Settlements construction, M. Nasser Al-Kidwa cited the report as stating, had negative political, economic, demographic and geographic impact and harmed the Middle East peace process. Further, Israel had revoked the residency rights of hundreds of Palestinian Jerusalemites in 1997, leaving them with the status of "resident immigrants".
The report on Jebel Abu Ghneim and other illegal Israeli actions in the occupied territories was requested by the Assembly's emergency session, held on 25 April.
Since Israel had not met the session's demands, the Group of Arab States, Mr. Al-Kidwa said, would ask for its resumption, for instance on 15 July, to deal with the political facts in the region. The session might consider a draft resolution which would try to stop external support for illegal settlements and convene a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to consider measures to enforce that instrument.
Opening today's meeting, the Chairman, Ibra Deguène Ka (Senegal), informed the Committee that participants at three events held under its auspices had called on all countries to take collective measures to end Israel's attempts to impose a final solution on the Middle East crisis on its own terms, in disregard of United Nations resolutions and Arab interests.
Mr. Ka spoke as he reported on the United Nations Asian Seminar and Non-Governmental Organization Symposium on the Question of Palestine, held in Jakarta from 4 to 7 May; the Seminar on assistance to the Palestinian people, held in Amman from 20 to 22 May; the North American Non-Governmental Organization Symposium on the Question of Palestine, held from 9 to 11 June at Headquarters; and on the Summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) held at Harare from 28 may to 4 June.
The Chief of the Palestine and Decolonization Section, Department of Public Information (DPI), Maria Almeida, informed the Committee on a United Nations-organized international seminar on the question of Palestine, which was hosted by the Greek Government in Athens from 26 to 27 May. Entitled "The Peace Process: The Challenges Ahead", the event was attended by experts on political and economic developments in the Middle East, officials from the Palestinian Authority and journalists.
The representative of Lebanon also spoke in connection with the Secretary-General's report.
The Committee will meet again at a date to be announced.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met this morning to hear a report by its Chairman on various United Nations seminars and non-governmental organization symposiums held on the question of Palestine. Those had been held in Amman (20 to 22 May), New York (9 to 11 June) and Harare (28 May to 4 June). It was also scheduled to consider the Secretary-General's report submitted in accordance with resolution ES-10/2 (document A/ES-10/6-S/1997/494).
Operative paragraph 9 of resolution ES-10/2, which was adopted on 25 April by the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the implementation of that resolution within two months of its adoption. It asked him, in particular, to report on the cessation of construction of the new settlement in Jebel Abu Ghneim and all other illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The report states that due to restrictions imposed by the Government of Israel on the scope of the proposed mission of the Secretary-General's special envoy, it had not been possible to dispatch such an envoy to Israel and the occupied territories. Therefore, the report is based on reliable sources available to the United Nations at Headquarters and in the field.
As of 20 June, Israel had not abandoned its construction of a new settlement at Jebel Abu Ghneim, it says. The expansion of existing settlements, construction of bypass roads and confiscation of land adjacent to settlements in violation of Security Council resolutions on the matter continued unabated throughout the occupied territories. Politically, the commencement of construction of a new Israeli settlement at Jebel Abu Ghneim on 18 March represents the first move to construct an entirely new settlement on occupied Palestinian lands since a freeze was imposed on such activities by the previous Israeli Government in the context of the peace process.
Geographically, Abu Ghneim represents the final link in a chain of settlements constructed by Israel around occupied East Jerusalem, it says. Already existing links in the chain include the settlements of French Hill, Ramot, Pisgah Ze'ev, Neve Ya'cov, and Gilo. Demographically, the settlement would have a significant effect on further advancing the forced alteration of the religious and ethnic composition of occupied East Jerusalem. Projections indicate that the new settlement would result in the transfer of some 50,000 Jewish settlers from Israel into the predominantly Arab area of occupied East Jerusalem.
Economically, the establishment of a settlement on the site is expected to have damaging effects on an already devastated Palestinian economy, according to the report. Without reference to the losses suffered by Palestinians, whose land has been acquired for the settlement, the broader Palestinian economy would feel the effects of the resulting separation of the economic hub of East Jerusalem from the towns and agricultural areas of the rest of the West Bank. So far as the peace process is concerned, through both words and actions, the Israeli Prime Minister and other representatives of the Government continue to reject the terms of the resolution of the General Assembly requiring a cessation of those activities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced a promise to build 3,500 housing units for Palestinians in East Jerusalem at the same time as construction at Jebel Abu Ghneim proceeded, the report says. However, those housing units were not to be built at Jebel Abu Ghneim, but in 10 as yet unspecified neighbourhoods in Arab East Jerusalem. Further, it was also not clear whether the housing units would be government funded, or if only building permits would be issued.
The report adds that Israeli settlement expansion activities continued throughout the period under review in numerous locations throughout the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Expansion activities were recorded in more than 30 existing settlement areas. Israel was widely reported to have issued plans for the creation of new settler housing units in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In May, it was reported that 30,000 dunums of Palestinian land in the West Bank were expropriated by Israel in 1997 for settlement expansion. In the Gaza Strip, attempts by settlers to seize additional land adjacent to existing settlements at Gush Katif resulted in violent clashes.
