Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS
The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.
Agenda item 40(continued )
(e) Assistance to the Palestinian people
Report of the Secretary-General (A/58/88 and A/58/88/Corr.1)
Mr. Al-Shamsi (United Arab Emirates) (spoke in Arabic): ...
The United Arab Emirates has been following closely the relentless efforts of the United Nations to provide humanitarian relief assistance to countries affected by armed conflicts and natural disasters. According to reports of the Secretary-General, the number of individuals in need of emergency and relief development assistance has increased over the past year, due to the outbreak of wars and conflicts in previously untroubled regions, such as in parts of Africa and in Iraq, as well as the continued violence in the occupied Palestinian territories and the severe decline in economic and humanitarian conditions in many developing countries, especially the African Horn, which has been affected by drought and the spread of HIV/AIDS. All of this requires a doubling of the United Nations humanitarian assistance to help those countries cope with disasters and tragic human conditions.
In this regard, we express our deep sorrow over the deaths by terrorism and violence of United Nations employees as they carried out their noble missions in such countries as Iraq and other areas affected by armed conflicts. We are also concerned about the obstacles and dangers that impede access to affected areas and people in need of help, as in the occupied Palestinian territories. In that respect, we support the measures taken by the United Nations to enhance awareness of the importance of safeguarding the security of its employees while they do their noble humanitarian work.
The United Arab Emirates is deeply concerned about the dire and deteriorating humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people, which are caused by the Israeli policy of killing, destroying and blockading cities, and obstructing humanitarian assistance to the people in the occupied Palestinian territories. We call on the international community to compel Israel immediately to stop the killing and aggression, to end the practice of closure and siege and to remove the separation wall, which will lead to a humanitarian and economic disaster in the West Bank. We also demand that Israel allow international humanitarian organizations to deliver the needed emergency assistance to the Palestinian people, in accordance with international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention. We also urge the donor countries and the influential financial institutions to increase the amount and quality of humanitarian assistance delivered to the Palestinian people in order to save them from a tragedy deplored by the human conscience and rejected by international humanitarian law.
Mr. Mekel (Israel): I would like to devote my statement to item 40 (e), entitled “Assistance to the Palestinian people”. Unfortunately, the issue addressed by this item was highly misrepresented during this debate.
Israel supports efforts made by the donor and international communities to alleviate the hardships of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is sensitive to the humanitarian and economic needs of the Palestinian people and views the addressing of those needs as a fundamental Israeli interest.
The provision of assistance to the Palestinian people is a primary component of Israeli policy, arising from our belief that stimulating the economic growth of the Palestinian economy and enhancing the welfare of the Palestinian population is integral to the future of our region.
Despite Israel’s mounting security concerns, we have endeavoured, to the greatest extent possible, to permit a steady flow of food, medicine, humanitarian assistance and other essential supplies. We have done our utmost to ensure that our legitimate security precautions affect Palestinian life and economic activity as little as possible.
In the debate on this agenda item, the Palestinian Observer referred extensively to the deteriorating economic and humanitarian condition of the Palestinians, blaming Israel’s security measures for that situation.
While the increasing hardship faced by the Palestinians is a sad truth, the presentation of Israel’s actions as the cause of this suffering is disingenuous — it is as if one were to begin a story from the middle.
In actuality, the Palestinian plight is due to two factors — the first being the corruption of the Palestinian leadership, and the second being the onslaught of Palestinian terrorism.
I would like first to focus on corruption. One month ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) disclosed that its own audit had uncovered the fact that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat had, between 1995 and 2000, diverted fully $900 million from the budget of the Palestinian Authority into a special bank account under his personal control. According to IMF representative Karim Nashashibi, the money — which came from tax revenues collected by Israel and turned over to Arafat — was used to invest in 69 domestic and foreign commercial companies, whose actual owners were not disclosed. That report of the IMF is hardly surprising. It merely confirms what has long been known about the corrupt nature of Arafat and of the Palestinian leadership.
For example, a European Union audit disclosed that $20 million in Egyptian funds meant to build low-income housing was instead used to build a luxury apartment complex that was given over to top Palestinian Authority officials and Arafat cronies. Last year, Jaweed al-Ghussein, the former Chairman of the Palestinian National Fund, revealed that Arafat had taken more than a half billion dollars in Palestinian public funds and transferred it to his own personal accounts.
Over time, Arafat has accumulated well over $1 billion in personal wealth. With greedy despots such as Yasser Arafat refusing to relinquish the helm, the international community must accept nothing less than total transparency when extending its assistance to the Palestinian people.
This money is not only plundered for personal gain, it is also diverted to finance terrorism — the second and more acute cause of Palestinian hardship.
Following the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel made substantial efforts to facilitate Palestinian-Israeli economic cooperation in the context of the peace process. As a result, there had been a marked expansion of Palestinian trade and employment in Israel, as well as other forms of economic cooperation, from 1994 until the outbreak of the present violence.
