ISRAEL’S GAZA DISENGAGEMENT PLAN ‘A MOMENT PREGNANT WITH HOPE, BUT ALSO FRAUGHT WITH PERIL’, MIDDLE EAST PEACE ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

21 July 2005
SC/8455

ISRAEL’S GAZA DISENGAGEMENT PLAN ‘A MOMENT PREGNANT WITH HOPE, BUT ALSO FRAUGHT WITH PERIL’, MIDDLE EAST PEACE ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

  • Security Council
21/7/2005
Press ReleaseSC/8455

Security Council

5230th Meeting (AM & PM)

ISRAEL’S GAZA DISENGAGEMENT PLAN ‘A MOMENT PREGNANT WITH HOPE, BUT ALSO FRAUGHT

WITH PERIL’, MIDDLE EAST PEACE ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

Alvaro de Soto Briefs Council, Followed by Day-Long Debate;

Says Withdrawal, Albeit on Israel’s Terms, Positive, Precedent-Setting

Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank was “a moment pregnant with hope but also fraught with peril”, Alvaro De Soto, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, told the Security Council this morning, preceding a day-long debate on the situation in the Middle East.

Briefing the Council for the first time since taking up his new assignment less than six weeks ago, he said the planned Israeli withdrawal, albeit partial and on terms largely set by the occupier, represented a positive, precedent-setting step that the international community could not but support.  Israel’s forthcoming disengagement also offered an opportunity to re-energize the Road Map, which was still considered the best way to achieve a permanent peace and an end to the occupation that began in 1967. 

The deterioration of the informal ceasefire in the last few weeks was “profoundly disquieting”, he said.  Indeed, there had been a gradual erosion of the informal quasi-ceasefire that had prevailed since the Sharm el-Sheikh summit and President Abbas’ Cairo agreement with Palestinian factions, and the Palestinian Authority had been hard-pressed to establish law and order in both the West Bank and Gaza.  There had been encouraging developments, however, including actions by Palestinian Authority security forces to restore law and order and intercept militants preparing to attack Israelis.  He had no doubt regarding the determination of Israel’s Government to proceed unswervingly with disengagement. 

The driving force behind Israel’s decision to remove settlers from Gaza and to end the Israeli presence there was Israel’s own interest, he added.  In the classic calculus that a win for one side was a loss for the other, satisfying an Israeli interest might strike some Palestinians as a loss, judging from their efforts to jeopardize it.  The unease, suspicion and cynicism that had bedevilled Israeli-Palestinian relations could be attributed, in large part, to the fact that the disengagement was not taking place within an unequivocally agreed framework.  Israelis needed to be assured of their security, while Palestinians needed to be provided with hope.  Beyond the tangible improvement in their daily lives, the intangible element of a perspective for the future would be critical to instilling that hope. 

Following the briefing, the Permanent Observer of Palestine said that, while the international community was focusing efforts on the success of Israel’s exit from Gaza, Israel was accelerating steps to expand colonial settlement, build the separation wall and isolate the occupied part of Jerusalem from the West Bank.  The path of the separation wall inside East Jerusalem was a grave development and a flagrant challenge to the international community.  The international community’s reluctance to pressure the Israeli Government, as well as the condoning of activities undertaken by Israel in settlement expansion and confiscation of land, would not necessarily revive the peace process or return to implementation of the Road Map. 

Conditions in the OccupiedTerritories continued to deteriorate, while Israel, the occupying Power, continued to flout Council resolutions as if it were a State above the law, she said.  The United Nations had been informed of Israel’s violations, including extrajudicial killings, closures, the continuing expansion of illegal settlements and the building of the wall.  The understanding reached at Sharm el-Sheikh had been an encouraging beginning to restart the peace process.  While the Palestinian Authority had taken steps to implement its commitments under that understanding, Israel had not implemented any of its commitments. 

Israel’s representative questioned why, at a watershed moment, the Council had been asked to meet to discuss “the dire situation on the ground”.  The fact that there had been more than 25,400 terrorist attacks against Israelis in less than five years was indeed dire, yet there should no confusion about the situation in Israel, which was in the midst of a historic, courageous political decision to improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.  The fact that the meeting had been requested at a time when the deteriorating security situation was the result of the Palestinian terrorists left the impression that the debate was a smokescreen for more broken Palestinian promises. 

Noting that Israel was taking bold, courageous, and unprecedented action to reinvigorate the peace process, he said that, while Israel would have preferred a fully negotiated agreement with its Palestinian neighbours, the Palestinian Authority showed no sign of implementing even the first commitment of the Road Map.  It was a painful and heart-wrenching moment for the Israeli people, yet the Israeli Government -- at no small political and personal risk -- was determined to follow through on its commitment. 

In the ensuing debate, Council members stressed the need to refrain from returning to a cycle of violence and emphasized that the only way to achieve a permanent peace was a viable two-State solution achieved through the full implementation of the Road Map.  Speakers also underscored the importance of ensuring that the Israeli withdrawal was complete and that it not prejudge final status negotiations.  Speakers also expressed grave concern at Israel’s continued construction of a separation wall, which was in violation of international law and would lead to the confiscation of more Palestinian land.  In that regard, many speakers said they would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties.

Also participating in today’s debate were the representatives of Algeria, the Russian Federation, France, United Republic of Tanzania, Brazil, China, Japan, Denmark, Romania, Argentina, United States, United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union), Benin, Philippines, Greece, Kuwait, Egypt, Yemen, South Africa, Tunisia, Syria, Malaysia, India, Lebanon, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Norway, Sudan, Cuba, Pakistan, Libya and Morocco.

