Security Council speakers, alarmed by escalating violence, urge Israeli, Palestinian restraint, return to peace process (2/2)

Riyad H. Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations addresses the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, today at UN Headquarters in New York. (UN Photo/Ryan Brown)


PETER BURIAN (Slovakia) noted with concern the recent incidents and hostilities in the Palestinian Territory including indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza, suicide bombings and major Israeli reprisal operations, bringing new suffering and loss of innocent life on both sides. Urging all parties to stop the spiral of violence, he called on them to refrain from steps that might further escalate the hostilities. He expressed sympathy for the victims of today’s incident in Tel Aviv and condemned terrorist attacks that could not be justified. He also urged both sides to exercise the utmost restraint. Slovakia reaffirmed its support for a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement to the Middle East conflict and supported the two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To achieve progress, both parties needed to accept previous agreements and obligations, return to constructive dialogue and take concrete actions at building mutual confidence and trust.

In that context, he noted with concern that the new Palestinian Government, which was formed and led by Hamas, had not committed itself to the three principles laid out by the Quartet in its 30 January statement. That step was a basic precondition for the continuation of meaningful talks on settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. To be a partner in the peace process, Hamas and the new Government must recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence and accept previous agreements and obligations. He urged the new Government to commit itself to President Abbas’ platform of peace aimed at creating conditions necessary for dialogue on a solution to the Middle East conflict. He also called on the Palestinian Authority to take a public stand against violence and firm measures against the perpetrators of rocket attacks and suicide bombings. He urged the Palestinian Authority to undertake all necessary measures to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism in the Palestinian Territories.

At the same time, he said his delegation believed that the new Israeli Government would reconfirm its commitment to peace in the Middle East based on principles laid out in the Road Map and would refrain from such steps that might contradict the principles of international law. Israel had the right to self-defence against terrorist attacks. Its responses, however, must be proportionate and everything possible must be done to avoid loss of innocent life. There was no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The only way to achieve a comprehensive settlement was through peaceful negotiations leading to a two-State solution in accordance with the Road Map. In spite of the latest wave of violence, there was a window of opportunity for the new Palestinian and Israeli Governments to return to the peace process.

TUVAKO N. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said he was gravely concerned about the recent upsurge in violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He regretted that populated areas had come under fire causing deaths to innocent civilians, including children. He urged both sides to refrain from any measures that could lead to more violence and called on both sides to exercise maximum restraint. Violence was against the interests of both Israel and Palestine. Hamas needed to move towards accepting the three principles laid out by the Quartet. The Palestinian Government should take a clear stance against violence and actively seek to gain control over the firing of rockets and suicide bombings. In that regard, he condemned this morning’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.

For its part, Israel was obliged to take meaningful steps to reduce the suffering of Palestinians by ending blockades, curbing arbitrary arrests, ending extrajudicial killings, stopping house demolitions and halting settlement activity, including barrier construction, he said. It was only through peace talks with the Palestinians that the conflict could be resolved. Unilateral actions would only make matters worse. The suspension of the monthly transfer of revenue collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians must be ended, as continued withholding of that revenue constituted a serious blow to the cash-strapped Palestinian Government and constrained its capacity to deliver services to its people.

He noted that aid and tax cut-offs were already crippling the Palestinian treasury, making it virtually impossible to pay salaries to government employees including police, teachers, medical personnel and others. Failure to transfer tax revenue, together with the suspension of much-needed foreign aid, amounted to collective punishment, as it affected not only employees but also their dependents. The flow of revenue to the Palestinians should not be interrupted at a time of need and increased demand. The international community must guide the two sides towards negotiations and compromise leading to a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the area. The cherished objective of a viable, democratic Palestinian State living side by side with Israel was within reach.

Council President WANG GUANGYA ( China), speaking in his national capacity, called strongly on both sides to exercise maximum restraint and to keep the region from falling into the vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence. The Road Map endorsed by the Security Council remained the way forward, but there was a mutual lack of trust and the leaders on both sides must show political decisiveness, reduce political hostility and fulfil their commitments.

He recalled that, not long ago, both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples had exercised their democratic rights and the international community should not punish the Palestinians simply because of political differences. The prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict was detrimental for the whole world and the international community must adopt a constructive approach to help both sides out of it. It was regrettable that the Security Council had failed to agree on the presidential statement proposed by Qatar last week.

TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR (Bahrain), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that during the past few days Israel had maintained a continued and intensified attack against the Gaza Strip during which all types of weaponry had been used indiscriminately, including rockets and attack helicopters. Those attacks had continued daily, auguring serious consequences if Israel continued that violent approach. The escalation by Israel was one of its measures against the Palestinians for having elected Hamas by an overwhelming majority. The Palestinian choice had been made freely and democratically and reflected their free will to exercise their democratic right. All parties should respect the election results, despite the extremely difficult conditions in which the elections had been held and the Israeli harassment that had characterized them.

He said Israel had taken other punitive measures by boycotting the Palestinian Authority almost entirely and conducting brutal and intensive military attacks against the Palestinians. If Israel wished to have a negotiating partner it could not find a better one than the one chosen by the Palestinian people. Israel wished illegally to escalate its unilateral measures, especially in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Olmert had recently announced plans to draw up Israel’s borders over the next four years in order to legitimize the confiscation of Palestinian lands, which meant effectively ending the two-State solution in contravention of the Road Map and United Nations resolutions. The occupation remained the crux of the conflict and Israel must withdraw from all occupied Arab territories. The Arab Group called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility to end Israeli violations in accordance with its own resolutions.

ABDULLAH ALSAIDI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, said that the resumption of massive Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, the extrajudicial killing and the policy of starving the Palestinian people were motivated by the erroneous belief that such a policy might lead to the capitulation of the Palestinian people and the imposition of a unilateral settlement that disadvantaged the Palestinian people and benefited the occupier. The OIC believed that that policy was misguided and would not lead to a sustained peaceful settlement of the dispute. Quite the contrary, it meant greater bloodshed and instability in the region. In the final analysis, it would not benefit either the occupier, or the occupied. For peace to prevail, Israel must be made to respect its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant international humanitarian law. It should also desist from carrying out its misguided policy in the future.

The intensification of the military campaign against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, as well as the policy of blocking the import of necessary food commodities by the Palestinian Authority, had no explanation other than punishing the Palestinian people for exercising their inalienable right to select their representatives in free and fair elections. That was not the correct message to send to the region. The international community was duty-bound not to condone a policy that penalized a people for exercising their right to free choice. The Security Council, being an organ contemplated to be the cornerstone of the new international order, must not fail in its duty to put an end to Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people. If peace was to prevail in the tormented and yet vital region of the Middle East, no country must be treated as if it was above the law.

HAMIDON ALI (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the Movement’s commitment to a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said that the Movement remained supportive of the Palestinian people in exercising their inalienable rights.

The Movement was gravely concerned over the escalating military campaigns launched by Israeli forces in the Occupied Territory last week, he continued. He strongly condemned such campaigns, in particular the wilful killing of Palestinian civilians, including extrajudicial killings, the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Israel and collective punishment imposed against the Palestinians, including restrictions of movement. Those acts had led to — and could lead to — further violent retaliatory measures by the Palestinians. In addition, the Movement was seriously concerned over reported targeting by Israeli forces of UNRWA and other humanitarian aid agencies and workers operating in the Palestinian territories.

The Non-Aligned Movement urged Israel to exercise maximum restraint, and for both sides to take all necessary measures to stop the vicious circle of violence, he said. The Movement condemned the killing and injuring of all innocent civilians, which were unjustifiable, as well as all acts of violence, terrorism, suicide bombings and destruction. He urged the Security Council to immediately intervene by pressuring Israel to stop all attacks against the Palestinian people, as well as by assisting and supporting the Palestinian Authority in its efforts to prevail upon groups in its territories to halt all rocket attacks against Israel. He urged both sides to act in conformity with international law and refrain from taking any steps that could further escalate the violence and the already tense situation in the region.

The Palestinian people’s choice of their representatives through a free, fair and secure democratic process should be respected, he said. The outcome of the elections in Palestine last January should not be used as pretext by the international community to cease extending assistance to the Palestinian people. He welcomed all financial and humanitarian assistance provided by the international community and urged strongly that it be sustained. The Palestinians did not deserve to be punished. They deserved much better treatment and Member States had the duty to ensure that they did get it. In that connection, he called upon Israel to disburse without delay to the Palestinian Authority the full amount of the monthly tax and customs revenues, which rightfully belonged to the Palestinians.

