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We are pleased to support the adoption today of a number of draft resolutions, including those on emergency and reconstruction assistance to Haiti, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and other countries affected by Hurricane Tomas, and on assistance to the Palestinian people. We are a sponsor of all those draft resolutions.
In respect of the Palestinian people, I am particularly pleased to note the announcement by our Foreign Minister in Ramallah yesterday that Australia will increase its assistance, providing three years of predictable funding totalling up to $18 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). This investment builds on the $90 million we have provided to UNRWA over the past few years. We will also provide up to 50 postgraduate scholarships over the next few years to meet Palestinian priorities. These scholarships are aimed at giving more Palestinians the skills needed to run an effective future Palestinian State — a State we expect to come into existence within the next year. We will also provide an extra $20 million this year to help the Palestinian Authority through the World Bank.
The Acting President (spoke in French): We have heard the last speaker in the debate on this item.
We shall now proceed to consider draft resolutions A/65/L.25, A/65/L.31, A/65/L.45, A/65/L.46, A/65/L.47 and A/65/L.48.
One representative has asked to speak in explanation of position. I would remind him that explanations are limited to 10 minutes and should be made by delegations from their seats.
I now give the floor to the representative of Israel.
Mr. Weissbrod (Israel): I wish to announce that Israel will join the consensus on draft resolution A/65/L.46, entitled “Assistance to the Palestinian people”.
In contrast to too many resolutions of the General Assembly regarding our region, the draft resolution before us is basically constructive in its approach. It seeks to assist the Palestinian people in increasing their economic and development capacity, a goal to which Israel remains dedicated and has supported for many years.
Israel’s commitment to that objective can be seen through the significant measures that we have taken over the course of the past year to improve life in the West Bank. Despite continued security risks, we have removed hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints. During the first nine months of 2010, the Allenby Bridge, which has extended its hours of operation until midnight, saw passenger traffic increase by 13 per cent and vehicular traffic by 16 per cent compared to the same period in 2009.
Such measures are showing clear results, which is clearly illustrated by the figures provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. In the first six months of 2010 alone, real gross domestic product growth amounted to 9 per cent in the West Bank and 16 per cent in Gaza, and continues at an exceptional pace.
The Palestinian population recognizes that improvement in their situation. According to the most recent survey of the International Peace Institute, 57 per cent of Palestinians in the West Bank believe that matters in their community are headed in the right direction. That is more than double the number of Palestinians who answered that way in the same poll last year.
In Gaza, Israel has taken significant steps to improve the situation of the Palestinian population, which remains captive to the Hamas terrorist organization. Despite continued terrorist attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip, Israel’s Government took the significant decision on 17 June to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter the area and to expand the inflow of materials for projects under the supervision of international organizations. As a result, the number of truckloads entering the Gaza Strip has increased by 92 per cent since June. Also, Israel has so far approved 78 international projects, including new schools of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and various other projects. The Israeli Cabinet took further measures on 8 December, allowing for an expedited flow of exports out of the Gaza Strip.
Today’s discussion on humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank should not occur in a vacuum. We must not forget that Gaza continues to be an area from which rockets are daily fired at Israeli towns and civilians. It is a place where terrorists launch attacks at border crossings and continue to stockpile arms and munitions in violation of international law. On the very same day that Israel took measures to increase the flow of exports from the Gaza Strip, rockets and mortars were fired on Israeli towns, causing injury to a civilian.
Thus, any discussion of humanitarian assistance in our region must address the critical issue of security, which is integral to the well-being of Palestinians and Israelis alike. As such, Israel welcomes the ninth preambular paragraph of the draft resolution, which reads:
However, Israel still has reservations regarding certain aspects of the draft resolution, in particular its discussion of the policy of assistance to the Gaza Strip, which does not reflect Israel’s security needs with regard to delivering assistance and other issues. Any resolution on the region should be very clear about the security risks inherent to Gaza that Israel continues to face on a daily basis. In addition, the draft resolution’s description of the humanitarian situation facing the Palestinians does not reflect the facts on the ground or the growth figures measured by the IMF, the World Bank and numerous other organizations. We should not take that growth for granted or dismiss the significant measures taken by Israel to improve the Palestinian economy, but rather give it the appropriate credit, especially if we consider the security challenges that Israel faces.
