Second Resumption of 10th Emergency Special Session
Decisively Adopts Resolution ES-10/4
Steps Begin for Conference of States Parties
to the Fourth Geneva Convention on Enforcement
Experts Meeting Before End of February 1998
Full Scale Israeli Efforts to Undermine Outcome Fail Completely
On 13 November 1997, the 10th Emergency Special Session (ESS) of the General Assembly (Uniting for Peace formula) was resumed for the second time to consider the continuation of illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The request for the resumption was made by Yemen, in its capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group (for the month of October), and was supported by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement.
The resumption was a follow up of the results of the previous two meetings of the ESS and to specifically consider the report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the issue of convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, of 12 August 1949, on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. The session was also resumed in light of the complete non-compliance by Israel with the demands made by the Assembly regarding the cessation of illegal settlement activities and illegal actions in Jerusalem, in particular the construction of the settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim to the south of Occupied East Jerusalem.
The Assembly adopted resolution ES-10/4 by a vote of 139 in favor, 3 against and 13 abstentions. The usual three in opposition were Israel, United States and Micronesia. The result of the vote was even better than that of resolution ES-10/3, with eight additional positive votes and with Russia voting in favor as it did on the first resolution of the ESS and Germany joining the rest of the European Union and voting in favor.
Approximately thirty speakers, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Permanent Observer of Switzerland, participated in the debate prior to the adoption of the resolution. Practically all of the statements presented were firm in their support for the resumption of the session, the content of the resolution and the important role of the international community, represented by the United Nations, in consistently upholding international law, the principles of the U.N. Charter and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.
The Permanent Observer of Mission of Palestine prepared the text of the resolution, which contained three main issues. The first included reiteration of all the demands made in resolutions ES-10/2 and ES-10/3, reiteration of the recommendations made for collective measures and condemnation of Israeli non-compliance. The second consisted of reiteration of the recommendation to convene a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention and to take specific steps to convene the conference. The third included the need for the Assembly to express determination in case of continuous Israeli lack of compliance, to reconsider the situation and to take additional appropriate collective measures.
All three issues were incorporated in the final text of the adopted resolution, including the recommendation by the Assembly to the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as the depository of the Geneva Convention, to undertake the necessary steps, including the convening of a meeting of experts of States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, as soon as possible with a target date not later than the end of February 1998, in order to follow up on the recommendation to convene the conference. Both the meeting of experts and the conference to follow will represent the first time that such a meeting is convened since the Geneva Conventions entered into force.
Prior to the resumption of the ESS, the Israeli side had been engaged at various levels in a full campaign against the resumption of the session itself and against the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties. The Foreign Ministry, the Israeli Mission to the U.N. and some mouthpieces in the American media appeared to wage a hysteric campaign against this move, as well as against the two other planned actions at the U.N., namely: conferment upon Palestine of the same rights and privileges conferred upon Member States, with the exception of voting and candidature; and ensuring that Israeli participation in the work of the Assembly is in line with international law by asserting that the Israeli credentials at the U.N. do not cover the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan.
The Israeli side attempted to promote the ludicrous claim that the above-mentioned moves were in violation of the existing Palestinian-Israeli agreements; a claim that was firmly rejected by the international community, given the permanent responsibility of the U.N. to the question of Palestine and given the actual and daily violation of those agreements on the ground by the Israeli side.
The U.S., while expressing its opposition to resumption of the ESS and the resolution that was adopted, did not go as far as the Israelis but it unfortunately did maintain that U.N. action with regard to the ESS would harm the peace process. This was an incredible assertion, being made at a time when Israeli leaders have publicly indicated that they do not want to implement the agreements and have publicly called for putting those agreements aside and pursuing a different approach.
By all counts, the resumed 10th ESS was a tremendous success. This success establishes the session as a serious follow up process on the critical issue of illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly settlement activities. It puts us on the road to the convening of the conference on the enforcement of the Fourth Geneva Convention and has paved the way for further measures until Israeli compliance is achieved.