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Agenda item 91: Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources
The meeting was called to order at 9.45 a.m.
Agenda item 91: Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (A/59/89-E/2004/21 and A/59/3 (chap. I)
49. Ms. Al-Bassam (Chief, Regional Commissions New York Office) introduced the report of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the 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 (A/59/89-E/2004/21, annex). The document indicated that the Israeli occupation was still the main cause of the current socio-economic plight of the Palestinian people. The Secretary-General had repeatedly underscored that a just and comprehensive peace offered the only realistic hope of ending the violence in the occupied territory.
50. The report focused on the socio-economic ramifications of Israel’s relentless efforts to expand its settlements and erect its barrier in the West Bank, the restrictions on mobility and the closures imposed by Israel, Israel’s destruction of infrastructure and crops and Israel’s ongoing policy of demolishing homes.
51. Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued to be the primary cause of the conflict. In the West Bank, Israel had established more than 136 settlements (deemed illegal by the international community), where 236,000 settlers lived. In the Gaza Strip, 17 settlements housed some 7,000 people. Approximately 180,000 settlers lived in occupied East Jerusalem.
52. Settler planning zones had absorbed 41.9 per cent of land in the West Bank. The total area confiscated for settlements or designated as military zones in the Gaza Strip was 165.04 square kilometres, or 45 per cent of the territory of the Strip, accommodating 7,000 settlers. More than one million Palestinians were living on the remaining 55 per cent of the land. Although the Quartet road map required a “freeze” on the construction or growth of settlements, none had not been ordered. All settlement categories remained for a significant portion of Israel’s public investment and new building in the settlements had increased by 35 per cent in 2003.
53. The entrenchment of settlements by the Israeli Government was symbiotic with the building of the West Bank separation barrier, which had led to the confiscation and fragmentation of Palestinian land. That policy had aroused serious concerns about the possibility of establishing an independent and viable Palestinian State alongside Israel in the future.
54. The Israeli Government had reached an advanced stage in the construction of a barrier which would extend over a total length of 638 kilometres and cover 975 square kilometres (16.6 per cent) of the West Bank, most of it in occupied territory inhabited by 320,000 settlers, including those in occupied Jerusalem.
55. With the construction of the barrier, Israel would in fact annex most of the aquifer system in the West Bank (which provided 51 per cent of the West Bank’s water resources) and separate communities from their land and water resources, thereby depriving them of all means of subsistence and forcing many Palestinians living in those areas to leave, as 6,000 to 8,000 residents of Qalqilia had already done.
56. The restrictions imposed on the movement of goods and persons, in addition to curfews, exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, deepening unemployment and poverty, preventing the provision of health care, interrupting education and in general of humiliating the Palestinians individually and collectively.
57. Since March 2003, the building of 85 new checkpoints, 538 different kinds of trenches and ditches and 47 road gates and roadblocks and the existence of innumerable “flying” (mobile) checkpoints had effectively dissected the entire occupied territory into a large number of separate, isolated pockets. About 47 per cent of households had seen their income plummet by more than 50 per cent over the same period. The proportion of the population living in poverty had risen to 63 per cent. Two million Palestinians depended on food aid for survival and lived in absolute poverty, in other words on less than $2 a day.
58. Those conditions had dealt a severe blow to the Palestinian economy. In 2003 alone, Israel’s confiscation and destruction of Palestinian homes and lands had swelled the number of homeless and internally displaced Palestinians by between 13,000 and 16,000 persons. Some 28,000 Palestinian homes were threatened with destruction at any moment. Israeli forces had destroyed 10 per cent of the arable land in Gaza. In the West Bank, the Israeli army and the settlers had uprooted hundreds of thousands of olive, citrus and other kinds of fruit trees and destroyed 806 wells and 296 agricultural warehouses.
59. Even before the construction of the barrier, the Government of Israel had permitted active discrimination against Palestinians in respect of access to water.
60. Sixty per cent of Palestinian families currently depended on water distributed from tankers, which consumed 17 to 40 per cent of the household income in the summer months. In some cases, because of checkpoints and closures, water tankers were not always able to reach villages and, as a result, some communities had been without water for several days.
61. The Israeli authorities had appropriated most of the Syrian Golan for military use or settlements. The remaining 18,000 Syrian Arabs maintained control over only a little more than 6 per cent of the original territory under occupation. As in the case of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the occupation of the Syrian Golan had resulted in the splitting of families, limited job opportunities and a reduction in health and education services.