The Non-Aligned Movement remained concerned at the failure of repeated efforts to revive the peace process and deeply regretted that the Road Map had yet to be implemented. The Israeli Government had failed to take the necessary first step in adherence with its obligations. It was incumbent upon both Israel and Palestine, in their own interest, and with assistance of the international community, to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of the negotiations. That entailed, in particular, denouncing violent measures or acts of terrorism and revoking unilateral actions by Israel that could further undermine peace and stability in the region. He called for intensified efforts by the Quartet to salvage the Road Map. He also stressed the permanent responsibility of the United Nations, in particular the Security Council, towards the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects. The Council was in position to prevail upon Israel and Palestine to achieve their long-held desire for a just, lasting and comprehensive final settlement. There was a Chinese proverb, which said: “Make a decision when a decision is called for. Hesitation only brings disaster.” The Council must not be reluctant to invoke its functions and powers.

GERHARD PFANZELTER ( Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union, strongly condemned today’s suicide bombing of a restaurant in Tel Aviv and offered condolences to the families of the victims. The Union condemned all acts of terror and violence and expressed its grave concern over the recent violent events in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It called on both parties to exercise maximum restraint and urged the Palestinian Authority to ensure security in the areas it controlled and the safety of international personnel. The Union urged the Palestinian Authority to take effective measures against terrorism and violence, notably against suicide attacks and the launching of rockets, and to reform its security services. It also called on Israel to stop the practice of extrajudicial killings, which was contrary to international law. The Union reminded both parties of their obligations under the Road Map and existing agreements.

He said that on 10 April, the Union’s External Relations Council had discussed the situation of the Middle East peace process following the swearing in of the new Palestinian Government. The Council had noted with grave concern that the new Palestinian Government had not committed itself to the principles of non-violence, recognition to Israel’s right to exist and acceptance of existing agreements. Consistent with the Quartet statement of 30 March, the Union was reviewing its assistance to the Palestinians against the new Government’s commitment to those principles. The Union would continue to provide the necessary assistance to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people. In that context, it had underlined the importance of improved access and movement, and called on both parties to implement the 15 November 2005 Movement and Access Agreement. The Council had emphasized the central role of President Abbas as the highest representative of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and reiterated its support for him.

Noting the result of the latest Israeli elections, he said the Council had underlined the importance of a strong commitment by the new Israeli Government to work towards a negotiated solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on existing agreements, United Nations resolutions and the Road Map. On the final status issues, the Union would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties. The Council had called on Israel to desist from any action that was contrary to international law and urged it to take steps to improve the humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinians including by resuming transfers of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues. The Council had welcomed the recent statement of Acting Prime Minister Olmert to seek negotiations with the Palestinians and the positive response to it by President Abbas. He reaffirmed the Quartet’s central role in promoting the peace process.

YOUCEF YOUSFI ( Algeria) expressed his delegation’s concern over recent events, which could have profound repercussions for international peace and security. The Security Council had been unable to discharge its responsibilities in that regard by failing to respond yet again to clear Israeli aggression, in violation of its obligations. The Council had also regrettably failed to adopt a presidential statement last week in the wake of daily attacks by the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians, which Algeria firmly condemned. The Security Council and the Quartet must do their utmost to put an end to such violence against the Palestinians.

He said that Israel’s recent hostile acts added to its long list of aggressive actions and its violation of the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people that it had perpetrated for decades. They included illegal settlement activities, house demolitions, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, torture, construction of the separation wall on Palestinian territory and the choking of the Palestinian economy. All those illegal practices contravened international humanitarian law, as well as numerous resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly since 1967. It was in that context of impunity that Israel had, on 14 March, attacked a prison in Jericho and kidnapped Palestinian detainees in defiance of the United Nations Charter, as well as international agreements and conventions. Algeria called for their immediate release to the Palestinian Authority. The Security Council must vigorously denounce the terrorism perpetrated by Israel. Its aggression against the Palestinian people must end, as must its unilateral measures and its policies of establishing facts on the ground, because they prejudged the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Al-Quds Al-Shariff as its capital.

MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), describing the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as volatile, said that the last few days had witnessed — and continued to witness — a dangerous Israeli military escalation against civilian Palestinian populations in Gaza, the West Bank and other areas, which had resulted in the killing of more than 20 people from relentless shelling and bombardment of Palestinian towns and villages, as well as the continuation of extrajudicial killings. The latest escalation fell within a long-standing policy of systematic and deliberate practices by Israel, which included seizure and isolation of Palestinian towns and villages, restrictions on the movement of people and commodities, as well as hastening the building and further expansion of Israeli settlements and the acquisition of more Palestinian lands through, among other things, the separation wall.

