Question of Palestine home
27 November 2000
nd plenary meeting
Monday, 27 November 2000, 3 p.m.
The meeting was called to order at 3 p.m.
Agenda item 20
Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance
(a) Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations
Reports of the Secretary-General
(A/55/82, A/55/494, A/55/637)
(b) Special economic assistance to individual countries or regions
Reports of the Secretary-General
(A/55/90, A/55/92, A/55/123, A/55/124, A/55/125, A/55/212, A/55/317, A/55/319, A/55/333, A/55/347, A/55/415, A/55/416, A/55/418, A/55/620)
(A/55/L.16, A/55/L.35, A/55/L.36, A/55/L.41)
(c) Assistance to the Palestinian people
spoke in Arabic
The peace process in the Middle East is now facing threats that have created a tragic situation for the Palestinian people. The international community cannot remain silent or inactive in the face of Israeli intervention and aggression against the Palestinians and the peace process. We had hoped that a page in this conflict had already been turned and that peace could be founded on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and of the principle of land for peace. We call on the international community to commit itself once again; to convey a clear message to Israel on the need to respect the human rights of the Palestinians; and to condemn Israel’s military actions, operations and abuses, which run counter to its declared intention to work for a just and comprehensive peace.
The international community must therefore adopt a clear position and not use double standards. It would be a moral and political mistake to behave otherwise and could cost the United Nations its credibility and legitimacy in this century, which we hope to see unblemished by such errors.
In conclusion, on behalf of the Egyptian delegation, we wish sincerely to thank all the United Nations agencies that work in difficult circumstances in Palestinian territory and that contribute effectively to the capacity-building of the Palestinian Authority. I also thank the States of the European Union for their annual resolution on this subject, which is of growing importance in the current circumstances in the Middle East. On behalf of Egypt, I appeal to all donor countries to respect their commitments regarding aid to the Palestinian people as it seeks to obtain its fundamental rights, including the inalienable rights to build an independent State on its own territory and to enjoy peace and security, like all other peoples on Earth.
spoke in Arabic
): I wish at the outset, on behalf of my delegation, to express my sincere thanks and high appreciation to the Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, for his report contained in document A/55/137. My profound thanks go also to Mr. Terje Roed Larsen, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority.
For more than two months now, the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, have been the site of ongoing aggression by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people. Among the victims have been more than 230 Palestinian martyrs and more than 10,000 injured, most of them permanently maimed, which will prevent them forever from resuming a normal life. More than a third of the victims have been children under the age of 18. In addition to all the deaths and injuries, many public and private buildings have been bombed and destroyed by the Israeli forces of occupation; those forces have uprooted fruit trees, have deliberately attacked the infrastructure and have destroyed roads linking Palestinian towns and villages. They have destroyed electric power plants and radio and television stations.
Likewise, the forces of occupation have imposed a total internal blockade on the movement of people and goods between Palestinian towns and villages and the outside world. This has paralysed the Palestinian economy and has led to severe shortages of goods and fuel; reports indicate that in the Gaza area famine is imminent. The strict blockade has given rise to the destruction of the Palestinian economy and to a drop in production, causing a decline to less than 20 per cent of earlier economic activity. Unemployment in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip stands at more than 45 per cent, and more than 1.3 million Palestinians are living below the poverty line, on less than a dollar and a half a day. Similarly, the total material losses are greater than $900 million, far exceeding donor-country subsidies to the Palestinian people. That is not to mention a complete halt to development projects and infrastructure development programmes.
The Special Coordinator has reported that material losses to the Palestinians are a result of Israel’s use of heavy weapons, including rockets, against many buildings, vehicles and fruit orchards. His report indicates also that Israeli settlers have joined in the destruction of private property, such as Gaza-based trucks privately owned by Palestinians, which transport goods to and from Gaza and which were waiting at Israeli checkpoints. It also speaks of vast losses in the public sector in the health and social welfare sphere; the Palestinian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare now has a great burden to bear.
Here we would like to express our gratitude to our brothers from the Arab States who have received a number of seriously injured individuals and provided medication and medical assistance on an emergency basis. We would also like to thank and express our appreciation to the donor countries and to the non-governmental organizations that have provided humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people. We also reaffirm the urgent need for donor countries and the United Nations and its agencies to provide emergency assistance to the Palestinian people besieged by the Israeli occupation forces.
It is clear that the reasons for this crisis are the continuation of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem, the continuation of the policy of expanding settlements, the non-implementation of agreements, the profanation of holy Christian and Muslim sites and the non-implementation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
For this reason, the establishment of just and comprehensive peace and of security and stability in the whole region requires an end to the Israeli occupation, a withdrawal from all the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, as well as from the occupied Syrian Golan, recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of their own independent State, and total sovereignty over their territory. Without achieving this, there will never be progress in the peace process and we will never be able to speak of regional development or of regional cooperation with Israel, the occupying Power.
