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President: Mr. Mbayu (Vice-President) ............................................................. (Cameroon)
Economic and environmental questions
(b) Public administration and finance
(c) Water supply and sanitation
(e) Population and development
(g) International cooperation in tax matters
Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations
Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the Occupied Syrian Golan
In the absence of Mr. Wibisono (Indonesia), Mr. Mbayu (Cameroon), (Vice-President), took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 10.30 a.m.
Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan ( A/55/84-E/2000/16; E/2000/L.16)
37. Mr. Renninger (Director of the Asia and the Pacific Division, Department of Political Affairs), introducing the report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (A/55/137-E/2000/95), said that the report had been submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 54/116 and covered the period from May 1999 to May 2000. The main section of the report discussed the four themes of the Palestinian Development Plan: infrastructure and natural resources management, institutional capacity-building, human resources and social development, and productive sectors. Attention was given to measures to enhance reform of the public administration and strengthen the policy environment for private sector development and the growth of civil society. One of the aims of the report was to give recognition to the way the planning capacity of the Palestinian Authority had matured.
38. In the Secretary-General’s view, the considerable official development assistance provided by the international community, approximately $2.75 billion in the period 1993-1999, had resulted in very significant progress. Unfortunately, both new commitments and disbursements had been declining in recent years.
39. The description of the initiatives of the United Nations organizations in each sector of the Plan made it clear that collaboration and co-financing with other partners was on the increase. The importance of the United Nations coordinating role had been affirmed at the recent meeting held in Gaza between the Palestinian Authority, the entire United Nations team and bilateral and multilateral donor institutions.
40. Mr. Awad (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)), introducing the report prepared by ESCWA on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/55/84-E/2000/16), said that the report was submitted in response to Council resolution 1999/53 and General Assembly resolution 54/230. The information it contained came from a variety of sources, primarily the Israeli and Palestinian press.
41. Since 1967, the reports of the Secretary-General on the subject had registered the increasingly negative repercussions of occupation on the land, natural resources and environment, and on people’s lives and livelihoods. Delayed or partial implementation of agreements and Israeli practices, notably expansion of Israeli settlements and closure of passage routes from areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, aggravated the situation.
42. The geographic distribution of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories severely restricted the growth of Palestinian communities. Settlements had continued to expand during the first months of the new Government. Thousands of units of new construction had been approved, and thousands of acres of Palestinian land had been confiscated. There were currently no restrictions on settlement expansion in East Jerusalem.
43. Israeli occupation had contaminated the drinking water supply in many Palestinian villages to the point of endangering health. The occupation had also inhibited investment and growth by creating uncertainty about the status of the territory and by restricting the movement of goods and people.
44. In the occupied Syrian Golan, the number of Israeli settlers had increased by some 18 per cent since 1994, and the authorities had plans to allocate agricultural land to the settlements. Employment opportunities for the Arab population were limited to unskilled and semi-skilled daily labour without employment benefits. Moreover, the Syrian Arab population suffered from wage disparities. Official measures limited access to education.
45. Until an enduring peace based on the principles of the Charter of the United Nations was established, the issues under consideration would continue to be troubling to the region and the world at large.
46. Mr. Shobokshi (Saudi Arabia), in his capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group, introduced the draft resolution contained in document E/2000/L.16 and said that Indonesia, Qatar and Libya, had joined the list of sponsors. On behalf of the sponsors, he urged the Council to adopt the resolution by consensus.
47. Mr. Aala (Syrian Arab Republic) said that his delegation would have preferred the report (A/55/84-E/2000/16) to have gone into more detail on the Golan. The continuing Israeli occupation of Arab lands was one of the most serious issues before the United Nations on the threshold of the millennium. The record of Israeli actions spoke for itself, and the report shed new light on the effect of continuing Israeli occupation and expansion of colonialist settlement on the Palestinian people and the citizens of the occupied Syrian Golan. Israel’ s policies had led to deterioration of the economic, social and ecological environment in the occupied lands.
48. Only days after the aggression of 5 June 1967 Israel had begun to pursue a two-pronged policy, the first part of which was aimed at land and the second at people. The Knesset had annexed the Golan on 14 December 1981, a move which the Security Council had immediately condemned in its resolution 497 (1981). The Israeli Government had seized virtually all land in the Golan and destroyed many villages and farms. Israel had to that point evicted 130,000 Syrians to make room for its colonialist settlements and had showed every intention of continuing that practice, in spite of the commencement of the peace process based on Security Council resolutions and the land for peace principle with a view to Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories and the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace in the region.
