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In the absence of the President, Mr. Ouch (Cambodia), Vice-President, took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
(e) Assistance to the Palestinian people
Mr. Jilani (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic ): At the outset, I wish to express on behalf of my delegation my gratitude and thanks to Mr. Kofi Annan for his report contained in document A/56/123-E/2001/197. I would also like to express our gratitude and appreciation to Mr. Terje-Roed Larsen, United Nations Special Coordinator for the peace process and the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority.
As indicated in the report under this item, there are also many reports submitted to this session of the General Assembly, in addition to other specialized reports produced by the United Nations organs and agencies and other international institutions. Among these is the report of the Commissioner of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Secretary-General’s report submitted to the Second Committee and the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, among others. All these reports point out the grave situation produced by the current crisis and its devastating impact on the lives of the Palestinian people and on peace and security of the entire region.
These reports clearly point to Israeli practices and policies, which constitute flagrant violation of international law, including human rights, international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949. These practices and policies, in addition to their devastating impact on the lives of the Palestinian people, tend to deliberately impede the efforts of the United Nations and other international organizations that are aimed at providing assistance to the Palestinian people and alleviating their suffering.
The practices of the Israeli occupying force claim the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians, including children. They have also resulted in the injury of thousands. Policemen have been killed. Infrastructure and homes have been destroyed. Fruit trees have been uprooted. Roads linking Palestinian cities and villages have been destroyed. Tunnels have been dug around towns and villages and have been turned into huge prisons. Electricity, radio and television installations have been targeted and bombarded. The occupying forces have for over a year imposed a total blockade on the movement of goods and people between Palestinian towns and villages and between those and the outside world. The report indicates the detrimental impact on the living conditions of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian economy.
The continuation of the illegitimate Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, including Jerusalem; the continuation of its settlement policies; tightening the noose on and deliberately humiliating the Palestinian people; and the failure of the peace process to end those violations all constitute the true reasons for the current crisis. That crisis poses a grave danger to the stability and peace of the entire region. We totally agree with the Secretary-General, who in his report concludes that no peace, security or just solution can be achieved without the resumption of negotiations based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).
The first step in that direction would be the immediate and complete implementation of the recommendations of the Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, i.e., the Mitchell Committee report. In this connection, we greatly appreciate the role played by the Secretary-General and by his Personal Representative, Mr. Terje Roed-Larsen, in efforts to revive the peace process. We also wish to emphasize the importance of the United Nations in achieving a just and comprehensive peace through its permanent responsibility for the question of Palestine.
We would like to express our gratitude to the European Union for providing continuous and vital assistance to the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority. We also wish to thank Arab countries, and in particular the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries that continue to provide assistance to the Palestinian people and their national institutions.
In conclusion, we would also like to emphasize the importance of a draft resolution under this agenda item calling on Israel to completely end its policy of closure and blockade and of impeding of the movement of people and goods inside occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. Israel should stop its deliberate destruction of the infrastructure and economy of the Palestinian people. It should also deliver monies to the Palestinian Authority, stop its settlement activities and immediately and completely implement the conclusions of the Mitchell Committee.
The Acting President: I shall now call on those representatives who wish to make statements in exercise of the right of reply.
May I remind members that statements in exercise of the right of reply are limited to 10 minutes for the first intervention and to five minutes for the second intervention and should be made by delegations from their seats.
Mr. Govrin (Israel): Once again the Palestinian observer has demonstrated his unwillingness to forgo any possible opportunity to attack my country.
The Palestinian observer would, further, like us to believe that Israel is intentionally strangling the Palestinian population. Nothing could, in fact, be further from the truth.
Israel deeply regrets the difficult situation that the Palestinian people are currently experiencing. We must, however, recognize that those difficulties are linked to the Palestinians’ own choice to engage in violence and terrorism. If this violence has brought with it certain hardships, the Palestinians have no one to blame but themselves.
