Question of Palestine home
28 November 2000
rd plenary meeting
Tuesday, 28 November 2000, 10 a.m.
The meeting was called to order at 10 a.m.
Agenda item 47
Assistance in mine action
Report of the Secretary-General
(Israel): As a nation that has long lived under the threat of war, Israel longs for the day when civilian life will be free from the threat of anti-personnel landmines. It is our fervent conviction that these undiscriminating weapons, which echo shots fired long ago and conflicts raging miles away, have no place in civil society. In times of peace they strike at the edge of innocence, shattering civilian lives and tormenting families. And yet, the past decade has yielded a glimmer of hope: in the Middle East and elsewhere, people from different nations who clashed on yesterday’s battlefields are clearing the minefields today.
This, indeed, captures what Israel believes to be the most important theme of the effort against the devastation of anti-personnel landmines: cooperation. The report of the Secretary-General on assistance in mine action reaffirms the findings, widely acknowledged for over a decade, that actions by individual States alone can no longer quell the humanitarian threat posed by anti-personnel landmines. This conforms with Israel’s general position on disarmament, which has long maintained that cooperative regional arrangements are the best mechanisms for curbing the proliferation of arms and for combating the scourge of landmines in the Middle East, a region where wars, armed conflict and political non-recognition are still common.
Such cooperation, we believe, provides a model for the international community as a whole. I should like to point out just a few small examples from the experience of my own battle-scarred country that illustrate this principle.
The Jordan Valley is still infested with anti-personnel landmines planted decades ago. Israel and Jordan, which forged a treaty of peace in 1994, have agreed to launch a large-scale project to demine the Jordan Valley. The project covers all facets in the fight against anti-personnel landmines, from actually demining the landscape to educating the population at large and rehabilitating the victims.
On the heels of this combined effort, a broader cooperative venture was launched. Canada and Norway lent their resources and expertise to the Jordan Valley project as part of their overall efforts to reduce the effects of anti-personnel landmines. Now other nations have expressed interest in joining the Jordan Valley project. Cooperation, it seems, is contagious.
It must be noted, however, that even the most thorough demining projects will not suffice, in our region or anywhere else in the world, unless they are accompanied by a parallel effort to educate the general population about the dangers of landmines. As outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, information-management techniques must be used to ensure that mine-affected communities can coexist safely with a mine threat.
To this end, Israel and other nations have taken an active role in the Mine Awareness Project of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Angola. Our volunteers, and those of other nations, have worked to educate the population, treat victims and set up a special database. Israel has also made substantial contributions to the financing of this project. The Coordinator of the UNICEF project, Mr. Hanoch Bar-Levy of Israel, reported that the Angola experience offers valuable lessons to other mine-affected areas.
As I have mentioned, Israel attaches primary importance to regional arrangements as an answer to questions regarding security and stability in the Middle East. At the same time, this approach has not prevented Israel from supporting the efforts of the international community to curb the proliferation of conventional and non-conventional weapons and, where appropriate, from endorsing global arrangements that do not impair Israel’s vital security margins. Israel’s accession to the Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its observance of the restrictions placed on the use of anti-personnel landmines are clear manifestations of this view.
In addition, Israel has initiated a number of other steps aimed at controlling the proliferation of landmines and other weapons world-wide. In 1994, Israel enacted a moratorium on the export of anti-personnel landmines and last year announced a decision to renew the moratorium until the year 2002. We are now considering a more permanent arrangement which will extend the moratorium indefinitely. Israel has also supported the General Assembly call for a moratorium and hopes to contribute to an agreement banning all transfers of anti-personnel landmines.
Due to Israel’s unique situation in the Middle East, which involves an ongoing threat of hostilities from neighbouring and regional States, as well as terrorist threats and actions along its borders, Israel is still obliged to maintain its ability to use anti-personnel landmines for self-defence in general, and along the borders in particular, in accordance with the requirements of the CCW. Accordingly, at this juncture Israel is unable to commit itself to a total ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines, as they remain indispensable for the protection of civilians threatened by terrorist infiltration and for ensuring the protection of the Israeli Defence Forces. At the same time, Israel supports a gradual process in which each State will undertake to cease proliferation of anti-personnel landmines, accept restrictions on their possible use and — once circumstances permit — ban their production and use.
Along those lines, Israel has ceased all production of anti-personnel landmines, and we hope that others in the region will soon follow suit. We are actively working to eliminate the need for landmines, in the hope that ultimately we can enact a complete regional ban on the use of landmines.
Let us hope that international cooperation will heal the world of the devastation caused by these devices and put an end to the hostilities that perpetuate them.
We have heard the last speaker in the debate on this item. I should like to inform members that action on draft resolution A/55/L.44/Rev.l will be taken at a later date to be announced.
The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.