62. The report of the Secretary-General had emphasized that, during the period under review, mounting economic and social damage from the military occupation had been noted. Most social and economic data pointed to a marked deterioration in the living conditions of the Palestinian people, including new forms of dispossession and destruction of private and public assets of all kinds.
63. As a consequence, the Occupied Palestinian Territory was once again regarded as a “war-torn economy”. Humanitarian assistance was not enough to protect the rights of Palestinian civilians living under occupation, or to ensure that they had a dignified life. The only way out of the current economic and social crisis was to end the occupation of the Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan.
64. Suffering and dispossession had reached new heights in 2003 and might lead the Palestinian people to further doubt the efficacy of the unilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts which had been made in an attempt to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
65. Halting the Israeli occupation remained the only way of ending the socio-economic plight of the Palestinian people.
66. Mr. Elfarnawany (Egypt) wanted to know how the occupation prevented the Palestinian people from achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Noting that the dreadful living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory were hardly conducive to development, he wondered whether or how ESCWA had addressed that issue in the report and whether it would be dealt with in future reports.
67. Mr. Sabbagh (Syrian Arab Republic) expressed surprise at not finding any reference in the report to the dumping of radioactive waste in the occupied territories even though in its report, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories had referred to the nuclear waste stored in the occupied territories, including in the Syrian Golan.
68. Mr. Meron (Israel) wondered why Ms. Al-Bassam had not referred to the Secretary-General’s favourable statement about the Israeli Prime Minister’s bold withdrawal plan, which was going to radically alter the situation in the occupied territories, and which had been welcomed by the Quartet.
69. Ms. Al-Bassam (Chief, Regional Commissions New York Office), replying to the Egyptian delegation’s question, said that the regional commissions were currently preparing their regional reports on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. They were reviewing progress achieved in that regard by linking the goals to other socio-economic issues and would definitely address the situation in the occupied territories and the issue of the Palestinian people’s capacity to achieve development goals. Those reports would be published in early 2005 and would be made available to delegations at the regional and Headquarters levels.
70. While the dumping of nuclear waste had not been dealt with in the report, she wished to assure the Syrian delegation that the appropriate action would be taken to ensure that the issue was included in the next report.
71. She noted, in response to the Israeli delegation, that, while the report quoted remarks made by the Secretary-General concerning the situation on the ground, it only covered periods during which no improvement had been observed in the situation of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and the socio-economic situation.
72. Mr. Al-Emadi (Qatar) said it was deplorable that, in addition to the many abuses committed against the Palestinian people, including confiscation of land, demolition of homes, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention and destruction of fruit trees, Israel had ignored the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and continued to build the separation wall, throwing many Palestinians out of their homes. The building of new Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory only further exacerbated tensions between the two peoples. The situation in the territory, characterized by poverty, unemployment and violence, was deteriorating steadily, making slimmer any hopes placed by the Palestinian people in the road map. As the number of children killed and wounded increased steadily, more and more jobs were lost, the personal freedoms of more people were violated and more communities disintegrated.
73. He vigorously condemned Israel for flouting the Security Council’s resolutions and called upon the international community to urgently bring the parties to the negotiating table and ensure that Israel stopped its policy of violence, occupation and settlement. Reaffirming the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory, he noted that a just and global settlement to the conflict could be achieved, that the road map could be put back on track and that an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital could be established.
74. Ms. Barghouti (Permanent Observer for Palestine) said that the Palestinian people had been struggling for a long time to exercise its inalienable rights, including the right to permanent sovereignty over its natural resources. Attainment of those rights was fundamental for an independent and sovereign State of Palestine and for peace and security in the Middle East. The Palestinian people had endured more than it could from the prolonged occupation by Israel, the occupying Power, of its territory, the control, destruction and exploitation by Israel of its natural resources, confiscation of its land, demolition of houses, razing of agricultural land, diversion of water resources, uprooting of productive trees, destruction of the livelihoods of Palestinians, bringing the Palestinian economy to the verge of collapse.
75. In addition to the building of new bypass roads and new settlements, the occupying Power had continued the construction of the expansionist wall, which had been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice; that wall, which departed from the Green Line and cut deep into Palestinian territory, had led to the confiscation of more land and the destruction of property, crops and wells.
