Sixty-second General Assembly
12th Meeting (PM)
Members Take up Issue of Permanent Sovereignty Over Natural Resources in Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syrian Golan
Israel must immediately stop the destruction of infrastructure in occupied Arab lands, arbitrary detentions and the construction of its separation barrier, which together had resulted in environmental damage and socio-economic stagnation, preventing the peoples of those territories from improving their living conditions and moving towards attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, several speakers said in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this afternoon.
As the Committee took up the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, the Observer for Palestine said Israel had implemented a carefully crafted, systematic and deliberate policy based on the illegal exploitation, diversion and degradation of land and other natural resources at the expense of the Palestinian people, who were forced into a life of destitution and bitter deprivation.
Citing a report by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), he said 40 per cent of the West Bank was exploited for Israeli-only infrastructure, being illegally built on occupied Palestinian land, including an entire network of Israeli-only roads and military roadblocks and checkpoints that isolated Palestinian communities and denied them access to proper health and education services. Israel's expropriation of Palestinian land targeted the West Bank's most and valuable water resources, with at least 230 square kilometres of the area's most fertile land, 15 per cent of its agricultural land, already confiscated by Israel for construction of the separation wall. In addition, occupation authorities used Palestinian land in the West Bank as a dumping ground for untreated sewage and other waster from Israeli settlements and chemical factories set up in flagrant violation of international environmental law.
He said that, while Israel professed to seek cooperation for the attainment of the Millennium Goals, to promote South-South cooperation and apply technology for development, its actions against the Palestinians and other people represented one nation's advancement at the expense of another's resources and future viability. The Observer Mission of Palestine disagreed with Israel's allegation that the above mentioned facts were politicized and that the discussion did not belong in the Second Committee. The facts were not abstract numbers, but facts on the ground, and the Committee had a standing legal and moral obligation to protect the rights of all peoples to sovereignty over their natural resources.
Israel's representative disagreed, insisting that the issue was indeed one of politics, and unrelated to the Committee's competence and contrary to its working methods. The Secretary-General's report failed to reflect reality on the ground and was highly problematic. It failed to examine the Palestinians' impact on themselves, such as internal violence and other activities that destroyed natural resources. The report did not match the findings contained in the Human Development Report, which ranked Palestinians 100 out of 177 countries, and blamed Israel for the deterioration of the Palestinian economy and environment, rather than identify the real trigger -- Palestinian terrorism. The security fence was a direct consequence of Palestinian terror, and had saved thousands of Israeli Jews, Christians and Muslims.
The Secretary-General's report covered a time when Hamas had controlled the Palestinian leadership, he said. During that time, Israel could not have transferred the tax funds it collected on behalf of the Palestinians, or worked with them, due to the refusal by Hamas to abide by its international obligations as embodied in the Quartet principles. However, with the establishment of a Palestinian Government that met those standards, Israel had resumed the transfers. Israel was working with the Palestinians to address water sanitation and management, but the Secretary-General's report neglected to mention the shared challenge of water, and instead turned an issue of natural resources into a political one.
But Lebanon's delegate pointed out that Israel consistently and selectively gave its citizens unhindered access to water resources, and they consumed 86 per cent of all water resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, leaving the Palestinian population with little water. Israelis consumed 375 cubic metres of water per person annually, while the Palestinians' annual per capita consumption was 107 to 156 cubic metres. Many existing wells in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been absorbed by Israel. Illegal Israeli settlers were not subjected to water-usage restrictions, but Palestinian farmers had usage quotas and were sanctioned for exceeding them. Israel had drilled wells up to six times deeper than those previously used by the Palestinians.
The Palestinians were not allowed to repair their own wells, he said, adding that, according to the United Nations report, 460 out of 720 wells had been destroyed, expropriated or had dried up. Israel was over-exploiting resources in the West Bank, causing the salination of West Bank aquifers. The situation in Gaza was worse, and even Israeli experts had warned that if over-exploitation continued, the situation would be beyond repair. High levels of salinity were well over the safety standards set by the World Health Organization, rendering water unsuitable for irrigation or human consumption. The water from 50 per cent of the wells in Gaza was unsuitable for human use. Highly salinated water could cause kidney failure, congestive heart failure and other serious health problems. Israel must observe international legal principles, and the international community was bound to call on Israel to respect international law.
