Statement by Mr. Marwan Jilani, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the General Assembly Plenary, Item 21 (d): Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance: Assistance to the Palestinian People, 51st Session, 21 November 1996: 

Mr. President,

The economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the living conditions of the Palestinian people there, have actually worsened over the last two years. In fact, the economic situation and living conditions in many respects are worse now than they had been before the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993.

The GDP dropped by about nine percent (9%) in 1995 and projections indicate that it will likely fall by about fifteen percent (15%) this year. The per capita income of Palestinians has dropped from $2,600 to $1,800. While in Israel, for instance, the per capita income is approximately $16,000. The Palestinian unemployment rate has reached the unprecedented high of 50%, and Palestinian exports have dropped by 50%. Furthermore, the budget deficit of the Palestinian National Authority is increasing and accompanying social and political problems are on the rise.

Donor countries have delivered some of their pledged contributions, which stood at $2.4 billion at the Washington Summit in October 1993 and were to be disbursed over a five year period. The aid, however, has been slow and has been marred by all types of problems. Further, even this amount of international assistance has been offset by the Israeli policies and measures that have been the main cause of the deterioration of the situation and have practically led to the preclusion, and in fact strangulation, of any economic improvement and growth.

At the forefront of these Israeli policies and measures is the closure imposed on the Palestinian territory, which in reality has meant the obstruction of freedom of movement of both persons and goods within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Jerusalem and between the West Bank and Gaza, in addition to the restriction of movement to and from Israel and the outside world. The closure has also meant a dramatic fall in the number of Palestinian workers working in Israel, an arrangement that was in fact part of the economic agreement between the two parties in exchange for other arrangements in the agreement. The financial losses caused by the closure are estimated to be $7 million per day.

In this regard, the Israeli authorities have also caused various problems and impediments, preventing the progress or completion of any important infrastructure projects related to trade and other sectors of the economy, including the agreed-upon industrial parks and the construction of the seaport and airport in Gaza.

Further, the Israelis have waged a campaign to obstruct any independent Palestinian franchising rights for foreign companies, essentially also obstructing possible Palestinian joint ventures with foreign capital. The Israelis have also repeatedly failed to meet their responsibilities under the agreement with regard to the reimbursement of collected customs and VAT (Value Added Tax) on goods imported by the Palestinian side.

Mr. President,

Such dangerous policies and practices not only violate the agreements reached, they are unjustifiable under any security pretext and are illogical, regardless of the political goals or orientation of any Israeli government. Some such measures can only be perceived to emanate from an ill desire for collective punishment and for vindictive control of the Palestinian market and economy.

It is time for the Israeli side to understand that these policies must be immediately stopped and reversed. Clearly, it is impossible to speak of regional cooperation or to have meaningful results of economic regional summits while the Palestinian economy is destroyed. In fact, we cannot even speak of peace while such an economic situation prevails.

Mr. President,

On its part, and in spite of all the above, the Palestinian National Authority has been trying very hard to improve the living conditions of our people, to build our institutions and to build our economy. For this to succeed, however, we need both a completely different Israeli attitude in compliance with international law and the agreements reached, as well as international assistance. Just yesterday the Palestinian side at the highest level has presented to a donor meeting in Paris our National Investment Plan for the year 1997, we hope that the international community will provide its full support for this plan.

Mr. President,

The Palestinian people greatly appreciate the efforts of the international community to assist them in their new and challenging task of building their country and its institutions during this critical period of transition. In this context, we would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to all those countries and organizations who have generously provided assistance to the Palestinian people. It is our strong hope that the international community will fulfill its pledges in an effort to help us repair our devastated economy and thus to alleviate the worsening living conditions of our people.

We also continue to believe that the United Nations has an important and essential role to play in the field of assisting the Palestinian people. At this time, we would like to express our appreciation for the thorough and detailed report presented by the Secretary-General pursuant to this item. We would also like to express our appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories and for the significant role of his office in facilitating the organization of work of the agencies of the United Nations by means of an effective coordinating mechanism on the ground. These efforts have greatly enhanced the activities of the United Nations in the Palestinian territory, in particular the programs carried out by UNRWA and UNDP.

Mr. President,

We believe that the General Assembly resolution presented under this item does not accurately reflect the realities of the situation on the ground and the difficult and worsening conditions being faced by the Palestinian people and the state of the peace process at this stage. However, we do understand the importance of maintaining consensus on this issue and we are ready at this session to maintain the consensus text.

I thank you Mr. President.