In conclusion, we wish to reaffirm the important role of the United Nations in the implementation of a just and comprehensive peace based on the permanent responsibility of the United Nations regarding the question of Palestine, the importance of its assistance to the Palestinian people and the importance of the role played by the Special Coordinator and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.
: I should like to inform members that action on draft resolutions A/55/L.35, A/55/L.36 and A/55/L.38 will be taken at a later date, and that further draft resolutions on this item will be submitted also at a later date.
I shall now call on those representatives who wish to speak in exercise of the right of reply.
(Israel): It is indeed a shame that in this debate, on a subject which enjoys universal support — assistance to the Palestinian people — a worthy issue is being abused as a platform for unfounded accusations against my country.
It is most unfortunate that the Palestinian Observer has chosen to politicize this issue and thereby distract the attention and energy of the Assembly from achieving the common goal of improving the well-being of the Palestinian population.
Israel deeply regrets the suffering that has come to Palestinian society as a whole as a result of the deliberate decision of the Palestinian leadership to pursue violence rather than negotiation. We have repeatedly made clear that our objective is a negotiated peace settlement that will bring calm and security to all the peoples of the region. Israel was pursuing such a settlement in good faith and had made unprecedented and far-reaching compromise proposals at the July Camp David summit. Yet the response of the Palestinian leadership was a rejection of compromise and a concerted decision to return to the violence and terrorism which was to have been renounced in 1993, as the basic, fundamental prerequisite of the Israel-Palestine peace process.
The peace process has already brought tangible economic and social benefits to the territories under the administration of the Palestinian Authority. This has been especially true during periods of relative calm. In 1998, the gross national product for these areas grew by an impressive 8 per cent. In 1999, Palestinian unemployment decreased by 13 per cent, much of that due to improved Israeli-Palestinian neighbourly relations, which permitted to daily entry of over 100,000 Palestinians into Israel, where they were employed in a variety of sectors.
I will spare the Assembly a long list of statistics which confirm the positive economic developments that have occurred as a result of peace and cooperation. But suffice it to mention that a number of United Nations reports, including the latest report of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and that of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, point to the tangible rewards that the peace process has brought to the Palestinian people.
I wish to stress that these positive developments were a direct result of the peace process and the period of relative calm that preceded the recent Palestinian violence. In choosing to return to violence and terrorism, the Palestinians are undoing many of the gains that have been achieved. By seeking to achieve their political goals through force rather than by negotiation, the Palestinians are bringing economic calamity upon themselves, by their own hand.
Throughout the disturbances, Israel has been making every effort to minimize the hardship to the Palestinian population. Israeli forces are acting on clear orders not to harm utilities in order to ensure normal uses of water, electricity and other services. Clearly, in a time of violence, some local incidents may occur, but we are committed to dealing with them immediately.
I would like to take this opportunity to stress that despite the recent eruption of Palestinian violence, Israel has continued to maintain the free flow of humanitarian assistance and food to the areas under Palestinian Authority administration. In this regard, Israel has expedited the transfer of over 100 shipments of humanitarian aid — in excess of 2,000 tons — to the Palestinian Authority since the outbreak of the violence.
This assistance, which has more than quadrupled in volume since last year, passes through Israeli ports of entry exempt of customs and import taxes. Due to this unprecedented volume, Israel has established a special task force which works seven days a week, 24 hours a day, to accelerate the transfer of assistance to the Palestinians, despite the fact that Israeli port officials have been targeted and even killed in the violence and now must work under armed protection. The processing time — usually about two months — has been reduced to less than a week and even shipments from hostile countries, such as Syria, Libya and Iraq, have been facilitated through special approval.
Any movement of goods and persons through Israeli and Israeli-administered areas is restricted only to the extent that such movement impacts directly upon security. The movement of fuel serves as a good example. Israeli tanker trucks can no longer travel safely in the West Bank and Gaza in order to make deliveries. In Gaza, sufficient fuel pipelines exist to take up the slack; however, in the West Bank, deliveries must be transferred to Palestinian trucks at the crossing points. It is a shortage of such Palestinian vehicles and the real threat to the lives of Israeli drivers — rather than an Israeli policy of embargo, as alleged by the Palestinian observer — which have been affecting fuel supplies.
Israel looks forward to the restoration of the conditions which would again make this freedom of movement possible without risking the lives of its citizens to Palestinian sniper fire on the roads or Palestinian terrorist bombings in public places. It should be stressed that the current violence comes on the heels of the Camp David summit, at which the Government of Israel displayed an unprecedented willingness to compromise for the sake of peace. Had an agreement been concluded at that time, not only would the present situation have been avoided, but the Palestinian people would have reaped even greater economic rewards than those of the past several years.