All those actions had been intensified in the wake of the Palestinian legislative election results, which had been conducted in a fair and democratic manner, he said. Punishing the Palestinians for their choices could only lead to the termination of the peace process and the worsening of an already desperate humanitarian situation. The Israeli Government’s endeavour to exploit the results of those elections by intensifying its unlawful practices and further establishing its occupation, under the pretext that there was no partner with whom to negotiate, must not be allowed to continue. There would be no change in the thinking of the new Palestinian Government if Israel continued with its policies of unilateral measures, policies of closure, prevention of aid and suppression. Change could only come about through dialogue, respect for the human rights of the Palestinian people, their right to self-determination and their right to live in an independent State side by side with Israel.

He said that, at a time when Arab leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, most recently at the Arab League Summit in Khartoum, Israel had responded by adopting measures aimed at forcing an artificial settlement of the dispute through a unilateral demarcation of its borders that would keep for itself large chunks of Palestinian land in the West bank, East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the large settlement centres. Those actions would deal a huge blow to any chances of achieving peace between the Arab countries and Israel. Any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be reached through an agreement between the two parties and in a process of negotiations. Egypt called upon the Israeli Government to enter into direct negotiations with President Abbas on final status, with no preconditions other than the legal terms of reference of the peace process. There was no doubt that the latest developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had put the peace process on the door step of crucial and pivotal decisions, which would determine the region’s future.

MUNIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) endorsed the concern expressed by the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference regarding the bombardment against the Palestinians in recent days and the measures that were being taken by Israel that increased the suffering and deprivation of the Palestinian population. He also expressed his condemnation of the act of terrorism that had resulted in death and injury to several Israeli civilians.

The events in the last three months had transformed hope for peace in the Middle East into foreboding and fear, he continued. The positive trends and optimistic mood had all but evaporated following the Palestinian parliamentary elections, which had been encouraged by the international community and were free and fair. It was a supreme irony that that democratic exercise had led to a situation where the prospects of a peaceful settlement had dimmed almost to darkness. The United Nations, including the Security Council and the Secretary-General, must now play a central role in responding to the challenges in the region. The United Nations, and in particular the Council, had a direct responsibility in the conflict, stemming from the relevant resolutions. The United Nations was the only party that could serve as a mediator, facilitator and peacemaker.

Continuing, he advocated continued — and enlarged — assistance to the Palestinian people on behalf of the United Nations and its agencies. Although others had ended assistance to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations and its agencies could work out arrangements to channel such assistance as was available multilaterally and bilaterally, in ways that could strengthen political cohesion and order. The political authority of President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority should be preserved and strengthened. He hoped the Secretary-General and agencies would take urgent steps to identify the human and humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and mobilize a coordinated response from the world community. Arrangements also needed to be elaborated to preserve peace between Israeli forces and Palestinian security forces, as well as other armed groups and militias. Here again, the United Nations could play a central role. He trusted the Secretary-General would authorize the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and his Personal Representative to help the parties in evolving such arrangements for the maintenance of peace. The Special Coordinator could also be helpful in exploring the basis for resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and resurrecting consensus on the elements of the final settlement.

The new Palestinian Government, led by Hamas, had been well advised to respond to on-the-ground realities, especially the existence of Israel, and to eschew any resort to violence. Obviously, recognition of realities was a mutual process. Neither Israel, not the international community, could ignore the Palestinian reality either, including the democratic choice of the Palestinian people. And if the Hamas Government was to emerge as a responsible player in a negotiating process, there would be justification to reconsider its description by some States as a “terrorist organization”. Israel and its newly-elected Government must be equally persuaded to desist from plans for a unilateral “solution”. In the process of mutual confidence-building, Israel should halt further construction of the separation barrier and settlement activity in the West Bank.

MILAD ATIEH ( Syria) said that his delegation was gravely concerned over the failure of the Council to shoulder its responsibility in the Middle East, due mainly to selectivity and double standards applied by some to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some Member States in the Council continued to oppose any resolution that condemned Israeli policies in the Occupied Territory and could bring about the implementation of relevant resolutions. The situation in the Middle East continued to deteriorate, due to those double standards and the failure of the protectors of Israel to find a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict. Israel continued to implement the most heinous policies against Palestine, which included continued attempts to storm villages and refugee camps in the Occupied Territory, extrajudicial killings and imposition of collective punishments, as well as continued construction of settlements and the separation barrier.

