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        General Assembly
11 March 1999

Original: Spanish

General Assembly
Fifty-third session
Official Records

Third Committee
Summary record of the 26th meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Tuesday, 27 October 1998, at 3 p.m.

Chairman:Ms. Hachani ................................................. (Tunisia)

The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.

Agenda item 108: Elimination of racism and racial discrimination (continued) (A/53/18, A/53/255, A/53/256, A/53/269, A/53/305 and A/53/489)

Agenda item 109: Right of peoples to self-determination (continued) (A/53/131-S/1998/435, A/53/205-S/1998/711, A/53/280 and A/53/338)


7. Mr. Gold (Israel) said his country would be the last to object to the right of self-determination, but that right needed to be seen in a political and strategic context. Israel and the Palestinians needed a political context of cooperative peacemaking based on direct negotiations. That had been the key to all diplomatic successes in the Middle East, including the Wye River Memorandum, which had been structured in three specific ways to give new life to the peace process and the ultimate reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. First, that agreement had been built on the principle of reciprocity and the gradual promotion of trust by requiring each side to fulfil its respective obligations to the other before moving to the next stage. Second, the agreement had been based on strong security provisions, without which peace could not endure. It entailed a continuous and constant struggle against terrorism through effective Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, the continuous exchange of information, concepts and actions, and the elimination of an environment that supported terrorism, including incitement to violence in government-controlled media. Third, the agreement had established that the Palestinian National Council would once and for all nullify the clauses of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Charter that called for Israel’s destruction. No other action could more concretely confirm for the Palestinians that the time for armed struggle had passed and that the era of coexistence and cooperation had begun. On the basis of their experience with those interim issues, the political context for all discussion of the final peace settlement lay in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

8. With regard to the strategic context, he noted that since 1948 the Palestinians had received the collective backing of the Arab States, while Israel had stood alone, and that while Israel had achieved peace with Egypt and Jordan, the situation along its eastern front remained unstable. Iraq had used Jordan and Syria as platforms to deploy a third of its ground forces against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Any permanent between Israel and the Palestinians had to take account of Israel’s legitimate need to defend itself against possible mobilizations along its eastern front. Nevertheless, Israel remained convinced that it could find a formula that would satisfy the aspirations of the Palestinians while also providing Israel with defensible borders.

9. However, the commitment of both sides to keeping the process strictly in the context of direct negotiations was threatened by attempts on the part of the Palestinian Liberation Organization to advance resolutions in United Nations bodies on issues that were to be negotiated exclusively between Israel and the Palestinians. Draft resolutions relating to the Palestinians’ right of self-determination undermined the peace process and contradicted the principle of direct negotiations established at the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. Such draft resolutions ignored the necessity of cooperating and of discarding the sterile political language of the past, as well as of building a secure peace in a regional strategic context. For that reason, Israel would vote against any such initiatives and called on all Member States to do the same.


20. Mr. Al-Hariri (Syrian Arab Republic) ... Despite the great achievements of the United Nations in that area and the many resolutions on the question of Palestine, the Palestinian people had not yet been able to exercise its right to self-determination because of Israel’s policy of expansionism, its flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and its disregard for the will of the international community. For half a century, refugees had aspired to return to the homes from which the occupation forces had driven them by means of weapons, terrorism and massacres, contrary to all provisions of international law and human rights.

21. Israel continued its practice of building colonial settlements and was carrying out a systematic policy aimed at changing the demographic composition of the occupied Arab territories by bringing Jewish settlers into the areas from which Palestinians had been displaced. Under the occupation, Israel imposed its legislation on the Arabs and prevented them from exercising their rights under the International Bill of Human Rights, international law and the Geneva Conventions, as well as their right to self-determination in their own territory. Israel must renounce its policies of oppression, stop building settlements and occupying Arab territories, and recognize forthwith the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, without resorting to blackmail or to any of its feeble pretexts, which were intended solely to prolong the occupation and would expose the region and the world to grave risks.

26. Ms. Belhaj (Tunisia), ...


27. The role played by the United Nations in the promotion of people’s rights had earned it the admiration of the international community. The General Assembly should continue to address the question of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people until its legitimate goals had been realized, in particular, the establishment of an independent State in its own national territory with Jerusalem as its capital.


42. Mr. Al-Rajhi (Saudi Arabia) recalled that the principle of self-determination was a central tenet of the United Nations and was mentioned specifically in Chapters IX, XI and XII of the Charter. His delegation believed firmly in that right and rejected any violation of the Charter or resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council. With a view to achieving peace and security around the world, his delegation had supported the struggle of the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination in their own territory and to establish their own State, and firmly rejected the attitude of the Government of Israel, which was preventing the Palestinian people from exercising their legitimate rights. His delegation had supported the peace process from the beginning and had participated in the Madrid Conference and the multilateral negotiations. After a first phase of optimism during which peace in the Middle East had seemed possible on the basis of the principles of international legality, United Nations resolutions and application of the principle of land for peace, the process had witnessed repeated setbacks caused by the current Israeli Government. That Government was continuing its policy of building settlements, demolishing houses and attacking unarmed people, in addition to trying to convert Jerusalem into a Jewish city by building colonies and confiscating Arab land. He urged the international community, governmental and non-governmental organizations and especially the United States to spare no effort in helping the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination.


51. Mr. Al-Hariri (Syrian Arab Republic), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that it was not true that his country had committed acts of aggression against Israel. On the contrary, it had had to defend itself against Israeli aggression on many occasions. After citing the example of the occupation of the Golan by Israeli forces using the most modern weapons and supported by certain countries, he recalled that, the preceding year, the same representative of Israel had repeated the same lies in relation to the same agenda item, in an attempt to justify Israel’s aggression against Arab countries and its occupation of Arab territories in violation of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.

52. Ms. Barghouti (Observer for Palestine), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that, although her delegation, the preceding day, had clearly presented its position on the right to self-determination, particularly in the case of the Palestinian people, she wished to clarify some points in reply to Israel. The Wye River Memorandum was intended to facilitate the implementation of certain provisions of the existing agreements between the parties that had not yet been implemented. The Memorandum dealt with the issues of further redeployments, security, interim committees and economic issues, permanent status and unilateral actions. Palestine hoped that that important agreement would be implemented fully, but regretted that the Prime Minister of Israel had postponed the Israeli Cabinet’s vote on the issue, and hoped that that was not the pattern which Israel intended to follow in implementing the Memorandum, as in the case of previous agreements. The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination did not arise from any previous agreement, but was a natural right of a proud and ancient people that must be upheld by the international community. With respect to United Nations resolutions on Palestinian self-determination, the bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) could not and should not run counter to international law or to United Nations resolutions. The fact that the negotiations were without preconditions did not mean that Palestine should, at the outset, give up its position, its rights or the support of the international community. Palestine regretted that, despite the progress made, Israel had reiterated arguments that had not succeeded in the past and would not succeed at the current time.

The meeting rose at 5.45 p.m.

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