Right of Reply 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 am in fact not really certain of the nature of the statement we have just heard. Is it an attempt to exercise the right of reply or is it the second statement by Israel during the same meeting of the Security Council? The more important issue perhaps regards its content, which, to say the least, is a reflection of the usual Israeli arrogance and intransigence. In fact, we had thought that the Israeli Ambassador would have made a different speech, but it seems that we are all supposed to be in agreement with to the official statement he made earlier.

I would like to refer once again to the meeting that took place between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and the Security Council and to the results of that meeting. Variuos press agencies have today quoted Mr. Peres as follows:

"Negotiations with the Palestinians will not be resumed as long as the Palestinains continue calling on the United Nations to station observers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said on Monday."

I do not really know whether that constitutes a threat to us or a threat to the Security Council. Why are the Israelis rejecting negotiations? One of the parties is merely resorting to the Council, in accordance with international law and without having violated any of the agreements signed between the two parties, for the purpose of restoring the situation to what it was so as to bring about peace. Israeli logic here is quite different from logic as we know it.

I would like to refer to the content of the statement made by the Israeli repersentaive and to the expressions he used, specifically his reference to the "terrorist" aspect of the intifada and so on.

This of course repersents a serious and dangerous return to the lexicon that prevailed before the advent of the peace process. We, on the other hand, are speaking in an objective manner about the serious violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention being committed by the occupying Power, as well as about the war crimes that have been perpetrated by that Power. If the Israeli side insists, then we too are prepared to use the same expressions that were in use before the peace process began.

Another point I wish to make has to do with the fact that the Israeli Ambassador indicated thatn 97% of the Palestinian people and 42% of Palestinian territory are under Palestinian control. The figures lies, of course, given the fact that Occupied Jerusalem itself has over 20o,000 Palestinians. We also know that over half of the land under the control of the Palestinian Authority remains under security control of Israel. What is important to note here is that the Israelis believe that it is acceptable for Palestinians to live in isolated cantons, and consider that to even be a good thing. This in fact is a reflection of racist thinking that is no different from racial discrimination under apartheid and the establishment of bantustans in South Africa.

Perhaps it would have been possible to make such claims about the Palestinian people actually being under the control of the Palestinian Authority in many forums prior to the beginning of the actions that started six months ago Ė that is, before the imposition of siege, blockades, strangulation and all the other types of suffering we have been experiencing. It is extremely ludicrous and unacceptable to talk about such issues as Israel no longer being an occupying Power due to the supposed fact that the Palestinian people are under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

We would have liked to hear something more serious and quite different. In fact, the main issue is the occupation. The essence of the tragedy is that the Israeli side does not want to understand that, and that is the reason we find ourselves in this position. I hope this situation will not deteriorate because of such persistence and intransigence.

The Israeli Ambassador did not like the reference made by another colleague to the importance of not distinguishing between Israeli blood and Palestinian blood. What is the problem here? What is the problem concerning not distinguishing between the blood of both sides? The problem is that positions taken by Israel and Israeli officials affirm our suspicions that they believe that Israeli blood is more precious and more valuable than Palestinian blood. How, when there are 10 times as many Palestinians victims, can we talk about Palestinians as the real cause of the present tragedy? What is worse is that the Israeli Ambassador made many accusations against Palestinians in his first statement. These accusations can only mean that the Palestinians are very strange and abnormal creatures. They are not human beings because they are happy when they are repressed; they seek repression, and they are very happy when their children are killed. What do these accusations mean? How can we accuse an entire unarmed people of practicing force and violence against the most powerful military force in the Middle East? What does this mean?

The Israeli Ambassador has also talked about something another colleague had mentioned concerning the essence of the Israeli position rejecting the Palestinian position on the return of refugees. This is not the situation in Palestine. Of course, we say that it is important to preserve the rights of Palestine refugees. We emphasize that Israel should accept in principle its obligations and responsibilities vis-ŗ-vis the Palestine refugees and their right to return and that compensation should be given to those refugees who do not wish to return, in accordance with international law.

But this is only half of the truth. We have also said that we are prepared to negotiate with the Israeli side on certain mechanisms that would take into consideration all Israeli fears, including Israelís security requirements. Even if the Israeli side does not accept this, it should not depict our position as a request for Israel to commit suicide. Therefore, there is a conceptual problem here.