Syria's representative said that, in addition to controlling the occupied Syrian Golan's water resources and enforcing Israeli curricula in schools, Israel had imposed heavier agriculture taxes on Syrians than on Israelis, and prevented the Syrian population in the occupied territory from returning home. Israel had also continued building settlements and, in April 2006, had begun construction of three tourist settlements in the depressions of Tabaraya Lake. It intended to expedite settlement building near the ceasefire line and continued to bury nuclear waste in the Syrian Golan.
Bader al-Dafa, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) introduced the ESCWA report (document A/62/75-E/2007/13) on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.
In other business, the representative of Pakistan introduced the draft on external debt crisis and development (documentA/C.2/62/L.2) on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China.
Other speakers today were representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, Libya, Kuwait, Egypt, Venezuela and Sudan.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the Executive Secretary of ESCWA, the representative of Syria and the Observer for Palestine.
The Committee will meet again at 5 p.m. on Thursday, 25 October, to consider international trade and development.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to take up the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.
Before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/62/75-E/2007/13). It states that, in its resolution 2006/43, the Economic and Social Council stressed the importance of reviving the Middle East peace process on the basis of various Security Council resolutions. Israel's occupation of Palestinian Territory continues to deepen the economic and social hardship of Palestinians, and the fiscal situation deteriorated significantly following elections in January 2006.
The report states that Israeli settlements, land confiscation and barrier construction, contrary to the Geneva Convention and other norms of international law, isolate occupied East Jerusalem, bisect the West Bank and curtail normal economic and social life. Refugees, women and children bear the brunt of these measures, while malnutrition and other health problems afflict a growing number of Palestinians due to limited access to needed services.
Also before the Committee was a draft resolution on the external debt crisis and development (document A/C.2/62/L.2), by which the General Assembly would emphasize the importance of timely, comprehensive solutions to the debt problems of developing countries, the shared responsibility of creditors and debtors to prevent unsustainable debt situations, and the fact that debt relief did not replace other sources of financing. The Assembly would urge donors to fulfil their commitments to the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, in addition to existing aid flows.
By other terms, the General Assembly would note with concern that some countries have reached the HIPC completion point, but have yet to achieve lasting debt sustainability, and that the current debt sustainability framework for middle-income countries inadequately addresses solvency issues. It would call upon creditors to provide flexibility to developing countries affected by natural disasters and upon Member States and the United Nations system to take appropriate steps to implement internationally agreed commitments.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
MUHAMMAD AYUB ( Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, introduced the draft on external debt crisis and development (document A/C.2/62/L.2).
He said that despite improvements in the external debt situation, many developing countries were still finding it difficult to implement durable debt solutions. Current debt-relief instruments, such as the MDRI and the HIPC Debt Initiative, were inadequate for realizing internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals.
The gap in availability of debt financing was too large, and more competent initiatives were urgently needed, he said. Debt sustainability was critical to the whole debate on debt relief, and it should be tailored to each country's capacity. The draft resolution sought to reflect a consensus of the Committee's membership.
Introduction of Report
BADER AL-DAFA, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced the Secretary-General's note transmitting the report on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/62/75-E/2007/13).
He outlined the highlights of the report, including a call upon Israel to halt the erection of its barrier wall in and around East Jerusalem, and to cease its destruction of vital infrastructure that had compromised Palestinians' rights to gain access to and benefit from their natural resources.
He said the report described how the living conditions of Palestinians had been exacerbated by arbitrary arrests and detentions, population displacement and property destruction and confiscation, with over 9,400 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. The report said that the international community had deemed Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory illegal and the only option for creating better conditions rested in ending the occupation. There was an urgent need to relaunch the peace process, which would achieve a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli and Syrian-Israeli conflicts.
During the ensuing question-and-answer period, OSAMA ALI ( Syria) said it was important to continue with the Commission's report so that it would address the realities of Israeli practices in the occupied Golan and the subsequent repercussions for Syria. It was also important to diversify the sources upon which the report drew. The Syrian Government was prepared to present any information that could assist in the drafting of the report so it could more appropriately reflect the situation in the occupied Golan.