Representatives of the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference also made statements, as did the Chairman of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The meeting began at 10:17 a.m., suspended at 1:00 p.m., resumed at 3:00 p.m. and concluded at 5:25 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met today to consider the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, on the request of Kuwait, submitted in a letter to the Council’s President (document S/2005/469), dated 19 July.

Briefing by United Nations Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process

ALVARO DE SOTO, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, said the forthcoming Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank continued to overshadow all other issues.  Disengagement was an important step forward:  withdrawal from the OccupiedTerritory, albeit partial and on terms largely set by the occupier, was a positive, precedent-setting step and one that the entire international community could not but support.  It offered, moreover, an opportunity to re-energize the Road Map.  “It is a moment pregnant with hope but also fraught with peril”, he said.

Regarding Quartet engagement and activities, he said the Quartet had met in recent weeks to review the situation at the current critical time.  The Quartet continued to consider the Road Map and the two-State vision the best way to achieve a permanent peace and an end to the occupation that began in 1967.  It condemned the upsurge in violence in Gaza and urged both parties to prevent any escalation of violence, so that the Israeli withdrawal could proceed peacefully.  The Quartet also reiterated its full support for its Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement, James Wolfensohn, and his efforts to assist the non-security aspects of disengagement and the revival of the Palestinian economy.  The Quartet was intensifying its monitoring of the situation.

He noted that Mr. Wolfensohn’s efforts were focusing on a set of six key issues.  They included:  border crossings and trade corridors; connecting Gaza with the West Bank; movement within the West Bank; the Gaza airport and seaport; the houses in Israeli settlements; and the greenhouses and dairy industry in the settlements.  He also pointed out three essential areas the Palestinians should address, namely the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal crisis and development of a fiscal stabilization plan for incorporation into the 2006 budget, the creation of a broad development plan linked to fiscally sound financial plan for 2006-2008, and design of a package of quick-impact economic programmes that would provide an adequate response to demands for employment generation in the short term. 

The last weeks had seen a gradual erosion of the informal quasi-ceasefire that had prevailed since the Sharm el-Sheikh summit and President Abbas’ Cairo agreement with Palestinian factions, he said.  Palestinian militants had staged a number of attacks with mortar and Qassam rocket fire against Israeli settlements, as well as urban centres inside Israel.  Following the gradual increase in violence in the last ten days, Israel was taking more forceful action.  A suicide bombing on 12 July in Netanya, that had killed five Israelis and wounded many others, had prompted Israeli forces to enter the West Bank City of Tulkarem, which in turn led to a firefight in which two armed Palestinians, one of them a member of the security forces, had been killed.  In the following days, the violence escalated further, with Israel, breaking the restraint observed in the past few months, resuming its earlier practice of targeted killings with the stated intention of preventing terrorist operations. 

The Palestinian Authority had been hard-pressed to establish law and order in both the West Bank and Gaza, he said.  President Abbas had reiterated his commitment to work towards “one authority, one gun”, a clear pledge to assert the Palestinian Authority’s monopoly on the use of force.  A number of worrying incidents had underscored the imperative and urgency for the Palestinian Authority to assert its control and end violence and internal unrest.  But the Palestinian Authority had lately shown the resolve to confront militants challenging its authority and to live up to its obligations under the Road Map to end the violence and begin dismantling terrorist capabilities.  On 23 June, a deal had been reached involving the handover of weapons by more than 200 militants in Nablus, after earlier such deals had been reached and partially implemented in Tulkarem and Jericho.

Turning to Palestinian Authority elections, he said that on 18 June, the Palestinian Legislative Council had passed, with a significant majority, a new election law introducing the amendments proposed by President Abbas.  The President had asked the Council, on 27 June, to amend the Basic Law in order to create the position of Vice-President.  No official decision had yet been announced concerning the date of the elections for the legislature, but the target appears to be January 2006. 

Concerning Israeli disengagement preparations, he said domestic preparations for withdrawal continued at rapid pace.  The Israeli authorities had had to deal with protest and demonstrations, efficaciously clearing a building in Gaza taken over by extremists opposed to disengagement.  On 3 July, the cabinet had overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to postpone the withdrawal, thus underlining again that the Government remained committed to the implementation of its plan, without delay.  Following that vote, the Knesset, with an equally clear majority, had rejected three bills calling for a delay of the withdrawal on 19 July, amidst prolonged protest and demonstrations by those opposing disengagement and attempting to march on the Gaza settlement block of Gush Katif.

On settlement activity, he said there was considerable evidence that settlement activity continued.  New tenders had been published, most recently on 6 July, when the construction of 18 housing units in Elkana had been publicized.  Concerning barrier construction, Israel had shown continued and accelerated construction of its barrier in the West Bank.  On 10 July, the Israeli cabinet had approved the remaining details of the route of the barrier around Jerusalem, which was projected to cut off some 55,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem from the rest of the city.  The Government had also decided on 1 September as the new deadline for the completion of the barrier around Jerusalem. 

Turning to Lebanon, he said the situation there remained a cause for concern.  After the successful conclusion of the parliamentary elections under the Government led by Prime Minister Néjib Mikati, Lebanon had set about forming its new Government.  The incidents along the Blue Line of 29 June and 12 July illustrated, once again, the need for Lebanon’s Government to exert every effort to prevent attacks from its side of the Blue Line.  Responding to the situation on the ground, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Southern Lebanon had again urged the Lebanese authorities to exert their control over all of the country and refrain from all violations of the Blue Line.  Maximum restraint would be required in order to prevent the deterioration that all sides wished to avoid.