Continuing, he focused on the continued closures and “collective punishment of the Palestinian people” for the results of democratic, free and fair elections. Member States should not interfere in the internal affairs of Palestine and must continue providing assistance to the Palestinian people.

The situation in the Syrian Golan was no better than in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said. Among other Israeli actions, he mentioned the imposition there of the Israeli identity and continued building of settlements. In violation of the will of the international community, Israel still continued to plan further settlements. Israel’s lack of desire for peace and security in the region and its pursuit of destabilization through expansion and occupation had made hopes for peace elusive. The Arab people looked forward to living in peace and security like any other people in the world. That would be realized only with full withdrawal of Israel to the 4 June 1967 borders, compliance with relevant resolutions, the internationally agreed principles and Madrid terms of reference. Israel should also accept the Arab Peace Initiative.

The claims by the Israeli representative in accusing Syrians and others of terrorism were cynical, he stressed. In fact, Israel’s representative was trying to cover up war crimes committed by his Government against the Palestinian people. Israel should be held accountable for State terrorism against the Arab people in the Occupied Territory. It prevented the Palestinians from expressing their opinions and realizing their dream of establishing their homeland with the capital in East Jerusalem. It was ironic that Israel was trying to present itself as a victim. It was Israel that used the most modern weapons and terrorized the Arab people in the Occupied Territory. Israel did not hesitate to kill children and women. Since the eruption of the intifada, more than 4,000 civilians had died.

REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that, although Israel claimed that its recent actions were in response to the firing upon civilian targets from northern Gaza, the indiscriminate nature of that response and the scale of the innocent civilian toll it had inflicted bore no relationship to the rockets fired into its territory. In addition, that Israeli action was illegal and in violation of international humanitarian law.

The situation was delicate and the road to peace cluttered with all kinds of challenges, he said. Among those problems was the financial crisis currently buffeting the Palestinian Authority as its legitimate funds derived from taxes collected by the Israeli authorities had been withheld following the recent Palestinian elections, which had been widely acknowledged as fair, transparent and democratic. As a result of that situation, the Palestinian Authority, unable to pay its 150,000 employees, was on the verge of collapse. Another problem was the blocking of food commodities. Such a collapse, if that was Israel’s objective, could only escalate the insecurity in the area and make peace a more distant dream.

Towards enhancing the prospects for peace, Indonesia had expressed the view that Israel should remit to the Palestinian Authority tax and custom revenues, he said. In addition, members of the international community holding back on financial commitments to the Authority should also fulfil them. Otherwise, the situation would impede the Authority not only from providing basic services to the Palestinian people, but also from providing the necessary administrative structure within which to continue to explore the road to peace. Stopping humanitarian assistance at this time, or permitting Palestinian civil servants to fall into unemployment, would only destabilize the situation on the ground. Indonesia urged the international community, therefore, to give the new Government a chance.

JAVAD ZARIF ( Iran) said that the realities on the ground abundantly proved that the systematic pattern of human rights violations and massive breaches of international law and humanitarian law by Israel had been continuing unabated, resulting in the killing of almost 4,000 Palestinians since September 2000. Recent military operations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, had but added to the misery of the Palestinian people. Israel’s deadly air strikes and shelling of Gaza were part of a larger policy marked by State terrorism, expansionism, aggression and oppression. Increased military operations in densely populated areas, indiscriminate use of force, the practice of collective punishment, extrajudicial killings, targeted assassinations, expansion of settlements and the criminal attack by Israeli forces on Jericho Prison to attack some Palestinian prisoners on 14 March represented clear breaches of basic international standards and law.

The impunity with which Israel had been allowed to carry out its crimes had emboldened it to continue its policies and practices, he continued. It was high time for the international community to take effective measures to protect and enforce the basic rights of the Palestinian people. The Council should live up to its duty by preventing Israel from continuing to commit atrocities and flout the will of the international community, incorporated in numerous United Nations resolutions. Regrettably, the Council had thus far failed to take any tangible actions, or even attempt to implement its own modest and limited decisions on the Palestinian question, due to the unconditional support extended to Israel by a permanent member of the Council. Recent opposition of the same permanent member to the adoption of two presidential statements on the Palestinian issue in the course of the past five weeks could not but be regarded as an explicit support for the war crimes and unlawful activities pursued by Israel. In fact, the Council could not retain its credibility and authority when it was labelled as “an exercise in group therapy”, and while it had been ineffective and inactive in addressing the Israeli crimes in Palestine.

