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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Fifty-second General Assembly
Fourth Committee
24th Meeting (PM)
GA/SPD/128
25 November 1997

REFUSAL BY CURRENT ISRAELI GOVERNMENT TO ABIDE BY PEACE AGREEMENTS

OF ITS PREDECESSOR HAS LED TO ALARMING POLICIES, MALAYSIA SAYS

Addresses Fourth Committee As It Continues Considering Report of Special Committee on Israeli Practices

The refusal by Israel's Likud Government to abide by peace agreements entered into by the former Labour Government had resulted in alarming policies, the representative of Malaysia told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon. The most controversial and dangerous among them was the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem. Yet despite international condemnation of that policy, the Israeli Government remained unrepentant, he said.

He was addressing the Committee as it continued its consideration of the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

At a time when organizational reform and budgetary restraint in the United Nations were needed more than ever before, the resources of the Israeli Practices Committee should be shifted to other avenues of direct benefit to the Palestinian people, the representative of the United States told the Committee. The General Assembly's annual resolutions on the Special Committee's report contained outdated language and made no constructive contribution to the Middle East peace process, he said.

The representative of Brunei Darussalam said that if the Palestinian people continued to be deprived of such basic human rights as access to education, natural resources and land ownership, it would be impossible to attain an environment essential for a just and lasting peace. The representative of Iran said the international community should condemn Israeli measures which violated human rights and were tantamount to collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Libya, Tunisia and Sudan. The representatives of Israel and Lebanon spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 11 a.m tomorrow, 26 November, to take action on draft resolutions relating to the reports of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and of the Israeli Practices Committee.


Committee Work Programme

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. (For background, see Press Release GA/SPD/127 of 25 November.)

THAMER ABDALLA ADWAN (Jordan) said his country deeply regretted the fact that the human rights situation in the occupied territories continued to deteriorate. That did not serve the cause of peace. The destruction of houses, establishment of settlements and restrictions on movement had resulted in a great deterioration of the living conditions of the Palestinians. The policy of the closure of those territories, which affected the rights of religion and access to health care, was an unjustified collective punishment, in flagrant violation of the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

Among the most dangerous Israeli actions was the construction of settlements in the West Bank, he said. Such actions were illegal and an obstacle to the establishment of peace in the region. Jordan could not accept anything that led to the erosion of peace. Treating the symptoms of a problem without touching upon its core could not solve it. Root causes must be addressed. The Palestinian problem as a whole must be resolved.

EMAD A. AL-MUHANNA (Saudi Arabia) said there had been a deterioration of the human rights situation in the occupied territories. Israeli colonization practices and its confiscation of lands were especially troubling. New colonies had been built in the West Bank since 1994. A large Jewish population had been settled in Jerusalem/Al-Quds. Palestinian identity cards were being taken away and people were being forced to prove their residence in East Jerusalem.

In economic terms, the harm done between 1992 and 1994 had been enormous, he said. One million Arabs did not enjoy the minimum salary. Israel had repeatedly refused to implement relevant United Nations resolutions on the accords it had entered into with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It should implement all relevant United Nations resolutions, so that peace in the area could be achieved.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said the refusal of the Israeli Government to be bound by the peace agreements entered into by the former Labour Government had resulted in alarming policies. The most controversial and dangerous among them was the policy of further establishing and expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem. The systematic confiscation of Arab-owned land on various pretexts, in total disregard of United Nations resolutions which declared the practice illegal, had resulted in untold suffering to the inhabitants of the occupied territories. Arab land amounting to some 74 per cent of the West Bank and 40 per cent of the Gaza Strip had been forcibly acquired by the Israeli authorities since 1967.

Despite international condemnation of its settlement policy, the Israeli Government remained unrepentant, he said. That was illustrated by its decision to proceed with the construction of a new settlement for 6,500 Jewish settlers in Jabal Abu Ghneim. That construction, combined with such administrative measures as the classification of Arab residents of Jerusalem as resident aliens or foreign immigrants, would complete the encirclement of Arab-populated East Jerusalem. That would cut it off from the rest of the West Bank and effectively alter the demographic character and legal status of the city in favour of the Jewish population, thus predetermining the outcome of the final status negotiations on Jerusalem.

The Special Committee's report of the use of excessive force by Israeli forces to keep the Palestinians in line was also a matter of concern, he said. The violent clashes following the opening of a tunnel beneath the Al-Aqsa Mosque had ended with a death count of 74 persons -- 58 Palestinians and 16 Israelis -- of whom 16 were children. The continued demolition of Arab houses, accusations of the sexual harassment of women, detention and torture of children by Israeli security forces, and acts of aggression by armed settlers seriously undermined the process of confidence-building among the Arabs and the Israelis, which was so necessary if they were ever to settle their conflict.

PENGIRAN MAIDIN HASHIM (Brunei Darussalam) expressed concern about the continued violation of human rights in the occupied territories. The Palestinian people continued to be deprived of such basic human rights as access to education, natural resources and land ownership. If that situation continued, the essential environment for a just and lasting peace would not be attained. Actions affecting Palestinian human rights would undermine hopes for a just and comprehensive settlement through the process of peace negotiations. They would also seriously undermine the spirit of
trust and cooperation that was vital to the success of the process.