AMMAR HIJAZI, Observer for Palestine, asked if it was possible to provide in the report data concerning the Israeli occupation over the last 40 years and to have that information clustered and available in tables and matrixes in order to demonstrate the cumulative impact of the occupation, not just its impact in the last year. The Observer Mission of Palestine objected to the manner in which the report had been presented by the Executive Secretary, sine in previous years a PowerPoint briefing had accompanied the report, providing details to the Committee. Hopefully, the Committee would go back to that practice so that the situation in the Occupied Territories would be made very clear to Member States.
Responding to the Syrian delegate's comment, Mr. AL-DAFA said the substance of his message was included in the detailed report submitted to the Committee.
To the Palestinian Observer's question on cumulative data about Israeli practices, he said details and information of that kind did exist, and it was to be hoped that next year the information could be presented as requested and that the Observer's request would be duly taken into consideration.
REHAB ALI KHAMIS AL MANSOORI ( United Arab Emirates) said the situation of the Palestinian people was a human tragedy resulting from Israel's continued occupation. Israel had continued, against international law, to confiscate Palestinian land and to construct illegal settlements and military bases. The United Arab Emirates reaffirmed its support to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, and urged the international community to take the necessary measures to compel Israel to implement all international resolutions.
She urged the United Nations, especially the Security Council, to compel Israel to stop its aggression immediately, to resume the peace negotiations according to the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map, and to heed the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, which had declared the separation barrier unlawful and called for its removal. The United Arab Emirates had helped Palestinians with grants and financial assistance to rebuild the infrastructure that Israel had destroyed over the years. The international community and international financial institutions should resume the provision of necessary assistance to the Palestinian Authority so they could meet their basic living requirements and build their economic and social institutions.
Mr. HIJAZI, Observer for Palestine, said that for 40 years Israel had implemented a carefully crafted, systematic and deliberate policy based on the illegal exploitation, diversion and degradation of land and other natural resources at the expense of the Palestinian people, who were forced into a life of destitution and bitter deprivation. The July 2007 report of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), titled "The humanitarian impact on Palestinians of Israeli settlements and other infrastructures in the West Bank", provided a shocking depiction of the outcome of Israel's destructive policies and practices, not just on Palestinian natural resources but also on the potential of the Palestinian people's future.
According to the report, he said, 40 per cent of the West Bank was exploited by the occupation authorities for Israeli-only infrastructure that was being illegally built on occupied Palestinian land, confiscated for the benefit of the occupiers and the armed settlers. An entire network of Israeli-only roads and military roadblocks and checkpoints disconnected Palestinian communities and denied them access to proper health and education services, choking their dreams of a dignified existence in what was left for them of their occupied homeland. Israel continued to construct the illegal wall in the West Bank, including in and around East Jerusalem, in grave violation of the 9 July 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice and General Assembly resolution ES-10/15.
The ESCWA report confirmed that Israel's illegal expropriation of Palestinian land targeted the West Bank's most fertile land and valuable water resources, he said. At least 230 square kilometres of the area's most fertile land, 15 per cent of its agricultural land, had already been confiscated by Israel for the wall's construction. The report revealed that 80 per cent of the wall would lie within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, severely affecting access for 60,500 Palestinians to their main sources of livelihood. Israeli occupation authorities had used Palestinian land in the West Bank as a dumping ground for untreated sewage and other waster from Israeli settlements and chemical factories set up, in flagrant violation of international environmental law, forcing Palestinians to burn their solid waste.
How were Palestinians expected to work towards a future of freedom and self-determination when they saw their land and natural resources exploited and abused by the ruthless occupation? he asked. The occupying Power professed to seek cooperation to achieve the Millennium Goals, promote South-South cooperation and apply technology for development, while its actions against the Palestinians and other people represented one nation's advancement at the expense of another's resources and future viability. The Observer Mission of Palestine disagreed with the allegation that the abovementioned facts were politicized and that the discussion did not belong in the Second Committee. But the facts were not abstract numbers, but facts on the ground, and the Committee had a standing legal and moral obligation to protect the rights of all peoples to sovereignty over their natural resources.