Providing personal observations, barely six weeks after taking up his current assignment, he said Israel’s disengagement from Gaza dominated the agenda less then one month before the announced starting date.  Some commentators had struck an incongruous parallel between rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza against Israelis and the less lethal, but particularly strident, physical effort of Israeli disengagement opponents to impede the implementation of the decision.  They had only in common only that they were rear-guard efforts at obstructing a move that was viewed positively by clear majorities on both sides.

The driving force behind the Israeli Government’s decision to remove settlers from Gaza and to end the Israeli presence there was Israel’s own interest, he said.  Prime Minister Sharon described Gaza evacuation as “vital” to Israel.  In the classic calculus that a win for one side was a loss for the other, satisfying an Israeli interest might strike some Palestinians as a loss, judging from their efforts to jeopardize it.  How could the dismantling of Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian territory -- the first ever -- be anything but a gain for the Palestinian side, offering as it did, the prospect of an early and tangible improvement in the daily lives of Palestinians and a return, via the Road Map, to substantive peace efforts? he asked.

While the deterioration of the informal ceasefire was profoundly disquieting, there had been encouraging developments since late last week, consisting of the actions of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces to take vigorous action to restore law and order and to intercept militants preparing to attack Israelis.  President Abbas’ forceful address to his people last week was a most welcome display of leadership.  He had no doubt regarding the determination of Israel’s Government to proceed unswervingly with disengagement.  Israeli authorities had been given clear evidence that they would not allow Israeli extremists to prevent the plan from being carried out.  At the current time, it was essential not to lose sight of the overall goal.

The unease, suspicion and cynicism that had bedevilled Israeli-Palestinian relations could be attributed, in large part, to the fact that the disengagement was not taking place within an unequivocally agreed framework for the next steps towards the overall solution to which both sides claimed adherence, that was, two States living alongside each other in peace.  Israelis needed to be assured of their security, while Palestinians needed to be provided with hope.  Beyond the tangible improvement in their daily lives, the intangible element of a perspective for the future would be critical to instilling that hope.

It was of paramount importance that stability be preserved and that the Palestinian Authority be empowered to successfully counter militancy and extremism, he said.  Such empowerment would also be an element of central significance in the preparations to take control over the areas from where Israel was withdrawing.  Israel could do more to support the Palestinian Authority in its efforts to reign in militants.  Both the Authority and Israel had homework to do:  the Authority had to continue exerting control; while Israel had to strengthen the hand of the moderate forces and enable the Authority to impose itself successfully.  One area in which Israel could take the initiative was meeting its parallel obligations under the Road Map, in accordance with which Israel should freeze all settlement activity, including through natural growth, and immediately dismantle all settlement outpost erected since March 2001.  

It was equally important, he added, that Israel take steps to meet its legal obligations related to the barrier.  The broader implementation of the Road Map and the eventual realization of the two-State solution, as outlined in Council resolution 1397 (2002), must remain the goal.  In sum, while there had been a perilous turn back to the abyss in the past month, there were some glimmers in the last week that might point to a new beginning.

Statements

SOMAIA S. BARGHOUTI, Permanent Observer of Palestine, expressed the Palestinian Authority’s deepest regret for the painful events that had taken place in London some days ago and today and condemned such terrorist acts targeting innocent civilians.  She said the Council was meeting to debate difficult and deteriorating conditions in the occupied Palestinian land, including Jerusalem.  While the international community was focusing efforts on the success of Israel’s exit from Gaza, Israel, the occupying Power, was accelerating steps to expand colonial settlement, accelerating the building of the wall and isolating the occupied part of Jerusalem from the West Bank.  The path of the separation wall inside East Jerusalem was a grave development and a flagrant challenge to the international community. 

She said it had been one year since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had issued its opinion, which stressed that the wall was illegal, that Israel must immediately cease construction activities, that Israel must demolish parts that had been build and must abrogate all laws and regulations thereon.  The Council, according to the opinion, must consider measures to put an end to the situation.  The reluctance by the international community to put pressure on the Israeli Government, as well as the condoning of activities undertaken by Israel in settlement expansion and confiscation of land, would not necessarily revive the peace process or return to implementation of the Road Map.  “Such a situation is an omen of a veritable catastrophe for the Palestinian people, the region and the world, and might undermine the solution of the two-State concept”, she said.

Today, she continued, conditions were deteriorating because Israel, the occupying Power, continued to violate international law and international humanitarian law and to flout Council resolutions, as if it were a State above the law.  Describing the killing, wounding, and destruction executed by the occupying forces, she said the United Nations had been informed of them and of Israel’s violations, such as extrajudicial killings, closure, prevention of movement of individuals and goods, the continuing expansion of illegal settlements and the building of the wall.  The understanding reached in Sharm el-Sheikh had been an encouraging beginning to restart the peace process.  The Palestinian Authority had taken steps to implement its commitments under that understanding.  However, Israel had not implemented any of its commitments. 

She said the Palestinian Authority was keen to see the success of the Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in a calm manner, and stressed, in that regard, the importance of the completion of disengagement before the end of the year.  The international community, however, must not get distracted from Israel’s colonial expansion of settlements in the West Bank.  She called on the international community to abide by the legal opinion of the ICJ.  The bodies of the United Nations were called upon to accelerate the implementation of the provisions from the legal opinion, including a fast establishment of a record of damages.  She announced that she would call for a resumption of the tenth emergency session of the General Assembly.  That would, however, not set aside the obligations of the Council.  She would look forward to the day that the Council and the United Nations would ensure Israel’s abiding by international law and international humanitarian law.

