Approaching the 52nd Session of the General Assembly

In light of the serious problems facing the Middle East peace process,

it is high time that Israeli and Palestinian participation in the work

of the Assembly reflect the realities of the situation.

We are approaching the 52nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly at a time when the Middle East peace process is faced with very serious problems. The Palestinian-Israeli track seems to have reached a dead end, the Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks remain non-functional and the general situation in the region has become increasingly tense and volatile.

The bombings, which recently took place in West Jerusalem, have contributed to such a negative situation. However, the overriding reasons for the deterioration of the situation stem from the policies and actions of the government of Mr. Netanyahu since it has taken office. Those actions have in reality sought to bury the Oslo agreement and the current Middle East peace process. In these circumstances, the main question is what can or should the General Assembly do in its upcoming session, especially in light of the repeated failure of the Security Council to achieve anything in this regard due to the consecutive vetoes by the United States.

To begin, there has been a clear Palestinian vision since the beginning of the Middle East peace process relating to the role of the United Nations. That vision was based on three principles. The first principle is that of the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the Question of Palestine until it is effectively solved in all its aspects. This responsibility did not end with the start of the peace process. The second principle involves the need for the international community to uphold the Charter of the United Nations, international law and relevant Security Council resolutions. These remain valid in all circumstances and the agreements reached between the Israeli and Palestinian sides complement them and cannot and should not diminish their validity. The third principle is that the international community should provide the necessary support for the Middle East peace process, should ensure compliance by the parties with the agreements reached and should push for the implementation of those agreements in good faith.

The application of the three principles under the current circumstances, and due to the fact that Israel has ignored and violated every single resolution adopted last session by the Assembly, would deem it necessary for the General Assembly to reaffirm the usual group of resolutions, particularly those on Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, Palestine refugees, the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and Israeli practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Of course, the Assembly should also maintain two specific committees, namely the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. In addition to the above, however, the Assembly must condemn all Israeli policies and actions which violate the agreements reached with the Palestinian side and which have caused an increase in economic, social and political suffering for the Palestinian people, and the Assembly must impress upon Israel to comply with its contractual obligations.

All of the above, however, might not be enough for the General Assembly to be able to make a difference and send a real and serious message. We believe that it is high time, in light of the serious problems facing the Middle East peace process, that Israeli and Palestinian participation in the work of the Assembly reflect the realities of the situation. This means that the Assembly should finally make sure that Israeli participation is congruous with international law and that it does not confuse the fact that Jerusalem is an occupied city or confuse the status of the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It also means that Palestinian participation should reflect recent important developments on the Palestinian scene, including the holding of the democratic national elections and the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority.

While we focus on the important tasks of the 52nd Session in relation to the Question of Palestine, we should not lose sight of the extreme necessity of serious follow-up of the Tenth Emergency Special Session, which was convened on Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements. A priority in this follow-up is the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure its respect. We believe that the conference should take place before the end of this year and that the final decision in this regard should be taken in light of the report of the Secretary-General, which is expected by 15th of October.

The follow-up also entails the need to ensure that other provisions of resolutions ES-10/2 and ES-10/3 are implemented, especially those related to the cessation of all forms of assistance and support for illegal Israeli activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, in particular settlement activities. This is a provision that should apply to both the governmental and private sectors.

Our goal for the 52nd Session of the General Assembly is therefore simple: to have a serious contribution by the General Assembly with regard to ensuring respect for international law and with regard to the implementation of the agreements reached between the two sides. We may save the Middle East peace process and, in any event, the United Nations must fulfill its responsibilities.