Question of Palestine home
13 November 1998
Summary record of the 26th meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Wednesday, 28 October 1998, at 3 p.m.
: Mr. Özügergin (Vice-Chairman)
Agenda item 97: Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (
In the absence of the Chairman, Mr. Özügergin (Turkey), Vice-Chairman, took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 3.20 p.m.
Agenda item 97: Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources
(A/53/72–E/1998/156, A/53/95–S/1998/311, A/53/163–E/1998/79)
(Chief, Regional Commissions New other natural resources and the violation of rights of the York Office), introducing the report contained in document Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian
said that during the period covered by Golan over those resources. Such illegal Israeli practices had, the report, the stalled peace process, Israeli occupation over the long years of occupation, crippled the economic, policies and closure of the occupied territories had aggravated social and ecological environment of the occupied territories. the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Israeli settlement in the occupied Syrian Golan and the territory and the Arab population of the occupied Syrian occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, Golan. The second half of 1997 had witnessed an explosion reflected the strategic aims of that country, which were to in building construction throughout the occupied territories expropriate land and water and to drive out the Arab to the extreme detriment of the Palestinian people. Limited inhabitants of that territory, using various spurious security access to water, as a result of Israeli policies, remained the and ideological pretexts. greatest obstacle to Palestinian agricultural development. Moreover, Israeli industrial concerns in the occupied West Bank had profited from the lack of enforcement by the Israeli authorities of environmental regulations on soil, air and water quality.
41. Palestinians had traditionally made up the bulk of the
work force engaged in the construction and daily maintenance of settlements throughout the occupied territories. The unemployment situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip remained critical, in particular owing to closures and increased reliance of Israel on expatriate workers from outside the region.Moreover, during the period under review, the prevailing economic environment in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip had inhibited investment and growth, owing to the continued ambiguity of the legal and political situation.
42. With respect to the Syrian Golan, the Arab population
faced further deterioration in its living conditions owing to Israeli settlements, restrictions on employment opportunities and education, as well as to the Israeli taxation policy. Employment opportunities for the Syrian Arab population in the Golan Heights were extremely limited, since the movement of the Arab population between the Golan and the Syrian Arab Republic remained very restricted. Furthermore, those workers had no access to social benefits and health insurance. The Arab population living in the Golan were subjected to prohibitive levels of taxation. As with previous reports on the subject, the information contained in the current report was based on various sources, primarily from the Israeli and Palestinian press.
(Syrian Arab Republic), recalling that General Assembly resolution
had reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, including land and water, said that the report before the Committee detailed the difficulties facing the Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan as a result of Israeli policies and practices since they had first occupied Arab territories in 1967. Those practices included the expansion of settlements, expropriation of land, water and other natural resources and the violation of rights of the Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan over those resources. Such illegal Israeli practices had, over the long years of occupation, crippled the economic, social and ecological environment of the occupied territories. Israeli settlement in the occupied Syrian Golan and the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, reflected the strategic aims of that country, which were to expropriate land and water and to drive out the Arab inhabitants of that territory, using various spurious security and ideological pretexts.
44. Within days of the six-day war in 1967, the Israelis had begun work on the first settlement in the occupied Syrian Golan, in implementation of their policy to separate the Golan from its mother country, Syria, and the Knesset decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in that with a view to seizing the remainder of the land on pretexts which included the need for land on which to build military installations, settlements or roads. Side by side with that policy went the occupying power’s water policy, which had
the aim of preventing Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan from using their own water resources and striking a body blow at their economic activities, the foremost of which was agriculture. At the same time, Israel was using those water resources for its settlements.
45. The report also reflected the reality of Israeli occupation in Jerusalem and the other occupied Palestinian territories.
Israel was continuing its settlement drive, expropriating land and expanding settlements with a view to changing the legal and demographic nature of occupied Jerusalem. The report also painted a tragic picture of the conditions in which the Palestinian people were forced to live, being deprived of the use of their own water resources, of which 80 per cent had been requisitioned by Israel.
46. In his statement to the Committee under agenda item the Israeli delegate had said that his country was
extremely advanced in many fields of environmental development, and that it was making an effective contribution to regional and international endeavours to combat desertification. He had apparently omitted to make any reference to Israel's contribution to the desertification of the agricultural land owned by Arab citizens in occupied Arab territories by depriving those citizens of their water resources, to which the international community had stated they had an inalienable right.
(Egypt) said that the report before the Committee provided detailed information reflecting the reality of the worsening living conditions of the peoples in the occupied territories. Those conditions were a result of tyrannical Israeli practices intended to gain control over the natural resources of the occupied territories and to deny the occupants of those territories their natural right to exercise sovereignty over those resources and realize their legitimate aspirations for development.
