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13th plenary meeting
Wednesday, 20 September 2006, 3 p.m.
The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
The President : On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Oscar Berger Perdomo, President of the Republic of Guatemala, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Berger Perdomo (spoke in Spanish ): ...
We deplore the violence that has affected several countries in the Middle East, in particular Lebanon. We call for a solution that will allow Israel and a sovereign Palestinian State to live in peace within safe borders in the wider context of a region that finds its own destiny in harmony and progress.
The President : On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Robert Gabriel Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Mugabe: ...
The recent developments in the Middle East are a cause of great concern. We condemn the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Gaza and Lebanon and the detention of elected Palestinian members of Parliament and ministers. We firmly reject the collective punishment of the Palestinian and Lebanese people and the intrusion into their territories in violation of international law. We call upon the international community, particularly the Security Council and the Quartet, to make every effort to ensure that the brokered ceasefire continues to hold.
The Acting President (spoke in French): On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Kikwete: ...
Turning to the situation in the Middle East, I am pleased to see the ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon holding, and troop contributing countries responding positively in reinforcing the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.
The 34-day war in Lebanon took international attention away from the plight of the Palestinian people. The lack of progress towards a negotiated two-State solution and the decline in confidence in the peace process are worrying developments. We call upon the Quartet, and encourage bilateral and other multilateral initiatives, to revive the peace process laid down in the road map. A just, viable, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East can come only through negotiations, and no other way.
The Acting President (spoke in French ): On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of the Republic of Namibia, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Pohamba : ...
Namibia is also deeply concerned about the ongoing suffering of the people of Palestine. We wish to reaffirm our full and unequivocal support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and national independence. In this context, we appeal to the United Nations to assume its full responsibility by implementing all its resolutions and decisions on Palestine, with immediate effect and without precondition.
The Acting President (spoke in French ): I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia, and inviting him to address the Assembly.
Mr. Badawi (Malaysia): ...
A blatant example of the refusal to grant even a hearing was the early decision by many important countries not to recognize or do business with Hamas after that group was elected to power in Palestine through a properly conducted democratic election. External assistance was stopped. Funds were blocked. As a result, millions of Palestinians have suffered for months without pay or food. I hope that all sanctions against Palestine will soon be a matter of the past, when President Abbas succeeds in the task of putting together a coalition Government embracing all parties in Palestine. Surely, to dictate or show preferences as to who should be elected to power in other countries is irrational and a sign of double standards.
The oppression of Palestine, which is being allowed to fester; the invasion of Afghanistan; the conquest of Iraq; and, most recently, the unrestrained destruction of Lebanon have all been carried out in the name of the war against terrorism. The actions of Israel in the Middle East are being supported, either openly or tacitly, supposedly in defence of the Judeo-Christian tradition against the spread of radical militant Islam, thus legitimizing all those actions, no matter how brutal. Even Western commentators have conceded that Israel’s latest assault against Lebanon has helped make what may once have been extremist opinions part of the Muslim mainstream. The Muslim world certainly sees all this as complicity to humiliate Muslim countries and Muslim societies.
The Acting President (spoke in French ): I now give the floor to His Excellency Sheikh Mohammad Al-Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait.
Sheikh Mohammad Al-Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah (Kuwait) ( spoke in Arabic ): ...
The core of the Middle East crisis is the Palestinian question. That issue, regrettably, remains stalled. International endeavours and efforts to move it forward are met with Israel’s intransigence and refusal to implement international resolutions, as well as its disregard for international conventions and the agreements it has signed with the concerned parties within the framework of the peace process.
The continued Israeli occupation of Arab territories will always be a source of tension and instability in the Middle East. Israel’s repeated military incursions in the occupied territories, oppressive practices against the Palestinian people, and undermining of the Palestinian Authority will not benefit the Israeli Government, nor will its continued aggression and deliberate destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and national Palestinian institutions secure its so-called security. The solution lies in resolving the root causes of the problem and by restoring usurped rights so that all the peoples of the region can enjoy peace and stability.
In that context, we renew our full support for the struggle of the Palestinian people to recover its lawful political rights and establish its own independent State over its own land with Jerusalem as its capital. We demand that the Israeli Government withdraw from all the Arab lands it occupies, including the Syrian Golan Heights, in implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions and the principle of land for peace. In that respect, we reiterate the importance of the Arab peace initiative adopted in Beirut in 2002 as the only strategic option for achieving a permanent, just and comprehensive peace in the region.
