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        General Assembly
12 September 1997


Official Records

27th meeting
held on
Wednesday, 6 November 1996
at 10 a.m.
New York

Chairman: Mr. HAMBURGER (Netherlands)




The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.


AGENDA ITEM 12: REPORT OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL (A/51/3 (part I), (part II), (part III), A/51/135-E/1996/51, A/51/379 and A/C.2/51/L.2)


34. Ms. AL-BASSAM (Chief, Regional Commissions New York Office), introducing the report on permanent sovereignty over national resources in the occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories (A/51/135-E/1996/51), said that the General Assembly, in resolution 50/129, had underscored the negative economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian people and territory. The report, submitted pursuant to that resolution, showed that the illegal occupation, which violated the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, took various forms: expropriations and confiscation and take-over of Palestinian lands. Under the pretext of ensuring their security or creating nature preserves, the Israeli settlements were becoming further entrenched, in particular by the appropriation of water resources and the building of roads. That new attitude must be judged in the light of the peace accords. The Economic and Social Council, in resolution 1996/40, had taken note of the report and requested the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its fifty-first session a report on the progress made.


53. Mr. JILANI (Observer for Palestine) said that the violation by Israel of the rights of the Palestinian people, including their sovereignty over their natural resources, had been a cause of grave economic and social injustice in the occupied territories since 1967. In violation of Palestinian development efforts and of the peace process in general, Israel prevented the Palestinian people from exploiting their own land and water resources and continued to expropriate land, expand colonial settlements and divert water for its own use, at the expense of the Palestinian people, who were experiencing a serious water shortage. Moreover, Israel imposed unjustified restrictions and controls on Palestinian exports.

54. Such policies and measures had grave economic and social consequences for the Palestinian people and also illustrated the extent of Israeli violations of international law and humanitarian law, against the will of the international community.

55. The agreements signed by the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization had not produced the expected benefits. The Palestinian side, which remained committed to the peace process, believed that the agreements must be implemented in good faith and on time. The Palestinian people had the right to sovereignty over their natural resources (land, water and geological resources). They had the right to restitution and full compensation for damages.

56. The General Assembly must monitor Israeli policy in that regard and bring it in line with international law by protecting the Palestinian economy from the negative effects of arbitrary and unlawful practices. The resolution to be submitted to the Second Committee on sovereignty over natural resources would include a provision requesting the Secretary-General to submit a report on the matter, which, he hoped, would lead to more in-depth deliberations at the next session.

57. Mr. MANOR (Israel) said that his country had a strong commitment to the peace process and hoped to receive the support of the international community. Such support included advocacy of the principle of direct negotiations, which formed the basis of the peace process which had begun in Madrid, the creation of an atmosphere conducive to negotiations and the adoption of resolutions reflecting the progress achieved. Considerable progress had been made: the agreements signed had created a new reality in the region, in which the majority of Palestinians henceforth lived under the administration of the Palestinian Authority and no longer of Israel.

58. The issue before the Committee, namely, Israeli settlements, was dealt with in the agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization and should be resolved in direct negotiations along with the question of permanent status; therefore, it would be premature and contrary to the spirit and letter of the agreements to bring the issue up elsewhere.

59. The Israeli authorities had some grievances against the Palestinian side but had chosen to air them in the various bodies established by the agreements between Israel and the PLO. The current Israeli Government was committed to advancing the peace process and hoped that the permanent status negotiations would make it possible to resolve the settlements issue.

60. Mr. ABDELLATIF (Egypt), referring to the report annexed to the note by the Secretary-General (A/51/135-E/1996/51), said that the situation in the Syrian Golan was not discussed in detail until paragraph 49 and that the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli settlements were not clearly explained.

61. In many resolutions, the United Nations had condemned the establishment of Israeli settlements and had reaffirmed that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War was applicable to occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, and to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967. In its resolution 446 (1979), for example, the Security Council stated that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in those territories had no legal validity and constituted a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The Egyptian delegation also wished to recall the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993, which prohibited Israel from taking any action to influence the outcome of the negotiations dealing, inter alia, with settlements.

62. Israel clearly was deliberately ignoring those resolutions, as well as the right of the Syrian and Palestinian people to control their own resources, as demonstrated by the financial and tax incentives offered by the Israeli authorities to encourage the settlement of the occupied Arab territories. Moreover, after the signing of the agreements on interim self-government arrangements, the Israeli Government had confiscated additional Arab lands in order to build roads and security blockades, on the pretext of enhancing the security of the settlers.