Despite such concerns and others, Israel joins the consensus on the draft resolution in support of the broadest principles of assistance to and the development of the Palestinian people. Israel calls on the Palestinians to return to negotiations in order to reach a peace agreement. Achieving peace is a two-way, not a one-way, street. We stress that only through bilateral negotiations that address the concerns of both sides can we achieve the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security.
The Acting President (spoke in French): I now give the floor to the observer of Palestine.
Mr. Hijazi (Palestine): Allow me to begin by thanking Member States for supporting resolution 65/134, on assistance to the Palestinian people, which the Assembly just adopted by consensus. The resolution comes at a particularly important time for the Palestinian people, who are preparing for the inevitable end to the 43 years of illegitimate occupation. It comes at a time when the Palestinian Authority is taking the final, critical steps towards realizing the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights and building the institutions of a sovereign, independent State of Palestine.
We call once again on all Member States to step up their valuable support and to be true to the principles this Organization stands for. We also call on them to protect their investment in peace by exercising their moral and legal authority, and by compelling the occupying Power to heed the international consensus, cease its colonization and end its occupation of Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, which constitutes the only impediment to peace in our region and obstructs Palestinian development and self-determination.
It would be a very positive demonstration of genuine goodwill and intentions if the occupying Power were to cease its systematic aggression, its illegal exploitation of the Palestinian people’s natural resources and its destruction of their livelihoods and development projects. Here I wish to recall that Israel, as an occupying Power, has an obligation under international humanitarian law to attend to the needs of the population under its occupation, and that international humanitarian law also prohibits collective punishment and considers it a war crime.
While the Israeli representative tried to paint a rosy picture of the situation in the West Bank, in the occupied Palestinian territory, allow me to point out that what is happening is completely the opposite. Currently, Israel’s actions in Jerusalem and its siege of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, as well as its crippling of the Palestinian economy’s potential in the West Bank with its siege and roadblocks, to which all international reports attest, compound the fact that the West Bank growth to which the Israeli representative referred would have been much better had the illegal Israeli actions and the reckless violence of settlers who terrorize the civilians and farmers in the West Bank ended. These are the realities in the occupied Palestinian territory, and once again I remind the Assembly of the sobering conclusion of the latest report of the World Bank in this regard:
Israel, the occupying Power, translates this policy of terror into the destruction of Palestinian property, infrastructure, public buildings and economic institutions, as well as the wilful killing of scores of civilians, thus causing the Palestinian people to suffer and requiring the urgent disbursement of international assistance. Just last month, the occupying Power razed a road that was recently built with international assistance.
As for the so-called security needs of the State of Israel, it is quite surprising to see those needs used once more as justification for war crimes and gross violations of international law, when such attempts have failed in the past. Additionally, it is counter-intuitive to accept this argument, given the Israeli actions on the ground. For how does Peace Street in the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan threaten Israeli security if destroying it is justified under this pretext? How could water and sewage networks possibly threaten the security of Israel and thereby justify their destruction and the refusal to allow them to be rebuilt? Exactly how does power supply, which is a lifeline for Gaza’s hospitals, water wells and other vital infrastructure, pose a threat to the security of Israel?
Obviously, none of these objects of Israeli aggression could possibly pose a threat to the security of any State, let alone that of a State armed to the teeth like Israel. Indeed, it is these acts of sabotage and destruction with extremely devastating repercussions that counter the argument of Israel’s security needs.
Finally, once again, Palestine expresses its gratitude for the principled assistance of countries and international organizations. We call on them to step up their valuable support for the Palestinian people in its homestretch to freedom, which is nearing its victorious end.