76. The international community must take urgent measures to compel Israel to cease its violations of international law in order for the rights of the Palestinian civilian population to its property and natural resources to be safeguarded. In that regard, she drew attention to the Durban Ministerial Declaration of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, which called on the United Nations, Member States and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to take specific action.
77. The Secretary-General’s report described in detail the dire economic and social situation of the Palestinian people and the variety of violations, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and home demolitions, to which it was subjected by the occupying Power. Restrictions on the freedom of movement of persons and goods, including humanitarian assistance, medical and agricultural equipment, through a system of checkpoints and roadblocks, coupled with closures and prolonged curfews, had caused a steep decline in production and increased unemployment, which could result in human catastrophe.
78. Therefore, the United Nations must continue to monitor the situation closely in an effort to bring an end to all illegal Israeli actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. In that regard, it must act to ensure that Israel respected its obligations under international law, including humanitarian and human rights law. The international community must take urgent measures to halt the destruction of the Palestinian economy and ensure a sustainable life with dignity and rights for the Palestinian people by striving to end the Israeli occupation.
79. Mr. Rahman (Malaysia) expressed concern at all the repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the daily life of the Palestinian population detailed in the report. That occupation caused many deaths and was based on a policy of arbitrary arrests and detentions, forced population displacement, property destruction and confiscation and mobility restrictions. That population, which could no longer exploit its natural resources never mind make a living from such resources, had also lost its right to decent housing, education and health care.
80. The construction of the separation wall had further darkened that already gloomy picture; it had caused the destruction of homes, closure of businesses and enterprises, destruction of crops, and annexation of water resources and fertile agricultural land. Despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and General Assembly resolutions calling for its dismantlement and for the payment of reparations to those affected by it, work on the Wall was continuing.
81. Malaysia was deeply concerned over the predicament of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan. Indeed, those Syrian Arabs could neither sink wells without authorization nor cultivate their agricultural land; they were levied heavy taxes on their water use, land and transportation, were surrounded by landmines and had limited access to job opportunities or education. The storage of nuclear waste in some parts of the territory raised the spectre of ecological disaster.
82. The Palestinian people must be able to exercise its inalienable rights over its natural resources and was entitled to enjoy a normal life. The international community must not abandon it in its moment of distress; every effort should be made to prevail upon Israel to end its occupation and honour its international obligations and ensure that the right of the population in the occupied territories to its natural wealth and to a decent life was restored. It was urgent to bring the two parties back to the negotiating table and to resuscitate the road map in order to settle the conflict once and for all.
83. Mr. Al-Hameli (United Arab Emirates) said that the note by the Secretary-General (A/59/89-E/2004/21) reaffirmed once again that the Israeli occupation, the criminal practices perpetrated by the Israeli forces against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and against the Arab people in the occupied Syrian Golan and the grave violations of international law committed by Israel were the main causes of the tragedy affecting the lives of people in those territories. Israel was continuing to launch large-scale attacks against the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank, inflicting further destruction and losses in terms of lives and property. Despite the numerous international resolutions reaffirming the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and of the Arab population of the Syrian Golan to their natural resources and demanding that Israel should refrain from exploiting those natural resources, destroying them, causing their depletion or endangering them, and denouncing the hostile and illegal practices of Israel, that country continued to construct new settlements, to impose closure and severe restrictions, and to destroy the infrastructure and demolish houses in violation of all norms of international humanitarian law, in particular the provisions of the fourth Geneva Convention. Areas confiscated for settlements or designated as military zones had absorbed a major part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In addition, Israel was continuing to construct a separation barrier by means of which it aimed to confiscate more lands from the Palestinians, defying the International Court of Justice and resolutions of the General Assembly on that matter.
84. By confiscating and destroying Palestinian land and homes, Israel had increased the number of homeless and displaced persons. The Israeli forces had also destroyed thousands of hectares of arable land and hundreds of wells and agricultural warehouses. The restrictions on the movement of persons and the closure policy had caused heavy losses to the Palestinian economy, leading to increased unemployment and poverty. The Israeli authorities were also continuing to confiscate land and expand the settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan. Owing to the restrictions imposed by Israel on travel between the Golan and the Syrian Arab Republic, Arab families had been scattered and prevented from gaining access to education and well-paid jobs entitling them to health insurance or social security.
