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Together with our partners in the international community, we have stayed the course despite the countless obstacles that continue to be imposed and the deliberate acts of sabotage committed by Israel, the occupying Power. Despite serious difficulties on the ground, we have implemented important reforms in the areas of social welfare, economic policy, governance and security for our people, all of which have been recognized by the international community. Moreover, the Palestinian Government has made progress in reducing the level of dependence on international aid in the area of Government running costs. In fact, by 2013, it is envisaged that the Palestinian budget will not need outside assistance, thanks to our persistent reforms in finance and other areas.
In September, the World Bank acknowledged these remarkable Palestinian achievements, all accomplished while we have been under a 43-year-long military occupation. In its report, the World Bank stated that this economic growth, along with implemented reforms, have well positioned the Palestinians for the independence of their State at any time in the near future. However, the World Bank also determined that the only remaining obstacle to this independence becoming a reality continues to be Israel, the occupying Power, and its destructive policies.
This conclusion is shared by the international community, which has first-hand knowledge of the devastating impact of the occupying Power’s illegal and debilitating policies. That is why the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, meeting in September, also recognized that the only remaining obstacle to Palestinian independence and true growth was the continued Israeli occupation and Israel’s repressive policies.
The road ahead remains difficult. While in the past year, the Palestinian Government has implemented over 1,000 development and other projects across the occupied Palestinian territory, the response of the occupying Power has been escalation of its campaign of destruction with the aim of undermining these positive, constructive efforts of our people in partnership with the international community. Recent examples include the repeated destruction of Freedom Road in the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan and an agricultural project in the Jordan Valley. In fact, the United Nations Development Programme has reported this year a significant increase in destruction of Palestinian structures and buildings in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, by Israel in comparison with 2009.
In addition, the report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) states clearly that the continued practices of the occupation have forced the Palestinian economy to continue to perform well under its potential. In its latest report, UNCTAD states that “[u]nder this institutionalized restrictive and distorting mechanism, economic recovery and poverty reduction will remain elusive”. UNCTAD points to the continued reduced productivity base of the Palestinian economy, which has translated into continued unacceptably high unemployment rates — now at 33.3 per cent, the highest in the region.
The picture is most bleak in the Gaza Strip, where Israel’s crippling illegal blockade has gravely impacted all aspects of life in Gaza, including socially, economically and medically, while reconstruction and development continue to be severely obstructed as Israel continues to block the implementation of the billions of dollars of international donor pledges made at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. While we recognize the latest increase in the number of products allowed to be exported from Gaza, we reiterate that these measures fall far short of what is required from the occupying Power. This most brutal form of collective punishment by the occupying Power against the Palestinian civilian population, which undoubtedly amounts to a war crime, must come to an end with a complete lifting of the blockade.
At the same time, Israel continues its destructive settlement and wall colonization campaign in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Israel appears to have made the dangerous choice of illegal settlements and entrenchment of occupation at the expense of and instead of peace. The international community has unanimously condemned Israel’s open defiance of international law and numerous United Nations resolutions that call on the occupying Power to cease its illegal settlement activity and all other measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the territory.
Yet Israel continues to pursue these illegal policies and is expanding its illegal settlements at an unprecedented rate, especially in and around occupied East Jerusalem, where it continues its campaign of dispossession, expulsion and depopulation, as it is also doing in areas of the Jordan Valley. In East Jerusalem, in particular, entire neighbourhoods are at risk of demolition, and scores of Palestinians, including elected representatives, continue to lose their residency rights in the city. All of these illegal practices gravely threaten the viability of the two-State solution.
In addition, Israel continues to impose more than 500 checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the West Bank that continue to impede the movement of persons and goods and access to services, to greatly undermine all aid and efforts aimed at economic recovery and development, and to hamper the assistance work of United Nations agencies on the ground, including in particular the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Restrictions imposed on access to occupied East Jerusalem are most severe, and we caution that even further restrictions will be imposed by the occupying Power, which will greatly impair access to the city, the socio-economic, political and cultural heart of the Palestinian land.
