Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., before the General Assembly in its Resumed 51st Session, Item 33: The Situation in the Middle East, Item 35: Question of Palestine, 12 March 1997:

(Original: Arabic)

Mr. President,

We come before you today to draw your attention to the grave developments unraveling in the Middle East as a result of the persistence of Israel, the occupying Power, to continue its policies and measures, which aim at the judaization of occupied East Jerusalem and at changing its legal status and its demographic composition, as well as Israel's continuing colonial settlement campaign in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 through its resumption of the building of colonial settlement. All of these measures represent a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and relevant United Nations resolutions and a breach of the agreements concluded within the framework of the Middle East peace process.

We come before you today following the failure of the Security Council to carry out its duties, as called for by the Charter of the United Nations, due to the decision of one of the Council's permanent members, the U.S.A., to use its veto power, on 7 March 1997, with regard to a draft resolution sponsored by France, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom concerning East Jerusalem and settlements. The draft resolution did, however, receive 14 votes in favor from the members of the Council. It is our hope that the General Assembly will adopt the necessary position based on international law and justice and concern for the peace process in the Middle East. Such a position would be one calling on Israel to refrain from its illegal policies and measures, including the building of settlements, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem.

We affirm the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine until a comprehensive solution of the question in all its aspects is attained. Further, we affirm that the duties of the Security Council in maintaining international peace and security include, naturally, the Middle East. The existence of the peace process and agreements between the parties do not diminish this responsibility but rather consolidate it to include the provision of support for the process and the prevention of damage to it, as well as confirmation of compliance by the parties with their contractual obligations.

Israel's violation of its contractual obligations cause great damage to the peace process and threaten the possibilities for achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region. This is particularly evident when such violations include violations of international humanitarian law and relevant United Nations resolutions; a matter which makes it necessary for the General Assembly and the Security Council to fulfill their duties to preserve the peace process and uphold international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. This becomes imperative as Israel takes measures unilaterally to impose new facts on the ground thus causing the breakdown of the forthcoming negotiations between the parties and exploiting its possession of power.

To preserve international law, principles of justice and ethical values it is necessary for the international community, represented by the United Nations, to reaffirm its firm position with regard to the consequences of such illegal Israeli policies and measures. This includes reaffirming that all legislative and administrative measures taken by Israel which aim at changing the legal status of Jerusalem and its demographic composition are null and void and have no legal validity; that Israeli settlements are illegal and represent a great obstacle on the road to peace; that the plight of the refugees of Palestine must be resolved through their right to return or compensation; and reaffirming the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. What has been established illegally will remain illegal and will not change with the passage of time or the change of circumstances.

Mr. President,

The Government of Israel decided, on 26 February 1997, to build a new colonial settlement in the area of Jabal Abu-Ghneim in the occupied Palestinian territory. The area is situated within the territory that Israel annexed and considers to be a part of the extended municipal boundaries of the city of Jerusalem. This has been done in an illegal manner and in blatant violation of international humanitarian law and relevant Security Council resolutions. The Israeli decision provides for the building of 6,500 housing units on an area of 1850 dunums, which were confiscated during 1991 and 1992 and which will bring around 25,000 new Israeli settlers. This colonial settlement will isolate Arab East Jerusalem from the southern part of the West Bank and isolate Jerusalem as a whole from the city of Bethlehem.

This Israeli measure follows a series of Israeli measures and actions regarding Jerusalem as earlier Israel demolished a building belonging to Burj Al-Laqlaq Society inside the walled Old City in an attempt to revive a settlement plan in this holy place. The Israeli authorities also opened, on 23 September 1996, the tunnel in the vicinity of Al-Haram Al-Sharif, creating further changes in the nature of the city. In that instance, Israel refused as usual to abide by Security Council resolution 1073 (1996), which in its first operative paragraph called for the immediate cessation and reversal of all acts which have resulted in the aggravation of the situation, and which have negative implications for the Middle East peace process. Further, the Israeli authorities declared in the second week of December 1996 the government's intentions to implement a plan for the building of a colonial settlement composed of 132 housing units for Jewish settlers in the heart of occupied East Jerusalem in Ras Al-Amud near Al-Haram Al-Sharif.

The Israeli authorities continue their attempts to deprive Palestinians of Jerusalem from their natural and inherited right to live in their city as their ancestors did before them. Israel considers them to be "foreigners" and has pursued various illegal maneuvers and measures to deprive them of what it calls "resident's rights". This includes, for example, its attempts to enforce such a measure on all those who live temporarily outside of Jerusalem or those who have acquired a second citizenship.

