Statement by Mr. Muin Shreim, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the 1996 Substantive Session of the Economic and Social Council, Item 8: Permanent sovereignty over national resources in the occupied Palestinian territory and other Arab territories, 15 July 1996:

Mr. Chairman,

The social and economic repercussions of the establishment of settlements by Israel in the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and its destructive effects on the Palestinian people are very clear. This was discussed in detail in the valuable report of the Secretary-General (A/51/135, E/1996/51 of 17 June 1996).

Israeli settlements not only violate private property rights of individual Palestinians; they also violate Palestinian national rights. Settlements violate international law, international humanitarian law and the will of the international community, which has always affirmed that the building of settlements and their existence is illegal and constitutes one of the largest obstacles to achieving a lasting and comprehensive resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Settlements represent a flagrant violation of various conventions and resolutions, including the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, which is applicable to all territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem, and successive United Nations resolutions, the most prominent of which is Security Council resolution 465 (1980) which was adopted by consensus.

The continuation of the establishment of new settlements and the expansion of the existing ones is in clear violation of the spirit of the peace process and contradicts its basic principles, including the principle of land for peace, embodied in Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). Further, the Declaration of Principles, signed on 13 September 1993 in Washington, D.C., declared that negotiation on settlements is among the issues of the final status negotiations which were due to commence in May of 1996.

Mr. Chairman,

The Israeli policy of establishing and enlarging settlements in the occupied territory constitutes a campaign of colonization of the Palestinian land. As with any other colonization, this settler colonialism has had a severe and devastating impact on the Palestinian people, their land, natural resources and economy. At a time when the world has witnessed the active termination of colonialism, the international community should never tolerate this phenomenon of compounding occupation with colonization.

With the election of the new Israeli government the situation with regard to the settlements is becoming worse than ever. The guidelines of the new Israeli government state clearly that this government is committed to expanding the settlements, ignoring the positions of the international community in this regard and threatening to undermine the positive achievements of the peace process thus far. These guidelines contradict the basis of the Middle East peace process as well as the agreements signed between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), representative of the Palestinian people.

The international community should assert its position loud and clear in this regard and it should remain firm in its position against any attempt by Israel to destroy the peace process by pursuing an active settlement policy. Any attempts by Israel to test the position of the international community on this issue should be rejected by the United Nations, including the Security Council.

Mr. Chairman,

One of the dangerous aspects of Israeli settlement is that which is connected to Jerusalem. Over the years Israel has intensified its settlement activities in and around Jerusalem by confiscating Palestinian land and encircling Arab East Jerusalem with Jewish settlements aiming at changing the nature of occupied East Jerusalem and creating a de facto situation which will be impossible to reverse. This policy of judaization of the city is very threatening and should be strongly condemned for Jerusalem is the key to arriving at a just peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Chairman,

The Palestinian side will remain committed to the peace process and will honor our obligations in this regard. We are ready to negotiate with the new Israeli government on the basis of the implementation of the agreements reached, which stipulate that the whole peace process and the negotiations on the permanent status will lead to the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). We will not accept any deviation from these agreements.

Mr. Chairman,

We had a window of opportunity, which we pursued with a certain degree of success and satisfaction and we should not let this opportunity slip from our hands at this critical time because it may be our last chance to bring an end to this long conflict for once and for all. Failing to do so will be devastating to all of us in the region. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.