For information only - not an official document.
       23 November 2000
 Security Council Meets in Emergency Session on Middle East

NEW YORK, 22 November (UN Headquarters) -- As the Security Council held an emergency meeting on the Middle East this afternoon, the Observer for Palestine called for specific measures to end Israeli violations against the Palestinian people, while Israel's representative said that Palestinian leaders continued to call for an escalation of the current conflict.

The Observer for Palestine said the Council must ensure the protection of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.  Approval by Israel, as an occupying Power, could not be a condition for a Council decision.  Israel was the only United Nations Member State that was recognized as an occupying Power, and it had been so designated in 25 relevant Security Council resolutions.  

He said the consequences of today's attack by Israel was a vast number of martyrs, considerable harm to the peace process, the creation of great tension in the Middle East and the threat of further clashes and confrontation in the entire region.  Israel's obstructionism had prevented any forward movement by the fact-finding commission announced by United States President Bill Clinton following the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit, while all the Israeli actions had been accompanied by attempts to reproach the Palestinian people.

Israel's representative said there had been no international outcry against, and no call for an investigation of, Palestinian violations.  Neither had the Palestinians been asked to relinquish the path of violence and return to the negotiating table.  Instead, the international community had unfairly directed all its condemnation at Israel.  It must call on the Palestinian leadership to stop the bloodshed and the use of terror against civilians.
 Terrorists had targeted Israeli children on their way to school and, just a few hours ago, a bomb had killed two people and wounded more than 40 others in an Israeli city, he said.  It was not the first time the Palestinian leadership had given freedom of movement to terrorists, then claimed not to be involved.  Palestinian Authority President, Yasser Arafat, was unwilling to embrace the reality of peace and to recognize that the conflict was over.  Knowing full well that an honourable and just peace had been within reach at Camp David, he had turned his back and returned to violence. 
 The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, called on the Council to seriously consider the immediate deployment of a protection force in the region.  Peaceful negotiation, bringing about self-determination for the Palestinian people, was the only means of ensuring lasting peace.  

 In equally strong terms, he condemned the recent attack on an Israeli school bus and the excessive retaliatory attacks by Israeli security forces, which had moved the crisis to a precarious new level.  He asked how long such collective punishment by a powerful, occupying force could continue, in violation of international humanitarian law.  The crisis had exacted too much suffering and claimed too many innocent lives, he said.

The representative of the United States said the meeting was not a response to the Security Council's mandate for conflict resolution but rather an opportunity to exchange verbal barbs.  Rhetoric and unbalanced criticism diminished the role of the United Nations and its ability to play an effective role in conflict resolution, he stressed.  Any proposal to introduce outside observers required the agreement of the parties to the conflict.  The parties should work it out, and the Council should help them, rather than impose something opposed by one side or the other.  Both Israelis and Palestinians must accept that there was no room for violence.  The only place for a solution was around a negotiating table, and now was not the time to trade accusations.

 Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of the Russian Federation, France (on behalf of the European Union), Mali, Bangladesh, China, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Tunisia, Namibia, Argentina, Ukraine, Malaysia (also on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Canada, Netherlands, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Cuba. 

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representative of Israel and the Observer for Palestine.

 The meeting began at 4:05 p.m. and adjourned at 7:12 p.m.

Council Work Programme

 The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in the Middle East.  It had before it a letter dated 21 November, from the Permanent Representative of Libya in his capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group (document S/2000/1109).  He requests the urgent convening of the Council to consider the serious developments in Palestine involving the ”escalation by the occupation forces in Palestine of their aggression against the Gaza Strip by means of air attacks”.  He says that about 50 rockets were fired, which not only injured more than 50 Palestinians and completely destroyed the government installations of the Palestinian Authority, but also severed the electricity supply in many parts of the Gaza Strip.

 He says the new acts of aggression reflect the continued determination of the occupation forces to use military force in an unacceptable manner.  The deteriorating situation is a threat to the stability of the whole region, especially in view of the collective punishment being applied against the Palestinian people in violation of all international instruments, he says.


NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, expressed thanks to the Council members for responding so rapidly to the request of the Arab Group.  He said that at 1800 Palestinian time, Israeli military helicopters, with the assistance of Israeli warships, undertook intensive attacks on numerous targets in the Gaza Strip and other locations throughout Palestine.  They launched over 50 rockets on buildings of the Palestinian Authority and other sites, and there was considerable damage.  In the wake of those attacks and raids, at least one Palestinian was killed and over 70 were injured.  Of paramount importance was the state of panic that swept over the inhabitants in Gaza following the attacks -- a state that threatened to spread to the entire Middle East region.

On 29 September, the day after the visit of Ariel Sharon to Haram al Sharif, he said his Government had addressed official correspondence to the United Nations transmitting the names of Palestinian martyrs, who today exceeded 225.  It had also transmitted descriptions of Israeli conduct that included the indiscriminate use of force and instances of deliberate murder either by sniper or the use of heavy weapons.  Over 10,000 Palestinians had been injured with over 2,000 of those injuries being caused by munitions.  Many victims, one third of whom were children, would be handicapped for life.  Houses and plants had been destroyed and there was an intent to make the land arid and non-arable.  Movement of persons and goods was prohibited, seriously affecting an already weak Palestinian economy.  All of those actions violated the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Numerous of those acts were war crimes according to that Convention.  Moreover, they violated United Nations resolutions, including Security Council resolutions.

The Israelis had proudly called a “time out” of the peace process as though it was a basketball game, he said.  All their actions had been accompanied by attempts to reproach the Palestinian people.  That demonstrated a clear and lucid racist position.  How could one accuse Palestinians of putting their children before mortar fire?  That charge demonstrated a racist point of view.  The obstructionism of Israel had prevented any movement forward of the commission that was announced by President Clinton after Sharm el-Sheikh.

He asked what the consequence of the attack unleashed by Israel was.  It was a vast number of martyrs, considerable harm to the peace process, creation of great tension in the region and the threat of further clashes and confrontation in the entire region.

The question was, how could an end be put to the situation, he continued.  The responsibility of the Council was clear.  Specific measures must be taken to put an end to the violations against the Palestinian people.  The Council must ensure the protection of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.  The parties, after all that had happened, could not themselves put an end to the situation.  They needed the assistance of a third party.  He could not understand what the objections to that could be.  He asked if the objection emanated from the members of the Council or was it from outside the Council.  President Arafat had personally participated in a Council meeting, explaining all the ins and outs of the Palestinian way of thinking.  He had requested 2,000 observers with light weapons.  That observer force would have to act under the United Nations emblem, auspices and supervision, without being deployed to fixed positions, so that its absolute responsibility was the protection of the Palestinian people. 

He underscored that approval by Israel as an occupying Power could not be a condition for the Council to take a decision.  It was the only State in the United Nations that was recognized as an occupying Power and had been so designated in the 25 Council resolutions.  Cooperation at a practical level with Israel was a must if the resolution adopted last week was to be implemented.  All were duty bound to ensure practical and pragmatic cooperation. 

 He said that recently the Council had agreed to have the Secretary-General conduct consultations.  While he commended that act, he stressed that time was running out and things were becoming more complicated.  All of which would emphasize the need to act urgently.  He urged the Council to enact the necessary resolution next week. 

Concluding, he said, it needed no genius to find the remedy.  The end of the occupation would lead to the end of all the problems. 

 YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) since the last meeting of the Council on the issue, the situation in the Middle East had, to the great consternation of both parties, continued to deteriorate.  The points of conflict, which had been localized, were spreading and now engulfed Israeli towns and cities.  Terrorists had targeted Israeli children, whose only crime was to be on their way to school.  Just a few hours ago a bomb exploded in an Israeli city, killing two people and wounding over 40 others.  Terrorism was not something that was foreign to Israel and there had been several reminders -- with their dire consequences -- over the last two days. Also, it was not the first time Palestinian leadership had given freedom of movement to terrorists, then claimed that it was not involved.

 He said no United Nations body had spoken one word of condemnation to the Palestinians.  But, perhaps now the international community would take note of the fact that Israeli lives were being imperiled.  Israelis were targeted simply because they were Israelis.  Palestinians were sustaining injuries as result of their own violent provocations.  They were sustaining injuries because, at the behest of their leaders, they were launching brutal attacks on innocent Israelis who had not sought involvement in the conflict.

