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


GA/EF/2891
9 November 1999



TRAINING, RESEARCH, PALESTINIAN-ARAB SOVEREIGNTY OVER NATURAL RESOURCES,

AMONG ISSUES ADDRESSED IN WIDE-RANGING DEBATE

Committee Also Hears Draft Texts On Small Island Developing States,
Training-Research Proposals

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Also this morning, the Committee considered the 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.

The observer for Palestine stated that the establishment of settlements, and the confiscation of lands and water for those settlements, were to the detriment of the Arab people and to their confidence in the seriousness of Israel’s intentions for peace. It was impossible to persevere with the peace process while Israel was violating United Nations resolutions. The seriousness of Israeli practices in the occupied territories, pursued by a succession of Governments, was clear evidence of Israel’s intention to continue that occupation. Jerusalem was being encircled by settlements, which were themselves surrounded by military blocs, creating a new reality in the area and preventing Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Syria’s representative said that the suffering of the Palestinian people was the result of Israeli practices aimed at continuing occupation and expanding settlements. Practices in the occupied territories, including seizure of land and water, and detention and torture of Palestinians, had led to many structural imbalances in the economic, social and environmental landscape of the occupied territories. Israeli settlement activity in the Arab occupied territories was incommensurate with peace. Israel had sought strenuously to change the demographic and geographic features of the occupied territories, especially in Jerusalem. Peace and occupation could never coexist under the same roof. What was needed was respect for the commitment of the former Rabin Government to withdraw to Israel’s 1967 borders.

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The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. to conclude its discussion on the 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. It will then begin its consideration of the report of the Economic and Social Council.


Committee Work Programme

This morning, the Second Committee (Economical and Financial) met to consider training and research, as well as 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.

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Also for the Committee's consideration was a note by the Secretary-General on 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 (document A/54/152-E/1999/92). The failure to fully implement the terms of agreements reached between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), says the note has caused continuing hardship to Palestinians in the occupied territory. Israeli settlement policy and closures of occupied territory continue to aggravate the living conditions of the Palestinians and the Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan.

According to the note, by the end of 1999, more than 375,000 Israelis will be living in over 200 communities established since 1967 in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. The geographic distribution of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory severely restricts the growth of Palestinian communities. In most cases, settlements either surround Palestinian communities, and therefore prevent their natural growth, or huge tracts of Palestinian land are confiscated for future settlement expansion.

According to the Wye Memorandum, agreements about the southern safe passage route, designed to connect Gaza with the West Bank via Hebron, should have been concluded within a week of the date of entry into force of the Memorandum, and operation of that route should have begun as soon as possible thereafter, states the report. Agreements on the southern route have been delayed by unresolved issues relating to the northern route. There is no confirmed opening date for any safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank. Similarly, opening the port of Gaza has been delayed owing to security demands by Israel. On the other hand, the international airport in the Gaza Strip, under joint Israeli and Palestinian Authority supervision, opened to limited traffic in late 1998. Continuing restrictions on the Palestinian Authority's operation of the facility have contributed to its failure, until now, to make a recognizable contribution to the Palestinian economy.

The report states that the construction underway attests to a significant campaign of intentional settlement expansion. More than 20 per cent of all land to be marketed by the Ministry of Construction and Housing during 1999 is located in the occupied Palestinian territory. Also, the upsurge in settlement expansion in the West Bank continues and thousands of apartment units are planned for settlements east of Jerusalem to produce a ring of Israeli settlements around the city. The immediate repercussions of Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory are the constant frictions between the settlers and the Palestinians.

The repercussions of Israeli occupation on Palestinian healthcare have been severe, according to the report. Responsibility for healthcare has been transferred to the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo I agreement, but has been largely supported by private organizations. The Authority has not been able to cope financially with the burden of high population growth and extremely limited economic resources.

Regarding the occupation's repercussions on education, movement restrictions continue to affect school attendance for those students who must cross Israeli-controlled checkpoints. While the increase in the size of the population in the territories is clearly reflected in the number of students attending schools, that increase was not matched by an increase in the number of teachers.

According to the report, a continuing factor in the Palestinian exodus from Jerusalem is financial. Thousands of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have moved to more affordable housing in the nearby West Bank. In hundreds of cases, Palestinians with Jerusalem identity documents who reside outside the city have been forced by Israel to surrender their Jerusalem identity documents and thus their right to reside in the city. The plan for an "umbrella municipality" for Jerusalem and its environs, unveiled in June 1998, will, if implemented, bring West Bank settlements into "Greater Jerusalem" one administrative step further along the road to de facto annexation.