49. Israel’s colonialist settlement policy since 1967 had met with worldwide condemnation for its contravention of international law and the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and its violation of Security Council resolutions 446 (1979) and 465 (1980), which declared that Israel’s colonialist policy and practice was illegal and an obstacle to peace in the region.
50. The Syrian Arab Republic had made a strategic choice for peace on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions and the principle of land for peace, which required Israel’s complete withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 and a guarantee of the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people.
51. Mr. Al-Hadid (Observer for Jordan) said that the policy of successive Israeli Governments of using settlements to alter the demographic makeup of the occupied Arab territories was in contravention of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions and the will of the international community. In particular it was a violation of Security Council resolution 446 (1979), which condemned Israel’s settlement policy as illegal and called it an obstacle to peace, and Security Council resolution 465 (1980), which called upon Israel to cease the construction of new settlements and dismantle existing ones.
52. The Israeli settlements had a number of destructive economic, social and environmental effects on the Palestinian people and its economy. Palestinian towns were surrounded by neighbouring Israeli settlements. The confiscation of large tracts of land had harmed the Palestinian agricultural sector. There were constant clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. The settlements received more than their share of local water resources. In general, Israel overused water resources while denying Palestinians access to them.
53. The report (A/55/84-E/2000/16) indicated that the various types of environmental laws were enforced much less rigorously in the occupied territory than in Israel and that a number of pollution-producing industries had been established there. Israel tried to prevent contact between the Palestinian economy and the rest of the Arab world in order to keep the Palestinian economy dependent on the Israeli economy and to monopolize the Palestinian market.
54. In the Golan Israel provided incentives and investment to Israeli settlers while subjecting Arab residents to limitations on employment and education. Arab residents were restricted to unskilled day labour without benefits or health insurance, and there was a huge gap between Palestinian and Israeli wages.
55. Over the years Jordan had worked hard for the sake of a comprehensive and lasting peace that would allow all the peoples of the region to benefit from development and stability. Jordan called on the international community to supply economic aid and foreign investment to improve the economy and living conditions of the Palestinians. Jordan also called on Israel to stop building new settlements and expanding existing ones, since settlements were an obstacle to peace and development, as well as being illegal, and to adhere to the agreements concluded with the Palestinian Authority.
56. Mr. Saleh (Bahrain) said that the residents of the Israeli occupied territories and the Syrian Golan continued to suffer economically and socially from the Israeli occupation. The settlement policy of the Barak Government was just one example of how Israel was trying to renege on agreements it had concluded with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Settlement construction in the West Bank had proceeded rapidly, with many new units being built. There were now about 400,000 Israelis living in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan. Land was still being confiscated from Palestinians for Israeli settlements.
57. Israel was continuing to apply its regrettable policies of destroying Palestinian houses, especially in Jerusalem and Hebron. Even places of worship were not immune. The occupying authorities arrested Palestinians for trying to farm their own land or use their own water. While the settlers prospered, the Palestinians lived in poverty. Many Palestinian infants got sick from polluted water. Environmental laws were not observed with the same strictness in the occupied territories as in Israel.
58. The international community needed to put genuine pressure on Israel to obey international law. Israel must withdraw from all the occupied Arab territories: the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan. Peace could only be achieved on the basis of the land for peace principle and respect for international law. Any just and comprehensive peace should also guarantee the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their lands and homes. Israel needed to fulfil its commitments and renounce its obduracy in order to advance the peace process and ensure the return of peace and security to the region.
59. Mr. Rahmtalla (Sudan) said that his delegation wished to become a sponsor of draft resolution E/2000/L.17.
60. Paragraph 3 of the Secretary-General’s note (A/55/84-E/2000/16) indicated that Israel was failing to carry out its agreements with the PLO. Israel was expanding its settlements, and closing passage routes between Israel and Palestinian-controlled areas, which had deleterious effects on Palestinian living conditions. Paragraph 57 drew attention to the limitations on job opportunities that resulted from the separation of the occupied Syrian Golan from the rest of the Syrian Arab Republic. The Israeli occupation had led to a decline in economic, ecological and social infrastructure. Israel should not be allowed to continue to shirk its responsibilities and place obstacles in the way of peace.