TRI THARYAT ( Indonesia) said that, while the rest of the world was preoccupied with development, especially the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, the Palestinians struggled daily just to survive. The Goals could not be attained by a people whose attention was focused on escaping violence and whose right to a homeland was not fully respected. In addition, restricted access to natural resources had caused great harm in terms of the environment and of food security. Unless those issues were addressed, it was unlikely that the deep sense of anger would subside.
The solution would be to stop denying the economic, social and political rights of the Palestinian people, he said. Freedom of movement within Jerusalem and to the outside world must be fully respected. The Middle East conflict had gone on too long, and a solution must be found. Indonesia was deeply committed to helping the peace process. The United Nations and its agencies were indispensable to alleviating the plight of the Palestinian people, and Indonesia fully supported their efforts in helping the Palestinian people improve their living conditions and move towards achieving the Millennium Goals.
DATO' RAZALI ISMAIL ( Malaysia) reminded the Committee that 2007 marked 40 years of the Israeli occupation and the fiftieth year of the question of Palestine on the United Nations agenda. Israel had been unjustly exploiting the natural resources of the Occupied Territories, which had resulted in environment damage, including land degradation, water pollution and a severe water crisis among the Palestinian population. Essential infrastructure work, supported by the international aid community and aimed at improving the environment in the Occupied Territories, had grounded to a halt due to Israeli actions.
He called on the international community to stop Israel from continuing to use violence on the Palestinian civilian population and civilian infrastructure. As a Member of the United Nations, Israel must respect international law and conventions, as well as United Nations resolutions. It must cease its practice of extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, and other practices that violated its obligations as an occupying Power to protect the civilian population. "We, the international community, must bear the responsibility to rise to that occasion and act accordingly to ensure that the rights of the Palestinian people are restored to them, to live in dignity in a sovereign State", he said.
AWADH NAJA AL-HABABI ( Qatar) said the Palestinian question was a protracted problem in urgent need of a comprehensive, fair settlement. It embodied the suffering of a nation deprived of its political and economic rights for more than half a century. Israel's practices violated General Assembly resolutions and denied the Palestinians their right to self-determination. It was unfortunate that double standards continued to characterize Security Council resolutions on the matter.
He said Israel continued to defy the international community, kidnapping and killing Palestinians, arresting their leaders, invading Arab villages and towns in both the Palestinian Territories and the occupied Syrian Golan, destroying homes, targeting mosques, hospitals and schools, and continuing brutal actions that had been condemned by most of the international community, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and human rights organizations. The Secretary-General's report revealed that, between January 2006 and February 2007, a total of 697 Palestinians had been killed and 3,558 injured. Thousands of Palestinians were held in prisons, among them, 120 women and more than 390 children. The Israeli authorities practised physical coercion with 60 per cent of Palestinian children.
The report also recognized that the Israeli occupation hindered efforts to achieve a final settlement to the Palestinian question and showed the detrimental impact of the separation wall, he said. Construction of the wall contravened international law and undermined the socio-economic infrastructure of the Palestinian people. It also violated the International Court of Justice's 9 July 2004 Advisory Opinion and General Assembly resolution ES-10/15. Israel must seek peace if it wanted security. That could best be achieved through the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and General Assembly resolution 194.
KHALID SHAWABKAH ( Jordan) said the repercussions of the Israeli occupation as a whole went far beyond social and economic dimensions in scope. While the socio-economic aspects were extensive, it could be concluded from the report that the occupation, the illegal settlements and the separation wall had a direct negative impact on the socio-economic lives of the people under occupation. According to the report, the Israeli closure system remained a primary cause of poverty and the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Territory, restricting Palestinians' access to health and education services, employment, markets and social and religious networks. Refugees, women and children bore the brunt of those measures. Malnutrition and other health problems afflicted a growing number of Palestinians. In Gaza alone, 57.5 per cent of children from six to 36 months and 44.9 per cent of pregnant women were anaemic.
In October 1994, Jordan and Israel had signed a peace treaty ending years of conflict, he continued. Jordan's deliberation under the Committee present agenda item stemmed from its position on the need to achieve and maintain a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on the international terms of reference of the peace process, the Arab Peace Initiative and the vision of a two-State solution as stipulated in the Road Map. Systematic Israeli practices hindered the sought-for peace and negatively impacted the peace process. Jordan called upon Israel to cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, return the property it had seized and pay compensation for the damage incurred.