DAN GILLERMAN (Israel) said it was necessary to ask why the Council was meeting today.  Was it to deal in acrimony, or, at the current watershed moment in the history of the war-torn region, seize the moment to see the larger picture?  He felt a certain degree of gratitude for the opportunity to discuss what the initiators of the session had called “the dire situation on the ground”.  More than 25,400 terrorist attacks against Israelis in less than five years were indeed dire.  The ground in Netanya, where on 12 July a young Palestinian strapped with explosives had detonated himself at the entranced of a shopping mall, smouldered.  Five people had died in that suicide attack, including two teenage girls.  The ground was dire in the village of Nativ Ha’asara, where, on 14 July, a woman sitting on her porch was killed by a Qassam rocket.  Hamas and Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade had showered the skies this month with Qassam rockets.  The situation in the Middle East was dire, when on the other side of Israel’s northern border the only force that was in control of the territory was a terrorist organization, sponsored by two United Nations Member States.

As the Council met, Israel’s Government was preparing to implement a fateful and unprecedented initiative -- the disengagement of all Israeli civilians and forces from the Gaza Strip and the dismantling of four settlements in the northern West Bank.  Israel was taking bold, courageous action to reinvigorate the peace process on behalf of all of those involved in the drawn-out conflict.  That initiative was unprecedented in its scope, challenges and hope that it had the potential to give to the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.  It was a painful and heart-wrenching moment for the Israeli people.  The implementation of the plan, in the absence of any corresponding acts of good faith from Palestinian neighbours, had created troubled divisions within Israeli society. But the Israeli Government, at no small political and personal risk, was determined to follow through on its commitment to implement the initiative.

The disengagement initiative was not Israel’s first plan or choice, he said.  Israel would have preferred a fully negotiated agreement with its Palestinian neighbours.  The Palestinian Authority showed no sign of implementing even the first commitment of the Road Map, which, among other things, called for an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism.  The terrorist attack in Netanya gave voice to the sad truth behind the plethora of terrorist attacks:  they endangered not only the lives of Israeli citizens and innocent Palestinians, but also the new Palestinian leadership, the disengagement plan and the peace process as a whole.  Israel would not waiver, however, in its intention to complete the disengagement and pursue peace.

The prevention of terror emanating from Palestinian areas was entirely the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority and its leadership, he said.  Even the previous period of quiet had been only superficial.  In fact, the campaign of terror had continued unabated, at varying levels of intensity, since September 2000.  The Palestinian delegation had requested the meeting to discuss the “condition on the ground”.  There should be no confusion about the situation in Israel, which was in the midst of an historic, courageous political decision to improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.  It was almost cynical that the Palestinian Authority raised the issues with the Council at a time when the deteriorating security situation was the result of the Palestinian terrorists and the Palestinian Authority’s unwillingness to fulfil its obligations.  The impression was left that the debate was a smokescreen for more broken Palestinian problems.

The onus to prevent Palestinian terrorism in all its forms lay clearly with the Palestinian Authority, he said.  Israel had transferred control over cities to the Palestinian Authority and had armed the Palestinian security forces in exchange for promises that the Palestinians would combat terror.  As a result of the Palestinian leadership’s failure to confront terrorism, Israel had been left with no choice but to find defensive measures to protect itself, such as the security fence.  The reality was that the fence worked.  It had saved hundreds of lives.  There had been a reduction of over 90 per cent in successful terrorist attacks, a 70 per cent reduction in citizens killed, and an 85 per cent reduction in the number of wounded.

Israel remained sensitive, however, to the impact of the necessary defensive measures it had been forced to take, he added.  Israel was coordinating with Palestinian Authority officials in order to facilitate humanitarian passages in all areas.  Indeed, the fence’s routing had been altered a number of times.  Each section of the fence was scrupulously examined in light of strict humanitarian criteria, as determined by the Israeli High Court of Justice, the only justice system in the region where an Arab or Palestinian could go to court against his own government and seek justice, rather than get thrown in prison or be beheaded.

It should also be noted, he said, that construction of the fence had enabled Israel to remove checkpoints, thus, relaxing day-to-day freedom of movement in northern Samaria.  Israel had further established methods to address difficulties that might arise as a result of the fence’s construction, both on the practical and legal levels, by providing affected landowners the possibility of lodging objections to the proposed route, as well as claiming compensation from a special standing fund established for that purpose.  That mechanism guaranteed appropriate compensation for those affected, and obviated the need for any alternative measure, such as the proposed register.

In the absence of any demonstrable leadership on the Palestinian side, it had fallen to Israel to implement its disengagement initiative, he said.  But even as a reluctant fallback plan, the disengagement initiative was not a replacement for negotiations.  Indeed, Israel had repeatedly stated that the initiative could pave the way for the Road Map’s implementation.  For the disengagement initiative to play that role, it required recognition that there were rights on both sides of the equation, including the Israeli side, and responsibilities on both sides, including the Palestinian side.  The Road Map was predicated on the assumption that both sides had commitments and responsibilities for which they must be held accountable.  Initiatives that exaggerated Palestinian victimization, while avoiding Palestinian responsibility, not only ignored Israeli concerns, but were also a grave disservice to those Palestinians seeking reform.