 He said while Israel had expressed deep sorrow over the loss of life on both sides, Palestinian leaders continued to call for an escalation of the conflict. Yet, there was no international outcry and no call for an investigation of Palestinian wrongdoings and violations.  Neither had the Palestinians been asked to relinquish the path of violence and return to the negotiating table.  Instead, all condemnation was directed by the international community at Israel.  The Secretary-General had cautioned that community to weigh its words carefully.  But, to date, the official United Nations language had not heeded that warning.  He hoped the same would not hold true today.

 He said Chairman Yasser Arafat was unwilling to embrace the reality of peace and recognize that the conflict was over.  The Chairman knew full well that an honourable and just peace was within grasp at Camp David, yet he turned his back and returned to violence.  In fact, Chairman Arafat had first and foremost to protect himself from his own destructive instincts and the independent intifada.  The international community must call on the Palestinian leadership to stop the bloodshed and the use of terror against civilians.

He said Israel’s objective was to reach a long and comprehensive peace with Palestine and all its neighbours.  The Security Council was duty bound to encourage the Palestinians to return to the path of bilateral negotiations and compromise.

 RICHARD HOLBROOKE (United States) said he did not view the current meeting as responsive to the mandate of the Security Council for conflict resolution but rather as an opportunity to exchange verbal barbs that were best left to other forums.  The parties must continue to act to maintain calm.  That was the only viable action that would lead to peace.  He had disagreed with the one-sided nature of resolution 1322 (2000), but had concurred with the portions that called for an end to violence.  World leaders at Sharm el-Sheikh had worked hard to bring an end to the violence and the Council had called on the parties to implement the commitments reached there.  There had been some progress and that progress must continue.  He noted with approval that the Secretary-General had already met with Senator Mitchell and would meet with the entire commission after its meeting this weekend in New York.  He urged the Council and all United Nations Members to cooperate.

 He said the Economic and Social Council had undermined the peace process when it narrowly passed a resolution that was not necessary and was supported by less than half the members of that Council this morning.  Rhetoric and unbalance criticism diminished the role of the United Nations and its ability to be effective in conflict resolution.  The United States position was that any proposal to introduce outside observers required the agreement of the parties to the conflict.  Let the parties work it out and let the Council help them, rather than impose something that was objected to by one side or another.  By comparison, he said, a solution was not imposed on East Timor but was negotiated and accepted by Indonesia.  The international community must stand ready to help the parties in the Middle East to maintain calm and engage in negotiations.

 He said that both Israelis and Palestinians needed to accept that there was no room for violence.  The only place for a solution was around a negotiating table.  Both felt they were the aggrieved party but now was not the time to trade accusations.  Fulfilling commitments was essential.

 SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said his delegation was deeply concerned at the escalation of tensions and violence in the Middle East.  Both parties must not allow the situation to get out of control.  It was also necessary to adopt strict measures that did not allow criminal acts by extremists that brought death to Israeli citizens, particularly children.  In light of the continued deterioration of the situation, it was necessary to step up international assistance to break the violent chain reactions.  

 He said the Council and the Secretary-General must continue to keep the situations in the West Bank and Gaza in sharp focus.  The architecture of the peace process must be made more stable and irreversible.  Council resolutions 242 and 338, and the Madrid principles, were the cornerstones for peace in the region.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Council was meeting to express the international community’s concern about the increasing violence that was leading the Palestinian and Israeli people into an unending spiral of hatred and death, with more and more victims, basically on the Palestinian side.  He expressed condolences to the families of all the victims.  There was, however, nothing inevitable about the tragedy and it must end.

The European Union called for responsibility on all sides, he said.  The lack of progress was at the heart of the frustration of the Palestinian people.  It urged the Israelis and Palestinians to fulfil the commitments made at Sharm el-Sheikh and at Gaza on 2 November.  Israel should withdraw its armed forces; end the restriction of movement of people and goods; lift financial sanctions against the Palestinian Authority; and, in cases where the intervention of security forces was employed, to use non-deadly means.  The Union asked the Palestinian Authority to use all its power to end violence; to end shooting against Israeli forces with an announcement by President Arafat; and that the fact-finding commission begin its work in the field without delay.  The Union supported the examination of the proposal for deployment of an observer force 

 The objective remained the resumption of dialogue -- the only way out of the crisis -- he said.  The European Union was prepared to contribute to that effort.  He emphasized that there was no alternative to the quest for peace.  The Council could play a useful role, with the consent of the parties, to contribute to the search for peace.  He hoped an agreement could rapidly be reached.

 MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) said his country wished to reaffirm its constant position of the need to find a just and lasting peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He deplored the escalation of violence and the growing socio-economic repercussions.  Mali fully supported the efforts of the Secretary-General and urged both parties to implement the Sharm el-Sheikh accords.  Dispatching observers to the field was a positive suggestion and would contribute to ending the violence.  The Council should act upon that recommendation.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said violence, violence and more violence was the only news that was coming out of the Middle East.  Today’s meeting could not have been timelier.  He offered condolences to all families of all victims.  

He reiterated his Government’s support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people based on Council resolutions 242, 338 and 425.  He expressed concern over the continued violence and Israel’s continued use of force against the Palestinian people.  The latest Israeli action was not justified, he said.  At the same time, he condemned the violence against the Israeli bus as an act of terrorism.  

He said it was sad that the peace process had deteriorated so fast, particularly when it had seemed as though there was about to be a breakthrough.  He expressed appreciation for the continued efforts of the Secretary-General to find a solution.  Bangladesh had not lost trust in the ultimate success of the peace process.  He urged both parties to make their best effort to end the violence.  Once the violence had ended, the peace process would be revived.

 WANG YINGFAN (China) said there were casualties on both sides but the Palestinian numbers were greater.  Palestine had also suffered major economic setbacks.  He called on both sides to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.  He also called on Israel to exercise restraint.  The excessive use of force must stop, he stressed. 

The Middle East peace process had now entered a very dangerous phase.  China supported the Secretary-General’s efforts in the Middle East and called on all parties, especially Israel, to actively cooperate with him.  The Council also needed to give serious consideration to the proposal to deploy international observers to the conflict area.

 Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said his Government fully associated itself with the position expressed by the European Union.  He urged both parties to take immediate steps to end the violence.  It was a cowardly action to bomb the Israeli bus.  The retaliation, however, was not justified.  There must be an early return to diplomacy.  He welcomed the first meeting of the fact-finding commission this weekend, and the efforts of the Secretary-General regarding exploring prospects for an observer force.  There was nothing in the statements of Israel and Palestine to indicate that they would be able to bring the violence to an end by themselves.  

 PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said Security Council resolution 1322 (2000) had called for, among other things, the immediate cessation of violence and a return to normality in order to promote the resumption of the Middle East peace process.  Today’s meeting was therefore a signal of the concern at the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East.  

She said the resulting loss of life, mainly Palestinian, was due to the excessive use of force –- nearly 300 people had died while almost 6,000 had been injured.  The people’s suffering was further aggravated by the serious humanitarian situations in the vulnerable areas.  She urged the parties to adhere to the ceasefire reached at Sharm el-Sheikh and to refrain from retaliatory actions.  The establishment of a fact-finding mission was a good proposal and should be implemented.  The proposed observer force was just as important and should also be put in place.

SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) said this was the third time in a brief period the Council had met to examine the situation in the occupied territories.  That showed the gravity of the situation.  To confront that explosive situation, the Council had adopted resolution 1322 appealing to the occupying Power to avoid further escalation.  Unfortunately, Israel had continued to resort to excessive force.  The intensive use of force in Gaza, using all forms of weaponry -- both air and maritime -- was an example.  He profoundly regretted the grave and sad evolution of the situation.  He condemned Israel’s act of aggression and appealed to the two parties and the international community to assume their responsibilities in this dangerous situation and to act rapidly.  The Council must ask Israel to comply with international law.  

He asked where was the Palestinian State that the United Nations had created was.  Discussion must be based on reality, not on deceit.  The representative of Israel had talked about Israeli forces that had been attacked.  Where were those forces?  Were they in Israel?  Many countries knew about occupation and what the consequences were.  He called on Israel to create conditions for a gradual establishment of confidence.  It was time for the Council to act on this critical situation and create a protection force for Palestinian civilians.  