The Palestinian Legislative Council elections reflected the free will of the Palestinian people, he said. The democratic choice of the Palestinian people deserved to receive the respect and support of the international community. The Israeli decision to halt the transfer of taxes due to the Palestinian elections was considered to be blackmail. The restrictions applied by certain countries regarding the aid to the Palestinian Authority amounted to punishment of the Palestinians for choosing their own representatives. Israel should disburse, without further delay, the full amount of the monthly tax and custom revenue which rightfully belonged to the Palestinians. The international community should continue to provide financial and economic grants and assistance to the Palestinian Authority, so as to avoid any dangerous impact on the daily lives of the Palestinian people.

He added that, in the context of Israel’s defiance, particular reference should be made to the Israeli nuclear weapons programme. Nuclear arms in the hands of a regime with an unparalleled record of State terrorism, aggression and the threat of force against other countries presented a real threat to regional and global peace and security, as well as the non-proliferation regime. That threat needed to be urgently and decisively addressed by the international community.

FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI ( Saudi Arabia) said the suffering of the Palestinian people was a tragic result of the non-implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions on the question of Palestine, as well as the occupation of Palestinian territories, the Syrian Golan and the Lebanese Shaba’a Farms. The violence and bloodshed in the region were dominated by the Israeli obsession with security, as well as Palestinian despair. Israel had always resorted to its military superiority as it was convinced that force rather than justice would settle the conflict in its favour. It had continued to hinder the peace process and sidestep all its commitments under various pretexts, and to change the normal character of occupied lands. Israel continued to reject Security Council resolutions and to perpetrate aggression, while giving the impression that it was above any condemnation or criticism.

At the same time, Israel was trying to get around any body that sought to find a solution, he said. There had never been any question as to whether or not Israel had a negotiating partner. It killed any potential partner economically, politically and militarily in order to eliminate the Palestinian question by provoking the Palestinians to commit violent acts and then labelling them terrorists. Israel had committed a great deal of injustice and had been strengthened by the assistance it had received and by the application of double standards. However, justice would eventually triumph and Israel must understand that it would pay the price if it continued to reject the peace initiatives offered by the Arabs, including their guarantee of total peace and security in return for its withdrawal from all Arab lands occupied since 1967, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of Palestine refugees.

RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ ( Cuba) said that, once again, history was repeating itself. The international community was witnessing the escalation of Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people, terrorizing the civilian population and causing death and destruction. Israel continued to pursue its illegal policy of extrajudicial killing in violation of international humanitarian law. It continued to violate the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people, and it was no secret that Israel would continue to openly challenge the will of the international community as long as the passivity of the Security Council persisted and the hypocrisy and double standards of some prevailed. The United States had already exercised the power of veto 29 times on the question of the Middle East in the Security Council, and that’s not counting the movements in closed consultations. The least one could expect from the Council was to condemn the new escalation of violence and demand that Israel stop its illegal actions immediately. Cuba demanded that the Government of Israel implement its legal obligations on the protection of civilians in the time of war, and comply with numerous texts on the Middle East adopted by the Security Council and the Assembly.

BAKI ÝLKIN ( Turkey) said that he was distressed to hear today that a number of innocent people had lost their lives and were seriously injured in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. He condemned that horrendous act. His country was equally saddened to see innocent civilians being killed or maimed by punitive military operations. Resorting to violence and force were no remedy to political problems. Resorting to violence and force only bred further violence and force. The lack of confidence between the two sides and the surging acts of violence and use of force were inevitably leading to a vicious circle, which needed to be arrested and reversed.

While the outcome of democratic elections should not be contested, it was equally important for the Governments assuming power through such elections to adopt well-defined and established principles of democratic regimes and adhere to them. At this decisive moment in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Turkey strongly encouraged both sides to pursue pragmatic policies. The Palestinian people and the Israeli leaders had responsibilities and obligations for the well-being of their respective peoples, as well as for regional peace, security and stability. He urged both the Palestinian Authority and Israel to take tangible steps to re-establish the platform of dialogue for the resumption of the peace negotiations based on relevant resolutions, the Road Map and the vision of two States, as well as the principle of “land for peace”. Both parties must also refrain from unilateral actions that might prejudge a final settlement.

