• Gaza International Airport Opens: After much delay on the part of the Israeli government, Gaza International Airport opened on 22 November with the arrival of seven airplanes on that day. The first to arrive was an Egypt Air plane carrying an official delegation, followed directly by the arrival of an Air Morocco airliner, a Royal Jordanian airliner, and then by two Palestinian Airlines planes. The sixth and seventh planes were, respectively, a Spanish airliner, and a plane carrying H.E. Miguel Moratinos, the EU Special Envoy to the Middle East. An official ceremony and a reception were held at the airport, reflecting the importance of the event for the Palestinian people. On 5 December, the first-ever flight of Palestinian Airlines from Gaza International Airport departed to Amman, inaugurating regular services from the airport, which will make it much easier for Palestinians to interact with the rest of the world in terms of travel and trade.
  • Conference In Support of Middle East Peace and Development: On 30 November, the U.S. State Department hosted a one-day international donors conference in Washington, D.C. to raise pledges of aid for the Palestinian people. Attended by President Clinton, President Arafat and Ministers from European, Arab and other countries, the conference brought an estimated $3 billion in new pledges of aid from 43 nations. The largest donations were pledged by the U.S., EU, Japan, Norway, and the Gulf States. The U.S. pledged an additional $400 million, bringing the total American pledge to $900 million over a period of 5 years, and making the U.S. the largest single donor. The assistance is to be used for infrastructure development, such as water projects and road building, and for human development projects.
  • Palestinian-American Bilateral Meetings: President Arafat paid a 3-day visit to Washington, D.C., where he attended the donors conference on 30 November 1998 and met with several members of the U.S. government. He met with President Clinton at the White House and with Congressional leaders Rep. Bob Livingston and Rep. Richard Gephardt on Capitol Hill. He also met with Secretary of State Albright in the first meeting of the US-Palestinian Commission in an effort to invigorate the Commission and improve bilateral relations between the American and Palestinian governments. The two sides discussed various issues, including trade development, assistance projects, and cultural and scientific exchanges.
  • International Day of Solidarity: On 30 November, the U.N. solemnly commemorated the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Since 1978, this day has been observed annually on 29 November, the date marking the adoption by the General Assembly of resolution 181 (II) on 29 November 1947, which partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, with Jerusalem as corpus separatum. The meeting was presided over by H.E. Amb. Ibra Ka of Senegal, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and attended by the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Amb. Didier Opertti (Uruguay); the President of the Security Council, H.E. Amb. A. Peter Burleigh (U.S.); the Deputy Secretary-General, H.E. Ms. Louise Frechette; and the Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, H.E. Amb. John de Saram (Sri Lanka), all of whom delivered statements. Concluding remarks were made by H.E. Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, Foreign Minister of the State of Palestine and Head of the Political Department of the PLO.

President Arafat sent a message on the occasion, which was read by the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations (Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa). In his message, Arafat stressed that the Palestinian people were "in greater need than ever of the continuing and strengthening of such worldwide solidarity on the part of our brethren and friends in order to assist the Palestinian people to make reality of the Declaration of Independence and to implement it on the blessed soil of Palestine during the coming year, after the end of the five-year interim period specified in the Declaration of Principles that was signed in Washington on 13 September 1993." He also expressed his hope that "the independent state of Palestine on Palestinian soil will be declared and made a tangible reality in an atmosphere of understanding, cooperation, trust and mutual respect for all the agreements concluded with the Israeli side."

Statements were also made by the representatives of the Chairman of NAM (South Africa), the Chairman of the OIC (Qatar), and the Secretary-General of the Arab League. Messages of support, in observance of the occasion, were also received from 33 Heads of State or Governments and 8 Foreign Ministers, as well as from the EU, UNESCO, and several NGOs and U.N. organs.

On 30 November as well, an annual Palestinian exhibit in connection with this day was inaugurated at the U.N. at the Visitors Lobby. This year’s exhibit, on display for one week, was entitled Bethlehem 2000 and consisted of a collection of photographs of Bethlehem and various traditional handicrafts from the Bethlehem area. The exhibit was prepared in cooperation with UNESCO and Dar Al-Fan in Palestine.

Happy Holidays, Blessed Ramadan, and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!

From the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., Members of the Observer Mission of Palestine and their families.