63. The international community had welcomed the agreements concluded between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization; it saw their signing as an important step towards the establishment of peace in the Middle East. The implementation of the Agreements, however, had been hampered by the establishment of settlements. The Agreement signed in September 1995 provided for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Hebron at the end of August 1996. Israel still had not executed that withdrawal - the excuse being the presence of 400 settlers in Hebron - thus preventing the 120,000 Palestinians living there and in the surrounding area from regaining their freedom. Moreover, Israel was attempting to modify the agreement, which would establish a precedent and could influence the implementation of other agreements.

64. It was clear that Israel intended to pursue its settlement policy, even though the parties had decided five years earlier in Madrid to establish a peace founded on the principle of land for peace. Nonetheless, the Israeli Government was currently refusing to implement the agreements concluded with the Palestinians. Israel must respect those agreements for that was the only way to preserve the economic and political stability of the region.

65. Mr. RAMOUL (Algeria) said that he wished to reiterate the statement made by his delegation in its capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group at the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council.

66. The international community had witnessed the bloody events which had occurred in the occupied Palestinian territory when Israel opened a tunnel under the Al-Aqsa Mosque in violation of the sacredness of the site, of the Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and of the agreements reached between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

67. The Israeli practice of establishing settlements and modifying the architectural parameters of Al-Quds were clearly in violation of international law and had been condemned on several occasions by the Security Council, in its resolutions 446 (1979) and 465 (1980) in particular.

68. The events of September attested to the seriousness of the situation in the occupied Arab territories. Immediate action was needed in order to end the suffering of the Palestinian population who were being subjected, by the Israeli authorities, to collective punishment, confiscation of land and expansion of settlements.

69. Mr. AZAIEZ (Tunisia) said that the report of the Secretary-General (A/51/135-E/1996/51) proved that Israel was pursuing its expansionist policy without any regard for the various agreements concluded or for international public opinion. The number of settlements was increasing steadily; the Israeli authorities had even sought to surround Jerusalem so as to safeguard its Jewish character. Thus, the current negotiations seemed to be pointless. Israeli settlements had been the subject of many reports and General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. In its resolution 446 of 22 March 1979, the Security Council had determined that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 had no legal validity and constituted a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and had reaffirmed that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 applied to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem. In its resolution 50/129, the General Assembly had reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan to their natural and all other economic resources and had regarded any infringement thereupon as illegal.

70. Israel had nevertheless continued to confiscate hundreds of hectares of Arab land in the West Bank, which was the sole resource of thousands of Palestinian families to expand the number of settlements and to divert water resources, all of which had negative effects on the economic and social situation of the Palestinians.

71. The events described in the report of the Secretary-General were very serious; they proved how intransigent the Israeli authorities were being; the latter were paying no attention to United Nations resolutions, had gone back on the very foundation of the negotiations and were refusing to implement the Oslo and Madrid Agreements. At the Cairo Summit in June 1996, the Arab countries had reaffirmed their attachment to the principle of a definitive solution to the problem. Peace could not be established without respect for international legitimacy, the return of land to its rightful owners and peaceful coexistence among the various parties, which would be beneficial to the entire region and the international community.

72. Tunisia had wagered on peace and had participated in the various multilateral negotiations. It reaffirmed that the United Nations must push the Israeli authorities to put an end to settlements so that the peoples of the Middle East could be safe from war and could enjoy peace and security everywhere.

73. Mr. ELTINAY (Sudan) said that, at the 1996 substantive session of the Economic and Social Council, the high-level segment had addressed an important topic, drug control. The Sudan was looking forward to the Special Session of the General Assembly, planned for 1998, which would provide a framework for the elaboration of international strategies to combat drugs, a scourge which threatened the future of humanity.

74. His delegation welcomed Economic and Social Council decision 1996/292 concerning the establishment of settlements and stressed that the obstinacy of the Israeli occupying forces in building settlements in the occupied Arab territories constituted a clear violation of the basic instruments of international law and ran counter to the efforts being made to establish a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region. In that connection, he recalled that, according to the statement made by the Israeli Minister of Housing, the Israeli Government was planning to put over 100,000 settlers in the Palestinian territories; the international community had not raised any objection.

75. The partiality evident in the field of human rights - reflected in the fact that some countries, including his own, were accused of not respecting human rights, whereas the practices of the Israeli occupying forces were seen as justified - damaged the cause of human rights.

The meeting rose at 12.15 p.m.

This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of the publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-794, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record.

Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.

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