The Ambassador said that President Arafat refused to sign an agreement with Mr. Barak despite the many concessions made by Mr. Barak. This is not true. We talked about this in our earlier statement and we will not repeat what we have already said. But what is important now is what Mr. Sharon, the present Prime Minister, is actually saying about the peace process.

Will Israel accept the resumption of negotiations, or will it try to avoid this, giving various pretexts and excuses, pretexts that it has created and for which it is responsible? Will Israel accept the resumption of negotiations at the point at which they were suspended? Will Israel take into account the progress that has been made? Even more importantly, will Israel accept responsibility for the agreements already concluded and thus negotiate the final status?

Or would Israel like to destroy all this and impose a new transitional process on Palestinian people? This is what the Israeli Prime Minister is actually saying in public: he would like to put aside all agreements concluded until now. The Israeli Ambassador then comes here to lecture us about Israelís peaceful position.

Until now, we have not understood the reason for Israelís rejection of the establishment of an observer force under the auspices of the United Nations. What is the real reason for that? The Israelis used to talk about the internationalization of the problem and the fact that Israel rejects the internationalization of the problem. Perhaps they have concluded that this is not really acceptable. They have talked about the fact that video cameras and the mass media are more dangerous than acts of violence. They have not given us a reason for this. The accusations they are making against the Palestinians are false, and the mass media will come to reveal the acts of violence carried out by Israel against the Palestinians.

He posed the question, if the Palestinian side "renounces" violent acts when military observers are invited, is it really rejecting violence? Our answer is that we believe that the presence of the observers would contribute positively to controlling all forms and acts of violence. It would also contribute to restoring the situation to what it was before 28 September, until we reach an agreement on the final status.

What is the problem here? The problem here is that the international community has hesitated before Israeli intransigence-the reason being that the most powerful member of the Security Council continues to support Israel. Israel is not forced to deal seriously with the Security Council because of the Councilís continuous hesitation before Israel. Who could do this? How can a Minister for Foreign Affairs, after a Security Council meeting, threaten the Palestinian side by saying, "If you go to the Security Council, we will not resume negotiations." Why is this?

We extend our thanks, of course, to all the countries that have participated in the discussion during these two days. In fact, the majority of these countries have spoken very supportively. Once again, we thank them all for their positions.

There are a few speakers who have used certain logic with which we have a problem. Such logic contributes to the present Israeli position. Our problem is in establishing a dialogue with those few States, thus reaching a so-called artificial balance. We have a legal, political and moral problem vis-a-vis this so-called artificial balance. In fact, we do not accept any comparison between the power of the occupation Force and the power of the people subjugated by this occupation. There is no comparison. In truth, we are very worried about the hesitation of those few countries in the face of the escalation of Israeli repression against the Palestinian people. The problem is that those few countries believe that whenever Israel eases the blockage and siege that have been imposed, that this is a positive thing. Why? How can we deem positive the easing of the blockade, instead of as an invitation to Israel to intensify the blockade imposed on the Palestinians whenever it faces a problem. That is why they are behaving this way. Whenever Israel faces any form of criticism it escalates its aggressive measures; then it returns to the previous situation; then we, the representatives of the international community, applaud Israel for such behavior. Is this logical or reasonable?

We are calling upon you, Mr. President, and the Council to commit yourselves to upholding the minimum of international law, international humanitarian law and the provisions of the Security Council resolutions. This is all we are asking for Ėnothing more. Do not support any position that does not serve the peace process. Do not support any position that calls upon you to go beyond international law. It is our right to call upon the Security Council to take up its responsibilities in accordance with the provisions of international law and of its own resolutions, and even in accordance with the peace agreements signed between the Palestinians and the Israelis, as well as the Charter, and to take the necessary measures to provide minimum protection for the Palestinian people and to halt this tragedy that is occurring in Palestine. Mr. President, this is what we want you to do.

We will try to approach this with an open mind and an open heart, and we hope that it will come about in order to send the correct message to the two parties so that the Security Council can finally contribute to changing this rapidly deteriorating situation.