85. The United Arab Emirates denounced the occupation of the Arab lands by Israel and the war crimes committed by that country against the Palestinians, and it condemned the destruction by the Israeli authorities of the natural resources of the Palestinians and their means of subsistence, believing that such action was an attempt to empty the occupied territory of its people. It reaffirmed that the ending of the occupation by Israel of all the Arab territories was the only solution that would bring an end to the economic and social sufferings of the Palestinian people and of the other Arabs in the occupied Syrian Golan. It called on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to put an end to its aggression in the occupied Palestinian territories and to comply with the relevant United Nations resolutions. Israel should be forced to resume peace talks in accordance with the Arab peace initiative and the road map which called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
86. The United Arab Emirates also called on Israel to dismantle the separation barrier and compensate the Arab inhabitants of the occupied Arab territories for the losses they had suffered as a result of Israeli aggression against their lives and property and the destruction of their natural resources and livelihood.
87. Mr. Meron (Israel), noting that the report submitted to the Committee was pessimistic and unbalanced, began by giving some examples of cooperation activities on the ground between Israel, the Palestinians and other parties in connection with natural resources, as they offered a ray of hope for all inhabitants of the region. A number of meetings had been held recently, or were shortly due to take place, in particular, the second Israeli-Palestinian Water Conference which had been held in October 2004 in Turkey under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United States Agency for International Development and the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information, the meeting of a working group on dry land management organized by the World Bank and due to be held in Paris during the current month, the meeting of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian water management experts in Prague within the framework of the Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources at the end of November, and the scientific conference to be held by the Middle East Desalination Research Centre in Limassol, Cyprus, with the participation of experts from the Middle East. Israel was also working closely with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in the implementation of the UNEP desk study of the environment in the territories. Such cooperative efforts were the vehicles that could effectively overcome the natural resource-related challenges in the region.
88. Unfortunately, the report before the Committee would do nothing to alleviate conditions on the ground. It was only through dialogue and bilateral and regional negotiations that the issues of natural resources and the environment could be settled. There was an agreed-upon framework for the resolution of such issues and that was how they should be resolved. In addition to that fundamental weakness, the report was also replete with factual inaccuracies. For example, in the section entitled “Natural resources, water and environment”, which attempted to show that Israel’s water usage was extravagant and wasteful, the figures given were wrong. If the authors of the report had asked Israel for accurate figures, they would have been provided. The total per capita water consumption in Israel was less than half of that defined by the United Nations as the “shortage red line”. Israel’s total water consum 88. Unfortunately, the report before the Committee would do nothing to alleviate conditions on the ground. It was only through dialogue and bilateral and regional negotiations that the issues of natural resources and the environment could be settled. There was an agreed-upon framework for the resolution of such issues and that was how they should be resolved. In addition to that fundamental weakness, the report was also replete with factual inaccuracies. For example, in the section entitled “Natural resources, water and environment”, which attempted to show that Israel’s water usage was extravagant and wasteful, the figures given were wrong. If the authors of the report had asked Israel for accurate figures, they would have been provided. The total per capita water consumption in Israel was less than half of that defined by the United Nations as the “shortage red line”. Israel’s total water consumption had not increased during the past 15 to 20 years, despite the fact that the population had doubled; per capita water consumption in Israel was one of the lowest in the Middle East.
89. The report claimed that during the construction of Israel’s security fence, the Palestinians had lost 29 wells: that was simply incorrect. The truth was that the Palestinians had not lost a single well because of the fence. Similarly, contrary to what was claimed in the report, any damage caused by the Israeli Defence Forces in the ongoing campaign against Palestinian terror was repaired immediately, in full cooperation with the Palestinian Water Authority. A major flaw of the report was its failure to give context to the matters discussed. It painted a picture of the destruction of agricultural property but failed to mention that, over the previous three years, over 450 Qassam rockets had been fired at Israeli population centres from Palestinian farmland and residential areas, killing many innocent civilians.
90. Israel was a world leader in water conservation and agriculture and had always sought to share its expertise in that regard with its neighbours through regional cooperation, for example within the framework of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which had prepared the report. That report would not unfortunately help to bring the people of the region any closer to living together in peace with one another. The Committee should refrain from considering reports such as that which showed a bias against one party to the conflict, chose information selectively and, as a result, merely exacerbated tensions and aggravated the situation. It would be better to focus on actually working together towards a better future.
91. The disengagement initiative of the Israeli Government, which had been welcomed by the Quartet and by the international community as a whole, aimed to do precisely that by bringing greater stability and security to both Israelis and Palestinians. By acting in good faith, the Government of Israel hoped to be able to revive the peace process and return to the level of cooperation that had existed before the outbreak of violence four years previously. Through cooperation and mutual respect, Israelis and Palestinians would be able to live in peace and security and enjoy the benefits of their natural resources. That was Israel’s vision; his delegation hoped that it could be realized.