61. Mr. Gamaleldin (Observer for Egypt) said that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, were illegal. The Palestinian people and the Syrians of the occupied Golan had a right to sovereignty over their natural and economic resources. Egypt had been the first country to make the strategic choice for peace under the late President Anwar al-Sadat. Peace could only be achieved on the basis of full respect for international law as embodied in resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and other relevant resolutions, the principle of land for peace, the right of all peoples in the region to security, and the fulfilment of agreements concluded since the Madrid Conference. The Egyptian Government and people called on the international community to support peace efforts and to offer aid to the Palestinian Authority to help its people exchange the years-long foreign occupation for the opportunity to resume its rightful role in the history of the Middle East. Egypt hoped that the prospects of peace and development would dawn in that region, which was the cradle of the three revealed religions, and that it would become a model for peaceful coexistence among the various cultures and religions.
62. Mr. Jilani (Observer for Palestine) noted the late issuance, in English only, of the report on assistance to the Palestinian people (A/55/137-E/2000/95).
63. The Middle East peace summit hosted by President Clinton at Camp David had ended two days previously without reaching the long-awaited peace agreement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. The unsuccessful conclusion was due to Israel’s intransigence and its attempts to dictate terms that contravened the relevant United Nations resolutions and undermined the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including its right to an independent State with East Jerusalem as the capital.
64. The issues at the heart of the Israeli peace negotiations had been the fate of the occupied Palestinian territory, the illegal Israeli settlements, the fate of more than three and a half million Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem, water, and the final borders. Those issues affected every aspect of Palestinian life, material and spiritual, including national existence and identity, economic and social well-being, and the preservation of cultural and religious sites.
65. International law and the relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as the terms of reference of the Middle East peace process and the signed agreements, clearly set out the basis for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. The fundamental principles included bringing to an end the illegal Israeli occupation, the realization of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and property or to receive compensation. The observance of those principles was crucial for a just and lasting peace in the region.
66. Over the past three decades, Israel, the occupying Power, had defied the international community and violated every applicable principle of international law. It had stubbornly pursued a policy of Judaization of the Holy City of Jerusalem by altering, or attempting to alter, the legal status of the city, its religious and cultural character, and its demographic composition. It had also pursued a policy of annexation and appropriation of Palestinian land and property and of building Israeli settlements in order to prevent the Palestinian people from exercising their legitimate right to self-determination. The failure of the peace process was due solely to such illegal policies and actions, which had been condemned and rejected by the whole international community.
67. The Palestinian people and leadership had compromised a great deal. They had accepted the division of historic Palestine into two States: the Jewish State of Israel and the long-awaited independent State of Palestine. They had also accepted the establishment of the Palestinian State in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, which comprised only 22 per cent of mandated Palestine. Israel, on the other hand, would retain 78 per cent, even though General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947 had assigned to the Jewish State only 54 per cent of mandated Palestine.
68. Unfortunately, the illegal Israeli policies continued to have effects that were deleterious to the peace process and the growing trust between the two peoples. Even as the two parties had negotiated, the current Israeli Government had continued to allow the building and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, at an unprecedented level exceeding even the level under the previous right-wing Government.
69. The Palestinian people and leadership remained committed to the peace process and to the goal of reaching a peaceful negotiated settlement, within the time frame set out in the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, namely by 13 September 2000. They also believed that a lasting and just peace should be based on the principles of international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions that required Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, and to recognize the right of return of Palestinian refugees and its moral and legal responsibility for the plight of the Palestinian people.
70. They pledged their commitment to continue the negotiations on the basis of international legality and the existing agreements between the two sides.
71. Mr. Adam (Observer for Israel) said that the draft resolution submitted to the Council in document E/2000/L.16 did not belong in the current forum and was not fit subject-matter for its deliberations. The framework for resolving the very specific issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians had always been, and must remain, direct negotiations, which had given birth to every step forward in the peace process until the present time. The integrity of that framework had to be preserved, as the two sides embarked on the critical stage of reaching a final agreement.