 The situation in Palestine must not be accepted as a fait acompli, he said.  The rights of the Palestinian people must be safeguarded.  It was up to the Council and all concerned to act rapidly so that the fact-finding commission could do its work.  Israel’s responsibility was clear.  It started with facilitating the work of the fact-finding commission. 

 SELMA NDEYAPO ASHIPALA-MUSAVYI (Namibia) expressed support for the recent request for the United Nations to deploy an observer force to the occupied Palestinian territories.  That request was in line with Council resolution 904 (1984) which called for the protection of Palestinians.  The Council therefore had a duty to follow through with the implementation of that text.  

She said the deployment of observers would also save lives, help calm emotions and pave the way for the restoration of the peace process.  The fundamental problem, however, had to be dealt with –- the occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel.  The time had come for the United Nations to become fully engaged.  A comprehensive settlement could only be achieved by the granting of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination.

ARNOLDO M. LISTRE (Argentina)said there was a clear deterioration in the situation in the Middle East.  His concern was increased by the acts of terrorism that had occurred yesterday and today.  He condemned such acts and asked the parties to also condemn those acts.  The delicate situation required that all the parties act with the utmost conviction and control.  The international community must do all in its power to help the parties end the violence.  He expressed support for the efforts of the Secretary-General.  The ultimate objective was peace negotiations.

 VALERI P. KUCHYNSKI (Ukraine) said he was appalled by the daily news of new casualties among civilian populations in the Middle East.  He condemned the use of excessive and indiscriminate force.  He urged Israel to stop such practices immediately and to respect the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He called on Palestine as well to refrain from violent acts and condemned all acts of terrorism. 

The solution to the crisis lay with Council resolutions 242 and 338, the Madrid Formula and the Oslo Accords, he said.  He encouraged the Secretary-General to continue efforts to find ways to halt the violence and bring the parties back to the negotiating table.  Due to the further worsening of the situation, the presence of a third party representing the international community was critical to preventing a large-scale war in the whole region.  The proposal to deploy an observer mission thus became increasingly topical.

MISRAN KARMAIN (Malaysia) said the spiraling violence must be stopped.  The unleashing of force by Israel signalled its intent to wage war against the Palestinians. He called for the immediate establishment of an observer force to protect the lives of Palestinians.  The present efforts to stop the violence had not produced effective results so far. 

 He said that while the Council had mandated the Secretary-General to explore the proposal to deploy a United Nations observer force, it must consult with, and convince, the parties to accept such a force.  He agreed with the representative of the United States that there needed to be consent from the host countries.  However, the difference between East Timor and Palestine was that Israel was the occupying Power.  For practical reasons, however, Israel’s cooperation was needed and he called on that country to give its full cooperation.  This was also for the good of the people of Israel.  A just and lasting peace would only be achieved with the withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers.

 PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said the cycle of action and reaction, so appallingly demonstrated today and in the last few days in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and which had exposed civilians and especially children to such terrible risk and harm, must be stopped.  Each side had an obligation to protect civilians.  They must not be made targets, nor engage in hostilities, nor provoke or expose themselves to a forceful response.

 He condemned all the ongoing violence, saying his country held both sides responsible for it.  And both were responsible for ending it.  The Palestinian Authority must do everything in its power to prevent terrorist attacks from occurring.  Canada condemned all such attacks and invited all parties wanting peace to also condemn them.  For its part, Israel must do everything in its power to restrain its forces and must refrain from escalating the situation.

 The best chance for a de-escalation of the situation lay in the implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings, he said.  Canada expected that the fact-finding commission as agreed to by Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Chairman Yasser Arafat at Sharm el-Sheikh would carry out its activities in a timely fashion.  Canada also supported the Security Council mandate given to the Secretary-General to explore options with the parties, including an observer presence possibly building on the work of fact-finding commission.  The Secretary-General should be given the opportunity to explore those options.

 Council President, PETER VAN WALSUM, speaking as the representative of the Netherlands, said there could be no more palpable evidence of the crisis in Palestine than the attack on the Israeli school bus and the retaliatory attack visited on the Palestinians.  He called for courage, demonstrated not by fighting, but by trying to break the cycle.  He also called for a just solution that would bring peace to both parties.  His delegation felt, however, that the activities of the Council must not be allowed to interfere with the work of Sharm el-Sheikh.