The illegal Israeli policies and practices I have just outlined continue to cost the Palestinian economy billions of dollars in potential income. In fact, over the past six years, the Palestinian economy has lost $9 billion dollars in potential income — more than twice the size of the economy today. This reality puts international conclusions into perspective and explains the continued decline of socio-economic indicators.
Accordingly, it is unrealistic to discuss assistance without addressing the drain on international resources that the Israeli occupation has caused over the years, and continues to cause. We therefore ask once more: How many more internationally funded projects and efforts are we willing to allow the occupying Power to undermine and destroy while it continues its illegal policies? Why should we allow these practices to derail focused international assistance that could be used for development and State-building rather than for relief and crisis management? How much longer is the international community willing to pay for the illegal acts of the occupying Power by relieving it of responsibility for the consequences of its actions, rather than persuading it to act with responsibility to bring them to an end?
We are here today to say that it is time for the international community to put an end to this tragic and unnecessary drain of resources and Palestinian potential. International assistance must be protected and its main objective — helping Palestinians to build the institutions of a viable State and prepare for independence — must be safeguarded and advanced. This partnership must not continue to be victimized by a persistent and costly policy of sabotage. That will require political will as much as assistance.
As indicated in Prime Minister Fayyad’s “Homestretch to Freedom”, the update and follow-up to the August 2009 plan of the Palestinian Authority, we are taking the final, critical steps towards realizing our legitimate national goals. We are unwavering in our commitment to rebuilding where the occupier destroys and to nurturing hope where the indignities of occupation attempt to dash it. In short, our commitment to exercising our inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination, and full sovereignty over our land and natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is rock solid. We will not waver in our pursuit of the two-State solution for peace and justice on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Road Map.
As we persevere on this course, we call on all Member States to step up their valuable support and to live true to the principles that the Assembly stands for. The international community must exercise its moral and legal authority by compelling the occupying Power to cease its violations and end its siege and colonization of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The world has unanimously identified the problem at hand; the continued Israeli military occupation is impeding Palestinian development, self-determination and peace. The solution — a quick, final end to this grave injustice — is therefore clear. Any other formula would derail the goals driving international assistance to the Palestinian people.
Finally, the Palestinian people and their leadership are grateful for the invaluable assistance extended to them from all corners of the globe. But we neither plan nor wish for permanent dependence. International assistance is a means to an end for Palestinians; it is not an end in itself. Our goal is to stand before the Assembly, soon, to announce that, through the achievement of the sovereignty and independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, we have overcome dependence and that any assistance we might seek would be to complete our recovery from the occupation, rather than to continue coping with its devastation. But to do that, we need the international community’s assistance. We ask that it help protect its investment in peace and make sure that it is not in vain.
Mr. Al-Jarman (United Arab Emirates) (spoke in Arabic): ...
The humanitarian conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories, in particular the Gaza Strip, continue to deteriorate owing to the siege imposed by Israeli occupying forces for the past three years. The United Arab Emirates remains committed to providing humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority until the liberation of their land from Israeli occupation. The United Arab Emirates is one of the main contributors to emergency humanitarian assistance and development projects and directly supports the Palestinian Authority. Our contribution to the Palestinian Government and people in 2009 alone amounted to $262.7 million, earmarked to support the Government, civil society, infrastructure, the education and health sectors, food, social development and the reconstruction of Gaza.
In that regard, we demand that the international community compel Israel, the occupying Power, to immediately lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, open all crossing points to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people, end its occupation of Arab territory, and resume peace negotiations, in accordance with the relevant international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. We further urge donor countries to continue their assistance to the Palestinian people and Government in anticipation of an end to the Israeli occupation of their land and the establishment of their independent State.
We reaffirm our support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and underscore the vitality of its role in helping the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. We demand that UNRWA staff and assistance enjoy unhindered access to Palestinian refugees in all areas of the Agency’s operations, and we emphasize the need to provide UNRWA with the financial support necessary for it to continue its humanitarian and development activities. On its part, the United Arab Emirates has doubled its annual donations to UNRWA in order to enable the Agency to meet its responsibilities towards Palestinian refugees.