92. Ms. Al-Bassam (Chief, Regional Commissions New York Office) stressed that the statistics in the report had been arrived at in consultation with the international organizations working in the region, such as the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Labour Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and had been carefully checked. The drafters of the report had also consulted official documents published in Israel. The secretariat was fully aware of the political nature of reports presented under the current agenda item and had always been meticulous in ascertaining the accuracy of figures quoted.
93. Ms. Awan (Pakistan) said that the report was a reminder to the international community that Palestinians had been subjected to deepening economic and social hardship by the occupying Power in violation of their right to self-determination. The report provided a detailed account of the persistent decline in living conditions and the continued abusive and criminal practices of Israel. The Secretary-General had concluded that the consequences of occupation had brought the occupied Palestinian territory to “war-torn economy” status, and that its continuation had led to new forms of dispossession and destruction of private and public assets of all kinds. The report had also pointed out that the number of extrajudicial killings had intensified, that the erection of the barrier that fragmented Palestinian territories separated the inhabitants from their lands and restricted access to their farms, jobs and services. Large numbers of Palestinians had been imprisoned or detained without any judicial procedure or formal charge, and the process of construction and growth of settlements persisted in blatant disregard for the road map of the Quartet. Furthermore, Israel had exploited Palestinian resources such as water, to its benefit, thereby creating a serious water shortage for Palestinians. Severe restrictions on the freedom of movement had led to job losses, primarily affecting food production to the extent that the territory was no longer self-sufficient in food. The depleted economy had lost the gains it had achieved during 15 years of growth, and as a result, poverty was widespread. The population in the occupied Syrian Golan was in a similar position. The expansion of Israeli settlements and confiscation of land by the occupying Power had continued unabated, crippling restrictions on movement and the eroding social infrastructure had led to a deterioration in living conditions and the dismemberment of families. Pakistan had steadfastly and unequivocally supported the just struggle for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people as it supported all peoples suffering under foreign domination. Lasting peace in the Middle East could only be achieved through the attainment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. As President Musharraf had said, the international community and the United States in particular, must work to secure a fair and peaceful solution through the realization of the vision of two States — Israel and Palestine — living side by side in peace, harmony and security. Her delegation hoped that the faithful implementation of the provisions of the Quartet road map and the resumption of dialogue between the two parties would lay the foundations for a permanent peace in the Middle East. A durable settlement of the Middle East question, by definition, must include the restoration of the Syrian Golan. A durable peace in the region was inconceivable without justice.
94. Mr. El Farnawany (Egypt) said that the report under consideration by the Committee described a harsh situation which, if it continued, would have serious consequences for all peoples of the region. It threatened to undermine the achievement of the objectives which the international community was pursuing under the auspices of the United Nations. The occupying Power continued to flout the inalienable rights of the inhabitants of the occupied Arab territories in violation of the provisions of international conventions and agreements, especially the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. The occupying Power continued to implement policies and practices that undermined international peace and security and compromised efforts to attain common development objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals. It was clear from the report that Israeli practices had thwarted the development efforts of the Palestinian people.
