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The meeting was called to order at 3 p.m.
Agenda items 8, 9 and 10 ( continued)
Review and appraisal of progress made in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda
Note by the Secretary-General (A/S-25/3 and Add.l)
Further actions and initiatives for overcoming obstacles to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda
Declaration on cities and other human settlements in the new millennium
The President: I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Natan Sharansky, Minister of Construction and Housing of Israel.
Mr. Sharansky (Israel): ...
I wish to emphasize that our policy of immigrant absorption has operated alongside our commitment to meet the needs of veteran Israeli households. We have developed special assistance packages for young couples, single-parent households, single persons, the elderly and persons with physical disabilities. They are available without exception to the entire spectrum of Israeli society, veterans and immigrants, Jews and Arabs. Furthermore, to help promote sustainable development nationwide I, as Minister of the Interior, sponsored the preparation of numerous master plans, including almost 30 local outlying plans, for Arab cities and towns.
Certain delegations have regrettably chosen to appropriate the present session to level unfounded political attacks against Israel, rather than contribute in a productive manner to the discussion. I sincerely regret that I am now obliged to depart from my intended statement to address those accusations.
I come here straight from the heartbreaking funerals where parents buried 20 teenage daughters and sons who were brutally massacred in a Tel Aviv discotheque this past Friday. Even after witnessing such gruesome carnage — ; the most recent and most violent manifestation of an eight-month terror campaign — Israel is exercising restraint. In the meantime, in order to give peace yet another chance, we have chosen not to use our military capabilities. In spite of that unprecedented policy of restraint, we are being accused, from this rostrum, of using excessive force. In fact, Israel is facing an unparalleled and coordinated campaign of terror orchestrated by the Palestinian leadership, which has also contributed scores of soldiers to this war by releasing convicted terrorists from Palestinian jails.
We, as housing ministers and habitat experts, all know that a strong foundation is critical for building a durable structure. The Oslo peace process, which once offered so much promise, was founded on a commitment to non-violence, based on our hope that the terrorists of yesterday had become our partners for peace. Eight years later, the leaders, who have once again become the indisputable champions of terrorism, are threatening the structure of peace.
We empathize with the suffering of the Palestinians, but the fact remains that much of their suffering is the result of the misguided policies of their own leadership. The achievement of a true and durable peace will be realized only when Governments are accountable to their peoples and are truly committed to the advancement and welfare of their citizens.
As for Israel’s 6 million citizens, who do indeed live under a democratic Government, they are being blackmailed by terrorists who are striving to make life’s daily routine unbearable and who are falsely portraying settlements as the central obstacle to peace. The international community must not legitimize this pursuit of political objectives through violence and terrorism.
Israel is a country that is at the forefront of the free world’s struggle against terrorism. Surrendering to the blackmail of terrorists will inevitably encourage and strengthen them throughout the world. Accordingly, it should be in the interest of all free nations to work together to subdue terrorist organizations and to prevent them from subverting the will of free peoples.
In our case, it was previously agreed that the issue of settlements would be raised within the context of bilateral negotiations on a final status agreement. Cessation of violence, by contrast, is not a matter to be negotiated or to be switched on and off at will. The cessation of violence is a basic precondition of all compromises entailed in the peace process. That formula dates back to 1993, and is one to which both parties have agreed.
The cessation of violence is also the central recommendation of the report of the Mitchell Committee, which Israel has endorsed in all its aspects. This remains the cornerstone of all the other measures that are to follow. Terror and violence must stop before we can move forward.
I wish to conclude by reaffirming Israel’s commitment to the goals and principles of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, and to the need to promote integrated urban and regional growth. We must reconfirm the interdependence of human settlements around the globe and work to enhance the living conditions of all 6 billion citizens of the world. Israel looks forward to the day when safe and secure shelter will be achieved and when the dictum of the prophet Isaiah will finally be realized: peace, peace for those both far and near.
The Acting President : I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Mohammed Bin Ibrahim Al-Jarallah, Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs of Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Al-Jarallah (Saudi Arabia) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
There is no doubt that what the Palestinian people are suffering in the way of persecution, destruction, murder and terrorizing of the innocent on the part of the occupying Israelis is directly in opposition to the principles of the United Nations and the rules of international law, not to mention the objectives and spirit of Habitat II.
Thus, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls upon all States Members of the United Nations, especially the influential members of the Security Council, to meet their obligation to put an end to Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and to enable that people to attain its legitimate rights and establish an independent State on its own territory, with Jerusalem as its capital.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports the principles, objectives and high values set out in the Habitat Agenda and those to be endorsed at this special session, with the exception of those that run counter to the principles of Islamic law and the legislation of our Kingdom. It hopes that the work of this special session will meet with the greatest success.
The Acting President : I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Mohammed Al-Taloa, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Public Works and Urban Development of Yemen.