Encouragement of terrorism and of other forms of violence by the Palestinian leadership forces Israel to adopt preventive security measures. The need for those measures was evidenced just this morning, when Palestinian terrorists, armed with automatic weapons, opened fire in a crowded market in the northern Israeli city of Afula, killing two Israelis and wounding scores of others, many of them seriously. A joint statement of responsibility for that attack was issued by Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, a group closely tied to Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat’s own Fatah faction. The failure of the Palestinian leadership to live up to its responsibilities to end violence and terrorism, particularly terrorism emanating from within its own ranks, is the reason why Israel’s security measures are absolutely necessary. They are not punitive actions arising from malice, but essential steps taken in the face of escalating Palestinian terrorism.
Those who perpetrate and encourage such behaviour are the ones responsible for bringing economic hardship to the Palestinians. Even in the face of continuing violence, Israel continues to take steps to ensure that our legitimate security precautions inflict the barest minimum of inconvenience on the Palestinian population. These include special measures that take into consideration the Ramadan period. We are making every effort to facilitate the free movement of food, gas and medicine in and out of the Palestinian territories. In instances of medical emergency, Israel routinely treats Palestinians, including women and children, at Israeli hospitals, free of charge.
But it is the continuing Palestinian incitement, violence and terrorism that force us to focus on protecting the fundamental rights of our civilians, first and foremost the right to life. We would prefer to focus our energies on conducting negotiations to provide for a better future of security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Mr. Jilani (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic): I should like to reply to the statement just made by the representative of Israel. Once again, the representative of Israel has given us an assessment of what has taken place in the occupied Palestinian territories that differs completely from what has been reported by the specialized organs and agencies of the United Nations, as well as by the international human rights organizations. Many reports, including reports presented to the General Assembly at this session, clearly refer to Israeli measures intended to insult and intimidate unarmed Palestinian civilians at Israeli checkpoints, as well as to the deliberate destruction of buildings, the uprooting of fruit trees and the blocking and destruction of roads.
The report of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) includes an entire chapter on Israeli actions that hamper the work of UNRWA. It also makes it perfectly clear that such actions and measures are not undertaken to ensure the security and safety of the Israelis.
Just today, Israel, the occupying force, dug a trench four metres wide and three metres deep around the city of Tulkarm, thereby converting the entire city and its population into a giant prison, in an attempt to impede the movement of Palestinian citizens, including those who need access to medical care. There have been numerous cases of sick people dying at Israeli checkpoints.
The representative of Israel made a reference to the attack carried out by some extremists today. We blame Israel, in particular the Government of Sharon, for that act. We have been warning of the possibility of such acts for the past two days. Those who claimed responsibility for the act said that it was a response to the Israeli Government’s assassination of Palestinian citizens in the city of Nablus, which took place just two days after the occupying force perpetrated a heinous crime that resulted in the deaths of five Palestinian schoolchildren.
All these measures are unnecessary and unwarranted, whether they are judged from the standpoint of security or from any other perspective. The only justification for such acts is the desire of Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, to destroy any possible opportunity for a resumption of the peace process. He received the two United States envoys even as he resumed the policy of assassination and the killing of Palestinian children. Such policies have been condemned by the entire international community.
The Government of Israel has so far failed to respond to international efforts to resume immediately the process of implementing the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee. We doubt that the representative of Israel was actually expressing the opinion of the Government of Israel, for even the Foreign Minister of Israel admitted that he was not expressing the opinion of the Government of Israel. That in itself is a clear indication of Israeli Government policy. But if the Israeli Government is truthful in expressing its desire to resume negotiations, the road ahead of us is clear. All the Government of Israel has to do is to clearly declare its commitment to implementing immediately and completely the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee and its intention to negotiate a final settlement. We have not heard any such declaration from the Government of Sharon. Everything we hear and see leads to further escalation of the situation and represents an attempt to give extremists further opportunities to destroy the peace process.
The European Union Commissioner, Mr. Javier Solana, described the demands of Sharon using the word “stupidity”. I think we can go beyond that. Sharon is determined to refuse to provide any opportunity for negotiations to resume or for final peace to be achieved in the area. The actions of Sharon are witness to that fact. We wish that we could start hearing one line from the Government of Israel, instead of one from the Foreign Ministry and a different one from the head of the Government or the military Chief of Staff.
The meeting rose at 6.20 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-178. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.