The Acting President (spoke in French ): I now call on Her Excellency Ms. Tzipi Livni, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel.
Ms. Livni (Israel): ...
We, the people of Israel, have lived for many years on the frontlines of this conflict. Our nation has felt its fury; our soldiers have fought and died in its battles. An ancient people in the heart of the Middle East — great in history but small in number — we have been a constant target of those that oppose our very existence. We face this conflict on different fronts — as Jews against the dark forces of anti-Semitism, as Israelis against the enemies of our statehood, and as members of the free world against the merchants of global terror.
We have been guided in this conflict by two core values that are embodied in our declaration of independence and shape our national identity. The first is that Israel, with Jerusalem at its heart, is the national homeland of the Jewish people, their refuge from persecution, their first and last line of defence. The second is that Israel is a democracy and that the values of justice, peace and humanity — first expressed by the prophets of Israel — are an integral part of our nation’s sense of mission. We share the same values as the community of democratic States. We are ready and proud to be judged by them. They are our own.
But too often there is a gap between perception and reality. Too often, Israel is not seen for its unique creativity and spirit of enterprise, or for its contribution — well beyond its size — to the sciences and to literature, to human development and innovation. In many parts of the world, we are seen mainly through the lens of the Arab-Israeli conflict. And too often, that lens is distorted. To many, this conflict is portrayed as a clash of David and Goliath, with Israel perceived unjustly as Goliath, but this simplistic image ignores the fact that Israel remains a threatened democracy in a hostile region.
We have, of necessity, the capacity to defend ourselves, but we will always be constrained in its use by our values. And yet, we face an enemy willing to use all the means at its disposal to kill without restraint and without distinction. Every innocent casualty in this conflict is a tragedy. There is no difference between the tears of a grieving Israeli mother and a grieving Palestinian mother, but there is a critical moral difference between the terrorists who hunt down civilians and the soldiers who target terrorists while trying to avoid civilian casualties.
Last year, a great leader of Israel, Ariel Sharon, stood before this forum and said:
“The Palestinians will always be our neighbours. We respect them and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a State of their own.” ( A/60/PV.5, p.46)
That was not only the voice and vision of one man. It is the voice and vision of a nation. We do not believe that Israeli-Palestinian relations are of necessity a zero-sum game. Not every Israeli interest is at odds with Palestinian interests. There is, in fact, a common vision that binds together Israelis, moderate Palestinians and the international community. It serves the goals of both peoples and represents the basis of a genuine and lasting peace. At its heart is the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. Israel believes in this vision, and from this vision we have drawn our principles for peace.
The first is inherent in the very idea of two States. For the Jewish people, Israel was established to be our national homeland. It was the solution for Jewish refugees and the realization of Jewish rights. And this is the true calling of the future State of Palestine: a national homeland for the Palestinian people — the solution to Palestinian claims, the fulfilment of Palestinian dreams, the answer for Palestinian refugees, wherever they may be. If Palestinian leaders are unwilling to say this, the world should say it for them. Instead of giving false hope, it is time to end the exploitation of the refugee issue and to begin to resolve it on the basis of the vision of two States, two homelands.
That is the real and only meaning of the two-State vision. It requires each people to accept that their rights are realized through the establishment of their own homeland, not in the homeland of others.
The second principle for peace is drawn from the concept of living in peace and security. On the basis of this principle the international community has insisted that the State of Palestine that emerges next to Israel cannot be a terror State. A terrorist State is the last thing our troubled region needs. It is for that reason that the road map requires an end to terror. It is for that reason that the international community has demanded that any Palestinian Government fulfil three basic conditions: renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist and accept existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Those conditions are not an obstacle to peace or to the establishment of a responsible Palestinian State; they are a crucial ingredient for the realization of those goals.
An end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will also require agreement on a common boundary. There are those who believe that if only we could turn back the hands of time to 1967 all would be resolved. But, in 1967 there was no Palestinian State; there was no link between the West Bank and Gaza; and there was no commitment to lasting peace. A two-State solution requires the creation of a new reality which never existed in the past. For it to succeed, both sides will need to commit themselves to compromise and to believe in coexistence.