External support for settlements and their economic infrastructures continued during the period under review, including through private support from foreign companies and individuals, it says. Further, during the period, a number of administrative and legal measures were adopted affecting the status of Palestinian Jerusalemites. Hundreds of Palestinian Jerusalemites this year received notice that their residency rights had been revoked, and hundreds of Jerusalem identity cards -- without which it is impossible to live in and often even to enter Jerusalem -- were confiscated. The loss of such permits results in a loss of rights to housing, health care, school access and freedom of movement into and around Jerusalem. The administrative practices in question apply only to non-Jews, that is, mainly Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem.
The report adds that the Government of the State of Israel had not, as of 20 June, accepted the de jure applicability of the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to all territories occupied since 1967. Moreover, the realization of the principle of territorial integrity, as enunciated in the Oslo accords, has been frustrated by Israeli restrictions on the movement of persons and goods between so-called A, B, and C areas of the West Bank, between Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and between the occupied territories and the outside world.
Further, safe passage arrangements have not been established, and arrangements for a Gaza seaport and airport have not been agreed upon, it says. The Israeli policy of general closure, which has been in effect since 30 March 1993, imposes explicit restrictions on the mobility of goods and persons. The general closure has been aggravated by periodic comprehensive closures.
The report also mentions the continued administrative detention of almost 300 Palestinians in Israeli jails, held without charge or trial. Palestinian detainees in Israeli custody continue to be subjected to torture and other mistreatment under security regulations officially endorsed by the High Court and the Government of Israel. Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and other parts of the occupied territories continued. There was also a marked increase in Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians, settlers and military personnel, as well as Palestinian military operations against Palestinian civilians during the reporting period. Also, there was an increase in violent incidents involving settlers.
The report also includes remarks by the observer mission of Palestine. In those remarks, the Permanent Observer stresses that international law should be upheld and the will of the international community must be heeded, and no State should be allowed to behave otherwise.
The Secretary-General says that in 14 May he addressed a note verbale to all Member States requesting to submit by 12 June any information relevant to the implementation of that resolution. A request for information was also addressed to the Permanent Observer for Palestine. The report contains replies from Australia, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, as well as a reply from the Observer Mission for Palestine.
Submission of Chairman's Report
IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, reported on three events organized under its auspices in the last two months: the United Nations Asian Seminar and Non-Governmental Organization Symposium on the Question of Palestine, held in Jakarta from 4 to 7 May; the Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, held in Amman from 20 to 22 May; and the North American Non-Governmental Organization Symposium on the Question of Palestine, held from 9 to 11 June at Headquarters. He also reported on the Ministerial Meeting and the Summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), held at Harare, from 28 May to 4 June.
Those meetings took place at a difficult moment for the Middle East peace process, he said. In general, their deliberations reflected the participants' apprehension regarding the recent political developments. While supporting the peace process, participants at the United Nations activities had expressed serious concern over the current stalemate, particularly as a result of Israeli policies and the fact that the international community had not ended Israeli actions that threatened the peace process. It had been noted that Israel had intensified its land confiscation and settlement in the occupied territories and the start of construction at Jebel Abu Ghneim condemned. The three events pointed out that the repeated closures of the occupied territory, including Jerusalem, and areas under the Palestinian Authority had caused grave economic hardship for the Palestinians, he said. Participants had expressed concern that Israel was trying to impose a final solution on its own terms, disregarding United Nations resolutions, international opinion and Arab interests. Since the policy exacerbated tension in the region, the participants called on all countries to take collective measures to end it. Noting the importance of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, they stressed that its resultant resolution should be implemented.
Commenting specifically on the meetings, he said that the Jakarta-held Asian Seminar discussed the Middle East peace process and developments since the Declaration of Principles in 1993; the need for a just and comprehensive settlement; and Asia's role in pursuit of such a settlement. The Amman Seminar on assistance to the Palestinians discussed sustainable development as the basis for nation-building and the promotion of poverty eradication and gender equality. The seminar clarified Middle Eastern problems, informed the public, developed proposals and mobilized action in support of the Palestinian people. The North American NGO Symposium dealt with issues such as the international community's role in the transition towards a permanent status and the promotion of joint action of Palestinian and North American non-governmental organizations on the transition to self-determination and statehood. The participants felt that a lot remained to be done to influence public opinion in North America and to get media attention.
The Chairman also reported on the outcome of the OAU meetings, during which Israeli actions were condemned. The Council of African Ministers reaffirmed their political support for the Palestinian people, expressed deep concern about the situation on the ground and then adopted two resolutions, on the question of Palestine and on the Middle East, both of which were approved by the heads of State and government. The resolution on the question of Palestine, among other provisions, expressed support for the rights of the Palestinian people to return to their homes and property and to self- determination. It stressed the need to implement General Assembly resolution ES-10/2 of 25 April.