TARIQ AL-FAYEZ ( Saudi Arabia) said the Israeli occupation had transformed the region into one of tension and conflict. The first step out of that quagmire would be to achieve Israeli-Arab peace, but the lack of a solution to the current crisis had made the region conducive to terrorism. Previous efforts focused on partial measures, which had only worsened the condition of the Palestinian people. The absence of decisive measures caused the Quartet initiative not to be as effective as it could have been owing to the lack of observers to ensure that all parties met their obligations.
One alternative solution was to take up the Arab Peace Initiative, an opportunity that would make it possible for all parties to negotiate, he said. Saudi Arabia was also in favour of the initiative suggested recently by the President of the United States to convene a peace conference to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. While the Arabs were committed to peace, the international community must look at the reality of the conflicts, and Israel must stop its aggressive practices.
BASHAR AL-JA'AFARI ( Syria) said the occupiers still refused to read history and recognize that, no matter how long the occupation lasted, it must come to an end. The ESCWA report demonstrated the barbarism of the occupation and its violations of the 1948 Geneva Conventions. It referred to the martyrdom of 697 Palestinians and the injury of 3,558 others as a result of Israeli military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory from January 2006 to February 2007. The report also stated that Israel continued its policy of arbitrary arrests and detention of civilians, Government officials, parliamentarians and United Nations officials. It destroyed and confiscated Palestinian homes, shops, agricultural farms and other property, imposed closures on Palestinian cities and severely restricted the movement of Palestinians. It impeded humanitarian access to Palestinians in need of help.
The report demonstrated that the construction of the apartheid wall prevented Palestinians from gaining access to 95 per cent of their water resources, he continued. Israeli settlers destroyed hundreds of Palestinian fruit trees and directed their sewage into Palestinian-owned agricultural land. Israel still deprived Palestinians of their financial resources by detaining customs and tax revenues, a practice that hindered the functioning of Palestinian institutions providing basic public services, and led to food insecurity and the spread of disease. Israel's continued construction of the separation wall and illegal settlements clarified the nature of the Israel leaders' racist and aggressive mentality that was undeterred by moral or humane reason.
He said that in the last chapter of his report on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories (document A/62/275), the Special Rapporteur recommended that the United Nations withdraw from the Quartet if the Secretary-General was unable to persuade the Quartet to carry out a number of actions that were compatible with the role of the United Nations as guardian of international legitimacy. According to the ESCWA report, Israel prevented the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan who were expelled in 1967 from returning home. It continued building settlements, and in April 2006 had begun construction of three tourist settlements in the depressions of Tabaraya Lake. It also intended to expedite settlement building near the ceasefire line.
Since 1967, Israel had replaced Syrian curricula with Israeli curricula that were alien to Arab culture, he said. It controlled and stole the Golan's water resources and deprived Syrian citizens of those resources. It sold water from Lake Ran, which was used by Syrians for agriculture and livestock, to Syrians at a higher price than that paid by Israeli settlers. Israel also imposed higher heavy taxes on the agricultural production of Syrian citizens and to destroy Syrian farmers' fruit trees, a policy intended to force Syrian citizens off their lands. Israel also continued to bury nuclear waste in the Syrian Golan. The continuation of the Israeli occupation since 1967 was a mark of shame, and Syria called upon other Member States to vote in favour of the resolution issued under the Committee's agenda item as a simple expression of anti-occupation.
NOR-EDDINE BENFREHA ( Algeria) said Israel's occupation had blocked the Arab population in the occupied Golan and the Palestinian people in their efforts to achieve social and economic development, stopping them from attaining the Millennium Goals. Those obstacles were a direct result of Israel's actions in the Occupied Territories, including construction of its illegal barrier, restrictions on trade, confiscation of resources and the use of force.
As the humanitarian crisis had worsened, he said, Israel had been in flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention, with its continuing confiscation of Palestinian water and land resources and the construction of the separation wall. Those violations had greatly affected the economic development of the Palestinian people and the population of the Golan. The international community must hold to its promises regarding the inalienable rights to national resources, a condition upon which depended development and sustainable peace.
