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, 1 December 1997: (Original: Arabic)

It gives me pleasure to speak today, and to begin my statement by greeting and congratulating you, Sir, on your assumption of the presidency of the General Assembly in these turbulent international circumstances. We trust in your wisdom to ensure the success of this session. We would also like to express our appreciation to your predecessor, Mr. Razali Ismail, who presided over the previous session with success. I should also like to express our appreciation to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and to its Chairman, Mr. Ibra Degučne Ka, who continues to work tirelessly on the question of Palestine.

We are returning here to the General Assembly to examine the question of Palestine after the shock that international public opinion underwent as a result of the impasse in the peace process, especially when Mr. Netanyahu became Prime Minister of Israel last year following the success of the Likud coalition in the recent elections. In those elections, the extremist right in Israel was victorious. Everyone knows that the extremist and fundamentalist parties have bolstered their position. They won more parliamentary seats, resulting in an imbalance in the composition of the Israeli Knesset. This is a proof that the current of extremism inside Israeli society is continuing to enjoy a majority, which ensures its overwhelming success.

In the wake of the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, it was expected that the parties and groups that advocate peace would be successful. But the situation has been reversed, with the fall of the Labor party and the triumph of Likud and its extremist allies.

Moreover, Israeli extremism has been manifested in the creation of pretexts and facts on the ground, which concretely reaffirm the Israeli Government's rejection of the concluded agreements and its reneging on previous obligations. It has therefore called for re-examination of the agreement concerning redeployment from Hebron, which was signed by the previous Labor Government. That redeployment was supposed to have been completed before the Israeli elections in order for redeployment to be resumed from the rural areas, labeled B, and the departure of the Israeli army from over 600 Palestinian villages. But Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, insisted on discussing the departure from Hebron thus wasting seven months and, in the end, winning 20 per cent of the territory of the city following its partition, keeping for Israel the historical, commercial and industrial parts of the city, even though the town of Hebron is 100 per cent Palestinian.

Regrettably, instead of the United States playing a positive role to prevent a recurrence of the cycle of violence and to reduce the tension, Mr. Christopher, the former United States Secretary of State, sent a letter to Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, in which he acknowledged the right of freedom to redeploy the Israeli army, to set a date for that redeployment and its geographical extent and to determine the degree to which more powers would be transferred to the Palestinian National Authority. All of that was without negotiations with the Palestinians, thus contravening the provisions of the accord that called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces and their redeployment from 30 per cent of the territory of the Palestinian West Bank immediately following the implementation of the Hebron Protocol.

Despite the agreement reached between the Palestinian and Israeli sides on an accord on the city, the Government of Israel immediately started the construction of settlements in Jabal Abu Ghneim in the occupied area of Jerusalem/Bethlehem while it was supposed to start withdrawing its forces from the rural areas instead of starting to confiscate Palestinian lands and building settlements on them.

With regard to Jerusalem, Israel continues its violations. It confiscates Palestinian homes and other buildings, especially inside the walled Holy City of Jerusalem. Israel has developed a blueprint, in a very short period of time, to confiscate 18 Palestinian homes in order to house 18 Jewish families, thus challenging the international community, the spiritual dimension of all faiths and the principles of coexistence among all these faiths. This is in addition to its refusal to implement the relevant Security Council resolutions, especially resolutions 465 (1980), 476 (1980), 478 (1980) and 1073 (1996).

Since the signing of the Hebron Protocol and up to the present, negotiations and direct and indirect contacts, at times through concerned intermediaries, have been conducted. In addition, the United States, as a sponsor of the peace talks, is undertaking timid efforts to convince the Israeli Government to fulfil its obligations, to no avail.

When Ms. Albright became Secretary of State she made little effort in that direction. As she put it, she was waiting for the two parties, the Palestinian and the Israeli sides, to reach an understanding, in order for her to visit the region to give the peace march a push and put it back on track.

When the state of tension heightened in the region with a new cycle of violence, Ms. Albright came to the region and convened meetings with all the parties concerned in the peace process, whether Arab or Israeli.

She herself witnessed first hand human and material manifestations which condemn Israeli conduct and prove the necessity of intensifying efforts to prevent the deterioration of the situation in the region. Ms. Albright herself witnessed the suffering of the Palestinian people under occupation and under the strict Israeli blockade.

When she returned to Washington, she addressed an invitation to the Palestinians and to the Israelis to meet at a negotiating session in New York in the last third of September 1997. After the meeting she outlined four points at a press conference. She emphasized the security questions and the need to combat terrorism and its infrastructure. But she failed to make a clear reference to the need to put an end to settlement activity and the construction of settlements. At the same time, she referred to the redeployment of the Israeli army, but linked that withdrawal to conditions that would, in point of fact, lead to the non-fulfillment of such a withdrawal.

