Israel’s hesitance in implementing the Middle East “Road Map” and insistence on continuing with the building of the “separation wall” were among the concerns raised by the Permanent Observer for Palestine, as he briefed the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this morning.
Updating the Committee on recent developments in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, Nasser Al-Kidwa recalled the positive atmosphere that had prevailed following the presentation of the Road Map. The Palestinian side had accepted the Road Map wholeheartedly, while the Israeli side had shown hesitation and then a reluctant acceptance with numerous reservations.
The Palestinian Government, in recent months, had succeeded in securing the agreement of all Palestinian groups for a ceasefire for three months, he continued. At the same time, the restriction of movement and settlement activities by the Israeli side continued. All of that, as well as the well-publicized issue of Palestinian prisoners, had poisoned the atmosphere. All of the 7,000 prisoners, most of whom had been illegally detained, must be released. Israel argued that that was not stipulated in the agreement.
Any hopes that had been raised with the visit by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Washington had been dashed when he announced last week that he would proceed with settlement activities and with the building of the separation wall, the “wall of shame”, he said. Israel argued that the wall was being built to protect it from attacks. Nothing could be further from the truth. The main problem with the wall was that it cut deeply through the occupied Palestinian territory, led to de facto confiscation of thousands of acres of Palestinian land, isolated Palestinian communities from each other and destroyed the livelihood of those communities. It was, no doubt, a clear form of settlement activity.
He noted the need for sustained support of the Quartet, as well as the Security Council. He also underlined the importance of establishing the monitoring mechanism, agreed to under the Road Map, which would greatly help to ensure reasonable implementation of the document. In addition, he reiterated the responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine until it was resolved and an actual final settlement had been achieved.
Noting that the building of separation wall was an important issue that merited detailed consideration, the Committee Chairman, Papa Louis Fall (Senegal), wondered if the Committee should have a sub-item in its agenda on the separation wall and its consequences.
Briefing members on developments since the Committee’s last meeting, the Chairman said he had met with representatives of the Mennonite Central Committee, a non-governmental organization accredited with the Committee, on 24 June. They had relayed their deep concern at the immediate and long-term problems associated with the building of the separation wall by the Israeli authorities.
Continuing, he said preparations for the upcoming United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People, which will be held on 4 and 5 September in New York, were going well. Many civil society organizations had already accepted the invitation to attend the Conference.
The Committee also took note of the report of the Chairman on his participation in the African Union Summit, held in Maputo from 4 to 12 July. Fifty-three member States of the Union participated in that meeting, the Chairman said, with the exception of the Central African Republic, which was under sanctions due to the unconstitutional change of government there. The Executive Council of the Union spent much time on Palestine and the Middle East. The Committee Chairman addressed the Council and briefed it on the disastrous conditions under which the Palestinians were living, as well as recent developments following the adoption of Security Council resolution 1397.
In addition, he continued, Farouk Kaddoumi, the Palestinian Foreign Minister, briefed the Executive Council on the tragedy of the Palestinian people, who were suffering under the Israeli yoke. Mr. Kaddoumi appealed to Africa and the entire international community to exercise increased pressure on Israel to implement the Road Map, without reservation or hesitation. Following a rich discussion, the Executive Council adopted a decision, whereby it reiterated its traditional position in favour of Palestinian rights, including the right to return and the right to self-determination.
The Committee also took note of the Chairman’s report on the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, which was held in Geneva from 15 to 16 July. The seminar had been convened to discuss the critical situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, caused by almost three years of violence and destruction, the Chairman said. Of special concern was the deep humanitarian crisis and dire living conditions of the Palestinian people. In welcoming the Road Map, the Committee had noted that the plan stipulated a series of specific steps to improve the humanitarian and economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. Implementing those provisions were crucial for the Road Map’s success. The seminar had provided an opportunity for the international community to renew its commitment to helping normalize the life of the Palestinian people, not only through emergency relief and humanitarian assistance, but also through rehabilitating the badly damaged economy.
The seminar had been very successful, he added, with representatives of some 44 governments, Palestine, four intergovernmental organizations, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and 20 civil society organizations attending. Panel presentations and discussions had shed light on the dismal living conditions of the Palestinian people and the wide-scale destruction of the infrastructure and property in the occupied Palestinian territory. Although two months had passed since the parties had begun to implement the Road Map, the average Palestinian had seen no tangible results. While discussing strategies for Palestinian economic recovery, development and the economy of the future Palestinian State, participants had emphasized that sustainable development was impossible without a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Turning to consultations with civil society organizations, held on the afternoon of 16 July, he said 13 non-governmental organization representatives from Europe, North America, and the Middle East, including Palestinians and Israelis, had participated. Discussions with those representatives had been concrete and useful, and the Committee had encouraged them to maintain their principled positions in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and to explain to their constituencies the conflict’s root cause, namely, the occupation of the Palestinian land by Israel. By so doing, they would contribute to ensuring that the Road Map did not swerve from its declared final goal of two States — Israel and a sovereign, independent, democratic and viable Palestine — living side by side in peace and security.
The Committee will meet again at a time to be announced.