48. Israeli practices in the occupied territories did not merely reflect the fact of occupation, but represented a carefully planned strategy to expropriate those territories and their natural resources and to expel their owners in order to benefit an occupying minority. As noted in paragraph 4 of the report, by the end of 1998, more than 350,000 Israelis would be living in over 200 communities established since 1967 in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.
49. The report also made it clear that the Israeli occupation was using the Israeli settlements as a tool for what could be called environmental terrorism directed against the inhabitants of those territories. The Israeli Government had deliberately located highly polluting industrial facilities in the occupied territories, ignoring basic international environmental guidelines. According to paragraph 27, there were 45 enterprises operating in the industrial park of Burkan adjacent to the settlement of Ariel. The owners of those factories escaped the tighter rules on health and the environment inside Israel itself to work in the West Bank where they got tax breaks. In addition to Burkan, Palestinians had complained about the operation of industrial facilities at Ariel, Karne Shomron, Kiryat Arba and Adumim.
50. The restrictions placed by Israel on the right to education of the Arab inhabitants of the occupied Syrian Golan amounted to the theft of the future of whole generations, and a violation of their natural right to improve living standards. According to paragraph 60 of the report improvement of living conditions were further aggravated owing to restrictions on expanding educational facilities, facilitation of education in the Syrian Arab Republic and access to education in Israeli colleges.
51. The economic strangulation imposed by Israeli policies severely restricted the economic development choices of the peoples living under occupation. A racist policy differentiated between the rightful owners of the territories and the Israeli settlers and created situations which contravened all international laws and norms. As noted in paragraph 22 of the report, in 1987, when settlers were barely 10 per cent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Palestinian consumption of water totalled 115 cubic centimetres while settler consumption equalled 97 cubic centimetres. A report by Peace Now noted that the Jewish settlers' per capita irrigated areas were 7 and 13 times larger than the areas accorded to the Palestinians for irrigation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, respectively.
52. Numerous General Assembly and Security Council resolutions had condemned categorically the measures taken by Israel with regard to settlements, and their negative social and economic impact since 1967 on the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab inhabitants of the occupied Syrian Golan. Those resolutions had also reaffirmed the applicability of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967. Security Council resolution
, had mentioned the need to consider measures for the impartial protection of private and public land and property and water resources.
53. The Israeli practices created a climate that promoted confrontation between Palestinians and the settlers and complicated the security situation, demonstrating the inconsistency of Israeli Government policy of demanding that security should be one of the top priorities of the peace process, while at the same time putting in place practices productive of tension, confrontation and violence not only in the occupied territories but in the whole Middle East.
54. Egypt had followed with great interest the recent negotiations at Wye River which had led to the conclusion of an interim agreement on 23 October 1998, and hoped that implementation of that agreement would put the peace process back on track, in order to ensure a just and comprehensive peace in the region based on the principle of land for peace, the application of international legitimacy and respect for the sovereign rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab inhabitants of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.
(Qatar) said that the information contained in document A/53/163-E/1998/79 made clear just how far Israeli policies in the occupied Arab territories contravened every international convention, including the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. It was particularly regrettable that Israeli expropriation of Palestinian territory, destruction of homes and expulsion of defenceless Palestinian civilians continued despite the peace process that had begun with the Madrid Conference in 1991. Israel continued to build new settlements in order to impose the status quo, while calling on the other party to negotiate. It was racing against time to bring Jewish settlers from all over the world and place them in settlements on occupied Arab territory in an attempt to change the demographic composition of the towns in those territories and ensure that settlers outnumbered the Arab inhabitants.
56. Recalling that General Assembly resolution 52/207 had,
, reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, including land and water and called upon Israel, the occupying Power, not to exploit, to cause loss or depletion of or to endanger the natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, he said that his delegation had frequently condemned the tyrannical measures taken by Israel against the Palestinian and Syrian people in occupied Arab territories, considering such measures clear and blatant violations of international conventions and United Nations resolutions. His delegation urged the Israeli Government to halt its inhumane practices. The Palestinian people had a history deeply rooted in its land, and the United Nations must not rest until their rights had been restored.
(Observer for Palestine) said that despite the close link between 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, and the permanent sovereignty of the same peoples over their natural resources, General Assembly resolution 52/207 had focused primarily on the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources and on the destructive policies of Israel, the occupying Power, with regard to those natural resources.
58. The report contained in document A/53/163-E/1998/79 set forth significant facts and figures clearly reflecting Israel's continued pursuit of its settlement policies and the destructive effects of those policies on the economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people in occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. The report was identical to the one which had been submitted to the Economic and Social Council. He hoped that two separate reports would be submitted in future.