Like most Member States, Brunei Darussalam was concerned that the construction of a settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim was continuing and that related activities remained unabated throughout the occupied territories, he said. Those actions represented a serious violation of international law, including Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978), and contravened the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

MOHAMMAD MEHDI YOUSEFI (Iran) said that a continuing source of tension in the occupied territories was the existence and expansion of settlements. The construction of settlements in East Jerusalem illustrated that Israel considered itself above and beyond international law.

The international community should condemn the adoption of measures which violated human rights and were tantamount to collective punishment, he said. Such practices had a negative impact on the economic and social situation of inhabitants of the occupied territories, and were not only illegal but inhuman. All such practices should cease immediately. The return of all Palestinian refugees and displaced persons to their homeland should be facilitated.

MASAHIRO KOHARA (Japan) said that a major cause of violence and unrest in the region was the construction of new Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories. The international community had repeatedly called upon Israel to halt such construction, which could not but have a negative impact on the peace process.

Japan was determined to contribute in whatever way it could to the creation of an environment conducive to peace, he said. It had recently approved a $23.6 million package of assistance for Palestinians. With that assistance, the total amount of such aid extended by Japan came to approximately $314 million. Draft resolutions approved by the Fourth Committee should not be provocative with respect to any of the parties. Rather they should engender a spirit of cooperation for the achievement of lasting peace in the region.

RAMADAN A. BARG (Libya) said the policy of collective punishment and sanctions in the occupied territories was continuing. The international community had seen closures aimed at bringing the Palestinian people to their knees. The occupation authorities had undertaken a number of measures which were in serious violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and of United Nations resolutions. Israel had turned its back on the concerns of the international community because it intended to maintain the status quo.

With respect to settlements, he said that people had been brought to the occupied territories from all over the world in order to drive out their rightful inhabitants. The practices of the Israeli Government were torpedoing the efforts being made in the search for a just and lasting peace. Those practices, which also affected the populations of Syria and Lebanon, must be brought to an end.

DOUGLAS R. KEENE (United States) said the draft resolutions on the report of the Israeli Practices Committee contained outdated language and made no constructive contribution to the peace process. While the difficult and sometimes tragic turns on the long road to peace should not be ignored, neither should the many accomplishments of the negotiating partners be minimized. At a time when organizational reform and budgetary restraint in the United Nations were needed more than ever before, the resources of that Committee could be shifted to other avenues which could bring direct benefits to the Palestinian people.

The Special Committee's resources should be used to support Palestinian self- government and economic development in the West Bank and Gaza, he went on to say. Over the past two years, it had spent $4.5 million, excluding conference costs, to support its activities -- activities that were barely noticed outside the walls of the United Nations. That money could do a lot of good in the West Bank and Gaza, or in Palestinian refugee camps elsewhere.

The peace process was going through difficult times, he said. That put a special burden on all concerned to do what could be done to support the process and encourage the parties. Recycling standard one-sided resolutions out of the past did nothing to accomplish that important task.

The United States called upon Member States to suppress the standard request for the Special Committee to continue its work and report next year, he said. It was time for all to recognize that the Special Committee's existence was inconsistent with the joint efforts that Israel and the Palestinians were making to resolve their differences. The United States would continue to oppose references in the resolutions such as "the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem".

EL WALID DOUDECH (Tunisia) said that there was a lack of any sincere will on the part of the Israeli Government to follow through with the peace process. It was continuing with settlements in violation of United Nations resolutions, and had imposed collective sanctions against the Palestinians, thus causing a deterioration in their living conditions. Unemployment in Gaza had reached 50 to 60 per cent. Israel had also continued its confiscation of hundreds of hectares of land.

In view of the serious worsening of the situation in the Middle East, the international community must strive to save the peace process by forcing Israel to respect international law, he said. Tunisia supported the peace process and would continue its efforts to bring about its successful culmination. A lasting peace would only be achieved, if Palestinians were allowed to enjoy self-determination.

AMAR ELTAYEP (Sudan) said that a just and lasting peace in the Middle East could not be achieved without full respect for peace agreements already entered into by the parties in the region. The report of the Special Committee contained a plethora of examples of violations by the Israeli Government of the rights of the Palestinian people.

Millions of Palestinians were hostages in their own villages as a result of travel restrictions and closures, he said. Access to medical care was also affected. The international community must support the Palestinians in their struggle against the Israeli occupation.

Right of Reply

DAVID TOURGEMAN (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he wondered whether some of the representatives of Arab delegations believed themselves when they attributed atrocities to Israel. Israel had made it clear on numerous occasions that it had no territorial claim whatsoever against Lebanon, and that its presence in that country was a matter of self-defence. Israeli towns near the Lebanese border had been subjected to attack even before the establishment of the security zone. The inability of the Lebanese Government to prevent those attacks had left Israel with no choice but to defend itself.

It did not surprise the Israeli delegation that the Lebanese delegation had not referred to the massive Syrian military presence in Lebanon, he said. The presence of 32,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon reflected the real occupation of that country. The Syrian occupation was based on the consent of the Lebanese Government.

ADNAN MANSOUR (Lebanon) said there could be no justification for the Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory. The Israeli presence and the Syrian presence in Lebanon were two different issues. The Israeli presence was an occupation force, while the Syrian presence was at the request of and in accordance with an agreement with the Government of Lebanon.


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