If only we could end the conflict today. But we have learned from bitter experience that to reach lasting peace it is not enough to have a vision. Peace must be built on the solid foundations of shared values, not the shifting sands of false promises. Without this, the political horizon will always be out of reach. We have seen negotiations doomed by mistrust and frustration. We have seen them lay the ground for greater violence, not greater understanding. We cannot afford to repeat that experience.
Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority is dominated today by a terrorist organization that teaches children to hate and seeks to transform the conflict from a resolvable political dispute into an endless religious confrontation. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the consequence and not the cause of this ideology of intolerance and hatred. We cannot reach peace by ignoring these realities. We cannot find the solutions for tomorrow without addressing the problems of today.
But we also cannot give up hope, and I refuse to do so. In a Middle East where being moderate is often the same as being weak, our challenge is to empower the peacemakers and disempower their opponents. The road map phases and the three international conditions are designed precisely for that purpose. But if the world hesitates in enforcing these standards, the extremists sense opportunity. And if it appeases, they sense victory. This is the moment for determination not half-measures and vague formulations. It is the moment to demand that those Palestinian leaders that believe in peace determine the future on these terms, not on the terms of terrorists.
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts on the road to peace. But stagnation is not in our interest, and it is not our policy.
It is in this spirit that Israel embarked on the painful process of disengagement, to create an opportunity for progress. But, sadly, we received terror in return. And it is in this spirit that I met with Chairman Abbas two days ago, and we agreed to re-energize the dialogue between us and create a permanent channel to pursue ways to advance together. The parties do not need another forum to act out their differences, and the only forum that will resolve them is the bilateral negotiating table. We have no illusions about the difficulties before us. We must face them not ignore them. But we can advance along the road to peace if we have the strength to defend its principles and the courage to confront its enemies.
The Acting President (spoke in French ): I now to give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Karel de Gucht, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium.
Mr. De Gucht (Belgium) (spoke in French ): ...
We all agree that lasting peace is predicated on a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Therefore we must work on all measures which could rapidly open a path towards the resumption of the dialogue, an end to the hostilities, security guarantees for both parties, the liberation of the abducted Israeli soldier, the release of the political leaders arrested during the crisis, humanitarian access, the re-establishment of basic services, a start to reconstruction and the transfer of the tax and customs income due to the Palestinian authorities.
We support the efforts of the President of the Palestinian Authority to form a government of national unity. Nevertheless, we will be attentive to the content of its platform and to its response to the three conditions set by the Quartet.
The Acting President: (spoke in French ): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Abubakr Al-Qirbi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Yemen.
Mr. Al-Qirbi (Yemen)(spoke in Arabic): ...
The recent developments in Lebanon and Palestine include the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure owing to aggression by the Israeli war machine — which has caused the deaths of countless innocent civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly — threats to murder or assassinate the leadership of Lebanon and Palestine, extrajudicial and other practices. These all run counter to the United Nations Charter, the rules of international law and international agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The massacres committed by the Israeli war machine against Lebanese and Palestinian civilians — particularly the Qana II massacre, whose victims were mostly children under the age of 12 and which was witnessed by the entire world — have evoked feelings of denunciation and condemnation by all people. This requires a firmer stance in the face of Israeli policies based on violence and State terrorism.
It is even more regrettable that the United Nations stands by and watches helplessly while the Lebanese people are subjected to devastation and destruction caused by Israeli aggression over 34 days. We would like to reiterate that the implementation of Security Council 1701 (2006) should not undermine the territorial integrity of Lebanon and should not lead to sectarian divisions among the people of that country. It should also mandate that Israel compensate Lebanon for all the destruction.
Israeli practices, such as assassinations of Palestinian individuals, detention of the President of the Palestinian Parliament, the Deputy Prime Minister or other Ministers, are a perfect example of Israel’s total disregard for international law, human rights, or agreements signed with the Palestinian Authority. This makes it incumbent upon the Security Council to firmly deal with such Israeli aggression, to demand the release of all Palestinian leaders under detention and in Israeli prisons, and to deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict neutrally and responsibly. It is only thus that the Middle East can enjoy stability and Israel can enjoy security.
In order to achieve a just and comprehensive peace, Arab countries have requested that the Security Council consider the Arab-Israeli conflict file responsibly and fairly in order to put an end to the conflict and to spare the region further wars and conflicts. If the Security Council fails to do that, then it will bear the responsibility for continuing the conflict in the region, with the attendant suffering and dire consequences for all parties concerned.
The meeting rose at 9.30 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.