59. The report referred to East Jerusalem as if it were separate from the remainder of occupied Palestinian territory, using "the West Bank" and "Gaza Strip" to denote such occupied territory. On occasion, it used the expression "territories". As had already been pointed out to the Economic and Social Council, that was not the language used in United Nations resolutions. The Committee was consistent in using the term "occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem", and all relevant United Nations resolutions affirmed the unity and territorial integrity of the occupied Palestinian territory.
60. The report exposed the magnitude of successive Israeli Governments' settlement drive, regardless of the condemnation of the entire international community and numerous United Nations resolutions, and of the applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967. It stated that by the end of 1998, more than 350,000 Israelis would be living in over 200 communities established since 1967 in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. The number of Palestinian homes demolished by the Israel defence forces in area C, had been 233 in 1997 alone and 290 from January 1997 to March 1998. A report prepared by the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B'Tselem) had indicated that 322 orders for the demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem had been issued, and that more than 1,000 homes had been scheduled for demolition by the current Israeli Government. The Government continued to expropriate Palestinian land in order to build new and expand existing settlements and construct bypasses. It continued to commandeer and divert to Israel itself and the settlements water from the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan: some 60 per cent of total Israeli consumption was fed from sources in those territories. There was a huge discrepancy between the amount of water used by Israelis and the amount used by Palestinians: Israel commandeered 80 per cent of the water resources of the West Bank.
61. A further serious development referred to in many reports over the decades of occupation and verified by the Palestinian Ministry of the Environment was that Israel was dumping toxic and other waste in Palestinian areas. Between 60 and 80 tons of such waste had been found in the Qalqilia region, near the area's sole water source. The disposal by Israel of such waste in Palestinian towns and villages was one of its most serious abuses of the natural resources of Palestine.
62. The continuation of the aforementioned Israeli policies and practices was a clear expression of the ideology that aimed to increase expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. The Israeli Government gave the illegal settlements every encouragement while destroying Palestinian homes, withdrawing the identity cards of the Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem, commandeering the natural resources of the occupied territory for the use of settlements and placing every possible obstacle in the path of Palestinian national economic development.
63. He hoped that the Wye River agreement would prove a turning point, and that all the steps agreed upon would be implemented at the proper time, in order to conclude the interim stage and begin final status negotiations, which would result in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
(Jordan) said that his delegation wished to commend the endeavours that had produced the report contained in document A/53/163-E/1998/79. The current Israeli Government was continuing to implement the policies of all the Governments which had preceded it, building new settlements and expanding existing ones in order to impose the status quo and change the demographic composition of the occupied Arab territories in defiance of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions and the will of the international community He cited Security Council resolution
which had determined that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements had no legal validity and constituted a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and Security Council resolution 465 (1980), which called upon Israel to halt its settlement activity and dismantle existing settlements.
65. Due to Israeli settlement policy, the amount of land available to the Palestinian people for agriculture on the West Bank and Gaza Strip had been severely restricted; as a result, the contribution to GDP of agriculture was currently less than 15 per cent, and there had been a concomitant reduction in the number of Palestinians working in the agricultural sector. Available water resources were largely allocated to Israeli settler communities: settler consumption was approximately 10 times greater than Palestinian consumption. Many studies had shown that increased Israeli water consumption since 1967 had largely been supplied by the water resources of the West Bank and upper Jordan River. Israel was using ground water resources at a rate whereby they could never be naturally replenished. In addition it was depriving the Palestinian community of water resources: the latter's use of water had increased by only 20 per cent since 1967. The peoples in the occupied territory could use water for personal purposes only, not for agriculture or economic development.
66. Israel applied a double standard with regard to the environment and the application of environmental and health measures, depending upon whether they were to be applied in Israel itself or in the occupied territory. Israeli factories in the occupied territory contravened health and environmental regulations, and increasing numbers of factories were being relocated to that territory in order to evade the restrictions imposed upon them in Israel itself. A number of studies had shown the deleterious effects that had on the health of the people and the environment of the occupied territory.
67. Economic statistics showed that the standard of living of the Palestinian community had fallen as a result of Israeli policies and the suppression of the Palestinian economy. The Israeli borders were frequently closed, entailing losses to the Palestinian economy of some $10 million daily. With a view to making the Palestinian economy dependent upon the Israeli economy, Israel also made it difficult for it to trade with the economies of neighbouring Arab countries.