Israeli occupation is strictly affecting and undermining the Palestinians' supply of drinking water as well as its quality, states the report. Israel's national water company was charged by a human rights group with drastically cutting water to Palestinian communities in the West Bank during the summer to meet increased consumption in Israel and its settlements in the territory. The Group had also charged that Israel had imposed obstacles to the drilling of new wells, expropriated wells owned by Palestinians and neglected to maintain water systems.

Israeli control and neglect of the occupied Palestinian territory is having negative repercussions on the environment, according to the report. Environmental regulations on soil, air and water quality and restrictions on industrial development have generally been far less comprehensive and much less assiduously enforced in the occupied Palestinian territory as compared with Israel itself. Combined with State-subsidized incentives for Israeli concerns to locate to industrial parks in and near settlements, the relative laxity of environmental enforcement and monitoring has led to the relocation of polluting industries into the occupied territory. Palestinian scientists face difficulties in collecting waste samples, owing to lack of access to the effluent source. Reliable data about waste-water generated in the settlements is difficult to obtain. A large amount is dumped, untreated, on Palestinian land, creating a health hazard for many communities.

The report states that the macroeconomic impact of Israeli occupation on the occupied Palestinian territory inhibits investment and growth as a result of the continued ambiguity of the legal and political situation. The situation is aggravated by border closures which include the ban on the movement of goods, factors of production and people between the Palestinian areas, Israel and the Gaza Strip, and between the rest of the West Bank and Jerusalem. Closures have a significant effect on the continuity and regularity of production, marketing, income generation and employment. It has also negatively affected trade, particularly exports from the territory.

The current uncertain border status and closures are the key reasons, the report goes on to say, why expectations for a revival of private investment following the signing of the Oslo peace accords have not been met. The regime of closures, the failure to open a secure transport link and the failure to open the anticipated port in Gaza have reduced the profitability of the critical export sector and have resulted in a distorted pattern of investment in the occupied Palestinian territory.

While incentives and investment continue to promote the Israeli presence in the occupied Syrian Golan, the report states that the Arab population faces further deterioration in living conditions resulting from Israeli restrictions on employment and education in Israel, as well as from Israeli taxation policy. Employment opportunities for the Arab population are extremely restricted since movement remains problematic, particularly in light of the current stalled peace process. The improvement of living conditions is further inhibited by measures that restrict the expansion of educational facilities, and limited access to education in Syria or in Israeli colleges.

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Introduction of Report

SULAFA AL-BASSAM, Chief of the Regional Commissions, New York Office, said that the report on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation was based on different sources, primarily from the Israeli and Palestinian press. She concurred that the repercussions had been all-pervasive and all-encompassing, adversely affecting the land and the people, natural resources and environment, lives and livelihood, education and health, welfare and human rights, economic prospects, opportunities and potentials, rights of communities and the dignity of human persons.

She said that conditions in the occupied territories were worse in 1998 than in the previous year. The upsurge in settlement expansion during 1998 had continued. From January 1996 to March 1998, 2,000 Palestinians carrying East Jerusalem identity documents were denied the right to live in occupied East Jerusalem, while the Israeli population there continued to grow. More than half a million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank were without reliable regular sources of water. The revival of private investment, anticipated at the time of the Oslo accords, had not materialized. Indeed, the macroeconomic impact of Israeli occupation on the occupied territory, including the occupied Syrian Golan, inhibited investment and growth because of the continued ambiguity of the legal and political situation.

The people of the Middle East welcomed the prospects for peace following the relatively recent general elections in Israel, she said. However, until peace proved to be enduring and based on the fundamental principles enshrined in the Charter, the issues under consideration would continue to be very troubling, both for the region and the world at large.

MARWAN A. JILANI, Observer for Palestine, said that the contents of the report clearly reflected the seriousness of the colonial policy of Israel and the devastating effects of that policy on the social and economic life of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, and the inhabitants of the occupied Syrian Golan. The establishment of settlements, and the confiscation of lands and water for those settlements, were to the detriment of the Arab people and the confidence of those people in the seriousness of Israel’s intentions for the peace process.

He said that Israel’s was deviating 90 per cent of the water supply from the occupied territories, and was therefore carrying out racist policies. In spite of the recent elections, and hopes that Israel would apply the provisions of the various signed accords, Israel’s policy of extending its settlements only threatened a peace that should be based on respect for international law and international humanitarian law.

It was impossible to persevere with the peace programme while the Israeli Government was violating United Nations resolutions. The seriousness of its practices in the occupied territories, pursued by a succession of Israeli Governments, was clear evidence of Israel’s intention to extend the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem. Jerusalem was being surrounded by settlements and isolated from the territories. There were military blocs surrounding those settlements, which were creating a new reality in the area and preventing withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories. The report reasserted the Palestinian right to demand damages and interest. That issue should be taken up in the context negotiations for a final solution, he said.

