Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., before the United Nations Security Council, Debate on the Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Occupied East Jerusalem, 15 March 2001: (Original: Arabic)

Mr. President,

I would like to start by congratulating you, Mr. President, on your assumption of the presidency of the Security Council for this month. We express our pleasure at seeing you once again at the helm of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine, a very friendly Country.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express out appreciation to the Ambassador and the Permanent Representative of Tunisia and to the Tunisian delegation for the work they carried out last month. They represent a sisterly Arab country, which hosted the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian military cadres for quite some time.

Before I begin reading my official statement to the Council today, perhaps it would be appropriate that I inform the Council of the latest developments in the situation in our occupied territories. Allow me to read out in English this article from Reuters.

"At least six Palestinian children were burned when Israeli border police threw a stun grenade into the courtyard of a school in the West Bank city in Hebron on Thursday. Witnesses said some of the children, aged about 10 to 13, screamed as they were carried out of the school into ambulances. At least once childís head was wrapped in bandage. But doctors described the casualtiesí burns as moderate to light. The army, which was looking into the report, gave no immediate explanation of the incident."

I will now go back to my official statement.

The Council is meeting today at the request of Palestine and of the Arab Group. It is the fourth time that the Council has held a public and official meeting to discuss the very dangerous situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, since the visit by Mr. Ariel Sharon , who was elected Prime Minister of Israel, to Al-Haram Al-Sharif last September and the ensuing bloodletting campaign by the Israeli military against the Palestinian people.

During that period, the Security Council adopted resolution 1322 (2000) on 7 October last. The international community and all of us fervently hoped that it would stop Israel, the occupying force, from continuing its campaign against our people and its excessive use of force, thatís it would restore the situation to what it was before 28 September and that it would bring a continuation of the peace process and negotiations between the two parties on the final settlement. Very regrettably, this has not happened.

Israel has escalated its campaign against our people, in complete violation of the provisions of the resolution. In view of this, there was an urgent need for the international community to provide protection to Palestinian civilians living under Israeli occupation. And the idea crystallized that the United Nations would send an observer force into the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

The countries of the Non-Aligned Movement in the Council prepared a draft resolution in this context. They used all the ideas put forth by other members to reach acceptable formulas in this respect. They submitted the draft resolution for a vote on 18 December. Regrettably, that draft resolution was not adopted because it could not command the necessary nine votes, in spite of statements by some abstaining members that they had no substantive differences with the draft. This was a very regrettable failure by the Security Council, from our point of view. It may have sent the wrong message to Israel, the occupying force. Since that day, 18 December, the occupying forces and have killed more than 80 Palestinian martyrs have wounded several thousand.

We believe that it would have been possible to save at least some of those people had the Council sent a different message. We say this so that we can make perfectly clear the context in which we are calling on the Council to move in the implementation of its duties under the Charter. Of course, this is in addition to the risks that the current situation in the Palestinian territories might pose for the peace process and for the Middle East as a whole.

During the same period, our Observer Mission sent 30 letters to the President of the Security Council and identical letters to the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly, in which we explained developments in the Israeli practices and the Israeli campaign. Our Mission gave several specific examples, as well as the names of Palestinian martyrs, including children under 18 years of age. We sent 30 letters in which we documented everything that was done by Israel. A file, which could be described as the "file of crimes", including measures that represent a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 and that clearly constitute war crimes in the terms of that Convention.

In these letters we detailed the Israeli actions under the military bloodletting campaign as follows: willful killing, even in circumstances where the safety of the occupation forces were not jeopardized; the wounding of many victims-shooting at the upper limbs and upper parts of the body; the targeting of people by sharpshooters and by other means, using types of ammunition unknown to us; the use of tanks, helicopters and other heavy weapons to shell the Palestinian Authority headquarters and other civilian targets; restrictions on the movement of individuals and goods in Palestinian territory and between the Palestinian territory and the outside world; collective punishment, such as an almost continual curfew on the population of Hebron and the destruction of agriculture, land and other economic installations; and the non-transfer of taxes collected for the Palestinian Authority.

This tragic situation was also described by other international organizations and human rights organizations, including the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, and the committee delegated by the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the situation. In spite of the clarity of this bleak picture, Israel has not stopped making claims of Palestinian violence. The cause of this situation is the Israeli occupation and the measures taken by the occupying forces, which continued even after the start of the peace process, such as the confiscation of territory and the building of settlements. Since 28 September, other measures have included the presence of the Israeli occupation army and the use of its huge military machinery; the presence of the illegal occupiers and settlers and their use of weapons against our people; the deliberate destruction of the Palestinian economy; and the transforming of the lives of the Palestinian people into a veritable hell.

Of course, there is a complete popular Palestinian rejection of all of this. Here we have to say that in the face of all these Israeli policies and measures, some limited elements have accepted the use of reciprocal violence. However, this cannot at all change the clear and definitive nature of the situation.