AHMED AL-MUHARRAQI ( Bahrain) said that, since 1967, Israel had constantly created illegal settlements, exploited the natural resources of Palestinians and violated resolutions on the protection of civilians during wartime. Those illegal measures exacerbated the harm done to the Palestinian people. The separation wall under construction contravened international law and worsened the suffering of the Palestinian people. The wall was illegal, according to the International Court of Justice's 9 July 2004 Advisory Opinion, and its continued construction had cut off East Jerusalem and divided the West Bank, making it difficult for Palestinians to live a normal life.
According to the OCHA report, as of February 2007, 58 per cent of the wall had been completed and it ran well into parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he noted. The behaviour of Israeli settlers harmed the environment in the Occupied Territories as they cut down and burned fruit trees owned by Palestinian farmers. They also dumped their sewage on Palestinian farmland. Meanwhile, the wall cut off Palestinian access to 85 per cent of their water resources. According to the report, 5,000 Palestinian farm families had lost their livelihoods, and 64 per cent of them lived in poverty due largely to the confiscation of their lands and the closure of their territory.
The Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan also suffered from land restrictions and human rights violations imposed by the Israel occupation, he continued. Twenty-five per cent of Israeli settlements built in the area were agricultural and their produce, destined for Israeli markets, was also exported under preferential trading arrangements. Israel had begun to build three tourist settlements in the occupied Syrian territory and, according to the report, Israel would take over water at an annual rate of 1 million cubic metres. The suffering of the Syrians would not end as long as the Israeli occupation continued. The ideal solution for Israel would be to choose peace as a strategic option. It was important to reactivate the peace process and to focus on the principle of land for peace.
SALEH ELMARGHANI ( Libya) said the humanitarian tragedy of the Palestinian people included arbitrary detention, restricted freedom of movement, the confiscation of land and restrictions on movement. More than 5,000 people had been wounded, more than 9,400 detained and 650 killed, including 130 children, according to some of the report's findings. Meanwhile, farmland continued to be confiscated, with more than 110 hectares of land confiscated for settlements in the last two weeks alone. More than 7,000 Palestinian families had lost their income because of the continued construction of the separation wall.
He said the economic and social repercussions had been dangerous, weakening the economic system and driving unemployment rates in Gaza up to 70 per cent. Observers had underscored that the suffering of refugees included disease and malnutrition caused by lack of services. Israel had seized their drinking water and resold it back to them at higher prices than it charged Jewish settlers. All that continued despite appeals from the international community. Heightening the dismal daily life of Palestinians, aid and international assistance had dropped. The international community should condemn Israel's illegal practices and establish a system of accountability to ensure international law was observed.
MOHAMMAD SULTAN AL-SHARJI ( Kuwait) said the ESCWA report unequivocally confirmed that the exacerbation of the severity of economic and social suffering, as well as the deterioration of the health situation, was the result of illegal oppressive measures in areas under Israel's occupation. Such behaviour was a clear and flagrant challenge to international humanitarian law, particularly the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as well as a serious violation of international human rights law and other international criteria. It also contravened the 9 July 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice.
He said the practices and measures of the occupation authority had prevented Palestinians and Syrians in the occupied territories from living in freedom and dignity and left them way too far from achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The construction of the separation wall had created a pattern of internal displacement and forced many people all over the West Bank to relocate. The Israeli army had destroyed more than 6,516 dunums of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip and confiscated more than 6,950 dunums in the West Bank. Palestinians under occupation had been prevented from reaching 95 per cent of their water resources.
The report also listed 697 deaths and 3,558 injuries of Palestinians from January 2006 to February 2007, he continued. More than 9,400 Palestinian political prisoners remained in jail, including girls under the age of 18, and one could not ignore the painful fact of the abusive treatment of women and their suffering under the occupation, including the lack of adequate medical treatment, as the report showed. The report showed that Israel continued purposely to violate international law through its systematic aggression, occupation and destruction of the natural resources of occupied lands. The international community must take a clear and specific stand to reach a just, comprehensive settlement that would allow the Palestinian people and Syrians in the Golan all of their lawful rights according to international law.