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said that the Secretary-General’s report, which contained a detailed review of the sufferings of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan, added new pages to the existing record of Israeli practices. That suffering was the result of practices aimed at continuing occupation and expanding settlements. The illegal Israeli practices in the occupied territories, including seizure of land and water and detention and torture of Palestinians, had led to many structural imbalances in the economic, social and environmental landscape of the occupied territories.

Since the beginning of its aggression, Israel had adopted a two-part policy aimed at isolating the Golan from its motherland Syria and annexing it to Israel, he said. The first part of that policy had to do with land and the second part with population. Israel had implemented that policy in stages, beginning with the establishment of its first settlements in the area. That policy was strengthened following Knesset’s approval in 1981 of a bill for the annexation of the Golan. That was a measure condemned by the Security Council in resolution 497 of 1981. The Council had considered that annexation null and void. Israel had not stopped at seizing 96 per cent of the land in the Golan and demolishing hundreds of cities, but had also expelled over 130,000 Syrians for the sole purpose of establishing settlements. All that took place despite the peace process, which was based on the application of Council resolutions and the land-for-peace principle.

Settlement activity in the Arab occupied territories implied an orientation incommensurate with the achievement of peace, he said. Israel strenuously sought to change the demographic and geographic features of the occupied territories, especially in Jerusalem. Such endeavours would only lead to closing the doors on a comprehensive peace in the region. Israeli settlement policy had been condemned worldwide as a transgression of international law, as well as a violation of Council resolutions. Peace by its very nature was in contradiction with occupation. Hence, peace and occupation could never coexist under the same roof. He reiterated Syria’s continued endeavours to establish a comprehensive and just peace, based on the Madrid peace process and on Security Council resolutions, all of which called for immediate and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. The former Rabin Government’s commitment to withdraw to the 1967 borders should be rigorously respected.

ALI AL-UJALI (Libya) said that the report demonstrated the difficult conditions imposed on the Palestinian people by the aggressive actions committed against them, in spite of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, which remained a dead letter. The occupying Power was now embarking on settlement expansion, carried out in such a way as to encircle and cutoff Palestinian conglomerations. Those policies were a challenge to the whole international community.

Settlement expansion was carried out by various means, he said, such as construction of settlements, demolishing of Palestinian homes and appropriation of land. In 1996, 2 per cent of West Bank land had been confiscated for the building of settlements. The water supply to West Bank Palestinian conglomerations had been cut off this past summer to satisfy Israeli settlement needs. There was also an environmental problem, caused by the increased waste generated by those colonies. All of those practices were hostile to peace. Arab suffering would never end until that awful occupation came to an end -– and the international community should ensure that that happened.

ABDULLAH M. AL-MONTASER (Yemen) said that the Secretary-General’s report reflected a number of truths about the continuation of Israeli practices in the occupied territories in defiance of numerous United Nations resolutions. Israel had chosen to ignore global public opinion and to continue with its hegemonistic policies. The report demonstrated that despite agreements signed with the Palestinians, Israel had pursued its settlement policies and destroyed Palestinian homes. Everyone in the Middle East would have liked to see an end to the Israeli occupation and to the suffering of the Palestinians before the end of the decade.

However, he continued, reality showed that those hopes had been in vain. Rather than bring settlement expansion to an end, Israel was simply doing it at a faster pace. There had been an alarming increase since 1998 in settlement activity. The Israeli Government had also annexed Palestinian territory in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, confiscated agricultural land and destroyed Palestinian homes. All of which were in open contradiction of United Nations resolutions and the will of the international community. The international community should call on Israel to respect its will, respect the accords signed with the Palestinians, and implement the peace process so that the inhabitants of the region could live in peace.

WALID A. AL-HADID (Jordan) said that the policy pursued by successive Israeli governments and aimed at building and expanding settlements, transformed the configuration of the population, flouting General Assembly and Security Council resolutions and the opinion of the international community as a whole. According to those resolutions, Israeli policies and practices regarding the settlements had no legality, and were a serious obstacle to overall lasting peace in the Middle East. The report emphasized that at the end of this year there would be 375,000 Israelis living in more than 200 settlements.

In the last few years, Jordan had made maximum efforts towards the achievement of a lasting global peace in the Middle East. He was convinced of the importance of economic development for all the people of the region, which would strengthen the longed-for peace. He called upon the international community to give greater economic assistance and invest more heavily in the region. His country again called on Israel not to expand settlements, since they were an obstacle to peace and development.


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