10th Emergency Special Session on Jerusalem

and Illegal Israeli Settlements Resumes

U.N. Secretary-General Presents Strong and Substantial Report

Resolution ES-10/3, Among the Strongest Ever, Is Decisively Adopted

Israel Isolated as International Community Exerts Additional Pressure

Persistent Steps at U.N. Aim at Stopping Illegal Israeli Actions 

On 15 July 1997, the Tenth Emergency Special Session (ESS) of the General Assembly on illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory was resumed. A resolution (ES-10/3), among the strongest ever, was adopted by an overwhelming majority, receiving 131 votes in favor, 3 against and 14 abstentions, highlighting the extent of Israel's isolation and the degree of pressure being exerted by the international community.

As was the case with resolution ES-10/2 of 25 April 1997, the three negative votes were cast by Israel, U.S. and Micronesia. Germany once again broke from the European Union and abstained, and the Russian Federation, which had cast a vote in favor during the previous session, also abstained. On the other hand, Norway, Canada and Uruguay, which abstained the first time, voted in favor of the resolution. The remaining twelve abstentions were Andorra, Australia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Marshall Islands, Nicaragua, Romania, Rwanda, Slovakia and Uzbekistan.

The resumed Tenth ESS was convened following the presentation of a report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in accordance with resolution ES-10/2. The Secretary-General had intended to send a special envoy to the area in preparation of the report. However, Israel tried to impose restrictions on the proposed mission, which were rejected by the Secretary-General, who consequently cancelled the mission and instead used reliable resources available to him. The report provided additional information on the illegal policies and practices of the Israeli government, especially with regard to Jerusalem and illegal settlement activities, as well as the many, serious ramifications of these measures.

The report indicated that Israel, in rejection of the provisions of resolution ES-10/2, has not ceased its construction of a new settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim and emphasized the dangers of that settlement for political, demographic and economic reasons, as well as for its negative effects on the peace process, and stressed the fact that Israel continues its overall illegal settlement campaign, confiscating land, expanding existing settlements and building bypass roads, contrary to Security Council resolutions. Further, as detailed in the report, the Israeli government continues to implement illegal measures in Jerusalem aimed at altering the city's character, legal status and demographic composition, including attempts to deal with Palestinian Jerusalemites as "resident immigrants", subject to discriminatory immigration controls, a practice now threatening some 60-80,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites.

In his report, the Secretary-General also stated that the principle of territorial integrity, which was agreed upon in the Declaration of Principles, has been frustrated by the closure and severe Israeli restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, and noted that the government of Israel has not accepted the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to all the territories occupied since 1967, in contrast to all other High Contracting Parties, who retain consensus on that applicability. The remainder of the report dealt with a range of other significant issues and Israeli violations of international law.

The Israeli response to the report of the Secretary-General was indignant, and the Israeli Mission to the United Nations circulated a memorandum attacking the report and labeling it as hostile to Israel. The Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, on the other hand, issued a press release on 7 July 1997, welcoming the report and its serious and comprehensive review of the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The presentation of the report, as well as Israel's continuing refusal to comply with the demands of resolution ES-10/2, led to the joint Palestinian and Arab decision to resume the Tenth ESS to review the prevailing situation, follow-up the implementation of the resolution and consider the recommendation of further collective measures to guarantee the compliance of the government of Israel with the provisions of international law, the Charter of the United Nations, relevant United Nations resolutions and the agreements reached between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Israeli reaction to the decision to resume the session and to the Palestinian/Arab draft resolution being circulated was one of hysteria. At a later stage, the U.S. also waged a strong campaign against the draft resolution presented before the General Assembly for adoption.

The Palestinian side emphasized the importance of the draft resolution as a means of continuity of previous actions taken by the General Assembly and as a means of consistency and follow-up of such a serious issue on the agenda of the United Nations. It was clearly indicated that the resolution should be a step forward in confronting Israeli actions and the escalation of measures on the ground, and that the resolution should pave the way for further action by Member States of the United Nations in the future, should Israel persist in its pursuit of illegal actions and its intransigent stance towards the will of the international community.

The practical elements of the draft resolution focused on the prevention of support for any settlement activities, recommending to Member States that they actively discourage activities which directly contribute to any construction or development of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, as these activities contravene international law. This means that Member States should take measures in this respect with regard to the private sector, including individuals and companies, complementing operative paragraph 7 of resolution ES-10/2, which calls for the cessation of all forms of assistance and support for illegal Israeli activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, in particular settlement activities. The new resolution also demands that Israel make available to Member States the necessary information about goods produced or manufactured in the illegal settlements, which would make it possible for Member States not to import those goods. Another element included was the principle linking the rights of membership in the United Nations with the fulfillment of the obligations of such membership, as well as recommending the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to consider measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure its respect in accordance with common article 1 of the Conventions. The resolution affirms also the responsibilities, including personal, arising from persistent violations and grave breaches of the Convention.

The resumption of the Tenth ESS and the adoption of resolution ES-10/3 represent the fifth step in a series of actions regarding the construction of a new illegal settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim to the south of Occupied East Jerusalem since March 1997. These steps began with a meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations in response to the Israeli decision to begin the construction. A draft resolution was voted upon and was supported by 14 members, with the U.S. casting a veto. That was followed by a resumption of the 51st Session of the General Assembly, which overwhelmingly adopted resolution 51/223, of 13 March 1997, followed by another meeting of the Security Council, during which the U.S. once again exercised its veto power. In light of the failure of the Security Council to exercise its responsibilities, the Tenth ESS, the first in fifteen years, was convened and resulted in the adoption of resolution ES-10/2. As a whole, these steps reflect the determination of the Palestinian side and a persistent pattern of work, which must continue until Israel ceases its illegal actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.