The Chairman of the United Nations panel dealing with Palestinian rights today expressed hope that the positive momentum gained by Israel’s removal of settlements from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank would be followed by similar steps in the rest of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and “breathe new life into the political process.”
The fresh impetus gained by the withdrawal would hopefully lead to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine, said Paul Badje (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, echoing a statement issued yesterday by the Bureau of the Committee on Palestinian Rights at United Nations Headquarters in New York (see below).
He also updated the Committee on the Bureau’s activities since May, which included a meeting with the newly appointed Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari. The Bureau also met with the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, to examine issues pertaining to existing cooperation between the Committee and the Department.
Updating the Committee on the latest developments in the Middle East and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Somaia S. Barghouti, Chargée d’Affaires of the Permanent Observer of Palestine, said that the international community had been closely watching the redeployment of the Israeli army and the events surrounding the withdrawal in the Gaza Strip. While some of Israel’s unilateral decisions in that regard had been troubling, the pull-out was a positive step towards a final solution.
The Palestinian Authority had taken further steps to coordinate with the Israeli Government to settle all remaining issues, she said. The Israeli side had not responded positively to all its concerns, nor had the Israeli side assuaged fears that future actions would be taken within the bounds of international law. Still, some important issues had been resolved.
Looking ahead, the Palestinian Authority would reaffirm its sovereignty over the territory and in Gaza Strip, the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. It would insist upon the need to ensure that there was no intervention in those areas and that a full pull-out will follow shortly. It would also insist that the legal situation remained unchanged after the withdrawal was complete. It would also emphasize the need put in place the political and financial foundations that would ensure the continuation of the political process. In that regard, she welcomed the recent announcement made by the Group of Eight (G-8) most industrialized nations.
The Palestinian Authority would emphasize that political actions in the future must not be unilateral but must be negotiated, she said. Any other such unilateral actions would be considered as undermining the peace process in general and the Road Map targets in particular. It would also reaffirm that constriction of the separation wall in the West Bank contravened international law. Neither of the parties would take measures that would run counter to a lasting, two-State solution, she added.
Fayssal Mekdad ( Syria) said the withdrawal by Israel from any occupied Arab territories was a step in the right direction towards a just and lasting settlement. He would have thought that such actions would have taken place in all such territories, however. And while the conditions on the ground were less that favourable and indeed required close scrutiny, Syria was pleased to see the Israeli settlers leave Gaza so that the area could be returned to the Palestinian people and not become a prison for them.
Syria would point out, however, that many of the settlers had not been moved to Israel, but to settlements on Arab lands, particularly the Syrian Golan. Those settlements, as well as all others, must be removed. Israel must wake up and stop believing that Gaza and the West Bank will just disappear into the sea. It must also understand that the peace process was hampered by the continued construction of the wall in the West Bank. Israel must take action towards achieving a just solution, he said.
Ravan Farhadi (Afghanistan), Vice-Chairman of the Committee, reported on the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Middle East Peace, held in Paris from 12 to 13 July, just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) 9 July 2004 advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall. Despite all efforts of the international community to act against the wall, the Israeli Government had not ceased the construction.
The Conference adopted an Action Plan, urging international, national and regional movements and organizations to support the call of Palestinian civil society for a global campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against business entities that profited from and contributed to the Israeli occupation, putting pressure on Israel to end the occupation and to fully comply with international law and all relevant United Nations resolutions.
The Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.
Statement by Bureau of Committee on Palestinian rights concerning removal of Israeli settlements
On 30 August 2005, the Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People issued the following statement:
“Together with the rest of the international community, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People has been watching closely the removal of Israeli settlements from the occupied Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank. The Bureau of the Committee views this development as a promising step that could revive negotiations within the framework of the Road Map and move forward the stalled peace process. The Bureau of the Committee welcomes the swift and determined implementation of the removal of settlers by the Israeli side. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, has fully demonstrated its ability to control the security situation throughout this critical period.
“Although the decision of the Israeli Government to remove settlements from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank was a unilateral one, it resulted in a resumption of direct security coordination between the parties. This created a favourable opportunity, which has to be built upon and widened by the two sides in order to lay the groundwork for future cooperation in security and other areas.
“The Bureau of the Committee emphasizes that the Gaza pull-out should be complete and irreversible, allowing the Palestinian Authority to exercise control over its borders, crossing points, sea and airspace. Also indispensable are guaranties for an unhindered flow of people and goods into and out of Gaza. The construction and operation of a seaport and an airport, as well as a permanent geographical link to the West Bank are absolutely vital for the Palestinian economy.
“The international community has voiced its readiness to support all efforts of the Palestinian Authority aimed at revitalizing the economy of the Gaza Strip. The Bureau of the Committee commends the donor community for the first important steps taken in support of the economic rehabilitation and development of the Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal. We also urge the donor community to live up to its commitments and provide the necessary assistance in an expeditious and efficient manner.
“The Bureau of the Committee expresses the hope that the positive momentum gained as a result of the removal of settlements from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank will be followed by similar steps in the rest of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and breathe new life into the political process, leading to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine and the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights.”