Israel, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, had taken a broad range of actions since 1994 in order to promote and improve the free movement of goods and labour from the Palestinian Authority areas into Israel. In addition, industrial parks have been set up in the Palestinian Authority involving substantial Israeli investment and economic incentives. Those measures have had a significant positive impact on the Palestinian economy.
However, the Palestinian leadership’s decision, following the Camp David Summit of July 2000, to employ violence as a political tool sabotaged Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation and left Israel with no choice but to implement essential security measures in order to defend itself from Palestinian terrorism. The acute security threat presented by Palestinian terrorism makes these measures unavoidable if Israel is to fulfil its duty as a sovereign State to safeguard the lives of its citizens.
It must be stressed that the purpose of the security precautions is not so-called collective punishment. Israel has no desire unduly to burden the Palestinian population, but, rather, to ensure the security of Israeli citizens facing daily threats to their very lives.
The Secretary-General’s report (A/58/88) recognizes the terrorist attacks by Palestinians against Israelis as a cause of the present crisis. The challenge Israel faces is to do its utmost to protect its citizens, while doing as much as it can to minimize the impact of tightened security on the Palestinian population, among whom terrorists hide and operate, in violation of international humanitarian law. This is not an easy job, and it involves excruciating dilemmas of balancing conflicting human rights, the most important of which is the right to life itself. Israel has taken calculated risks in order to try to close the gap between security needs on the one hand and humanitarian needs on the other.
Despite the difficult reality presented by the terrorists, who show no respect for life or for law, Israeli policy makes every effort to minimize harm to the civilian population and to differentiate it from the terrorists that callously use civilians as human shields. If calm prevails in any particular area, improvements are implemented there independently of other areas. In addition, Israel is working with the donor community and United Nations agencies on mechanisms to optimize and facilitate humanitarian activities, access and movement under the present security circumstances. That effort is noted in the Secretary- General’s report.
On 25 May 2003, with the adoption of the road map, the Government of Israel immediately began to implement measures meant to ease conditions for the Palestinian population, in anticipation of the Palestinian Authority’s fulfilment of its primary road map obligation — to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.
Those Israeli steps included the following: the transfer of Israeli security responsibility to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, and the withdrawal of its forces from that area; authorization for 40,000 Palestinian workers and merchants to enter Israel daily from the West Bank and Gaza in order to strengthen the Palestinian economy; the authorization of the daily employment of an additional 15,000 workers in the special industrial parks located between Israel and the Palestinian Authority areas, giving a further boost to the Palestinian economy; the opening of shipping terminals allowing daily access for about 2,000 trucks carrying merchandise, produce and raw materials into and out of the West Bank and Gaza from Israel, Jordan and Egypt; the authorization of tourist entry into Bethlehem and Jericho, important sources of income for the Palestinian economy; the elimination of roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the West Bank and Gaza in order to improve freedom of movement for the Palestinian population; and the extension of the Palestinian fishing zone out to 12 miles from the Gaza coast in order to strengthen that key economic sector.
Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority, for its part, did nothing to fulfil its road map obligation to fight the terrorist organizations, and terrorists used every Israeli attempt to ease conditions of Palestinian daily life as an opportunity to renew their attacks on Israeli citizens. They took advantage of the increased freedom of movement to smuggle weapons between villages and cities, they exploited this freedom of movement to smuggle fugitives, arms, mortar bombs, artillery rockets and even suicide belts between villages and cities and they exploited workers’ passage into Israel to infiltrate Israeli cities and carry out suicide attacks.
Although Israel experienced numerous fatal terrorist attacks and smaller scale suicide bombings, it continued its policy of easing conditions for Palestinians until 19 August when a suicide bomber, taking advantage of Israel’s economic gestures to the Palestinians, infiltrated Jerusalem and detonated himself on a city bus, killing 23 people, including 6 children and infants, and wounding over 130. Needless to say, Israel was left with no choice but to again implement the security measures that are necessary to protect its population.
This illustrates that the unfortunate condition of the local civilian population is due, more than any other factor, to the terrorists themselves and to the Palestinian Authority which, despite its road map obligations, allows terrorists free rein. This terrorism hurts Israelis and Palestinians alike; an end to this situation is dependent, first and foremost, upon an end to violence and terrorism.
Consequently, the Palestinian claim, made here today, that the economic and humanitarian plight of the Palestinians is due to Israeli security measures ignores the connection between cause and effect. If there were no terrorism, there would be no need for tightened security and none of the negative economic and humanitarian effects that it engenders.
If the concern of the Palestinian observer for the population in the territories is sincere, then he should be confronting the terrorist organizations operating within the areas of the Palestinian Authority and stopping their violence, rather than blaming Israel for having to protect itself.
At the end of the day, the welfare and safety of both Palestinian and Israeli peoples is inextricably tied to the fulfilment, once and for all, of the Palestinian obligation to fight and dismantle terrorism, in accordance with international law, United Nations resolutions and the road map. It is this that would obviate the need for Israeli security measures and pave the way for peaceful negotiations, based on mutual recognition and mutual compromise, which are the true guarantee of the welfare, prosperity and security of the peoples of the region.
The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.