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    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/SG/1763
           1 December 2000
     As Assembly Winds Up Debate on Question of Palestine,
    Israel Appeals for End to Incitement, Confrontation

    Dispatch of UN “Protection Force” Would Internationalize
    Essentially Bilateral Spirit of Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue
     

    NEW YORK, 30 November (UN Headquarters) -- "The real question of Palestine is:  are the Palestinians truly ready and willing to make peace?" the representative of Israel told the General Assembly this morning as it continued its consideration of the question of Palestine.

    "Peace requires a language of peace", he said.  It required an end of boycotts, of contempt and defamation, the end of incitement and confrontation. Unfortunately, he failed to perceive a resolve on the part of the Palestinians to engage Israel in the language of peace.  There was no need for international intervention to bring about an end to the hostilities, rather what was required was the necessary resolve from the Palestinian leadership to renounce the confrontational approach and to implement the steps outlined at Sharm el-Sheikh.

     His Government considered Chairman Arafat's demand that the United Nations send an international force to the region to be the first step on the path to internationalize the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, an action which ran contrary to the bilateral spirit of the peace process.  He urged Member States, in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, to call out to the Palestinian people to abandon the spirit of confrontation, and to determine their future on the road of peace, dialogue and reconciliation.

     Iran's representative said the recent Zionist effort to desecrate the Islamic holy shrine in Al-Quds al-Sharif was part of the continuous and persistent process of judaization of the city.  The ongoing disdain of the Israeli leaders for the norms and principles of international law and the decisions of the United Nations further exacerbated the situation and destabilized the whole region.  Early dispatch of a United Nations protection force to the occupied territories, with the aim of providing safety and security for Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation and ensuring the freedom of movement and worship, was urgently called for.  Another important and necessary step was the appointment of an international board of inquiry into crimes committed against the innocent Palestinians. 

    Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, the representative of France said the ways to a solution of the current crisis had been shown:  implementation of the commitments agreed upon at Sharm el-Sheikh as well as signed agreements and international law, in particular relevant United Nations resolutions.  The Union urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to comply fully, and without delay, with the undertakings entered into at Sharm el-Sheikh five weeks ago and in Gaza on 2 November. 

    The European Union also called upon the Israeli authorities to pull back their armed forces to the positions they had occupied before 28 September, and to end restrictions on the movement of goods and persons in the Palestinian territories; to lift the financial sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Authority; and if action by the security forces appeared unavoidable, to use non-lethal means only.  It called upon the Palestinian Authority to issue strict instructions to the security forces to stop shooting Israelis, in accordance with the statement made by President Arafat. 

    The representative of Cameroon said the time had come to move beyond juridical definitions of peace.  Indeed, peace should be founded on an ethical basis.  Life was the supreme value for all peoples.  The right to life also entailed the right to land and to a nation.  Peace between Palestine and Israel must enshrine the dignity of the human being and the rights that naturally arose. Despite their differences, today both these peoples desired peace —- it was up to their political and religious leaders to achieve it.  His country urged the young people in the Middle East to transform the mentality and practices of the swamp of violence into the spring of love. 

    The representatives of Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Japan, Ghana, Indonesia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Namibia, Qatar and the Lao People's Democratic Republic also spoke.  The Observer for Palestine exercised his right of reply.

    The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. to take up consideration of the situation in the Middle East.

    Assembly Work Programme

     The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of the question of Palestine.

    Statements

     MOHAMAD YUSOF AHMAD (Malaysia) was deeply concerned by the spiraling of the violence that had descended on Palestine, particularly in East Jerusalem and Gaza as well as several Arab townships in Israel, which had resulted in the deaths of more than 280 people, most of them Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.  His country  deplored all forms of violence and strongly condemned the disproportionate and excessive use of force by Israeli security forces against Palestinian civilians, and called on them to put an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.  Malaysia regarded those actions as grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, he said.

     Specific measures must be taken to put an end to the violations against the Palestinian people.  His Government supported the request of Palestinian leaders for a United Nations protection or observer force to monitor the situation on the ground and ensure the safety of unarmed civilians.  He urged Israel to withdraw its armed forces, end the restrictions on movement of people and goods, lift financial sanctions against the Palestinian Authority, and exercise maximum restraint in managing the current volatile situation.  Furthermore, “every effort should be made to pursue the goals of peace, security and cooperation cherished by all in the region”.