It is unacceptable that, after refusing to even consider Israel’s peace overtures, the Palestinians now seek to blame Israel for their current predicament. It is our sincerest hope that there will be a return to calm and stability in the region that will permit us to return to the path of cooperation with our Palestinian neighbours.
spoke in Arabic
): I did not wish to become involved in this discussion, but I am compelled to address the unfounded allegations and lies of the Israeli representative. I had no desire to answer his lengthy statement of a few moments ago.
To speak of the politicization of this issue is too absurd. How can we speak of assistance to the Palestinian people and urge the donor countries to meet their commitments at a time when the Palestinian economy and the entire infrastructure are being wilfully destroyed by heavy weapons? The report of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories emphasizes that the destruction of our infrastructure — including our agriculture and our public and private buildings — and the embargo are preventing the Palestinians and their products from moving not only between the occupied territories and Israel and the outer world, but even between villages. In order to ensure that our villages and towns remain isolated from one another, Israel has physically destroyed our roads with explosives.
With respect to the comprehensive blockade of the Palestinian territories, I would like once again to refer to the reports of the Special Coordinator and others, including non-governmental humanitarian organizations. One result of the encirclement is that our wounded cannot be moved from one region to another, leading to several deaths.
Over the course of the past two weeks, Israel has allowed fuel deliveries to Gaza only today. The Gaza Strip was totally isolated for over two weeks and no goods entered. Some reports indicate the genuine concern that we are approaching famine conditions.
How can one fail to speak of Israeli procedures, specifically under this agenda item, at a time when Israel has frozen the assets of the Palestinian Authority, especially its income from the transport of Palestinian goods through Israel, estimated in the millions of dollars. How can we fail to speak of all these procedures at a time when the losses exceed $900 million — that is, three times the assistance provided by the donor countries? How can one speak of humanitarian assistance when Israel is avoiding and blocking the implementation of projects and programmes to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian people?
I do not want to add to the long list of Israeli violations, but the fundamental and pivotal cause of this crisis must be pointed out. Israel must understand and recognize that the root of this crisis is the continuation of its illegal military occupation. That is the crux of the issue. As soon as the illegal occupation ends, the region will be able to seek to improve the living conditions of its peoples and strengthen regional cooperation.
Another factor that very clearly inflamed the crisis was the existence of the settlements. I wish very briefly to summarize the settlement situation in Gaza. There are 5,000 illegal Israeli settlers in Gaza, occupying 40 per cent of the territory’s land. This is a poor strip of land lacking sufficient water resources. A mere 5,000 settlers have 40 per cent of the land, while 1.2 million people must make do, in very difficult circumstances, with the other 60 per cent of Gaza’s 30 square kilometres. I wished to cite this one example as evidence of the nature of the new apartheid system being implemented by the Israelis in the occupied territories.
I reiterate that the crux of the crisis is the occupation. As soon as the occupation ceases, living conditions for the Palestinian people will improve, and they will be able to live in freedom and dignity like other peoples of the world.
I now call on the representative of Israel, who wishes to speak a second time in exercise of the right of reply.
(Israel): It appears that perhaps the self-evident logic of cause and effect continues to escape our Palestinian neighbours. Almost every speaker in today’s debate has stressed the obvious negative impact of violence and conflict on social and economic well-being and humanitarian assistance. The case of the Palestinian decision to resort to violence and its consequent negative impact on the Palestinian economy and society is no exception. The obvious solution is negotiation and dialogue, rather than confrontation and violence. I would remind the Palestinian observer of what he must already know: the permanent disposition of the settlements and the disputed territories, which he raised in his reply, is part and parcel of this negotiation, and when the Palestinian violence has ended, the negotiations will again be able to resume. It would serve us all well to remember - and to remind those who have perhaps forgotten - the words of the ancient proverb: people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
I now call on the representative of Palestine, who wishes to speak a second time in exercise of the right of reply.
spoke in Arabic
): I shall be brief. I simply wanted to repeat that the most atrocious forms of violence and terrorism are the occupation by force of the territory of others and the imposition of military occupation on an entire people. The territories to which the representative of Israel referred are not the subject of dispute; they are occupied territories. Israel is the only State Member of the United Nations that has been singled out as an occupying Power.
(spoke in English)
It is the only State in the United Nations that has been named in 25 Security Council resolutions as “the occupying Power”. These territories, which the representative of Israel referred to as “disputed”, are, according to international law and Security Council resolutions, occupied territories. Israel must stop trying to shift the true concept of disputed territories — the territories that Israel is occupying beyond the 1947 partition plan — to include those that it occupied in 1967.
The meeting rose at 5.35 p.m.