Right of Reply by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the General Assembly Plenary, 53rd Session, 24 September 1998:

(Unofficial Translation)

Mr. President,

We listened this morning to the statement of the Israeli Prime Minister and we shall present to you the Palestinian position in the statement of our President next Monday. Nevertheless, we cannot but reply to what we have heard today with the following brief remarks.

The Prime Minister began his statement with a reference to the role of the League of Nations and the United Nations in the establishment of Israel but, unfortunately, he never referred to Israel’s rejection of the will of the United Nations, including the establishment of the Arab State in Palestine on equal footing in accordance with the resolution that established Israel. He failed to refer to the rejection by Israel of all United Nations resolutions adopted since then, its rejection of 24 Security Council resolutions on the occupied territories since 1967 and its rejection of hundreds of General Assembly resolutions and the resolutions of other United Nations organs, not withstanding its violation of the principles of the Charter itself and international law and international humanitarian law.

The Prime Minister said that peace, to him, is based upon two principles: security and reciprocity. We believe that there is a great deal of deception in such expressions and the way that they are presented. Security, for example, would serve as an excuse for Israel to keep the occupied territories and not to withdraw from it. What is more important is that he excludes the principles upon which the Middle East peace process is based, such as the principle of land for peace and the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 425, as well as the principles that are recognized by the whole world, such as justice and the right of peoples to self-determination. The Prime Minister also stated that the Palestinians have jurisdiction over 100% of Palestinians in Gaza and 90% in the West Bank. This is a preposterous claim. In addition to its falsity, it omits the fact that 100% of our Palestinian people on our land still live under the mercy of occupation and are subjected to Israeli oppression, in many cases not even being able to move from one village to another.

The Prime Minister spoke about the Palestinian media without looking at what is said by Israeli officials, while he himself uses expressions such as Judea and Samaria to describe our Occupied Palestinian Territory – to describe the West Bank. He talked about the Palestinian Covenant, ignoring the decision by the Palestine National Council in April of 1996 to abrogate the articles that contradict the exchanged letters of recognition, a decision which was met by the official welcome of the American Government, as well as the Israeli Government at that time.

The Prime Minister talked about Israel transferring Palestinian money and ignored that fact that it is our money and our right and that it is frequently subject to cuts and is sometimes completely withheld. He forgets that this procedure is an outcome of the Israeli rejection of the implementation of what has been agreed upon with regard to the construction of the airport and the seaport, and he also ignores the continued destructive process that Israel carries out against the Palestinian economy.

He also spoke about the deadlines mentioned in the agreements, stating that these are not sacred and he talked about what he called a unilateral act by the Palestinian leadership. I would like to clarify here that the agreement on the transitional period expires on 4 May 1999, and that any decision taken by the Palestinian leadership according to its responsibilities at the time, regardless of the nature of this decision, cannot be considered a unilateral act. I wish to add here that the primary responsibility for the inability of the parties to reach a final settlement within the agreed deadlines falls upon the government of Mr. Netanyahu.

Mr. President,

What was the Prime Minister really saying in the previous points mentioned and in other statements, such as his vision of the final settlement? He was saying that he wants the Palestinians to live within the isolated areas under limited self-government, meaning in bantustans akin to an abhorrent apartheid style. He was also saying that he does not recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and that he does not want to implement Security Council resolution 242. This is not just a violation of the agreements reached; it is a destruction of these agreements and the essence of the mutual recognition between the two parties and that is precisely the real cause for the current status of the peace process.

Lastly, Mr. President, it seems that all that has been said is based upon a certain understanding – that the land is an Israeli land and that the Palestinians are a minority within Israel in need of some kind of solutions. Maybe Israel is in need of some solution with regard to them.

Mr. Prime Minister, you are completely wrong. The land is our land, but we have accepted international legitimacy in this regard despite the injustice that befell us. The Palestinians are an old, proud people that have the right to sovereignty and statehood. We will remain committed to the peace process, but on the basis of what has been agreed upon – on the basis of the mutual recognition of the legitimate rights of both parties and on the basis that the implementation of resolution 242 is the aim of the process.