     The United Nations had an important role to play, he went on, in ensuring the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily their right to self-determination.  Malaysia felt the Organization must continue to be involved, both as the guardian of international legitimacy and in the mobilization and provision of international assistance for development.  He fervently hoped that the long quest by the Palestinian people for statehood would soon be realized.  His country would continue to support the Palestinians in their just and legitimate struggle for self-determination, including the right to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian State with Al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital.  Malaysia expressed its strong support for President Arafat’s efforts towards declaring the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

     FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said that the question of Palestine was facing a critical stage fraught with serious repercussions, due to Israeli prevarication vis-à-vis Security Council resolutions.  Israel had transferred the Middle East peace process into a situation of siege and violence, and had turned Palestinians into hostages in their own homeland.  Israel used the most brutal methods, killing children and creating orphans and widows through their killings.  Violence was Israel’s method of dealing with Palestinians.  Palestinian unrest was merely a response to Israeli violence, and Israel alone bore the responsibility for any Palestinian violence.  The most recent uprising was born from the depths of Palestinian despair, he said:  they were no longer able to keep the fury and suffering within.  There were no signs of Palestinians getting their right to independence.  Israeli settlements were continuing, and the seizure of land and the demolition of houses had not ceased.  The Palestinian economic situation was also deteriorating.  Israel had the power to reoccupy the areas it had withdrawn from and impose sieges.  It was clear that Israel had not given up the arrogance of might, and had thus caused the deterioration of the Middle East peace process.  

     Saudi Arabia denounced and condemned all those brutal Israeli acts, which contradicted every humanitarian principle.  He called upon the international community to act to halt the Israeli crimes to which the Palestinian people and authorities were exposed.  Saudi Arabia aimed for stability in the region and supported the Middle East peace process, he said.  His Government affirmed that one could not have a lasting, just, and comprehensive peace in the region unless the right to an independent State with its own capital, Al-Quds al-Sharif, was fulfilled.  Israel must implement Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 in return for peace, he said.  Al-Quds al-Sharif was an Arab question allowing of no concessions:  it was part and parcel of the provisions of Security Council resolutions.  The sponsors of peace had a special responsibility to make sure that the path of the peace process ran smoothly.  He supported the demands made at the recent Arab Summit for a new committee of inquiry into the situation in occupied Palestine, and called for the dispatch of international observers to Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, in order to stop the killing of Palestinian children.  

     ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that foreign occupation in itself constituted a flagrant violation of human rights.  The Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories represented an utter violation and persistent disregard of international law.  His country condemned the Israeli policy of systematic violation of basic human rights in the occupied territories, and declared its total solidarity with its Palestinian and Arab brothers.  He reiterated that under the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as relevant resolutions of the United Nations, the occupying Power was obliged to guarantee the basic human rights of the people under its occupation.  The latest Israeli military actions, which included missile attacks on civilians, defied all logic. The bombing of the school bus that had claimed two civilians’ lives and injured schoolchildren was a tragic and uncalled for act of terrorism. 

     It was sad, he continued, that the Middle East situation had deteriorated so fast, particularly when the peace process seemed about to make a breakthrough.  Reaching an agreement at Sharm el-Sheikh against all odds had been an eloquent testimony to the Palestinian leadership's commitment to peace, and his country commended the Palestinian leadership for its commitment to a peaceful solution of the Middle East issue.  The United Nations had a permanent responsibility with respect to the Palestinian and other Arab territories under Israeli occupation until a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement was reached. 

    JOHN DE SARAM (Sri Lanka) said that the report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People mentioned the great difficulties endured in the occupied territories -- difficulties that had been disruptive to Palestinian lives and were clearly not in line with what were now regarded as international standards of human rights and humanitarian values.  

    Sri Lanka shared the satisfaction of the international community at the progress which, despite delays and obstacles, was being gradually made in the peace process. 

     However, the recent overwhelmingly shocking events in the occupied territories had once again shown that where deep human emotions were in conflict, where a mood of frustration and hopelessness prevailed, where tensions were always close to dangerous and explosive levels, sensitivity and thoughtfulness were the essential overarching requirements if violence was not to erupt and engulf all.  Unfortunately, it had been the case that once again humanity had failed, and violence had indeed erupted and engulfed so many.

     SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) considered the discussion of the Palestinian question to be almost a tradition, because it was held every year.  But this year’s bloodbath in the occupied territories, following the profanation of the mosque by Ariel Sharon of the Likud political party, demonstrated an unprecedented increase in tension.  The visit had kindled a powder keg, he continued.  Whereas Israel at Camp David had claimed “a fait accompli” for the peace process, there had now ensued a new cycle of violence and confrontation.  Tunisia pointed to the excessive force used against innocent Palestinians, of whom 300 had died, with more than 3,000 injured.  Israel’s occupying forces were employing organized terror in East Jerusalem.

    Tunisia believed the current crisis violated all customs and international norms, and was unprecedented in scope.  In fact, it was a humanitarian catastrophe, and a real threat to peace and security in the world.  His Government reaffirmed its support for the defence of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Moreover, he expressed solidarity with the legitimate right of Palestine to set up an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  It was imperative that the United Nations adopt practical steps to maintain the human rights of Palestinians.  He believed that the Organization’s inquiry commission was necessary in order to shed light on what had happened.  He urged rapid action to prevent such violent acts from happening again. 

    As resolution 1322 of the Security Council indicated, the situation of the occupied territories had put Palestine on the edge of a precipice.  The international community must think in terms of the deep reasons feeding those ongoing animosities.  By its escalation of tension, Israel had shown the greatest scorn for international efforts to stop the violence.  The international community must face up to its responsibilities, working for “a real solution, not a lame one”. There must be an independent State on Palestinian soil, which required withdrawal by Israel from all occupied territories.  His Government urged the European Union to contribute to the restoration of peace, which must be based on the principle of land for peace. 

     RAVAN A.G. FARHADI (Afghanistan) said that 33 years had elapsed since the Security Council adopted its resolution 242 calling upon Israel to put an end to the occupation of Palestine.  The Palestinians had patiently endured hardships in the hope that there would be an end to the occupation.  All those who had suffered from foreign occupation knew its bitterness.  The United Nations was still the point of reference for the Palestinians, and those who argued that the United Nations was not the framework for the discussion were wrong.  Israel had promised to pursue a path of justice and equity, but most of the Israeli leaders had not kept that promise.  The fact that the Palestinians were deprived of the right to self-determination was neither acceptable nor permissible.  Israel had at the same time encouraged Israelis to settle in the occupied territories, which resulted in them having to carry arms, day and night, to protect their homes, which had been turned into military barracks.  The path chosen by Israel was not that of a country that wished to live within safe and secure borders.  The second phase of the uprising had started as a result of provocation, and unarmed Palestinians were being killed by lethal weapons, he said.  Did Israel really expect those people to establish cordial relations with the occupying Power?

     Peace between the two sides could be signed only on the basis of land for peace, the restoring of all Palestinian land and implementation of Security Council resolutions.  Self-determination and the right to regain their land, including Jerusalem, were essential.  He supported the request for an end to the violence, for the implementation of resolution 1322 and for effective action by the proposed committee of inquiry.  He also supported international protection for Palestinian civilians, which could only be achieved by deploying observers to all the places occupied by Israel since 1967.

     HIDEAKI KOBAYASHI (Japan) said that his country strongly deplored the escalating violence between the parties concerned, and the acts of provocation and excessive use of force, which could in no way be justified, regardless of the context.  His country also deplored the fact that actions contrary to the mutual understanding reached in Sharm el-Sheikh were still taking place in Gaza and the West Bank.  He urged the parties to exercise the utmost restraint, to refrain from any escalatory action, and to implement the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement.  Only then would calm be restored in the region and the people be able to resume their livelihoods. 

     With each new victim, he said, there was an irreversible and tragic loss, and the scars of bitterness and enmity were carved deeper in the hearts of the people, making a peaceful settlement that much more difficult to achieve.  The most urgent priority now was to stop the bloodshed and halt further loss of life. An international presence, with the cooperation of both parties concerned, could be useful in alleviating the situation on the ground.

     NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said that his delegation was deeply concerned about the clashes, especially as they had hardened attitudes and destroyed trust between Israelis and Palestinians.  Those unfortunate events benefited radicals and extremists on both sides, whose only aim was to frustrate the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian issue.  However, appeals for compromise and flexibility should not undermine the fundamental premise that informed the peace process -- notably, the land-for-peace principle and relevant United Nations resolutions on the issue, especially resolutions 242 and 338.

