 1991, as it called for the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), which stipulate the withdrawal by the Israeli forces from all the occupied Arab and Palestinian territories, including the city of Al-Quds, in line with the land-for-peace principle. Israel, however, continues to prevaricate. It even refuses to abide by the very basics of settlement as set out in the agreements that have been concluded. Instead, Israel is trying to impose its own views and its own interpretation of the texts of the agreements. In the end, it has resorted to brushing aside those texts and, in their place, it has started presenting the Palestinian negotiators with the measures it deems appropriate for implementing the agreements. Israel has not respected neither the texts nor the agreed dates in those agreements. It is intent on entrenching its occupation of the Palestinian territories in different forms, not to mention the failure to achieve any progress on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, which have continued to falter since the beginning of the peace process in 1991, because of Israel's intransigence. The United States of America has deployed outstanding efforts, but the Israeli Government has persisted in its posture and has continued to put forward partial solutions on those two tracks, as has been the case with regard to the Palestinian track. It is a known fact that Israel still occupies Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories, from which it should withdraw if it really wants peace. The Jordanian track has not been too complicated, because the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had undertaken the task of negotiating with regard to the Palestinian West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

As we can see no progress worth mentioning has been achieved on those three Arab tracks, despite the agreements concluded between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Those agreements stipulated a transitional period as a test of intentions for both parties and of the possibility of making progress on that track. However, Israel has portrayed the transitional period as a limited stage of self-government, a concept we had already rejected from the very start, in the days of the previous American administration, because self-government only applies to minorities and we, with our numbers, are the majority unless, of course, Israel wishes to limit its recognition of the Palestinian people to those who now live on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, and thus to ignore three and a half million Palestinians who live outside the Palestinian territories as refugees and as displaced persons.

The Palestinian question cannot be confined to the early transfer of competence from the civilian and military Israeli authorities to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian question, at its very core, is first and foremost about the return of the refugees and of the displaced persons, the removal of the Israeli settlements from the Palestinian territories, which now number 142 settlements, 124 of which are in the West Bank, and 18 in the Gaza Strip, the return of east Jerusalem to Palestinian sovereignty, the exercise by the Palestinian people of its sovereignty on its territory, the freeing of the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, the removal of Israeli control from the corridors so that the Palestinian citizens may enjoy freedom of movement in their homeland without need for Israeli passes, the freedom of importation and exportation without Israeli control and our full control over our natural resources, our central institutions such as electricity, ports, airports, telephones. None of this has been accomplished so far.

We believe that free and democratic elections under international supervision must lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, as we have just heard this morning from the President of the General Assembly, in keeping with resolution 181 (II) which established two States, the resolution which, in fact, was the birth certificate of Israel, and on the force of which the United Nations recognized Israel as a Member State. Now the United Nations, in keeping with its own resolution, has to recognize the Palestinian State whose establishment was declared in the Palestinian Parliament in exile, in 1988, in Algeria, and which has been recognized by many States throughout the world.

We are for a just and comprehensive peace. Ever since the Madrid peace conference, we have spared no effort in trying to achieve that very peace. We have made many concessions in the hope that the Israeli party would recognize our sincere desire for peaceful coexistence with the Israeli people on an equal footing, away from hegemony and domination and away from expansionist ambitions. However, Israel's rulers still ignore these facts and use the pretext of Israeli security in justifying their prevarication in implementing the resolutions of international legality and their failure to honor the commitment to achieve settlement on the basis of the principle of land for peace.

Israel still refuses to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) so that its nuclear weapons may continue to threaten security and stability in the region and continues to refuse to submit its nuclear installations to United Nations inspection. This posture on the part of Israel is a source of doubts and suspicions with regard to Israel's intentions. Furthermore, the United States of America continues to supply Israel with the most sophisticated of advanced weapons. This imbalance of power must, as of necessity, hamper the peace process and, unless the problem is resolved, it will be impossible to establish regional economic development programs or to promote economic cooperation. Peace cannot become a reality in the Middle East so long as those weapons of mass destruction continue to exist in the region.

Balance of power and of interests in the Middle East is the primary prerequisite for the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace. In this context, we should like to affirm here the need to maintain the unity of Iraq and its territorial integrity and the need to find the necessary means of putting an end to the suffering of its people. We should like also to reaffirm the need to take serious steps to put an end to the unjust embargo imposed on the sister country, Libya.

The United Nations, in its statements on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, reaffirmed its intention to save the coming generations from the scourge of war, to encourage the resolution of disputes by peaceful means and to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and of all weapons of mass destruction. It reaffirmed the right of all peoples to self-determination and its intention to protect the rights of the original inhabitants and of refugees. We look forward to seeing the application on the ground of these principles so that peace and stability may prevail in the world.