HATEM TAG-ELDIN ( Egypt) said the already dismal situation in the Occupied Territories had declined drastically and what was needed to ameliorate the condition of the Palestinian people was a reinvestment of all parties in building a lasting, comprehensive and just peace based on basic principles and the recognition of rights. The figures contained in the report were alarming, if only for the economic and social consequences of Israeli actions. The continuing destruction of Palestinian property had affected the infrastructure, and the report cited 233 facilities destroyed, much worse than in previous years.
The Israeli Air Forces had destroyed six electricity plants in Gaza, he said, adding that his country, with the financial assistance of Sweden, had helped with their reconstruction. But access to water and health services had remained below the normal international level, with the service rate not even reaching 45 per cent in Gaza. Environmental degradation had been exacerbated by settlers, especially their waste disposal management. In the occupied Syrian Golan, the suffering had also continued, with Israel beginning the construction of three new settlements, and the expansion of Israeli farm settlements.
ILAN FLUSS ( Israel) said the issue was one of politics, unrelated to the Committee's competence and contrary to its working methods. Its sole purpose was to provide a platform to enable some Member States to criticize, condemn and isolate Israel. The Secretary-General's report (document A/62/75) was highly problematic, in content and context. It came from a conceptually narrow mandate, examining the impact of Israeli actions on Palestinian living conditions without examining the Palestinians impact on themselves, namely, the internal Palestinian violence and other activities that destroyed natural resources. The report, which had been discussed during the substantive Economic and Social Council session four months ago, failed to reflect the reality on the ground, preferring instead to blame Israel for the deterioration of the Palestinian economy and environment, rather than identify the real trigger -- Palestinian terrorism. Israel called on the Committee and the Secretary-General to consider the utility of the resources spend on such reports and to exercise caution in transmitting reports that discredited the United Nations, undermined impartiality and obstructed prospects for dialogue and reconciliation.
There were numerous other situations in the world at least as acute and as pressing as the once facing the Palestinians, he continued. According to the 2006 Human Development Report, the Palestinians ranked 100 out of 177 countries on the human development index. Data from that report suggested that the Secretary-General's report was incompatible and inconsistent with other international documents. The ESCWA report also focused on so many political and security issues that were not part of the Committee's work, including a lengthy expose of the security fence, connecting it with closures, alleged displacement and other accusations, without mentioning the reason for the fence. The fence was a direct consequence of Palestinian terror. A fence could stop terrorists while the Palestinian Authority did not. Thousands of Israelis -- Jews, Christians and Muslims -- had been saved by the security fence.
On the issue of water, he said his country was working with the Palestinians to address water sanitation and management. Water resources in the region were a serious issue for both sides. The Secretary-General's report neglected to mention the shared challenge of water, and instead turned an issue of natural resources into a political one. The report covered a period of time when Hamas was in control of Palestinian leadership, and during that time, Israel could not transfer the tax funds it collected on behalf of the Palestinians, or work with them, due to Hamas' refusal to abide by its international obligations as embodied in the Quartet principles. With a Palestinian Government that met those standards, Israel had resumed those transfers. Israeli and the Palestinian Authority were cooperating in other areas, such as agriculture, exports and other economic-related matters, a reality that the report did not reflect. The way forward was clear. In order to improve the Palestinian economy and alleviate the Palestinian people's hardship, the two sides must work together and promote polices of coordination.
AURA MAHUAMPI RODRIGUEZ DE ORTIZ ( Venezuela) said sovereignty was an exclusive right of all States, and no one could judge the decisions of a people to choose their preferred form of government. The General Assembly and the Security Council had adopted several resolutions affirming that Israel's practice of creating settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 was illegal, a serious obstacle to lasting peace and justice in the Middle East and in violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the protection of civilians during wartime. The Israeli army's destruction of 233 Palestinian structures in the West Bank, including homes, agricultural fields, businesses and public institutions, were unjust and should be condemned.
Nevertheless, it was evident that Israel acted with impunity and would continue its pattern of destruction, she said. June 2007 marked the fortieth anniversary of its occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan. According to the Secretary-General's report, Israel had constructed illegal settlements on Palestinian land for more than 40 years, assassinated thousands of Palestinians, destroyed 12,000 homes, arrested more than 650,000 people and destroyed more than 1 million olive trees, all with impunity.
