Statement by Mr. Muin Shreim, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the General Assembly Plenary, Agenda item 20: Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, 50th Session, 27 November 1995:
The achievement of the second implementation agreement of the Declaration of Principles, by the Palestinian and Israeli parties, through the signing of the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in Washington, D.C. on 28 September 1995, impacted greatly on the peace process in the Middle East, pushing it forward and giving it increased momentum. Today, as a result of this agreement, we are witnessing the redeployment of the Israeli forces from Palestinian cities, towns and villages. This represents one of the necessary steps on the road towards ending the occupation. We hope that the implementation process will continue as planned, and in accordance with the agreed time schedule, until the convening in January 1996 of the Palestinian elections for the legislative council of the Palestinian National Authority.
This important political development will allow the Palestinian Authority to expand its authority to great parts of the West Bank. Clearly, such progress will have a direct and positive impact on all economic, social and developmental spheres, as well as on the ability of the Palestinian Authority to deal with the challenging process of rebuilding the Palestinian society and economy on a modern basis and with sound planning for reconstruction and sustainable development.
As we move into a new stage of the peace process, it is our strong hope that the international community will continue to help us to confront our new and increasing tasks, contributing towards our ability to ensure maintenance of the peace which we are striving to achieve, a peace requiring immense courage and vision and one whose pursuit entails many risks for the concerned parties. We are aware of these risks, challenges and continuing threats to the peace process, yet we remain committed to following the path that has been charted for peace.
In order for the peace process to continue and succeed, it is clear that the Palestinian people must tangibly experience the benefits of this process, particularly in the form of improvements in their living conditions and standards. There have been many encouraging promises to assist the Palestinian people n the last two years but, unfortunately, a lot of these promises have not materialized and remain only words on paper. At this time, while we extend our thanks and appreciation to all countries and organizations that have provided important and varied assistance to the Palestinian people, we are hopeful that in the near future all pledges made will be fulfilled, generating real projects and serving as a confirmation of the support of the international community for the peace process and its willingness to bear its responsibilities towards the Question of Palestine and towards the process of rebuilding Palestine after the prolonged and harsh years of occupation, which resulted in a destroyed infrastructure and a very difficult economic, social and environmental situation.
The Palestinian people greatly appreciate all international assistance and recognize its vital importance during this critical period of transition. They also realize the impossibility of building a fully viable and independent economy depending only on international assistance. This assistance is a very important element in pushing the Palestinian economy forward, however, it is clearly a temporary stimulant tied to gradual and increasing efficiency with regard to our ability to build our economic institutions and taxation system and to utilize our natural resources in reconstructing our economic infrastructure and encouraging Palestinian and foreign capital investment in our economy until we are able to establish an open and strong economy. The achievement of such an economy is an essential factor in building the strong foundations of the independent Palestinian state, which will be an integral part of the new and stable Middle East, where peace, stability, cooperation and complimentary economies and technologies are dominant.
Today, as we face the challenge of the process of rebuilding we are doing so under very difficult circumstances. In addition to the ravaged infrastructure and the high unemployment rate, which has affected more than 50% of the labor force, Israeli practices, belonging to the occupational mentality, persist. The collective punishment of the Palestinian people is still official Israeli policy. For example, the repeated closure or sealing of the occupied Palestinian territory, with all its damaging economic effects and other consequences, is a policy still being pursued by the Israeli authorities. This practice has been particularly dangerous with regard to the frequent sealing of Jerusalem, isolating it from other parts of the occupied territory and from the Palestinian people as a whole.
The various difficulties ensuing from such policies and practices negatively impact upon all economic and commercial activities, including import and export, making the exercise of such activities very complicated, often aborting many promising projects and commercial opportunities. These Israeli practices are contrary to the agreement reached with the Palestinians and, in essence, violate it. We continue to wonder how the Israeli government, while pursuing peace and an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, can continue to pursue such policies and practices, which fundamentally contradict the goal of peace and lead only to discouragement of the support of the general public for the peace process. We hope that the international community will send a clear message to the Israeli government that it is in the interest of peace and the region to end these dangerous policies, which serve only to encourage the radical forces in the region and undermine the goals of international assistance to the Palestinian people.
Regional cooperation is a goal to which we all look forward to achieving, but it must be the result of the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including resolution of the final status issues, as provided for in the Declaration of Principles. We believe that this goal should be reached gradually, moving parallel to the political developments achieved and supporting them, not preceding them. At the same time, we must take into consideration the special situation of the Palestinian economy as part of a new entity facing many challenges and difficulties and lacking the competitive capabilities which other larger and established economies of the region have. It is because of this fact that we believe that any attempts to draw the borders of regional cooperation must take such factors into consideration in order for all benefit from this cooperation, which should be suitable and just for all the parties involved.
We believe that the United Nations has an important role to play in the field of assisting the Palestinian people. On this occasion, we would like to express our appreciation for the thorough report presented by the Secretary-General under this item. We also express our appreciation for the efforts of the "Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories", particularly with regard to the establishment of a coordinating mechanism on the ground, which has contributed to the support for the activities of the United Nations, basically carried out by UNICEF, UNDP and UNRWA, in the occupied Palestinian territory. We express our gratitude and appreciation for such positive and important contributions in assisting the Palestinian people.
The continuous, timely and honest implementation of the peace agreements, and support for this process, constitute the optimum solution to confronting the extremist forces and the enemies of peace until peace prevails. If we do not continue steadfastly on the path of peace, such dangers threaten the existence of all that we have achieved thus far.
I thankyou, Mr. President.