However, Ms. Albright knows full well that these two points are the underlying causes of the current tension and the resurgence of the cycle of violence in the region.

As is known, the Israeli Government has committed provocative acts, such as the opening of the tunnel adjacent to the holy Moslem shrine, the Haram al-Sharif, in Jerusalem which resulted in violent clashes in September of last year leaving 83 Palestinian martyrs and more than 1,300 other casualties.

At that time, the Security Council adopted resolution 1073 (1996), in which it condemned these provocative acts. At that meeting of the Security Council, which took place during the session of the General Assembly, the Foreign Ministers of the permanent members of the Security Council, along with other Ministers of the Member States of the United Nations took part in the Security Council's discussions.

America's position remains hesitant. It is not playing its role effectively as a sponsor of the peace process. The parties concerned have accepted the initiative put forward by a former American President, Mr. George Bush, in 1991, and the Madrid Peace Conference was convened on the basis of the land-for-peace formula and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied Arab and Palestinian territories that were occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978), which relates to withdrawal from Southern Lebanon.

But, as usual, the Israeli Government turned its back completely on the resolutions of the Security Council and on all the other accords and obligations. The United States was supposed to play a vital and active role in reviving the peace process and bringing pressure to bear on Israel, utilizing its special means. That gave Israel valuable time in which to confiscate more Palestinian land, build more Israeli settlements, tighten its blockade against the Palestinian people, economically and militarily, and paralyze the movement of the Palestinian citizens.

The Israeli blockade prevents Palestinian citizens from moving, hampers the transfer of goods and the movement of the populace within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and between them, prevents entry and departure to and from the Palestinian territories, erects checkpoints, and isolates towns and villages, preventing the population from moving between them. Such measures have led to a severe shortage of primary materials and foodstuffs, resulting in economic paralysis. They have also raised the rate of unemployment to about 65 per cent and had a serious adverse impact on national and foreign investments, which have declined substantially.

Moreover, the Israeli Government has withheld tax revenues which it collected from Palestinian citizens, and which are due to the Palestinian National Authority. This was substantiated by the report of the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, of 26 June 1997 (A/ES-10/6).

At the same time, Israel has backtracked from the agreement that was reached on the return of displaced Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip who were expelled as a result of the aggression committed in 1967. The total number of these displaced persons is no less than 750,000. That commitment should have been implemented, in pursuance of Security Council resolution 237 (1967), as well as under the 1993 Declaration of Principles. Israel also continues to deny to those refugees who were ejected from Palestine in 1948 their right to return to their homes under General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1948.

Here it should be kept in mind that Israel was born in the United Nations under General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 1947 and did not emerge through history. That partition resolution was a birth certificate not only for Israel but also for an independent Arab State of Palestine. In this context, it is very bizarre that today we hear the current Israeli Prime Minister threatening to annex Palestinian territory if the Palestine Organization were to declare an independent State of Palestine.

Four years have elapsed, and Israel continues to prevaricate and is engaged in an exercise of subterfuge and circumvention in its interpretation of the provisions of the accords and agreements that were reached. It continues to Judaize more and more Palestinian territory through the confiscation of Palestinian land, the building of more and more settlements and the tightening of the siege imposed upon the Palestinian Authority, in order to cripple its effectiveness and obstruct the path of the Palestinian people with a view to denying them their right to exercise sovereignty over their national territory and resources.

Israel denies the Palestinian people their national rights, and is engaged in intensive efforts to perpetuate the settler presence on Palestinian territories and increase the number of settlements and settlers constantly. The objective is to make the Israeli settlements not only difficult, but impossible, to dismantle in accordance with Security Council resolution 465 (1980), which, by a unanimous vote, called for their dismantlement. Successive Security Council resolutions have emphasized that Israeli policies and practices of building settlements are illegal and are serious impediments to the achievement of a comprehensive and lasting peace. Furthermore, they contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 as well as international law. The Security Council went even further than that. Resolution 465 (1980), unanimously adopted by the Security Council in March 1980, called on Israel to dismantle the Israeli settlements that were in existence at that time.

Since then we have noted a regression in the position of the United States of America. The United States took no action beyond pro forma protests regarding Israel's settlement activity. Indeed, on certain occasions, the United States allowed Israel to complete construction activities in some settlements, even though perceiving in those settlements an obstacle to peaceful settlement and a factor that complicates the peace process.