Further, for a long time, Israel has been enforcing the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as shutting the Palestinian people out of the city, despite the fact that it is the economic, cultural and religious center of the Palestinian people. This constitutes another Israeli attempt to impose a de facto situation with regard to Jerusalem and constitutes a blatant violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and a defiance of the will of the international community.

Mr. President,

In addition to all of the above, the Israeli government has resumed its settlement activities in all the occupied Palestinian territory, which includes the building of new housing units, the transfer of new settlers, the confiscation of more lands, the building of bypass roads and further exploitation of our natural resources. All of the above-mentioned constitute a flagrant violation of the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. The Security Council, in 24 resolutions, reaffirmed the applicability of the Convention to all the territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem. These measures also constitute a violation of several General Assembly and Security Council resolutions regarding Jerusalem and settlements in particular.

Such Israeli measures and practices also violate the agreements already reached between the Palestinian and Israeli sides and the logic of the entire peace process. The two parties agreed in those agreements to postpone negotiations with regard to specific issues, including Jerusalem and the settlements, to the second stage, which by necessity means that the parties should refrain from any unilateral actions creating more facts on the ground and causing the upcoming negotiations to fail.

The acceptance by Israel that the status of Jerusalem is an issue to be negotiated; its acceptance to classify Jerusalem as an electoral district among the general Palestinian districts, with seven representatives in the Palestinian Legislative Council; and the commitment made in a letter by its former Foreign Minister to preserve the Palestinian institutions in the city clearly prove that all of these Israeli measures currently being taken are illegal even from the perspective of the agreements reached between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

In any event, Jerusalem is an issue of central importance to the Palestinian people, the Arab world and the Islamic ummah, since Jerusalem is the first qiblah and third of the two holy sanctuaries and is of great importance as well to the followers of the three monotheistic religions and to the entire international community. Accordingly, Jerusalem will not accept the imposition of monopoly or sole ownership by any of the parties.

We will not accept the annulment of Palestinian and Arab rights in Holy Jerusalem, and we believe that the international community should affirm its rejection of the illegal Israeli positions which affect the interests of all the other parties. We affirm that there can be no peace in the Middle East without the restoration of our legal rights in Holy Jerusalem.

Mr. President,

From the onset of the current Israeli government there has been great tension and retreat from all of the progress and achievements of the peace process. The government adopted broad political guidelines, which represent a violation of the basic foundations upon which the peace process was established and a violation of all the agreements reached between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. This was followed by the practices and measures which I have enumerated regarding the Israeli settlement system in the occupied territory, the situation in Holy Jerusalem, the continuation of the closure and the siege of the Palestinian territory. All of these do represent an actual threat to the peace process and its continuity. Despite all the hopes raised after the conclusion of the Protocol on Redeployment in Hebron and Note for the Record, which was to be considered the beginning of a new era, the regression of this government to adopting the same policies and measures, including the decision to build the settlement in Jabal Abu-Ghneim and the decision to close independent Palestinian institutions in occupied East Jerusalem, has served only to dash these hopes.

In addition, Israel's negotiating positions have completely prevented progress in the implementation of the agreements reached, particularly with regard to overdue issues such as the safe passage, the seaport, the airport and finally its announcement of redeployment from 2% of the West Bank, which actually maintains about 70% of the total area of the West Bank under complete Israeli control while attempting to pass this as the first step of the three steps of the second stage of the redeployment. This latest Israeli action was taken unilaterally, without negotiations with the Palestinian side, and cannot be considered an honest implementation of the agreement, which provides for the completion of the second stage of redeployment by March 1998, but not later than mid-1998, and which would keep the Israeli forces only at agreed-upon military locations.

The most important matter in all of this should not be the details of Israel's practices and behavior, which are indeed very complex, but what they constitute, which are policies seeming to aim at the retention a large portion of the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, and also aiming at the prevention of the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Such designs totally contradict the mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization and the text and spirit of the agreements reached, which specified the aim of the process, namely the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

Mr. President,

This is the problem. We should not attempt to hide it and the resolution should be focused on it. The solution is to guarantee the real and actual compliance of the Israeli government with the agreements reached and complete implementation in good faith and in accordance with the agreed-upon timetables. Furthermore, this government should refrain from any measures or actions which violate international humanitarian law and relevant Security Council resolutions. This is the road to a just, permanent and comprehensive peace in the region, which we are working towards and which the whole international community should strive for. Otherwise, all of this will lead to other less desirable results and it is the Israeli side that will bear sole and complete responsibility for it. We have confidence that you will carry out your natural and positive role in this regard.

I thank you, Mr. President.