In conclusion, he said that the long-awaited peace, security, development and overall progress in the Middle East could not be attained unless the Palestinian question was resolved through a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement. Turkey stood ready to work with the international community towards enabling meaningful progress in the Middle East peace process.

IMERIA NÚÑEZ DE ODREMAN ( Venezuela) endorsed the Non-Aligned Movement statement and stressed the importance of adhering to the United Nations Charter. The future of the Palestinian people could only be determined by the Palestinians themselves and their democratic choice could not be judged by anybody. There would be no peace in the region while the occupation continued, as the people would always reject occupation.

She said that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution must be based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice endorsed by the General Assembly and the recognition of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and development. Venezuela did not believe in a redrawing of the borders between Israel and Palestine, which would aggravate the problem. Also, suspension of financial aid was completely wrong. Such coercive and inhuman measures only hurt the people. It was to be hoped that negotiations would be carried out to bring about a settlement to the conflict.

PAUL BADJI ( Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noted that the violence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was escalating at an alarming pace. The Israeli Defense Forces had intensified its military action, stepping up extrajudicial killings and the firing of missiles and artillery rounds at Palestinian targets. The number of Palestinian civilian casualties was mounting, with children among those killed and injured. Despite the deaths of innocent civilians, the Israeli Defense Forces continued to shell targets in the Gaza Strip, undoubtedly causing more deaths and destruction.

At the same time, the firing of Qassam rockets from northern Gaza into Israel showed no signs of abating, provoking a violent response by the Israeli Defense Forces, he said, stressing that there was no justification whatsoever for any of those acts, which violated international law. For the same reason, the Committee condemned in the strongest terms possible the suicide bombing attack in Tel Aviv that had killed at least nine people and wounded dozens of innocent civilians. The escalation of violence was reaching dangerous levels and that perilous situation could sink into an uncontrollable quagmire unless reason and calm prevailed.

The tragic developments destroyed what little hope remained for the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government to explore ways to re-open dialogue and return to peace negotiations, he said. The Committee called on Israel to halt military operations and the excessive use of force. It also called on both sides to cease all acts of violence, exercise the utmost restraint and allow calm to return. The Security Council should live up to its responsibility by helping to end the bloodshed and misery in the Occupied Territory.

Expressing the Committee’s concern about recent decisions by some major donors to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority, he said the assistance had been critical in providing the most basic provisions to millions of Palestinians. The suspension or redirection of aid would cause disruption and hardship and the Committee appealed to the international donor community to ensure that the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people did not worsen.

Against that background, the illegal Israeli policies of expanding and annexing settlements and the continuing construction of the separation wall continued in violation of international law, he said. They also deprived the Palestinians of their just aspiration for a contiguous independent State of Palestine. The international community had continued to call on Israel to end its policies that unlawfully seized Palestinian lands and created new facts on the ground. The Committee called on the Security Council and the States parties to the Geneva Convention to pressure Israel to end and reverse its illegal land grab.

YAHYA MAHMASSANI, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, said that the Council was meeting to discuss Israel’s policy of escalating violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. At the same time, the Israeli authorities were continuing their expansion of illegal settlements and building the separation barrier.

In particular, Israel had escalated its military activities against Palestinian people in the wake of the democratic elections leading to the formation of the new Government in Palestine, he said. The policies to punish the Palestinian people for their democratic choice were manifesting themselves in the prevention of the transfer of tax and customs revenues belonging to the Palestinian people. That was a blatant contravention of international law. The extrajudicial targeted killings in violation of international law led to more tension and further exacerbated the situation on the ground. He appealed to the Council to call on Israel to stop its violations and demand that it renounce the policy of military attacks and imposition of the de facto situation on the ground.

The financial and economic situation in the Palestinian territory was indeed tragic, he continued. Stopping assistance to the Palestinian people, as well as the blackmail of Israel through the prevention of the transfer of tax and customs revenues could result in a humanitarian disaster. Half a century of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had proven that a solution could not be reached by military means. The League of Arab States rejected targeting and violence against any civilians, wherever they were. Ending the conflict and reaching a just, comprehensive and lasting peace required return to serious negotiations by the parties concerned in accordance with relevant resolutions, as well as the Madrid terms of reference, the principle of land for peace and the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the League of Arab States Summit in March 2002 in Beirut.


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