The Council convened today to address grievances that did little to improve peace efforts in the region, he said.  While critics of Israel had been historically obsessed with ending the occupation of disputed lands, once Israel entered a plan to hand over land, its critics obfuscated the issue by diverting the Council’s attention to unnecessary discussion.  Today’s discussion signified yet another blemish in the Council’s agenda.  He called on the Council to look beyond the diversion and see the larger picture -- a tiny country, marred by terrorism, mobilizing its citizens and political will to take a bold step for peace in the region.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) expressed concern at the recent worsening of the situation in the Middle East after a calm of a few months.  Extrajudicial killings and violence had resumed, and civilians, the majority of them Palestinians, were the victims.  There had been some hope with the national Palestinian consensus of a ceasefire and Israel’s commitment to withdraw from the Gaza and some parts of the West Bank, coordinated with the Palestinian Authority.  However, Israel, once again, was casting doubt on the resumed peace impetus.  It had taken the decision to expand settlements in the West Bank and to construct the wall in the Al-Quds.  Expansion of settlements was Israel’s attempt to establish a fait accompli, impeding establishment of a PalestinianState.  Israel had constantly adopted a fait accompli policy.  The latest provocation was the 9 July decision on the route of the wall around Al-Quds, one year after the legal opinion of the ICJ.  The provocation was proof of Israel’s disregard for international law.

He said Israel’s decision was a blow for international efforts under way and would lead to a deterioration of the situation.  The Court had recommended that the Council consider action to put an end to the illegal situation of the wall’s construction. The Council should also take measures to stop Israel’s extrajudicial executions, among other things.  The Quartet should dissuade Israel from implementing its decision to expand the settlements and convince it to honour its commitments under the Road Map.  He expressed concern at the worsened economic situation in the OccupiedTerritories.  He was also concerned with the situation in the Syrian Golan, where ongoing settlement policy continued to undermine peace efforts, and with the situation in Lebanon, where in recent weeks provocations had taken place.  The international community was called upon to take action to arrive at a lasting settlement of the conflict, according to resolutions 242, 338 and 1397, as well as the principle of land for peace.

ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said he was alarmed about the resumed flare-up of tensions as a result of attempts by extremist forces to do their utmost to worsen the situation preceding Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and a portion of the West Bank.  The best answer to those forces would be a responsible and restrained position by the parties and coordinated steps by security forces designed to prevent anarchy.  It was important for both parties to adhere to the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement.  Russia, with the other members of the Quartet and other interested parties, was prepared to assist where necessary to actively facilitate efforts to establish a comprehensive and just peace.

He called on parties to refrain from steps that would predetermine the results of final settlement negotiations.  Although expressing concern about the construction of the wall, he affirmed the right of Israel to self-defence against terrorist attacks.  He was, however, concerned with the settlement issue.  He called for achievement of a comprehensive Middle East settlement, including the Syrian and Lebanese issues.  The Road Map was the only alternative, he said, the implementation of which was the only way to achieve a settlement for the Israelis and Palestinians.  He reiterated the proposal to conduct a high-level expert meeting by the end of the year.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) said the situation in the Middle East, just weeks before Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, was a matter of concern.  Everything must be done to ensure that there was not a new escalation of violence.  To preserve the ceasefire -- one of the most valuable and fragile achievements in recent months -- the parties must resume dialogue and cooperation, including in the areas of security.  France strongly condemned the suicide attack in Netanya one week ago, as well as rocket and mortar fire that had cost the lives of Israeli civilians.  He called on the Palestinian Authority to intensify efforts to restore public order in the PalestinianTerritories.  For its part, Israel must show restraint and end its policy of targeted killings, which could only lead to a further wave of violence.  The success of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was in the interest of all.  The political future of the Palestinians must not be limited to the withdrawal, however, but must be an initial step in the framework of the Road Map.  The Quartet must assist the parties to implement their obligations under the Road Map.  France favoured the holding an international conference at an appropriate time.

Regarding the security barrier, while he recognized Israel’s right to take forceful measures to protect its citizens, he noted that the wall’s path gave rise to a number of concerns, including that it extended several kilometres to the east of the green line within the PalestinianTerritories, in contradiction with the relevant provisions of international law.  The construction, if irreversible, would be de facto annexation of a substantial part of the West Bank.  The construction of the wall was also giving place to large-scale dispossession, putting thousands of Palestinians in a precarious situation.  He called on the Israeli Government to stop all construction of the wall within PalestinianTerritories, including around East Jerusalem, and dismantle the posts already in place.

TUVAKO NATHANIEL MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) noted that recent unrelenting violence in the Middle East had overshadowed positive gains, resulting in injuries and deaths, as well as the loss of property.  Condemning the suicide bombing in Netanya and rockets that had killed several innocent Israeli civilians, he said those events, coming less than one month before Israel’s scheduled withdrawal from the Gaza and parts of the West Bank, should not be allowed to undermine it.

He also expressed regret for continued construction of the separation wall in and around East Jerusalem, as well as accelerated settlement activity.  Stressing that such actions went against earlier understandings and could undermine a true spirit of mutual confidence, he urged the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to remain steadfast in seeking peace and security for their people and region.

Turning to the Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon, he pointed to reported violations by both sides that had led to injury and loss of life.  The new Lebanese authorities should strive for greater control over their territories, ending attacks from their side, while Israel should refrain from air violations of the Blue Line.

RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said the recent escalation of violence ran counter to interests of both parties, which must do their utmost to ensure restraint and abide by the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings with a view to maintaining the ceasefire.  Extrajudicial killings by Israeli forces, resumed in recent days, must be halted.  Brazil had also followed with deep concern the intensification of rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups against Israeli targets, including civilians, one of which had resulted in the death of an Israeli girl of Brazilian origin.  Brazil also condemned the recent terrorist attack in Netanya.

He expressed alarm at news of increased settlement activities in the West Bank.  Even worse, Israel’s revision of the route and acceleration of the construction of the wall around Jerusalem prejudged the resolution of a dispute over an issue that had been central since the Partition Plan and subject to many United Nations resolutions.  Any solution to the status of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of both sides and include internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and conscience of all its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to all its holy sites by the people of all religions and nationalities.

On the situation in Lebanon, he welcomed the new Government and said that actions that could have a negative impact on Lebanese unity and stability must be avoided.  Regarding the situation along the Blue Line, Brazil called for restraint on both sides and full compliance with Security Council resolutions.  In the coming days, Brazil would favour the Secretary-General’s recommended renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said recent developments in the Middle East were a cause for concern.  One year after the issuance of the ICJ opinion, Israel had announced that it would accelerate construction of the wall in East Jerusalem, something which was bound to exacerbate discord.  The final status of East Jerusalem should be resolved through negotiations based on United Nations resolutions.  He hoped both parties would continue efforts for reconciliation.

He expressed concern over recent violent clashes.  He noted, however, that Palestinian leader Abbas had gone to the Gaza Strip to bring the situation under control and that Israel had refrained from military action there.  This year, he said, the situation had seen an easing of tension rare for the past four years.  The year 2005 was a year of opportunities, but those opportunities must be based on mutual trust.  Any lessening of caution on either side would impede the peace process.  He called on both sides to display political courage and wisdom, in order to achieve the peaceful coexistence of two States. 

KENZO OSHIMA (Japan) said that, while welcoming the start of the Gaza disengagement, he had concerns about the recent resumption of violence by Palestinian militant groups and the Israeli army.  It was important that President Abbas exercise strong leaderships.  Israel and the international community should provide President Abbas with effective support.  The withdrawal should be conducted undisturbed and should open the way for the resumption of the Road Map.  Vigorous efforts were needed on the Palestinian side to drastically improve security measures.  He supported the coordination efforts of Mr. Wolfensohn to secure transport and communication routes between Gaza and the outside world.  He hoped that Israel would adopt a more flexible attitude that would ensure the safety of movement of Palestinian people and of goods.  His country had announced new assistance to Palestine of $100 million to facilitate disengagement and rehabilitation in Gaza and the West Bank.

As for the issue of the wall, he said in February there had been a positive development when a considerable part of the wall in the southern area was rerouted.  The Palestinian Authority must make the utmost efforts to suppress terrorism, as a large number of innocent Israelis had lost their lives.  However, the construction of the wall inside the green line continued.  It affected adversely the livelihood of Palestinians and was prejudicial to the outcome of the final status negotiations.  He deplored the wall construction inside the green line.  The issues of the wall and the settlements could only be resolved through steady implementation of the Road Map.  That was another reason to make the Gaza disengagement a success.  As Lebanon faced many difficult challenges, which would require delicate handling, he welcomed the formation of the senior Government in that country. 

ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), aligning herself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said the successful withdrawal from Gaza by Israel could be an initial stage towards achieving a fair, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.  The withdrawal must be consistent with the Road Map, complete and coordinated with the Palestinians, as well as with the international community.  She hoped that, with only one month to go, coordination between Israel and the Palestinians would be intensified, especially with regard to key issues such as access to Gaza.  She encouraged the Palestinian Authorities to accelerate reforms and Israel to put in place the conditions essential to a viable Palestine economic growth.  The Quartet and its Special Envoy for disengagement, Mr. Wolfensohn, deserved all possible support from the international community.  It was essential for progress that ongoing contacts, including at high level, between Israel and the Palestine Authorities improve both in substance and frequency.

She said it was of great importance that both parties renew their efforts to implement the commitments made in Sharm el-Sheikh and that the parties refrain from unilateral measures that might prejudice the outcome of negotiations on the final settlement.  Her country remained concerned, in that context, about the continued construction of the separation barrier on Palestinian land.  She reiterated that Denmark would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties.  The way to achieve peace was a viable two-State solution achieved through the full implementation by both parties of their commitments under the Road Map.  In order to avoid a return to the cycle of violence, she urged Israel to exercise maximum self-restraint and the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and effective action against those involved in the attacks.

MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said that, sadly, over the past few weeks, acts of violence between Israelis and Palestinians had once again escalated.  Israelis and Palestinians should spare no effort to advance together towards the realization of the vision of two States, which could only be achieved if the parties proceeded without delay to the full implementation of their obligations under the Road Map.  The Palestinian Authority must take effective action against terrorism and dismantle the associated infrastructure.  Israel must cease settlement activities, which were contrary to their obligations under the Road Map, and avoid taking measures that could prejudge the final result of negotiations.  The construction of the barrier remained of great concern.  While playing an effective role in protecting Israel, the erection of the barrier inside the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories could not be regarded as in compliance with international law.