Since 2002, she said, the construction of the apartheid wall was imprisoning the Palestinian population and consolidating Israel's expansion, despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which deemed the structure illegal. The Palestinian economic situation had been affected and the salaries of workers in public and security institutions had been suspended, directly affecting 165,000 workers. Venezuela called for a comprehensive, peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question, and hoped negotiations would result in self-determination for the Palestinian people and peace in the Middle East.
Mr. NGOR ( Sudan) said the economic situation of the Palestinian people had declined, with indicators showing a negative rate. The report showed that Israeli policies were aimed at taking control of water and other resources and, as a result, the Palestinian people were suffering both socially and economically. In addition, the construction of the illegal barrier and the denial of education and health care to the Palestinian people had continued unabated. Those issues, among others, must be urgently addressed by the international community.
HASSAN ALI SALEH ( Lebanon) said Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories affected every aspect of Palestinian and Syrian life and had irreversibly harmed their natural environments. Israel had confiscated Palestinian lands and overexploited Palestinian resources. Its practices were in clear violation of the 9 July 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The construction of new Israeli settlements, the expansion of existing ones, the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of trees, and the displacement of Palestinians were a few examples of Israel's illegal practices.
He said Israel consistently and selectively gave its citizens unhindered access to water resources, and they consumed 86 per cent of all water resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, leaving the Palestinian population with little water. Israelis consumed 375 cubic metres of water per person annually, while Palestinians annual per capita consumption was 107 to 156 cubic metres. Many existing wells in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been absorbed by Israel. Illegal Israeli settlers were not subjected to water usage restrictions, but Palestinian farmers had usage quotas and were sanctioned for exceeding them. Israel had drilled wells up to six times deeper than those previously used by the Palestinians.
The Palestinians were not allowed to repair their own wells, he said, adding that, according to the United Nations report, 460 out of 720 wells had been destroyed, expropriated or had dried up. Israel was over-exploiting resources in the West Bank, causing the salination of West Bank aquifers. The situation in Gaza was worse and even Israeli experts had warned that if over-exploitation continued the situation would be beyond repair. High levels of salinity were well over the safety standards set by the World Health Organization, rendering water unsuitable for irrigation or human consumption. The water from 50 per cent of the wells in Gaza was unsuitable for human use. Highly salinated water could cause kidney failure, congestive heart failure and other serious health problems. Israel must observe international legal principles, and the international community was bound to call on Israel to respect international law.
Right of Reply
The Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), speaking in exercise of the right of reply in respect of the Israeli delegate's statement that the information in his report was not correct, said the document was based on several international sources and represented the reality on the ground. ESCWA was part of the United Nations and operated with transparency.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Syria said Israel continued to pursue racial policies in the occupied Arab territories that had been rejected by all civilized nations, and continued to construct the separation wall. Once completed, the wall would turn the Palestinian Territory into "a huge jail". Israel also continued to deprive Palestinians of their rights, to impose restrictions on agricultural production and to confiscate land and fruit trees under the pretext of establishing military bases. Israel had no credibility when its delegate mentioned that the country had cooperated with Member States to achieve development goals, particularly in agricultural development. It was surprising that the Israeli representative had tried to promote the benefit of occupation, especially when occupation contravened economic benefits.
The Observer for Palestine, also speaking in right of reply, said it was useful to recognize that the realities on the ground were the results of Israeli actions. The Palestinian people were proud and enjoyed high literacy rates, despite their harsh realities. Unlike other nations, Palestinians were subjected to an occupation that had been continuing for the past 40 years. Since the Israeli delegate had chosen to use numbers to form what he thought was a convincing argument, perhaps he could tell the Committee how many Palestinian houses had been destroyed and how many trees had been uprooted.
Terrorism was a tactic used by the Israelis, and what the Palestinians had experienced in the past 40 years of Israeli occupation, which had spared no effort to keep them from enjoying their basic human rights, he said. It was surprising that the Israeli delegation defended the existence of the barrier by using reasons that had not worked in the past. How could water and sewage networks possibly threaten the security of Israel? It was misleading and offensive for the Israeli representative to have said that his country was keen on helping humanitarian aid delivery, when that was not the case. Israel should show goodwill.
For information media • not an official record