Let us take another look at the numbers: the huge number of Palestinian casualties and the limited Israeli casualties, for which we also express our regret . But the difference is huge and beyond comparison. In addition, there is no Israeli civilian presence within the occupied Palestinian territory; there are the members of the occupying army and settlers who reside there illegally in violation of international law. The question here is how can any party, at least in view of these facts, talk about Palestinian violence, except those who believe that the Israeli human casualties are different qualitatively from the Palestinian human casualties? But this would represent such a racist situation that we would not even be able to begin to deal with it.

Why does Israel, the occupation Power, do all of this? We are not really sure, after all this time and all this suffering. Perhaps the Israeli army or some of its elements are completely out of control Ė some refer in particular to the Chief of Staff, Mr. Mofaz, as one example of this. Perhaps the Israeli political leadership would like to break Palestinian political will and impose certain solutions on the Palestinian side. Perhaps it is even worse- perhaps the political leadership has concluded that it could not implement the agreements undertaken in the peace process, including the implementation of Security Council resolution 242 (1967). It may wish to exit the peace process and to throw the blame on the Palestinian side. Perhaps it is a combination of all these factors.

The important thing here, regardless of reasons and motives, is that we stop this tragedy as soon as possible. In this respect, we must refer to the responsibility of the international community, particularly that of the Security Council. Stopping the serious and dangerous deterioration is the necessary prelude to restoring the situation to the way it was before 28 September, saving the peace process and resuming the negotiations between the two sides.

This brings me to the situation of the peace process, both before and after the installation of the new Israeli cabinet. The Israeli side claims that the previous Government made unprecedented concessions, which the Palestinian side rejected. This tells only half the story and in a very evasive and deceptive way paints a different picture. The previous Israeli Government may have adopted positions that were unprecedented by any adopted by earlier Israeli Governments, but that is not the question. What is questionable are the Israeli positions of the past, particularly if they were unreasonable and contrary to international law and legitimacy. The standard that should be used is consonance of Security Council with the peace process, which includes implementation of Security Council 242 (1967) and the principle of land for peace. That is the yardstick.

Here, I say very clearly that the previous Government did not adopt positions consonant with the peace process or with the implementation of agreements, although these positions were progressive relative to those of previous Governments. That is what prevented us from reaching an agreement at the Camp David Summit.

Let me say here that the Palestinian side has accepted, with some reservations, the principles that were later declared by former United States President Clinton. This indicates our commitment to the bases of the peace process and that we are ready to negotiate on the basis of those principles. In the wake of the Summit, the two parties achieved reasonable achieved reasonable progress in the Taba talks. It would have been possible to achieve further progress had it not been for the known and constant wavering of Mr. Barak up to the very last moment.

As for the current Israeli Government, its positions completely contradict the bases of the peace process and the agreements concluded between the two parties. This Government, through the head of its cabinet in particular, claims that it cannot negotiate while the violence continues, as if the Palestinian side were responsible for the occupation and the practices of the Israeli army, the settlers and the campaign against our people. It acts as if we can isolate the situation on the ground from the political situation and the future of an entire people.

The Israeli Government also refuses to negotiate from the point that was reached by the two sides in Taba. In other words, it would want to take us back a very long way. Much more serious than that, however- and here we are talking about essence of that Governmentís position- is its reluctance to negotiate a final settlement in favor of new interim arrangements and solutions. This clearly indicates its desire to disassociate itself from the implementation of resolution 242 (1967). It would like to impose an eternal interim stage on the Palestinian people following the five interim years and their extension. This, of course, destroys the basis of the peace process and the agreements concluded between the two sides.

Yesterday, Mr. Shimon Peres, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, met here with the Security Council. That was good. Mr. Peres is a veteran politician known to be reasonably moderate. The problem is that he represents a Government that does not reflect that reasonable moderation. The question is whether Mr. Peres and his colleagues can influence the policies of that Government or whether the Government will use them as a cover for its extremist policies. So far, the omens are bad. Mr. Peres laid out the position of Mr. Sharon as we already know it with respect to the current situation, his refusal to accept a United Nations observer mission and even a future of the peace process, not to mention the other news and indications to be inferred from the escalating measures adopted by the Government in imposing a suffocating blockade against the Palestinian people.

These positions impose clear responsibilities on the international community, in particular the two sponsors of the peace process and, specifically, the United States, which was a party to the current agreements.

We all bear the responsibility to maintain and support the peace process by preserving its agreed bases and by insisting on a commitment to concluded agreements. On our part, we reaffirm our commitment to all of this, to our strategic choice of peace and to our readiness immediately to resume negotiations on a final settlement.

We call on the Israeli side immediately to halt the bloody military campaign against our people and to resume negotiations on a final settlement, taking into account the progress made to date in the negotiations. We call on the international community, and the Security Council in particular, to take the necessary steps to help the two sides to surmount the current situation, to put an end to the current tragedy and to restore control as a prerequisite to the resuscitation of the peace process, as I have mentioned before, through practical measures, including the establishment of an observer force.

We strongly hope that the Security Council will undertake its role this time and will contribute to improving the situation so as to achieve a lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East as a whole.