 ABUZED OMAR DORDA (Libya), on behalf of the Arab Group, said the Question of Palestine was a question of occupation and must be addressed as such.  There was a process going on, but it was not a peace process.  Negotiations which began in Madrid, and continued in Oslo, Washington, Wye River, Sharm el-Sheikh, Camp David and other places, remained dead letters as there had been no implementation of anything.  The Palestinian Authority had no true authority over its land, as entry into Gaza had been blocked by the occupying Power.

 He asked what peace could be concluded without restitution and the return of Palestinians to Palestine?  What was being witnessed was the imposition of conditions dictated by an occupier.  Certain parties were given technology, expertise and financing, while others were prevented and even prohibited from manufacturing even the smallest light weapon.  He asked what could happen, given such an equation?

What was taking place in the region was an attempt to impose capitulation, not peace, he said.  If there was peace, it could not last, because it would not be based on justice, law and equality.  The death of three people in East Timor had resulted in the convening of a Security Council meeting and a minute of silence.  Why had no one lifted a little finger after the murder of Palestinians?  Was there one peace for some and another for others?

Palestinians had accepted their historic rights, he said, yet not even 20 per cent of those rights had been given to them.  So what peace was being discussed and what peace was intended?  The Security Council should express the will of the international community, be just and assume its responsibilities in accordance with the Charter.  He was not asking for the impossible, but for justice and rights.  That included sending an observer force to protect the Palestinian people, a fact-finding commission to establish facts leading up to the current events, and the implementation of relevant Council resolutions.

 PIETER VERMEULEN (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, repeated the call for Israel to stop subjecting Palestinian civilians to collective punishment, to act with restraint, and to meticulously abide by its legal obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.  In addition, full and expeditious implementation of Security Council resolution 1322 would show necessary decisiveness on the part of the Council; it was time to seriously consider protecting the Palestinian people.

 The Secretary-General's continuing involvement in Middle East peace negotiations served, he said, to reaffirm the primacy of the United Nations in global peace and security.  He appealed to both parties to respond constructively.  At the same time, he called on the Council to seriously consider the immediate deployment of a protection force to the region.  The Movement believed that peaceful negotiation, bringing about the self-determination of the Palestinian people, was the only means of ensuring lasting peace in the region.  He urged the parties to restore calm and re-establish mutual trust so that an atmosphere conducive to the resumption of negotiations could be created.  The Non-Aligned Movement reaffirmed its determination to strive towards peace based on Council resolutions 242 and 338. 

 South Africa, he said, strongly condemned the recent attack on an Israeli bus.  In the same strong terms, it also condemned the excessive retaliatory attacks by Israeli security forces, which moved the crisis to a precarious new level.  He asked how long such collective punishment by a powerful, occupying force could continue, in violation of international humanitarian law.  Restrictions have suffocated the Palestinian people.  The crisis had exacted too much suffering and claimed too many innocent lives.  Negotiations towards final status issues needed to be held in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, the principle of land for peace, and international legitimacy.

 AHMED ABOULGHEIT (Egypt) said his Government had recalled its Ambassador from Israel in the hope of sending a message that Egypt could not remain silent and passive in the face of the excessive and intensive use of military force against Arab people and their property.  A few weeks ago he had warned the Council that the deterioration of the situation and the inexcusable use of deadly military force by Israel could only lead to more violence.  The Palestinian people, who had been under occupation for so long, felt complete frustration.  Egypt had asked Israel to relocate its heavy weapons as a fundamental act to bring peace to the area.

 He condemned all violence against civilians, he said.  One of the important factors that made the situation more intense was the presence of armed Israeli settlers on Palestinian land.  The Palestinians in Gaza, about 1 million people, lived on 60 per cent of the territory of the Gaza Strip.  The other 40 per cent of the land was occupied by approximately 5,000 Israeli settlers.  Israel hampered the movement of goods and trade, and cut off power to the entire Strip, with grave consequences for Palestinians.  All of those acts must come to an end immediately. He hoped the work of the fact-finding commission would soon begin, so that it could meet the objective for which it was created.

The consultations that were taking place were aimed at agreement on the establishment of a United Nations observer force, which would aim to protect the Palestinian people, he said.  That had been recommended by the Arab Summit this past September.  He hoped the Council would pass the resolution that would be introduced by the non-aligned caucus.  He was concerned by the Israeli representative’s statement that he was not convinced of the usefulness of such a force.  

