Statement by Mr. Muin Shreim, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the Second Committee, Agenda item 12: Report of the Economic and Social Council, 49th Session, 31 October 1994:

Mr. Chairman,

Since this is the first time my delegation takes the floor in the deliberations of the 2nd Committee, allow me to start by congratulating you and your colleagues upon your election to the bureau of this committee.

I would like to direct the focus of my statement today, Mr. Chairman, to one element contained in the report of ECOSOC, item 12 on our agenda, which is the "Economic and social consequences of the establishment of settlements by Israel in the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, occupied since 1967 and the Syrian Golan".

Mr. Chairman,

The international community unanimously expressed its objection to the Israeli settlements, and international law is unequivocal on the issue. The world community considers the Israeli policy of establishing settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to be illegal and a grave violation of Article of 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and a violation of numerous Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 446 (1979), 452 (179) and 465 (1980). Over the years, Israel has transferred more than 125,000 Israeli settlers into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Illegally present Jewish settlers now comprise about 13% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Further, in occupied East Jerusalem alone, more than 140,000 settlers have been placed in an array of massive settlements, drastically changing both the physical and demographic character of the city. In addition, it is estimated that over 50% of the land of the West Bank and 30% of the Gaza Strip has already been confiscated for Israeli settlement purposes.

Mr. Chairman,

In spite of the positive developments that have transpired in the peace process on the Palestinian-Israeli track, to this day the Israeli government continues the illegal policy and practice of building settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and allowing more Israeli settlers to move to those settlements. Although this is occurring at a slower pace, and the tone of the statements made on this issue by officials of the Israeli government has been different, the fact remains that building continues on about 10,000 units. Several recent announcements that have been made indicate a worsening in Israel's position on this issue, revealing the government's intentions to build thousands of more units in the West Bank along the separation line between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

This policy of illegal settlement building by the Israeli government in the Occupied Territory, in addition to its grave violations of international humanitarian law and Security Council resolutions, is a clear attempt to create additional illegal facts and a de facto situation on the ground, preempting negotiations on a final settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. That, of course, violates the spirit and letter of the Declaration of Principles signed by the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization on 13 September 1993 in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Chairman,

The acts of illegal Israeli settlers, the enemies of peace, constitute a great threat to the Palestinian people and also to the peace process. The provocations of the armed settlers to the Palestinian people continue on a daily basis, especially in the city of Hebron (Al Khalil), which remains a hotbed of tensions because of the special nature of the Israeli settlements in the city.

The situation is getting more dangerous because the Israeli settlers constitute an armed militia often committing acts of violence against the unarmed civilian Palestinian population. They function as a second army of occupation. Settler terrorism has become a daily affair in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In this connection, we recall the tragedy of the Hebron massacre, where one of those fanatic settlers committed a horrible crime which put the peace process, at that time at a turning point, in a critical situation. Here, we would like to stress the importance of the full implementation of Security Council resolution 904 (1994), which called "upon Israel, the occupying Power, to continue to take and implement measures, including, inter alia, confiscation of arms, with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers", and called also for an temporary international presence. Although we would like to thank the three countries who participated in the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), Norway, Italy and Denmark, we regret that this presence was terminated before the mission was fulfilled, and we still believe that there is a need for the international presence in Hebron since the situation on the ground remains volatile.

Mr. Chairman,

The Declaration of Principles postponed negotiations between the two parties on the issue of settlements, among other elements of the final settlement, to a later stage. We remain committed to that agreement, and we believe, at the same time, that it mandates the absolute cessation of any settlement activities by the Israeli side. Also, the two parties should not hesitate to expedite the negotiations or to partly deal with the matter should the threat posed by the settlers to the integrity and smooth proceeding of the peace process require such action. Moreover, we believe that implementation of the next phase of the Declaration of Principles, including redeployment of the Israeli forces outside the populated areas, especially cities, towns and villages, in preparation for the Palestinian general election, cannot be carried out in reality without the removal of the Israeli settlers from such populated centers as Al-Khalil and Nablus.

Mr. Chairman,

The international community bears a special responsibility in this regard to guarantee the integrity of international law in the field of Israeli illegal settlements. Moreover, the two cosponsors of the peace process should fulfill their duties in preserving the integrity of the agreements that have been reached, and in carrying out the request made to them by the Security Council in resolution 904 (1994), in a way which would guarantee the successful progression of the process towards the achievement of a just and lasting peace. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.