72. The draft resolution cited misrepresented the economic situation among the Palestinians in the West Bank. According to a report issued by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, the Palestinian economy had actually surpassed the estimates of both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Palestinian Finance Ministry. The real growth of gross national product for 1999 had actually been 2 per cent higher than estimated, and the report also stated that most macroeconomic indicators showed progress. They included an increase in labour flows to Israel, an increase in the value of registered Israeli-Palestinian trade, an increase in planned construction, significant growth in new company registrations, an increase in outstanding bank credit to private businesses, and an increase in donor assistance. The report found that private sector employment had increased, as unemployment rates continued to decline from previous years, and that daily and monthly wages had increased.
73. According to a book published by the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics had reported that more hospitals, roads and telephone lines had been laid, more tourists had visited Palestine and more children had attended and succeeded in school in recent months than in previous years.
74. Israel supported those economic improvements and was committed to the value of an improved Palestinian economy and a more prosperous society. Israel joined the Secretary-General in calling for donors to contribute to projects for the Palestinian people. Despite unemployment in Israel and a yearly influx of foreign workers from abroad, the Palestinian employment rate had been maintained and even expanded. Israel currently employed 120,000 Palestinians, almost a quarter of the workforce of the Palestinian Authority.
75. To say that there was deterioration in the economic and living conditions of the Palestinian people was simply false. Indeed, the per capita gross national product of the Palestinian people was higher than that of all the 48 least developed countries, which made up one tenth of the world’s population. He wondered why the Palestinian economy should be the sole focus of the Council’s discussions, when the Council normally reviewed economic crises affecting many States.
76. Lastly, he expressed the hope that the improved economic conditions of the Palestinians — the rising employment, the growing corporate sector, the enhanced opportunities, the increasing salaries — would lead to a new spirit of goodwill and cooperation between the parties to the peace process.
77. Mr. Gallagher (United States of America) agreed with the view that, until peace was achieved and proved enduring, the issues under consideration would continue to be very troubling, both to the region and to the world at large. The parties had agreed to deal with the outstanding issues through direct negotiation, making the involvement of the Council inappropriate and at worst counterproductive. Following the Camp David meeting, the parties and the United States had recommitted themselves to continuing negotiations. Given the delicate stage of those negotiations, action under the current agenda item did not seem appropriate, and he therefore urged that it should be deferred.
78. Ms. Onoh (Observer for Nigeria), referring to draft resolution E/2000/L.17, which Nigeria would like to co-sponsor, said that his Government attached great importance to the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples and was saddened to have to still address that matter. It trusted that in the new millennium all peoples would be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination and rule themselves in any way they chose.
79. Mr. Moniaga (Indonesia) said that he supported the efforts of ESCWA to promote and improve the economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people. Since the signing of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements on 13 September 1993, the international community had had great hopes of significant economic transformation in Palestine. Unfortunately, the new relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority established by the Protocol on Economic Relations which had promised to open borders and enable goods and labour to flow easily had never achieved the desired effect.
80. The Palestinian people continued to bear the harsh burden of occupation and suffer from high rates of unemployment and poverty. In March 2000, further restrictions had been imposed on the movement of goods. The issue of settlements also remained a stumbling block to stablizing the political situation and to the social and economic development of the Palestinian people. The construction of new settlements in East Jerusalem was an additional problem, which could affect the territorial integrity of Palestine well into the future.
81. Despite the current difficult conditions of the Palestinian people, his delegation maintained its optimism that a just and lasting peace could be achieved to the benefit of all parties. The Wye River Memorandum had signalled the beginning of a new era of rapprochement, and he emphasized the vital importance that should be attached to the operation and construction of the seaport in Gaza, which would be a recognizable contribution to the Palestinian economy. The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum had given renewed hope that the stalemate could be overcome and the peace process brought back on track. More recently, the return of the parties to Camp David and the marathon negotiations that had taken place had brought the region closer to achieving a lasting peace than ever before. There had been a number of areas where the two sides had lessened their differences. He could only hope that the breakdown in negotiations would not lead to a new cycle of violence and further infractions of the rights of the Palestinian people. Progress was also still needed with regard to the occupied Syrian Golan.
82. Clearly, the United Nations had a central role to play in the social and economic development of Palestine. As they moved into the final stages of the peace process, that role would gain additional prominence. Indonesia would work to uphold the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The recent decision of the negotiators to resume their efforts was a most positive and welcome sign. He hoped that a peace agreement could be achieved in a short time and looked forward to the day when the legitimate sovereign and development rights of the Palestinian people were secure.
The meeting rose at 1 p.m.
Corrections to this record should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Chief, Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza.