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Mrs. Asmady (Indonesia): ...
Finally, I should like to touch upon the issue of international assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. Indonesia appreciates the Secretary-General’s report on that subject ( A/60/90 ) and fully endorses the view that only a peace process and a full and definitive settlement of the conflict will permit a transition from crisis management and recovery to sustainable development and prosperity. We urge that the Palestinian people be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination, including by establishing their own State.
Mr. Mansour (Palestine): We are gathered here today to discuss what has been a lifeline for the Palestinian people throughout the past decades of occupation and deprivation. International assistance to the Palestinian people has, more recently, been a vital component of the international community’s efforts to make concrete the foothold of stability and peace in the region. That assistance translated the Palestinian people’s vision for sustainable development into tangible projects and programmes, which made Palestinians feel that they were not alone and that the world wanted to see a brighter future for their children. Unfortunately, the international community’s good will and generous efforts were always confronted by the obstructive nature of the Israeli occupation. Following 38 years of military occupation and the past five years of unabated military aggression, the Palestinian economy now stands in ruins.
After 1967, the Palestinian economy remained hostage to the occupying Power, forced to be completely dependant on it and forbidden from reaching its potential. Palestinian society and the Palestinian economy were neglected and fell decades behind their neighbours in terms of development and infrastructure. When the Palestinian Authority was formed, therefore, it had to start from scratch. The components of the economy were lacking — starting with basic infrastructure like water and sewerage systems. The task was daunting and the historical responsibility was enormous.
Working hand in hand with the international community, the Palestinian Authority has been able to achieve great progress in many areas, despite the repeated setbacks caused by the occupying Power’s concerted efforts to obstruct or disrupt the progress. A litany of pretexts and excuses were used that only translated into the further frustration of the efforts made to enable the Palestinian People to exercise their economic, social and cultural rights, which are a basic constituent of their inalienable right to self-determination. Those Israeli obstructions are also a grave violation of international humanitarian and human rights law as well as signed agreements, in particular the Paris Protocol.
The past five years have witnessed a downward spiral in the Israeli attitude towards international assistance efforts, which has gone from obstruction to destruction. Israel, the occupying Power, systematically destroyed a host of internationally funded infrastructure projects, including the airport, the sea port, roads and water networks and many others. The most conservative estimates put the cost of that destructive Israeli campaign at $3.5 billion. They also estimate that, owing to those Israeli practices, the Palestinian economy lost approximately $6.4 billion in potential income and missed opportunities, bringing total Palestinian losses in the past five years alone to $9.9 billion. That staggering figure far exceeds the overall international assistance received by the Palestinian people between 1994 and 1999, when the projects, now destroyed, were funded. A sizeable portion of that momentous loss was contributed by generous donors represented in the Assembly.
Concurrent with the methodical destruction of infrastructure and public and private property, the occupying Power has implemented a number of collective punishment measures against the Palestinian people, worsening an already dire situation. According to the most recent report of the Secretary-General (A/60/65), Israel, the occupying Power, has enforced a closure regime of over 700 roadblocks and checkpoints that severely restrict the movement of Palestinian persons and goods.
Additionally, the occupying Power has destroyed and confiscated Palestinian land and property that were in the way of the expanding illegal settlements. Also, Israel’s wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in its 2004 Advisory Opinion, has caused untold damage to the Palestinian economy. These practices all have contributed to an increase in the Palestinian people’s dependence on international assistance and shifted the emphasis of that assistance from development to relief. Numerous independent international studies and reports, including by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Bank, have pointed out that the regressive state of the Palestinian economy and living standards are due to the aggressive Israeli measures I have just discussed.
The international community welcomed Israel’s dismantling of settlements and its exit from the Gaza Strip, only to be frustrated by the Israeli practices following the exit. While we also noted that the Israeli exit represented a step towards implementing the road map, we remain disappointed by the situation on the ground thus far. Israel, the occupying Power, continues to close the Gaza Strip’s gateways to the world and to the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, forbid construction work on the Gaza seaport and airport, and attack its towns and neighbourhoods. In fact, Mr. James Wolfensohn, the Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement, summarized the situation in a letter to the Secretary-General dated 16 October 2005, when he said that the occupying Power “is loath to relinquish control, almost acting as though there has been no withdrawal”. Mr. Wolfensohn has also emphasized that there is no hope for economic revitalization in the occupied Palestinian territory if the Gaza Strip and West Bank remain disjoined and the Gaza Strip remains sealed off from the rest of the world.
Despite the dire situation I have just outlined, the Palestinian Authority insists on looking ahead and on working for a brighter tomorrow — one that is marked by freedom and prosperity rather than by occupation and poverty. The international community shares that vision of peace and development with the Palestinian Authority and has supported its achievement by assisting in the implementation of development plans formulated by the Palestinian Authority over the past 10 years.
That shared vision also contributed to the establishment of Palestinian institutions that continue to work diligently towards being competent and transparent, worthy of serving as a foundation for the future independent State. The Palestinian leadership takes this task and responsibility very seriously, as evident in the continuous reform steps taken, which have been applauded by several international organizations.
The Palestinian Authority has formulated a medium-term development plan. We call on the international community to endorse that plan and to ensure that the plan’s projects are funded promptly in order that optimum results may be reached. This should be done in the context of guaranteeing an increase in Palestinian ownership of the process. In that regard, allow me to highlight the Palestinian people’s deep gratitude for the international community’s continued assistance and support as well as our sincere appreciation for the often selfless work done and sacrifices made by the staff of international aid agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory.
