General Assembly Reiterates Positions of Principle on Palestinian Issues

19 Resolutions Overwhelmingly Adopted

International Solidarity with the Palestinian People Intensifies

Full Participation of Palestine in the Work of the United Nations to be

Voted Upon Early 1998 

The 52nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly witnessed an increase in positive votes on most resolutions related to the Question of Palestine and the Situation in the Middle East, which had already been receiving overwhelming support in the past. Many of the resolutions received an unprecedented number of votes in favor and there was also improvement in the presence of delegations during the voting. Of the twenty-two resolutions adopted, nineteen specifically concerned Palestinian issues.

The content of the resolutions was based on the resolutions adopted during the 51st Session, with changes made to reflect the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the Middle East peace process due to Israel’s illegal practices and policies. Fundamental principles and positions contained in previous resolutions were reaffirmed by the Assembly, including the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination; the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem; the illegality of all Israeli actions aimed at changing the character and status of Jerusalem; the illegality of Israeli settlements; the right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty over their natural resources; the right of the Palestine refugees to their properties and their revenues; the need to maintain the important and necessary work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); the illegality of Israeli practices and policies violating the human rights of the Palestinian people; and the principles for the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.

During the 52nd Session, the resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination received an unprecedented 160 votes in favor, with only 2 negative votes (Israel, U.S.) and 6 abstentions. At the 51st Session, 12 countries had abstained on this resolution; 6 of those countries changed their votes in support this year. A further positive development in this regard was the fact that Germany changed its stance and joined the European Union (EU) in cosponsoring the resolution. The important resolution on Jerusalem was overwhelming adopted by the General Assembly, with Israel as the only country to vote against it. The resolution on Assistance to the Palestinian People, was also once again adopted by consensus.

A new development during the 52nd Session was the presentation to the Assembly of a draft resolution entitled "Full participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations". The draft sought to confer upon Palestine, in its capacity as observer, similar rights and privileges as those conferred upon Member States, with the exception of voting and candidature, in the sessions and work of the General Assembly and the international conferences convened under the auspices of the Assembly or other organs of the United Nations as well as in the United Nations conferences. Such rights and privileges would facilitate the work of Palestine at the United Nations by granting it, inter alia, the right to participate in the general debate at the opening of each session of the General Assembly; the right to sponsor proposals, including draft resolutions and decisions; the right of reply and the right to raise points of order; and a new seating arrangement in the General Assembly as well as other protocol arrangements.

The U.S. waged a very strong campaign at the U.N. and capitals around the world against this draft resolution. Of course, Israel also made the issue a priority. No agreement was reached with the EU and the EU presented an "amendment" to the draft, which was essentially a substitute draft basically putting the initiative in the hands of the Secretary-General and delaying action for one year. The Arab Group opposed the amendment and insisted that any amendments proposed should be made to the original text of the draft.

On 9 December, the draft resolution was introduced by Indonesia in the General Assembly for a vote. The EU then introduced their amendment for a vote. This prompted Yemen, in accordance with previous agreement among the cosponsors, to request a procedural vote by the General Assembly as to whether or not the amendment of the EU constituted an amendment or was in fact a substitute draft resolution. This procedural proposal was not adopted (57 in favor, 65 opposed, 32 abstained). Egypt, also with the prior agreement of the Arab Group and the cosponsors of the draft resolution, then declared that the cosponsors did not want to proceed with the vote in order to seek further consultations on the matter. The focus of these consultations, which began immediately, has been the achievement of broader agreement on the text and determining the timing of a later vote on the draft, which the Palestinian delegation stated would take place in January 1998.

Also on 9 December, a vote took place on four other resolutions under the Question of Palestine, which received overwhelming support, and two resolutions were adopted under the Situation in the Middle East, as opposed to the three resolutions that were adopted at the last session. The draft resolution on the Middle East peace process was not adopted due to the withdrawal of the draft by Norway, which along with the U.S. and Russian Federation cosponsored the draft. This resolution was often referred to as the "American" or "positive" resolution and it constituted the focal point of American policy regarding the Middle East at the U.N. Regrettably, the draft had been submitted by the cosponsors without taking into consideration predominant Arab views in this regard, which made it necessary for the Arab Group to formally introduce four amendments, which reflected the prevailing situation in the Middle East and included an affirmation of the principle of land for peace. No agreement was reached on the matter and the decision was made by the cosponsors to withdraw the draft.

Another issue of concern for Palestine during the 52nd Session was the report by the Credentials Committee of the U.N. On behalf of the Arab Group, the Chairman for the month of December (United Arab Emirates) made a statement on the item, indicating the position of the Arab Group that the participation of Israel in the work of the General Assembly should be based upon respect for the principles and resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly and provisions of international law and should not be in violation of any of those resolutions and provisions, and further that it should be understood that the credentials presented by the delegation of Israel have no relevance whatsoever to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The statement also clarified the fact that the decision was made by the Arab Group not push for any specific measures with regard to Israel’s credentials in order to benefit from the efforts being exerted to restore the Middle East peace process to its proper course.

For Palestine, the outcome of the work of the General Assembly in its 52nd Session is important as it reiterates a clear message to the Israeli government about the unwavering positions of the international community with regard to the Question of Palestine and the Situation in the Middle East in all their aspects. Such a reaffirmation by the General Assembly is an integral part of the permanent responsibility of the U.N. towards the Question of Palestine and in upholding international law and Security Council resolutions as well in this regard.

On the following pages are the texts of some of the resolutions adopted by the 52nd Session of the General Assembly.