     Of grave concern to his delegation, and crucial to the future of the Palestinian State, was water.  Israel's increasing water demands were met almost entirely from the West Bank, and Palestinians considered the local scarcity of that natural resource to be a direct consequence of exploitation by the Israeli authorities.  For the Palestinians, unfettered access to and ownership of water sources was a legitimate issue not only of survival but also of sovereignty.  An equitable water-sharing agreement could serve as an effective foundation for conflict prevention and resolution, as well as for lasting peace.

     For peace to take root and flourish, he continued, it must be accompanied by economic growth and development, as well as improvement in the social and living conditions of the people.  The report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People indicated that the plight of the Palestinians had worsened over the years.  Could a people with so much deprivation and frustration be expected to show any other attitude other than distrust and hostility?  Ghana appealed to the world community, especially donor countries and United Nations agencies, to continue their assistance to the Palestinian Authority in meeting its social and development programme, so as to create a solid foundation for future peace and stability in the region.

     HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said today coincided with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  It was important for the international community to remember the usurped rights and plight of the Palestinian people.  The commemoration of the Day and the General Assembly’s consideration of the present item was a reminder of the historic responsibility of the international community to support the establishment of a national homeland and comprehensive and just resolution of the issue in all its aspects.  More than half a century had passed, and despite the calls of the Security Council and the General Assembly, Palestinians were still deprived of their natural right to exercise self-determination on their own territory.

    The ongoing struggle against Israel was legitimate and lawful, and was to be expected from any people under occupation.  As long as occupation persisted, they had no choice but to rise up against it.  It was ironic and sad that Zionist groups had embarked on a major public relations campaign in which they were shedding tears for Palestinian children, not because of the Israeli violence, but because Palestinian mothers were letting their children out to throw stones.  The international community must not remain indifferent to this travesty.  All countries must do some soul-searching to determine exactly how much pain and blood the Palestinian children must pay for their natural rights.  The campaign of terror and the occupation were appalling and outrageous, and the wilful killing of stone-throwing youths was an illegal and criminal activity.  More than 100 Palestinians had already been killed and more than 1,000 had been injured.  The destruction of property, infrastructure and the economy, and the severe restrictions on movement, were also important although less visible than the excessive violence.  The impact of such destruction would continue to be felt in years to come. 

     The recent Zionist effort to desecrate the Islamic holy shrine in Al-Quds al-Sharif was part of the continuous and persistent process of judaization of the city.  The Moslems considered Al-Quds al-Sharif as the capital of the independent State of Palestine, and rejected any and all attempts at imposing Zionist domination over it.  The ongoing disdain of the Israeli leaders for the norms and principles of international law and the decisions of the United Nations further exacerbated the situation in the Middle East and destabilized the whole region.  Early dispatch of a United Nations protection force to the occupied territories, with the aim of providing safety and security for Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation and ensuring the freedom of movement and worship, was urgently called for.  Another important and necessary step was the appointment of an international board of inquiry into the crimes against the innocent Palestinians. 

     MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said the Palestinian leaders had taken a courageous decision to postpone declaration of a Palestinian State in September 2000 until the conclusion of a final peace agreement.  Israel, however, had yet to fully demonstrate its own commitment to the peace process.  Past peace accords, embraced in good faith by the Palestinians, had been subjected to procrastination, unilateral delay tactics and minimal methods of implementation, which had often brought the peace process to the brink of disintegration.  To the Palestinian population at large, their anger over the slow pace of the peace negotiations was justifiable, since it had produced more rhetoric than positive change.

     Indonesia deplored the recent violence and the tragic loss of life.  It could not be denied that the deteriorating situation was a direct outcome of Israel’s untenable occupation policies and its utter failure to respect its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the relevant Assembly and Security Council resolutions.  Despite the important efforts made at Sharm el-Sheikh and Paris to stem the violence, the situation remained highly volatile.  While his country regretted the attack on the Israeli civilian bus, there could be no legal justification for the Government of Israel to retaliate with such disproportionate use of military force.  At this juncture, it was essential that a United Nations observer force be dispatched to restore stability to the region. 

     The severe economic and social consequences inflicted on the Palestinian people were a source of increasing concern.  They were largely due to the reimposition of the Israeli closure policy, which isolated more than 3 million Palestinians from the rest of the world  Draconian measures regarding external and internal closures were having a devastating effect on the nascent Palestinian economy.  The international community should, therefore, call upon Israel to cease its military aggression against the Palestinian people and end the economic siege of the occupied territories.  The United Nations had a permanent and historic responsibility towards the question of Palestine.

     SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said that instead of beginning the new millennium with the promise of peace in the Middle East, the international community was again witnessing the slide of the region into a vicious cycle of spiralling violence.  The provocative actions by certain elements in Israel, bent on derailing the peace process, had ignited the present round of violence. Insensitive high-handedness had provoked Palestinian defiance, with tragic consequences for all.  His country condemned those deaths in the strongest terms and expressed its profound sympathies for the bereaved.

     There were two issues at stake.  The first was the protection of the Palestinian people, who were being subjected to disproportionate and excessive use of force and measures verging on economic strangulation.  The second was the broader fundamental issue of the realization by the Palestinians of their right to self-determination.  Both issues needed to be resolved. 

     No lasting peace in the Middle East would be possible without achieving a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 425.  The realization of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territory, including the dismantling of illegal settlements, were essential for any meaningful progress in the peace process.  Al-Quds al-Sharif remained central to any comprehensive settlement in the Middle East.  An overarching peaceful settlement of the Middle East question must, by definition, include vacating the Syrian Golan Heights by Israel and full respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon.

     SELIM TADMOURY (Lebanon) said that while it was clear that peace efforts had made great progress, conditions had suddenly blown up because of the provocative visit by the Israeli Likud leader to a holy site, followed by the excessive reaction of the Israeli war machine.  All that affected peace and security in the Middle East, he said.  The United Nations had always had the Palestinian question on its agenda, so the problem was always there.  Recently there had been a belief that a solution was in sight.  However, Israel, instead of withdrawing, had pushed back the policies of peace, leading to scorn for the peace process. 

     It was high time for the international community to face its responsibilities and force Israel to implement Security Council resolutions in conformity with international law.  He urged Israel to honour the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Israeli armed aggression must stop, and there must be an international presence to protect the Palestinian people.  Lebanon urged Israel to cooperate with an inquiry chaired by George Mitchell, who had outstanding credentials.  Any solution must be based on respect for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to develop an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  In conclusion, he felt that treatment of the question must be related to an overall settlement, specifically the return of the Golan Heights to the Syrian Arab Republic and withdrawal from disputed zones. 

     MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that the atrocities committed by the Israeli Defence Forces should be fully investigated.  Israel, as the occupying Power, should abide by its obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relating to treatment of civilians in wartime.  His delegation was equally concerned by the illegal and humiliating blockade that was being imposed on the Palestinian people, resulting in tremendous suffering and financial loss. Those actions violated every single provision of international human rights and humanitarian laws. 

     It was extremely urgent, he said, that a United Nations force be established to protect Palestinian civilians.  The Non-Aligned Movement Caucus had tabled a draft resolution in the Security Council calling for the establishment of such a protection force.  His delegation strongly supported the effort, and hoped that action would be taken on the resolution soon.  The events of the past few weeks had, once again, proved that the question of Palestine was central to the whole Middle East peace process.  In that regard, the full implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 could lead to a lasting, just and comprehensive solution.

     NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) said that anybody who followed the events in the occupied territories could see the enormous Palestinian suffering caused by Israeli brutality and violations of international law.  The bloody campaign that the Israelis had launched against the Palestinian people was against the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He reminded the Assembly of the Conference held in Geneva in 1999 by the high contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The Conference clearly determined that the Convention applied to the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.  Palestinian people were being exposed to the most atrocious forms of repression, through Israeli artillery attacks and fuel and humanitarian aid blockades.  

    If one reviewed the many talks between the parties, whether direct or indirect, it became clear that no agreements had been implemented by the Israeli side.  The political negotiations had turned into violence, with Israel using military force to oblige Palestinians to accept what they had rejected in negotiations.  The Palestinian uprising was in its third month, and had great repercussions on the situation in the Middle East.  The uprising was a real turning point, he said, brought about by Israeli cruelty in dealing with Palestinian civilians.  The uprising had already killed a number of martyrs, and there was sadness in every Palestinian household. 

    He called upon the Security Council to ensure that resolutions 242 and 338 were implemented.  He believed that the two resolutions provided the framework for action.  It was only through adherence to those resolutions that that there could be a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.  It was urgent and necessary for the international community to ensure the protection of civilians and for a fact-finding mechanism to be established.  It was also necessary to stress the importance of compensation for the damage the Palestinian people had suffered.  

     JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) speaking for the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta, said that the current crisis needed a courageous and generous political solution.  The ways to that solution had been shown:  implementation of the commitments agreed upon at Sharm el-Sheikh, as well as in signed agreements, and in international law, particularly in relevant United Nations resolutions.  In this context, the European Union insisted on the need to abstain from any acts which could prejudge the final outcome of the negotiations or harm the atmosphere.  Israeli settlement activities, including the demolition of houses, continued to be of concern, since they were illegal and an obstacle to peace.

     He said the European Union's assessment of the situation remained the same. No effort had been spared for putting an end to the violence, and encouraging the Israelis and Palestinians to go back to the negotiating table.  Israeli and Palestinian leaders should comply fully, and without delay, with the undertakings entered into at Sharm el-Sheikh five weeks ago, and in Gaza on 2 November.

    The European Union, he continued, called upon the Israeli authorities to pull back their armed forces to the positions they had occupied before September 28 then should end restrictions on the movement of goods and persons in the Palestinian territories and lift the financial sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Authority.  If action by the security forces appeared unavoidable, only non-lethal means should be used.  The European Union called upon the Palestinian Authority to make every endeavour to bring the violence to an end, and to issue strict instructions to the security forces to stop shooting Israelis, in accordance with the statement made by President Arafat.  The goal was still a resumption of the dialogue and the peace talks.  This was the only way out of the crisis.

     ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said that, regrettably, the earnest hopes of the world community had been ruined by the clashes that had occurred since 28 September in Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian territories.  The Lao People's Democratic Republic expressed its concern over the current situation in the Middle East, and strongly condemned all acts of violence.  It also called for an immediate cessation of that violence, as well as full implementation of the cease-fire agreement of 17 October, in order to pave the way for the resumption of negotiations and to bring the peace process back on track as soon as possible. 

    He said the best way to end the violence would be to help the interested parties move as quickly as possible towards a final agreement.  His country called on the international community to continue exerting political and diplomatic efforts that would support and promote negotiations between Palestine and Israel with the aim of finding a just and comprehensive settlement.  No resolution in the Middle East could be envisaged which did not take into account the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. 

     MARTIN BELINGA EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said his Government believed the question of Palestine was at the heart of the crisis, and that must be solved before peace could come to the region.  His country insisted on the right of the Palestinian people to their own State, just as it recognized the right of Israel to exist. 

     He said it was unacceptable for an entire people to be reduced to refugees, homeless persons without land, and without a future.  For almost half a century, Arabs and Israelis had been living in a state of permanent tension.  It was difficult to understand this situation between two peoples whose culture came from a common brotherhood.  Cameroon believed these peoples must live together on the same earth.  Their failure to respect their common brotherhood had led to self-destructive, fratricidal warfare. 

    The current conflict, he said, ran counter to the hopes for the success of the peace process.  The time had come to move beyond juridical definitions of peace.  Indeed, peace should be founded on an ethical basis.  Life was the supreme value for all peoples.  He said his Government could not accept the need for so much bloodshed to achieve peace; it regarded the right to life as also entailing the right to land and to the nation.  Peace between Palestine and Israel must enshrine the dignity of the human being and the rights that naturally arose. Despite their differences, today both peoples desired peace.  It was up to their political and religious leaders to achieve it.  It was not peace imposed by arms, or peace imposed by the strongest.  The young people in the Middle East should transform the practices in the “swamp of violence” into the “spring of love”.  Peace required effort, he said.  It had to be invented in the heart of man; to invent peace was to work for a society of justice and fraternity. 

     YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) said that when the question of Palestine arose more than 50 years ago, his country was at war with every one of its neighbours.  That stemmed from the categorical rejection in 1947 of Assembly resolution 181 (II) by all the States members of the Arab League as well as the Palestinian leadership. Since then, under the stewardship of courageous Arab and Israeli leaders, great strides had been made.  Egypt and Jordan had embraced the reality that the future of the region would be determined through peaceful negotiations and reconciliation with Israel.  That had bestowed upon Israel, Egypt and Jordan the benefits of quiet borders, diplomatic contacts and the freedom to pursue "life's bounty free from the threat of war and bloodshed", illustrating a powerful point:  that rejection of violence, direct negotiations and courageous leadership could reverse decades of hatred and hostility.

