Question of Palestine home
S/PV.4046 (Resumption 2)
17 September 1999
Friday, 17 September 1999, 2.30 p.m.
Mr. van Walsum
Mrs. Martinez Ríos
Mr. Chen Xu
United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland
Sir Jeremy Greenstock
United States of America
Protection of civilians in armed conflict
Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed
The meeting resumed at 2.45 p.m.
: The next speaker is the representative of Israel. I invite him to take a seat at the Council table and to make his statement.
(Israel): I would like to congratulate you, Sir, on your assumption of your important post. Let me also commend your predecessor on the outstanding manner in which he conducted his duties previously.
The State of Israel has a deep and historical interest in the growth, integrity and respect of international humanitarian law in general and the Geneva Conventions, in particular. As a nation that lost one third of its population in the nazi occupation of Europe in the most heinous case of genocide in human history, Israel's own birthright in engraved with a particular responsibility to prevent this crime from occurring again against the Jewish people, and a universalist commitment to combat genocide, crimes against humanities and war crimes wherever they may occur.
In this context, Israel is concerned with what is transpiring today regarding those international instruments designed to protect civilians in armed conflict, including the Geneva Conventions. The world community is facing at least 20 ongoing armed conflicts across the globe that have led to acute starvation, ethnic cleaning and the physical eradication of entire communities. A basic paradox confronts the international community in this regard, for while the Geneva Conventions in particular have received nearly universal support by the accession of 188 countries, it remains a challenge to ensure that the provisions regarding civilians in armed conflict are upheld on the ground and accorded the respect they deserve. That respect can be widened and advanced if our discourse on the protection of civilians in armed conflict reflects historical truths and not politicized distortions.
For the facts in the case of Israel and the West Bank are that Israeli forces entered these territories during the 1967 Six Day War only after neighbouring States massed their armies along its borders and Israeli cities came under fire from artillery positions in Samaria and in the environs of Jerusalem. History is important, for we are finding the international community is being forced to deal almost exclusively with the results of a war of self-defence from 30 years ago, while ignoring many times wars of clear-cut aggression. The best proof of this trend was the decision to convene the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention with respect to the West Bank and Gaza and not with respect to any single conflict since 1949. Regardless of these circumstances, Israel has been ready to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict through Security Council resolutions
, which were passed in this Chamber in 1967 and 1973, respectively.
In signing the Oslo accords in September 1993, Israel demonstrated that while it is determined to achieve secure and recognized borders as a result of final status talks, it is also determined not to rule over another people. Today, in fact, more than 97 per cent of the Palestinians in the West Bank are not under Israeli occupation, but rather under the administration of the Palestinian Authority. The Oslo accords are a testament to the desire of the people of Israel to take into account the needs of civilians in armed conflict even before that conflict is fully resolved. Now it is the hope of Israel to complete the permanent status negotiations with respect to these territories. Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) are the only agreed basis for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This process has not been without risks for, while implementing its agreements with the PLO, Israeli civilians have been directly targeted by terrorist organizations that have operated out of Palestinian-controlled areas. It is our hope and expectation that, with the parties re-engaged in the peace process after the signing of the Sharm El Sheikh Accord, the Palestinian Authority will finally dismantle the operational infrastructure of these terrorist organizations and prevent attacks against Israeli civilians.
In war civilians are in some cases the mistaken casualties because of their proximity to a theatre of operations. In terrorist attacks civilians are the intended target. In war military planners seek to degrade the military capacity of their adversary by striking other military formations, airfields or command and control systems. In terrorist attacks marketplaces, city bus lines or apartment buildings are deliberately targeted. The most direct means for protecting civilians in armed conflict is by combatting the entire phenomenon of terrorism and rejecting any political excuses intended to provide it with support.
The concern of the international community with the protection of civilians in armed conflict should be supported. The protection of civilians goes to the heart of the common values that underpin the United Nations as a whole. Through determined action, and fair as well as balanced implementation of international conventions and instruments, the Member States of the United Nations can assure that the protection of civilians in the twenty-first century can be fundamentally different than the unprecedented atrocities we faced in this century that is about to come to a close.
: I thank the representative of Israel for the kind words he addressed to me and my predecessor.
I shall now make a statement in my capacity as representative of the Netherlands.
Indeed, the Council has dealt selectively with international crises. Palestinian civilians, for example, experience the worst kind of coercion, humiliation and forced migration as well as the destruction of their homes. Iraqi civilians, suffering from comprehensive sanctions, are exposed daily to attacks by American and British aircraft. Hundreds of them have been martyred as a result of this aggression, and roads, schools and laboratories have been destroyed. All of this is occurring under the very eyes of the Council, which has not taken any measures or called the perpetrators to account. Furthermore, other situations — less dangerous than the ones the Palestinians and the Iraqis are facing — are exaggerated. We fear that the day will come when CNN, the news network, will force a programme of work on the Security Council — if it has not done so already.
It is my understanding that the Council is ready to proceed to the vote on the draft resolution before it. Unless I hear any objection, I shall put the draft resolution to the vote now.
There being no objection, it is so decided.
A vote was taken by show of hands.
Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Gabon, Gambia, Malaysia, Namibia, Netherlands, Russian Federation, Slovenia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America
There were 15 votes in favour. The draft resolution has been adopted unanimously as resolution
There are no further speakers inscribed on my list. The Security Council has thus concluded the present stage of its consideration of the item on its agenda.
The meeting rose at 3.50 p.m.
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