We have noticed recently that the United States, regrettably, has started to look at the issue from an Israeli perspective. It has stated that the United Nations no longer has a role to play in the questions pertaining to a peaceful, political settlement such as of Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees and Palestinian sovereignty.

Most recently, the United States exercised its veto twice in one week in the Security Council, in order to prevent the Council from undertaking its responsibilities. That action by the United States led to the convening of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, the first in 15 years. I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those Member States which supported the convening of that special session and voted in favor of the important resolutions it adopted. We continue to hope that those resolutions will be implemented.

By backtracking on the accords that have been reached, Israel deliberately seeks to tighten its control and hegemony over Palestinian land and resources in order to continue its settlement activity without hindrance. Israel has built bypass roads linking the Israeli settlements, of which there are now 183 in the West Bank. These bypass roads do not run through Palestinian villages, but around them. Indeed, they are a siege against those Palestinian villages and towns. Israel uses those bypass roads for its military and security purposes, thereby managing to isolate the Palestinian villages and towns and cut them off from each other, creating for them severe economic, social and security problems.

This is an accurate account of developments in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiating track. As to the other tracks, namely the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese, these are still frozen. But more serious than that, the Israeli Government is now scheming against those two sister countries. The Israeli army is committing repeated acts of aggression against sister Lebanon, creating scores of civilian casualties and destroying the country's vital centers. Yet Israel claims that it is prepared to withdraw first from southern Lebanon and then expresses its wish for peace while continuing to commit acts of aggression against Lebanon.

Facts and events show that the peace process in the Middle East is at an impasse owing to the behavior of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his political group and the provocative measures taken by that country. As a sponsor of the peace process, the United States should have played its role in reviving the peace process. The situation today requires a reaffirmation by the United Nations of its permanent responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of international peace and security and in ensuring the implementation of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council calling for Israel to withdraw from all territories occupied since 1967 so that the cycle of violence and tension will not recur, particularly given the disappearance of confidence between the parties to the conflict.

The United Nations has previously taken practical measures to address numerous international problems. Is it not now time for the Organization to take concrete steps to preserve the peace, to halt the deterioration of the security situation in the region, and to preserve and revitalize the peace process on the basis of the principles set forth at the Madrid Conference? Israel's persistence in its approach makes it impossible to achieve success in political negotiations or to reach a solution, which would keep peace and security in the region. The perpetuation of Israeli occupation and its continuation of settlement activities inevitably doom the peace process, which demands first and foremost Israel's withdrawal from all Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and from the Syrian Golan and southern Lebanon. Israel must also dismantle the Israeli settlements. Unless those things are accomplished, the entire region of the Middle East will continue to be vulnerable to explosions and successive wars.

There is no doubt that the decision by the Arab States to suspend the normalization of relations with Israel and to stay away from meetings of the various multilateral commissions, as well as the absence of most of the Arab States from the recent economic forum in Doha, Qatar, are definite evidence of the loss of confidence in the success of the peace process.

The requirements of peace and security call for all Member States to respect Security Council resolutions and to commit to their implementation so that the United Nations may remain an effective mechanism for addressing regional problems by peaceful means. However, we see that some Powers are acting according to a double standard and that they exempt Israel from compliance with United Nations resolutions, including Security Council resolutions, even though that country is the party that threatens peace and security in the region thanks to its possession of weapons of mass destruction and its refusal to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons while continuing to impede the peace process, freezing it.

The continued sanctions against Iraq, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the Sudan have begun to raise questions in world public opinion about the duration of such sanctions. Is it not time that such unjust sanctions be lifted and that conditions be created that could bring relief to the Iraqi population, so that Iraqi children might have the basic life requirements of foodstuffs and medical supplies and the country have a chance to return to international life as an effective member of the world community?

We look forward to the full implementation of United Nations resolutions, especially those adopted at the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, including those regarding the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 in order to examine the necessary coercive measures to be adopted to ensure respect for that Convention and the implementation of its provisions in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by Israel, including Jerusalem.

We also hope that at this session the General Assembly will endorse the full participation of Palestine in the proceedings of the United Nations and ensure that participation by Israel in those proceedings is in line with the provisions of international law and those of the Fourth Geneva Convention with regard to the Arab territories occupied since 1967, especially with regard to Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan.

We stand for comprehensive and lasting peace based on the principles of the Madrid Conference and in keeping with the provisions of United Nations Charter and its resolutions. However, we reject surrender to a fait accomplis or the recognition of illegal de facto conditions created on the ground by Israel's actions in the occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories. We shall resist that injustice and aggression on the basis of our right to existence and to self-determination as a nation that has lived on that land for thousands of years and established there its glorious civilization.