Statement by Mr. Marwan Jilani, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., Before the Second Committee, Agenda Item 101: Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, 52nd Session, U.N. General Assembly, 22 October 1997:

Mr. Chairman,

As this is the first time my delegation takes the floor in the deliberations of the Second Committee, I would like to congratulate you upon your election as Chairman of the Committee, as well as congratulate your colleagues in the bureau.

We would like to express our appreciation for the report of the Secretary-General presented under this item. We would like also to extend our thanks to the Secretariat of the ESCWA for preparing and presenting the report. We have to note, however, that the report did not provide additional information related to the provisions of the resolution adopted under this item last year, particularly the exploitation by Israel of natural resources in the occupied territories, including land and water.

Mr. Chairman,

The violation by Israel, the occupying Power, of the rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to sovereignty over their natural resources, has been the cause of grave economic and social injustices for the Palestinian people and the Syrian Arab population of the Golan since 1967. Israel continues to deny the Palestinian people the right to exploit and make full use of their land and water resources. Further, Israel continues to expand illegal colonial settlements, expropriate land and divert water resources for its needs, at the expense of the Palestinian people and the Arab inhabitants of the Syrian Golan.

Israel persists in its policies of confiscation of Palestinian land under a number of different pretexts, creating an extremely difficult and dangerous situation with regard to the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, Palestinian efforts for development and also with regard to the peace process as a whole.

The report before us reflects the worsening economic and social situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. The report states that the per capita income in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has fallen by nearly 50% since the Oslo agreement of 1993. Unemployment rates have risen to between 50 to 60% during 1996 and until this date, continued to deteriorate, devolving to a critical level and endangering the peace process. It is unfortunate and ironic that the economic situation and living conditions in many respects are worse now than they had been before the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993.

At the same time, the report of the Secretary-General which was presented on 26 June 1997 in accordance with General Assembly resolution ES-10/2, reflected the reality of what Israel has been doing in Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It emphasized the fact that Israel continues its overall illegal settlement campaign and continues to confiscate land, expand existing settlements and build bypass roads, as well as taking measures and actions to impose additional changes in the character, demographic composition and legal status of Jerusalem and treating the Palestinians of Jerusalem as foreign immigrants.

That report also highlights that the principle of territorial integrity, which was agreed upon in the Declaration of Principles, has been frustrated by the closures and severe Israeli restrictions on the freedom of movement of people and goods, causing serious deterioration in the economic situation and the living conditions of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Chairman,

There is a worsening shortage of water resulting from the salification of springs, the tapping of hill-streams by the Israeli occupation authorities and the diversion of water for use by Israeli colonial settlements. Israel draws more than 80% of the water produce from the West Bank hills and allow the Palestinians to draw less than 20% of their own water resources. This has been the case since 1967.

Furthermore, Israel continues to steal, exploit and cause damage to the natural heritage and environment of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan, through the theft of archeological ruins and artifacts and the destruction of the natural environment by uprooting of trees, confiscating land and constructing by-pass roads for the illegal colonial settlements.

These facts do not only indicate the extent of the grave economic and social impact of such policies on the Palestinian people, but also show the extent of the Israeli violation of international law, international humanitarian law and the will of the international community, which has always affirmed the illegality of these Israeli policies and measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab Syrian Golan. The international community has also affirmed the right of the Palestinian people to restitution and full compensation due to them following any exploitation, loss and damage to their natural resources.

Mr. Chairman,

The General Assembly must continue to monitor such Israeli policies closely and carefully, in an effort to bring Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan in line with international law and to ensure the protection of the Palestinian economy from arbitrary and unlawful practices and policies.

In this regard, we strongly believe that the international community must take the steps necessary to promote an environment conducive to progress in the peace process by preventing their assistance to the Palestinian people from being undermined or obstructed by the Israeli authorities and by calling upon Israel to cease the strangulation of the Palestinian economy as a pretext for its security concerns.

It is time for the Israeli side to understand that these policies must be immediately stopped and reversed. It is impossible to speak of regional cooperation or to have meaningful results of economic regional summits while the Palestinian economy continues to be destroyed. In fact, it is difficult to even speak of peace while such an economic situation prevails. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.