Mr. Al-Taloa (Yemen) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
As the international community continues its extensive efforts to implement the Habitat Agenda to improve living standards in human settlements and environmental conservation and to establish security, justice and equality among the world’s peoples, Israeli occupation forces are forcibly attacking Palestinian cities and demolishing the houses of civilians. Land confiscation and the building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian soil still continues despite the two Security Council resolutions 446 (1979) and 465 (1980), which affirmed the illegality of establishing settlement policies. At the moment the report of the Mitchell Committee has called for a freeze on the building of settlements.
Therefore the Republic of Yemen calls on the international community to recognize the importance of maintaining the legal and demographic character of Palestinian land and of preserving its natural resources and the cultural and historic characteristics of the areas under Israeli occupation. We affirm the illegality of forcibly removing people from lands under Israeli occupation. Such action contravenes international humanitarian law. None of these acts contribute to the finding of just solutions to the Palestinian question and Middle East peace to which we all aspire.
In conclusion, we hope that the work of this United Nations special session on Habitat will be fully successful in helping to realize the desired objectives and in improving the living conditions of our populations, the protection of the environment, the eradication of poverty and the maintenance of international peace and security.
The Acting President : We have heard the last speaker in the debate for this meeting.
I shall now call on those representatives who wish to speak in exercise of the right of reply.
May I remind members that statements made in exercise of the right of reply are limited to 10 minutes for the first intervention and to five minutes for the second, and should be made by delegations from their seats.
Mr. Al-Kidwa (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic ): This afternoon the Israeli representative made a statement before this special session. That statement is a heap of distortions and a misrepresentation of facts. Of course, as the Israeli Minister of Construction and Housing, he is the Minister responsible for the establishment of illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. He is the one who, about 10 days ago, announced very enthusiastically the building of new housing units in two settlements, in spite of his Government’s claim that it had approved the Mitchell report. In short, he is the Minister responsible for the crime of war, for Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The relocation by the occupying forces of its residents to the occupied territories and the violation by those forces of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and of many Security Council and General Assembly resolutions constitute war crimes, according to Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions and according to the International Criminal Court.
The crimes committed by Israel in the area of housing and human settlements are not confined to the occupied Palestinian territories. Indeed, Israel is engaged in large-scale housing construction on land usurped and stolen from the Palestinians. Israel, according to the United Nations Conciliation Committee, has confiscated about 5.5 million dunums that are privately owned by Palestinian citizens who have been refugees since 1948.
But Israel is not only preventing those people from returning to their homes and lands, not only rejecting relevant United Nations resolutions — it is also refusing to acknowledge Palestinian land ownership and is illegally confiscating that land through, inter alia, the establishment of housing settlements thereon.
Since last year, Israel, the occupying force, has been carrying out a bloody military campaign against the Palestinian people, in the course of which it has committed many war crimes and acts of State terrorism, including the deliberate killing of many of the 500 Palestinians who were martyred during that period.
The root of the problem is the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories through settlement activities, even after considerable progress in the peace process and in spite of all international efforts.
The Palestinian side is now seriously undertaking numerous efforts with many parties, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation, with a view to putting an end to the current tragedy and in order to implement the recommendations contained in the Mitchell report and the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative.
All we can hope for now is that Israel is sincere in its approval of the Mitchell report and that it will immediately commence implementation of the steps to be undertaken in accordance with that report.
Unfortunately, what we have heard today does not augur well. Nevertheless, we have not lost hope.
Mr. Zaki (Egypt) ( spoke in Arabic ): We have listened to the statement made by the representative of Israel at the beginning of this meeting and were not surprised by its contents, which, unfortunately, are totally irrelevant to the subject matter.
Israel refuses to admit that its occupation of Palestinian territories, its resettlement of Jewish immigrants from all parts of the world on Palestinian and Arab lands, and its confiscation of the land under occupation is the main reason for the tragedy and loss of life suffered by both the Palestinian and the Israeli people.
Israeli settlement activities in the territories occupied by Israel by military force are illegal and unlawful under the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. No matter how much the representatives of Israel try to dress up the ugly facts or to mislead international public opinion by speaking of terrorism and not occupation, all those desperate attempts will fail.
The Israeli settlers spread violence and call for it. They burn Palestinian crops. Houses are being built for them on occupied and confiscated Arab lands. Their settlements become military citadels that target Palestinian civilians. The presence of those settlers in the occupied territories is a crime in and of itself.
The international community must take a unified and firm stand to bring pressure to bear on Israel to stop its settlement activities immediately. The continuation of these activities under the protection of the occupation forces and Israel’s refusal to respect the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people are the real reasons for the current unbearable suffering of the Palestinians, and the suffering of the Israelis as well.
The meeting rose at 7.15 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-178. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.