68. Israel was continuing to increase the number of settlements and settlers in the occupied Syrian Golan, and to restrict the inhabitants' employment opportunities. Syrian workers had no access to social benefits or health insurance and were subjected to prohibitive levels of taxation, including tax on income, health services, local councils, land and housing ownership and use of water resources. Such measures had systematically deterred the Arab population from investing in agricultural or small-scale industrial development and had incited many of them to seek wage labour employment.
69. Over the years, his country had made every endeavour to achieve a lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and ensure that the people of the region enjoyed development and stability in place of the violence and instability from which they had suffered for so long. Even after it had regained its territory and water resources pursuant to the agreement signed with Israel in 1994, Jordan had continued to work for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. His country considered development and peace to be inseparable, and the right to development to be a basic human right. Peace could not flourish in the shadow of oppression, poverty and suffering. Economic security was therefore the only effective guarantee of peace.
70. He urged the international community to increase its financial assistance to all sectors of the Palestinian economy and alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. His delegation renewed its appeal to the Government of Israel to halt expropriation of territory, the building or expansion of settlements and to honour the undertakings it had made in the framework of bilateral agreements, including the recent Wye River Memorandum, which King Hussein had played a part in concluding. The peace process must be put back on track, and Israeli practices reviewed in order to bring peace to the region as quickly as possible.
(Tunisia) said that the item should remain on the agenda as long as Israel continued its occupation, and as long as peoples were denied their civil and political rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The expropriation of land, the demolition of buildings and the diversion of water resources by Israel was a denial of fundamental rights. The report noted, among other things, that almost the entire increase in Israeli water use since 1967 derived from the waters of the West Bank and the upper Jordan River. Meanwhile, the Palestinians were forced to leave what little land they had fallow because of a lack of water and the fact that they were banned from drilling wells.
72. The situation was hardly any better in the occupied Syrian Golan. The Arab population faced restrictions on employment opportunities and education and was heavily taxed by the occupying authorities. That combination of restrictive policies had discouraged the Arab population from investing in agriculture and small-scale industries and forced many of its members to give up agriculture altogether. Frequent Israeli closures had been a major factor behind the 18 per cent drop in gross national product (GNP) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the 35 per cent drop in per capita GNP between 1992 and 1996. In addition, the gross domestic product (GDP) had declined considerably from 5.5 per cent in 1996 to an estimated 1.2 per cent in 1997.
73. For all the foregoing reasons, his delegation requested the General Assembly to continue its consideration of that item at its next session. A report should be submitted to the Assembly thereon.
(International Labour Organization) said that employment was central to sustainable development within the occupied territories. The continued high level of unemployment and the limited proportion of wage jobs that were stable or otherwise satisfying, raised the challenge of job creation. Planned multilateral investment programmes in infrastructure were expected to create some 15,000 jobs a year. However, those new jobs would not be sufficient to meet the needs of the unemployed as well as of new entrants to the labour market. Therefore, much of the job creation needed to meet the expectations of the populations in the Palestinian territory would have to come from higher levels of economic growth, particularly the private sector.
75. ILO was willing to assist the Palestinian authority in putting in place policies and institutions to reduce unemployment. ILO, in collaboration with international donors and with the Palestinian authorities, had developed a programme of technical assistance covering various areas ranging from employment policies and support to the private sector and small enterprise to the establishment of a sound statistical system, particularly in the areas of employment and labour. Within that framework, studies had evaluated the scope for generating more employment in areas such as agriculture, small industries and exports. On the basis of research in those fields, ILO had lent its support to an International Conference on Employment in Palestine, which had been held in Ramallah in May.
76. There could be no lasting improvement in the situation of workers of the Palestinian and other Arab occupied territories without economic development accompanied by employment, training for workers and managerial staff, strengthening of employers' and workers' organizations and more efficient social institutions.
(Israel) said that, it was regrettable that the Committee should be discussing the current topic which was, at best, superfluous to the Committee's work. Moreover, it was already covered extensively by the Israel-Palestinian interim agreement signed on 28 September 1995. And it was again included in the Wye River Memorandum, which stipulated that both sides reaffirmed their commitment to actively promote economic development and cooperation. Those were the appropriate forums for such issues.
78. The peace process depended on the support of the international community which meant, first and foremost, upholding the principle of direct negotiations. It also meant creating an atmosphere conducive to achieving progress in the negotiations, not a climate of political confrontation. In particular, it called for the adoption of resolutions that reflected the positive developments in the process and the hope for a better future in the Middle East.
79. Unfortunately, the current debate contributed nothing at all to the cooperative spirit of the peace process. On the contrary, by raising issues that sought to predetermine the outcome of permanent status negotiations, the report before the Committee ran counter to the driving principle of the whole process, namely, that Israel and the Palestinians must resolve those issues directly.
The meeting rose at 6.05 p.m.
This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.