     The question of Palestine today was not what it was a half-century ago.  There was no longer a need to debate the question of how best to achieve a peaceful settlement in the region.  The question was rather:  "Are we ready to do so?"  Israel had gone to great lengths to ensure that the historical breakthrough of the Oslo agreements resulted in a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.  At the Camp David Summit, Prime Minister Barak had expressed his willingness to accept the establishment of a Palestinian State, provided it was born out of negotiation and compromise with Israel.  Even the future of Jerusalem was discussed, he said.

     Speaking about the issue at the core of the conflict, the sacred tract of land known to Muslims as Al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount, he said the Temple Mount was "the genetic code of the Jewish identity".  Throughout two millennia of exile, the city of Jerusalem had served as a focal point, uniting the Jewish people and sustaining hopes for a return to their ancestral home in Zion.  The Koran mentioned the Temple in several places. Caliph Umar had wanted to build his mosque on the Temple Mount precisely because that was the location of the Temple built by King Solomon.  And yet, despite that unique and powerful connection, Israel was willing to consider various compromises that could have ended the conflict over the site.

     But "to our great sadness, barely four months after Camp David, virtually all evidence of Israel's efforts has been erased from the Palestinian consciousness".  Renunciation of violence by the Palestinians was only a beginning, he said.  Peace required a culture of peace, born out of a recognition of the legitimacy and the right of the other side to live in peace and security; it required an end of boycotts, of contempt and defamation, the end of incitement and confrontation.  "Peace requires a language of peace", he said.  Unfortunately, he saw no resolve on the part of the Palestinians to engage Israel in the language of peace.  "The real question of Palestine is:  are the Palestinians truly ready and willing to make peace?"  There was no need for international intervention to bring about an end to the hostilities, rather what was required was the necessary resolve from the Palestinian leadership to renounce the confrontational approach and to implement the steps outlined at Sharm el-Sheikh.

     His Government considered Yasser Arafat's demand that the United Nations send an international force to the region to be the first step on the path to internationalizing the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, an action which ran contrary to the bilateral spirit of the peace process.  Israel opposed the draft resolutions under consideration and urged Member States to oppose them.  He further urged members, in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, to call on the Palestinian people to abandon the spirit of confrontation and to determine their future on the road of peace, dialogue and reconciliation.

    Right of Reply

     NASSAR AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, exercising his right of reply, said that he had felt fully satisfied as the Israeli delegate started his statement.  He had hoped that the statement would contribute to the peace process.  However, after the introduction, the statement had changed its tone, failing to lead to the results expected.  The Palestinian-Israeli conflict was already, by its very nature, an international conflict, and could therefore not be “internationalized”.  Even the United Nations had affirmed its permanent responsibility vis-a-vis the question of Palestine.  The position taken by Israel on an international observer force emphasized Israel’s hostility to the United Nations, and confirmed that there was no political will to end the bloodshed.  Israel had not given one logical reason for its rejection of the force.  Of course, views differed on the historical background of the conflict as well as the correct formula for achieving peace.  But the formula agreed upon was land for peace, he said, which was the central and core issue.  

    Views regarding Jerusalem and Al-Haram al–Sharif again differed as to the historical background.  For at least 1,300 years, that holy site had been under Arab Islamic rule.  The Palestinian compromise accepted Israeli control over the Wailing Wall, despite the fact that it was part and parcel of East Jerusalem and covered by Security Council resolution 242.  In fact, Israel wanted sovereignty over the Islamic sites as well, including the Al-Aqsa mosque.  That would never happen.  He called upon Israel to have full respect for all other religions and to accept the natural rights of the Palestinian and Arab people.  

    The Israeli delegation had complicated issues by mentioning a variety of leaderships.  The Palestinians never talked about specific leaders and had avoided personalization.  He reminded the Assembly that the record of Mr. Barak included responsibility for the bloody military campaign by the Israeli Defence Force and all the injuries and destruction that it had caused.  Mr. Barak had supported the building of illegitimate settlements more wholeheartedly than any Prime Minister of Israel since the beginning of the Middle East peace process.  

    The central issue that the Israeli party failed to understand was the occupation of Palestinian people and territories.  Peace could only be achieved through the end of that occupation.  Both parties must, therefore, deal with each other on equal terms, not based on the might of occupation against repressed people.  He was still committed to the peace process and the goal of a Palestinian independent State, with Al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital.

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