95. In that regard, in order to give some context, his delegation drew attention to the relationship between the Israeli occupation and the steps taken by the international community to establish peace and their consequences for the Palestinian people. The Millennium Development Goals placed high priority on the mobilization of all efforts aimed at poverty eradication. Yet, in the occupied Palestinian territories, restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, and damage to the infrastructure, amounting to several hundred millions of dollars, had led to a deterioration in the economic and social situation, thereby exacerbating poverty. Moreover, the growth of Israeli settlements, which were illegal under the rules of international law, had raised tensions, with repercussions on the living conditions of the Palestinian people. The second Millennium Development Goal concerned education. A study of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories showed that efforts to improve education had been in vain. Owing to the closure policies and curfews imposed by the occupying Power and the destruction of schools, the success rate of Palestinian students had dropped by 14.5 per cent during the 2002-2003 scholastic year. The report highlighted the problems created by Israeli occupation with respect to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, the third Goal. The situation similarly affected the achievement of the fourth, fifth and sixth Goals on the reduction of child mortality, health care and combating disease, respectively. Owing to the occupation, some 1.4 million Palestinians (40 per cent of the population) lived with food insecurity, and checkpoints and curfews had hurt the public health situation by preventing access to health care. As to the seventh Goal, which was to ensure sustainable development, in 2003 Israel had bulldozed thousands of trees and hectares of land and destroyed five water wells in the Gaza Strip, while the separation wall had had a very grave impact on the Palestinian people and its sovereignty, with Israel annexing approximately 50 per cent of the water resources of the West Bank. It was not clear how the Palestinian people could, under such conditions , participate effectively in global partnerships, which was the eighth Goal. During the previous year’s discussion, his delegation had asked how the international community could turn a blind eye to such repression and aggression, particularly when attempts were being made to re-establish economic cooperation among independent countries and to promote international development efforts. The same question could once again be posed. Egypt believed that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals depended on international solidarity, the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and United Nations resolutions, and it was therefore time to end Israeli occupation and practices that deprived Palestinians of their basic resources and prevented them from attaining the economic and social development objectives decided on at the international level. Discussions on the arrangements for the follow-up to the outcomes of the Millennium Summit and major United Nations conferences at the 2005 meeting would provide an appropriate opportunity to study the harmful effects of Israeli occupation on Palestinian development efforts, and the topic should be included in the report to be submitted in that regard. In conclusion, his delegation appealed for real efforts to be made to end the occupation of Palestine, which ran contrary to the goals and principles established in the Charter of the United Nations, including the right to self-determination, and to the provisions of international resolutions, and called for support for international development efforts.
96. Mr. Al-Ghanem (Kuwait) said that the Palestinian situation was catastrophic because of continued Israeli practices against the encircled and defenceless Palestinian people. The occupying Israeli forces continued to destroy industrial installations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as thousands of hectares of agricultural land that would take decades to restore. Israel’s policy of obstructing the delivery of international assistance and engaging in systematic assassinations and arrests of Palestinians had curbed development in general.
97. The delegation of Kuwait wished to highlight a few examples to illustrate the true situation caused by the Israeli occupying forces. First, the confiscation of Palestinian homes by the Israeli authorities had left over 16, 000 persons homeless in 2003, and since they had not been recognized as refugees they could not benefit from the protection offered by the international community. Secondly, by blocking main and secondary roads in various Palestinian towns, conducting air raids and constructing a separation wall, the occupying Power had crippled the Palestinian economy and aggravated the unemployment and poverty situation (44 per cent decline in average income and more than 50 per cent of Palestinian families living in extreme poverty). Thirdly, the practices of the Israeli occupying forces directed against the Palestinian people had removed every chance for attracting foreign investment to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Such investment had fallen by 90 per cent at the start of 2003. Fourthly, Israeli forces had attacked four banks in the Palestinian territories and had confiscated millions of dollars under the pretext that those amounts had been deposited in suspicious accounts. Fifthly, the occupying forces constantly impeded the work of humanitarian organizations, preventing them from reaching the populations because of hundreds of fixed checkpoints and countless mobile checkpoints. The measures adopted in the port of Hajdoud, obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance and development aid, had prompted the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East to suspend food aid supplies to Palestinian towns. Sixthly, it should be noted that in the occupied Syrian Golan the Syrians were unable to cultivate their very fertile lands because the occupation authorities prevented them from establishing a water supply infrastructure for development and human consumption. In 2004, the Israeli authorities had confiscated agricultural land in villages of the Syrian Golan and destroyed fruit trees; and they had imposed coercive measures on Syrians studying abroad, preventing them from returning to the Golan. Furthermore, the inhabitants of the Syrian Golan lived under the constant threat of landmines.
98. The occupied Palestinian and Arab territories were the setting for dehumanizing practices. The erosion of the economic and social fabric due to continued Israeli military occupation was accompanied by the deterioration of living conditions for Palestinians and Arabs living under the yoke of Israeli occupation to the point where humanitarian assistance was no longer sufficient. The only way to remedy the dire situation which the Palestinian people had to endure was to end the occupation of its territory and of the Syrian Golan and all other occupied territories in order to make way for fair development and an opportunity for the Palestinian people to share in the benefits of globalization. That would require the withdrawal of Israel from all the occupied Arab territories to the 4 June 1967 line, the recognition of all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including first and foremost the creation of an independent State, and the implementation of the Arab peace initiative adopted at the 2002 Beirut Summit.
The meeting rose at 12.35 p.m.
This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.