Prince ZEID RA'AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said that the holding of this meeting to take up the question of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories was a testimony to the seriousness with which the Council viewed events that threatened the whole region.  Peace must be re-established in the Middle East and the Palestinian people must be liberated.  Jordan regretted the situation of the Palestinians, who had been the victims of aggressive acts by Israeli authorities.  It also regretted, he said, the actions committed against a Jordanian diplomat in Gaza.

The Jordanian Government demanded that Israel cease all violence, lift the siege, and respect the signed agreements, as well as the Geneva Convention of 1949.  It also demanded that the fact-finding commission begin its work as soon as possible and that a protection force for the Palestinian population be sent.  Finally, he expressed his condolences to the Palestinian families.

 BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba), speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that despite recent actions of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to resolve the situation in the occupied territories, violence had grown.  Since the horrible death of Mohammad al Doura, many Palestinians had died.  At the recent private meeting of the Security Council, Chairman Arafat had described the situation in the field and why there must be an immediate observer force.  A just and lasting peace could not be achieved until the Palestinian people could establish an independent State, Israel had withdrawn from the West Bank and to the lines established before 1967, and the settlements were eliminated.

 Speaking as the representative of Cuba, he said Member States who were vocal champions of human rights seemed to have lost their enthusiasm when it came to the rights of the Palestinians.  They were manoeuvring to have the Council lose its power.  He asked whose interests were being served.  It was a typical case in which the United States used its powers and prerogatives, protected by the out-of-date veto power.  He supported those who were making sincere efforts to ensure that the Council worked to fulfil its duties.  He also supported the proposal to send an observer force to Palestine.  He called on Israel to cease it aggression and to comply with the many relevant United Nations resolutions.  

Right of Reply

 Mr. LANCRY (Israel) said that once the strategic choice of violent confrontation was what Chairman Arafat had called the Intifada of Independence. Mr. Arafat had made the devastating choice of achieving his political ends through fire and blood.  Today, he had returned to those same practices.  Now he was asking for international protection forces on the one hand, while on the other releasing terrorists on Israelis.  The international community should not be misled by his nebulous shadowy misdeeds. 

He said very suspicious acts had been carried out by Palestinians over the last few days.  There was a need for a just approach to the two sides.  Before the helicopters and tanks came into play, Mr. Barak had tried to make a reality of what had hitherto been intangible.  Mr. Arafat had been the one who chose to return to terrorism. 

 Mr. AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, regretted that the Israeli representative had resorted to using names in his statement.  The Palestinian delegation had always tried to refrain from specifically mentioning persons.  The Israeli party, however, was still wont to attack the Palestinian leader who was the elected president of the Palestinian people.  What objective was to be achieved by that except to launch mortal bullets at the peace process?  What was wrong with calling for independence or with the concept of the intifada?.  The intifada was a communal expression of the Palestinian people who were insisting on their right to an independent State.  Palestinians had paid a high price, and they were proud people whose principled position was correct.

 If names were to be used, perhaps it should be recalled that Ehud Barak had allowed Ariel Sharon, the general who had promoted the use of the pinpoint strikes against the Palestinian people so he could practice his military theories, to visit Haram al Sharif, although he knew what the implications were.  Mr. Barak had not observed one promise.  He had not withdrawn one centimetre from Palestinian territory except from areas where Benjamin Netanyahu had already agreed to withdraw.  He was the man who had led the region to the brink of catastrophe.

 He said he condemned all acts of terrorism but he reminded Member States that the Israelis had killed more than 80 Palestinian children.  An Israeli child was not more precious.  He refused to absolve the Israeli Government of its direct responsibility for that act because they continued to bring settlers into the area.  Five thousand Israeli settlers resided illegally on 40 per cent of the Gaza Strip. 

He had not intended to indulge in such charges in a Security Council meeting, but the Israeli delegate had insisted on dragging the conversation that way.  He resented the imperious tone of the Israelis.  The leader of the Palestinians must be treated with dignity.  He accepted the content of the statement of the European Union, and was ready to work with them and all others who were willing to work to bring peace to the region.

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