We also urge the international community to ensure that their generous pledges correspond with the funds disbursed later on, in order to ensure the uninterrupted and successful implementation of the development plan. Additionally, we call on the donor community to give its full support to the United Nations inter-agency consolidated appeals process for the occupied Palestinian territory. It cannot be overemphasized that relief and development efforts in the occupied Palestinian territory should go hand in hand, as both are vital for achieving the desired development goals.
The international community must not allow Israel to continue defying its obligations as an occupying Power through the illegal policies and practices that have led to the state of economic regression Palestine now faces. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon the international community to ensure that the occupying Power does not continue to carry out acts of aggression against the projects it funds and the aid workers it employs with impunity, as these repeated attacks have derailed the development process and frustrated assistance efforts.
Finally, the cause of this state of utter destitution is known to all parties concerned and clearly identified: the continued Israeli occupation. Hence, and as numerous international organizations agree, full economic recovery and rehabilitation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem — the goals driving international assistance — will be possible only when this occupation ends.
Mr. Shafer (Sovereign Military Order of Malta): ...
Before concluding these remarks, I should like to say a few words about the Order’s humanitarian activities to provide assistance to the Palestinian people. The Order of Malta has operated the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem-Palestine for 15 years. The hospital has just celebrated its thirty thousandth healthy delivery, despite having been besieged and damaged as a consequence of the violence in the area. The Order remains committed to the development of a sustainable health system for the Palestinian people.
I should like to assure the Assembly that the Order is responding daily to the challenges presented by humanitarian work. We will continue to follow closely the leadership and initiatives of the United Nations.
Ms. Oron (Israel): As I listened to the statement of my Palestinian colleague, I realized to my regret that I was hearing the same recording that I have heard so many times in the past. Unlike the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories, which has dramatically changed during recent years, my colleague’s statement employed the same rhetoric, omissions, factual inaccuracies and crude generalizations.
Although the Palestinian observer may want the Assembly to believe otherwise, the situation has changed over the past years. Despite violence and despair during the intifada, there was a peace process prior to it, during which the two sides signed international agreements and the Palestinian Authority was created. Less than a year ago, new hope was created when Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met in Sharm el-Sheikh and when both expressed a commitment to a peaceful settlement according to the road map.
This past summer, Prime Minister Sharon took a bold and courageous move by disengaging all troops and civilians from all of the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank. Furthermore, constructive negotiations are currently taking place over transferring control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. What has not changed, however, is the unwillingness of the Palestinian Authority to confront terrorism and fulfil its first obligation under the road map, to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and collect arms.
Palestinian terrorists continue to kill Israeli civilians and fire Qassam rockets onto Israeli towns and cities. There have been more than 26,000 terrorist attacks perpetrated against Israeli targets during the past five years. There should be no doubt about the impetus for those attacks. They were carried out with the sole intention to murder, targeting as many children, women and men as possible.
Neither side has a monopoly on suffering; nor can either side fail to assume their commitments. I invite my Palestinian colleagues to discontinue unhelpful rhetoric and utilize the current momentum for peace. Israel will further elaborate on that subject when the General Assembly takes action on the relevant draft resolution.
The President: I call on the observer of Palestine.
Mr. Hijazi (Palestine): It is easy to use red-herring arguments, as the Israeli representative just did, in order to divert attention from the indisputable information presented about the grave violations of international law that we referred to earlier in our statement. The fact remains that until and unless Israel halts its military campaign against the Palestinian people, Israel will be held responsible for its practices.
Furthermore, the systematic destruction of the Palestinian people’s infrastructure and all their development projects, as well as the deprivation of their sovereignty over their land and resources, are the direct result of a clear policy adopted by the State of Israel, the occupying Power.
The Israeli representative referred to the withdrawal from Gaza. The exit, though significant in that it set a precedent, was 38 years too late and was done in a manner that left the Gaza Strip and its
1.3 million inhabitants prisoners, denied access to the rest of the world and to the other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories. Furthermore, I would like to remind the Israeli representative of a point that her Government often conveniently omits from the discussion on the Gaza Strip exit, and that is that Israeli occupation forces continue to maintain effective control over the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air.
The Gaza Strip was left in ruins and is now experiencing the effects of never-before-used Israeli weapons, including artillery rounds. Gaza residents have been violently shaken out of their sleep, as their windows shatter from the effects of repeated sonic booms over their skies at intensities never experienced before. That imprisoned population is now also held hostage and terrorized.
Numbers and figures in this conflict are a powerful identifier of the aggressor and the aggressed-upon. It is interesting that the Israeli delegate chose to bring up numbers and figures, since she must know that her occupying forces have, over the past four years alone, killed more than 4,000 Palestinians, including 682 children. The delegate, no doubt, also knows better than all of us the exact figure, totalling into the tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, artillery and rockets weighing up to 1,000 kilos, that the Israeli occupation forces have used against Palestinian population centres. We invite her to share that figure with us.
It is only when Israel, the occupying Power, puts an end to its occupation, and with that, an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people for 38 years now, that the international assistance would be fruitful and attain its desired and noble goal.
The meeting rose at 6.30 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-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.