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Letter dated 30 August 2005 from the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People addressed to the Secretary-General
In my capacity as the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, I wish to express the Committee’s serious concern over recent decisions by the Israeli Government to expand and consolidate its settlements in the West Bank. In the last two weeks, the international community, including this Committee, observed the removal by Israel of its settlements from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank and expressed the hope that the positive momentum gained as a result of this process would be followed by similar steps in the rest of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian political negotiations.
Against this background, recent decisions by the Israeli Government and pronouncements by its officials regarding the issue of settlements in the West Bank look deeply disturbing. On 24 August 2005, it was reported that Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz had approved the construction of parts of the route of the separation wall that would eventually surround the “Ma’ale Adumim” settlement. The Israeli army and its “Civil Administration” in the West Bank had begun issuing orders to seize Palestinian-owned land for the construction. If completed, the project would result in a de facto annexation of some 60 square kilometres of West Bank land, cutting off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. In a recent interview with an Israeli newspaper, Mr. Sharon was quoted as saying that “Ma’ale Adumim” would continue to grow and would be connected to Jerusalem. Mr. Sharon also said that the “Ariel” and surrounding settlements in the northern West Bank would be part of Israel forever. In addition, in early August 2005, the Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry announced plans to build 72 new units in the settlement of “Betar Illit”, west of Bethlehem. Also alarming are Israeli actions that may alter the demographic composition of Jerusalem, such as the demolition of an entire Palestinian neighbourhood in the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem and the establishment of a Jewish neighbourhood in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. On 26 August 2005, an official of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior stated that over the past year, the population of West Bank settlements had grown by 12,800 people to a total of 246,000.
In this connection, the Committee reiterates its position of principle that the settlements and the wall constructed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are contrary to international humanitarian law and numerous resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly adopted since 1967. They are also in clear violation of the provisions of the Road Map, as they predetermine the outcome of the permanent status negotiations and obstruct the establishment of a contiguous and sovereign Palestinian State. The Committee urges the United Nations membership to oppose any attempts by the occupying Power aimed at expanding the illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and relocating Gaza settlers to the West Bank.
In its advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the International Court of Justice stipulated that the Israeli settlements had been established in breach of international law. The Committee wishes to remind all Governments, States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, of their responsibility to respect and to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances. Consequently, Governments have the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.
I should be grateful if you would have the present letter circulated as a document of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, under agenda item 5, and of the Security Council.