Report of Secretary-General on Jebel Abu Ghneim
M. NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said the subject before the Committee was an extremely important one and the Observer Mission for Palestine had already issued two statements relevant to it. One of those statements had been issued on 17 June, immediately after the cancellation of the proposed mission by the Secretary-General's special envoy. He stressed that Israel's attempts to limit the scope of the proposed mission represented just another example of its unlawful behaviour. Its condition that the visit of the envoy not be associated with the Assembly resolution on the matter was yet another example of its antagonistic behaviour. No government in the Middle East had thus far refused to cooperate with the Secretary-General. However, Israel had attempted to impose its own position on the Secretary-General. The international community should speak clearly against such behaviour.
A second statement on the matter had been issued yesterday by the Observer Mission for Palestine, he said. Palestine appreciated the report and believed that it served as a valuable document providing proof of Israel's illegal activity, especially with regard to Jerusalem. The substance of the report should be taken into regard by Member States. Highlighting important points in the report, he said, as of 20 June, Israel had not abandoned its construction of a new settlement at Jebel Abu Ghneim. Settlement activity had continued unabated throughout the occupied territories. The report highlighted the impact of such activity on the political and economic process. Further, it dealt with the demographic impact and the impact on the peace process.
It went on to say that the Israeli Prime Minister and other representatives of the Government continue to reject the terms of the resolution requiring a cessation of settlement activities, he said. The Palestinian community in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, had responded with two months of public demonstrations and, hundreds of Palestinians had been wounded. He stressed that the principle of territorial integrity of Palestinian land had been frustrated by Israeli closures. Such Israeli restrictions had been imposed on the movement of United Nations officials as well. Moreover, Israel continued to treat Palestinian Jerusalemites as "resident immigrants", subject to discriminatory immigration controls.
In the light of those political facts, Palestine believed that the tenth emergency session of the Assembly must be resumed and resumed quickly, he said. In that context, the week starting on 15 July seemed to be an appropriate choice. The request for resumption of the session would be made by the Arab Group of States. Palestine also looked forward to support from the Non-Aligned Movement in that regard. In addition, it hoped that the Committee might mandate its Chairman to lend his support for such a session. So far as outcome of such a session was concerned, the Assembly must adopt a stronger position than the one adopted last time. It could not but affirm the international community's determination to guarantee respect for international law.
The specific content of the proposed resolution was still being discussed in the Arab Group, he said. Any proposed resolution must address three points. One, it must address the issue of the support given by the private sector to illegal Israeli settlement activities. Second, it should reaffirm the principle that normal participation of Member States in the Assembly was not possible in the face of disregard of the will of the international community. Third, it must voice support for the idea of convening a conference for the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention to consider measures to enforce the Convention.
Speaking on another matter, he said he had been astonished by an action taken by a Committee member which had been in violation of Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem and specifically on the airport in Kalandia, near Jerusalem. In violation of Council resolutions and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which prohibited the use of such airports, the Foreign Minister of Romania had used the airport during his last visit to Israel. He stressed that international law must be respected. Underlining the huge importance of Jerusalem, he said it was not something that the Arab world joked about. Further, he hoped that there was an explanation for that action, one which would not reflect a change in the Romanian position on Jerusalem.
HICHAM HAMDAN (Lebanon) said his delegation had replied to the Secretary-General regarding the implementation of the resolution adopted by the General Assembly. Since, due to its lateness, it had not been reflected in the Secretary-General's report, it should be included in an annex or in some other fashion.
Statements on Other Matters
MARIA ALMEIDA, Chief of the Palestine and Decolonization Section, Department of Public Information (DPI), reported on the United Nations-organized international seminar for journalists on the question of Palestine and hosted by the Greek Government in Athens from 26 to 27 May. Entitled "The Peace Process: The Challenges Ahead", the event was opened by George Papandreou, Greece's Alternate Minister for Foreign Affairs. Taking part in the seminar were academics and experts on political and economic developments in the Middle East, officials from the Palestinian Authority, senior journalists from prominent international and local media, and delegates from Member States of the United Nations and specialized agencies based in Athens as observers. Palestinian participants included a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Sulaiman Najjab, diplomatic representative of Palestine, Abdullah Abdullah, and a diplomatic secretary, Mustafa El-Ajouz.
On the seminar's first day, she said, experts discussed the status of the peace process and the implementation of agreements. Senior journalists attending included those from prominent media outlets from the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, including Palestinian and Israeli ones. The proceedings were moderated by Karel Kovanda, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. That evening, the Greek Alternate Minister for Foreign Affairs hosted a reception at Divani-Caravel Hotel, the seminar's venue, which was attended by seminar participants, diplomats, representatives of non-governmental organizations and members of the Israeli and Palestinian communities in Athens.
On Tuesday, 27 May, she continued, discussions centred on the final status negotiations and the economic situation in the region and were moderated by the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Peter Hansen. After the seminar, a fact-finding news mission visited Cairo and Amman, with logistical support granted by the information centres in Athens, Cairo and Amman. The seminar's proceedings and media coverage would be published, she added.