He said the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and certain parts of the West Bank was a courageous move.  The parties concerned must cooperate and coordinate closely before, during and after the disengagement, especially with the aim of creating the necessary conditions for the economic recovery in Gaza.  He encouraged leaders on both sides to continue to pursue their contacts and broaden the agenda of the meetings taking place at various levels.  The final goal should be the resumption of peace talks in order to reach a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the conflict.  Regarding Lebanon, he said that the full implementation of resolution 1559 was a prerequisite to fulfil its long-standing aspiration for full independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.  He called upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully in that process and to support the independent international investigation commission into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

CÉSAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said recent developments in the Middle East were a further indication of the extreme fragility of the situation in the region, particularly in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian track.  Unfortunately, levels of violence had increased significantly affecting, in particular, the civilian population from both sides.  Argentina condemned all terrorist acts that resulted in the death of innocent civilians.  He expressed unequivocal condemnation of the suicide bombing on 12 July in Netanya and the Qassem rocket attacks fired from the Gaza Strip.

While acknowledging the challenges faced by the Palestinian Authority, Argentina believed that a clear message must be conveyed to Palestinian extremist groups that violence could not and would not be tolerated, and that attacks against Israel should cease immediately.  Israel had a legitimate right to self-defence, but it must be exercised in conformity with the principle of proportionality and in accordance with international law.  Argentina requested that the practice of extrajudicial killings not be resumed and that the human rights of civilians be respected at all times.

Argentina had repeatedly expressed its opposition to the construction of the barrier in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories.  The decision of the Israeli cabinet of 9 July to accelerate the construction of the barrier in East Jerusalem was manifestly contrary to the reiterated calls of the international community and should be revised.  Argentina also believed that all settlement activities should immediately cease and the settlement outposts should be dismantled.

The plans for Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank should be pursued and should be the first step towards putting an end to the occupation that began in 1967.  The commitment of both sides to cooperate in that initiative was essential.  He welcomed the recent formation of a new government in Lebanon, and hoped that it would have a positive impact in stabilizing the situation in the country.

WILLIAM J. BRENCICK (United States) reiterated his country’s serious concern regarding the challenges faced by the international community and the parties in bringing about a more peaceful and democratic Middle East.  It had been three years since President Bush had put forward his vision of two democratic states living side by side.  Since then, a strong international consensus had developed behind the vision and the Road Map to implement it.  Both parties had clear obligations under the Road Map.  Progress could not be achieved by rhetoric and blame.  The focus of efforts should be on working towards the successful implementation of the Gaza disengagement plan.  The United States Security Coordinator, General Ward, had been on the ground since 9 March, and Mr. Wolfensohn was working closely with the parties. 

While overall progress had been made, much needed to be done, he said.  The disengagement had the potential to achieve genuine progress.  The United States believed that existing mechanisms were the best avenues for moving the parties forward.  A central challenge remained in improving the security situation and creating the conditions conducive to the plan’s success.  While President Abbas had taken some steps, overall, the Palestinian performance had been far from satisfactory and must remain an area of concern.

Regarding Lebanon, he urged the Lebanese Government to move towards the full implementation of resolution 1559.  His country’s opposition to Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization, had not changed.  Recent violent events along the Blue Line underscored the danger the militia posed to international peace and security.  The United States was also deeply concerned about Syria’s closure of its border with Lebanon, which, among other things, was an attempt to strangle Lebanon’s economy by impeding trade along its border.  The situation underscored the need for the two Governments to establish normal relations to resolve such problems, and was yet another example of Syria interfering in Lebanon.  It signalled that the Syrian Government was sending a message that it was still trying to call the shots there.

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said, at a meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council of the Union in Brussels, Belgium, on 18 July, foreign Ministers had discussed the situation in the Middle East.  The Union supported the Gaza withdrawal.  Its High Representative, Javier Solana, had emphasized the commitment to keep both parties engaged in the peace process and in the implementation of the Road map, and that Union action should be coherent, focused and coordinated with the Quartet and the international community.  The Union was gravely concerned at the recent escalation in violence in Israel and the OccupiedTerritories.  It had condemned the recent terrorist attacks on Israel and the violence by Palestinian militants against Palestinian security personnel.  While recognizing Israel’s right to protect its citizens, the Union had consistently opposed extrajudicial killings.  The Union emphasized that Palestinians and Israelis must not return to the cycle of violence.  It urged Israel to exercise maximum self-restraint and the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and effective action against those involved in attacks.

He said the Union had stressed the importance of a successful disengagement and reaffirmed the need for both parties to make every effort to take advantage of the opportunity presented by disengagement.  It urged Israel to ensure that withdrawal was complete and coordinated with the Palestinians and the international community.  The Union emphasized the urgent need for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to cooperate effectively with each other and with Mr. Wolfensohn to support Palestinian institutional and economic development.  It wanted the Palestinian Authority to accelerate reforms and put in place the conditions essential to viable Palestinian economic growth.  Ongoing contacts between Israel and Palestinian Authority should be improved in both substance and frequency and to take place at all levels. 

The Union called on both sides to renew their efforts to implement the commitments made in Sharm el-Sheikh and urged both sides to avoid any action likely to undermine mutual confidence, he said.  No party should take unilateral measures that might prejudice the outcome of negotiations on the final settlement.  On law and order, the Union urged the Palestinian Authority to step up its efforts to ensure a secure environment, in which its citizens’ own needs for law and order were met.  On the final status issues, he said that the Union would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties.  The Union continued to believe that the way to achieve a permanent peace was a viable two-State solution achieved through the full implementation by both parties of their commitments under the Road map.

He said that, while the Union recognized the right of Israel to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, it demanded that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the barrier inside the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory, including in and around East Jerusalem, which was in contradiction to the relevant provisions of international law.

JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said he was pleased with the decision of the Knesset to oppose any postponement for the disengagement plan.  He supported the mission of the two special envoys and welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to give Mr. Wolfensohn all assistance required to establish an office in Jerusalem.  The Quartet’s efforts demonstrated the international community’s will to assist in implementing disengagement, which was a stage of implementing the Road Map.  It was unfortunate that those efforts were being countered by the renewed outbreaks of violence in advance of the pull-out.  He was concerned by the new crisis, which had forced the Palestinian Authority to declare a state of emergency in the OccupiedTerritory. The agreements achieved at the Sharm el-Sheik summit gave hope that the sound of weapons would cease, and dialogue return.

In that regard, he said he did not understand the obstacles that continued to undermine freedom of moment in the OccupiedTerritory.  He regretted the destruction of Palestinian property and the resumption of the practice of extrajudicial killings, and called on the occupying Power to end them.  For their part, the Palestinian Authority must take all appropriate measures to prevent attacks targeting civilians.  The separation wall was a real challenge to the international community.  He called on the Israel Government to convincingly implement the decision of the ICJ regarding the dismantling of the wall.  He was also concerned by the continued settlement in the OccupiedTerritories, which remained the undisputed point of reference for the peace process.  Disengagement from Gaza would be an important step in the right direction.  He called on the parties to do their utmost to bring the process to a successful conclusion.

BAYANI S. MERCADO (Philippines) said he was concerned about the recent outbreak of violence.  He condemned the suicide bombing by a Palestinian, nine days ago, and the resulting cycle of violence and counter-violence which threatened to shatter the peace process.  He recognized Israel’s right to self-defence against terrorist attacks, but appealed to Israel that it should not take extrajudicial action.  He also deplored the retaliatory action of Palestinian militants and their fighting in northern Gaza.  He called on both parties to implement their commitments under the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement.  

He commended President Abbas for ordering his security forces to prevent militants from conducting attacks on Israel.  He also welcomed efforts by the Quartet and commended Egypt in facilitating agreement between President Abbas and Hamas, which had ended bloodshed.  While welcoming the disengagement in Gaza and parts of the West Bank, he said such disengagement must be complete if it were to contribute to a solution.  He called on Israel to stop settlement activities and urged the country to stop construction of the separation wall. 

In his national capacity, ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece) said that today’s open debate came at a most critical juncture on the long and difficult road towards achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.  Over the past few months, a strong and solid commitment had been manifested by both sides.  Their respective leaderships had taken bold decisions, often with great political cost, in order to advance the process.  They had resisted sizeable internal pressures, and on numerous occasions they had publicly declared that they would honour and proceed with their commitments. 

He said that the upcoming Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank, when completed, would constitute an important milestone.  It should be seized upon as a momentous opportunity to revitalize the Road Map and move the process a step closer towards lasting peace.  The success of Israeli disengagement was of paramount importance, and all parties had an important stake in it.  Several issues should be addressed and resolved immediately in a way that ensured a successful outcome.  Both sides should make every effort to work directly with each other and to cooperate in finding the optimum solutions to the various issues involved in a coordinated, peaceful and smooth handover.

The Israeli disengagement would be judged in the long term, he said.  As such, provisions for the day after disengagement should be put into place.  The viability of a successful disengagement should be consolidated by developing the necessary conditions -- political, economic and security -- to ensure, to the extent possible, that there would be no reversal of the progress.  The economic revival of the PalestinianTerritories was crucial.  Notwithstanding Israel’s legitimate security concerns, immediate steps must be taken to relieve the economic hardships facing the Palestinian people and to facilitate rehabilitation and reconstruction by easing the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza and the West Bank.

At the same time, he said he was concerned by the recent upsurge in violence, which threatened to upset the delicate truce of the past few months.  With tensions running high, both parties must do their utmost to curb attacks and counter-attacks, including extrajudicial killings, so as not to allow a return to the vicious cycle of violence that had beset the region for so long.  Confidence-building between the parties was key.  As such, both sides should proceed, without delay, with implementation of the understandings reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit on 8 February.  Also of concern were the continued Israeli settlement activities in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories and the continued construction of the separation barrier, a well as the Israeli Cabinet’s decision to immediately complete its construction in and around East Jerusalem, with the apparent dire humanitarian consequences on a large number off the city’s Arab inhabitants. 

JASEM IBRAHIM J. M. AL-NAJEM (Kuwait), on behalf of the Arab Group, thanked the President for convening the meeting.  He also condemned the acts of terrorism in London this morning, and condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  The Arab countries followed with grave concern the events in the OccupiedTerritories and the tragic situation in which the Palestinians were living.  The detention and use of bullets against unarmed civilians and other violations perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces were being blatantly carried out before the eyes of the world.  The destruction of property and the confiscation of Palestinian territories continued, as did the construction of the expansionist, illegal wall.  The continuation of the wall was a blatant violation of international law and showed a clear lack of respect for the ICJ’s opinion of July 2004.  The Arab position regarding the construction of the wall was clear and had been repeated in different fora. 

He said the practices of the Israeli Government in the ArabOccupiedTerritories did not give any impression of a real or sincere wish for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.  Despite the ICJ’s opinion and General Assembly resolutions, Israel had only expanded its construction of the wall.  The 1 September deadline for completing the wall would result in some 65,000 Palestinians losing contact with their family and work.  Withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and some settlements in the West Bank had to be conducted in cooperation with the Palestinians and should end the suffering of the Palestinian people under occupation.

He called on the international community to assume its responsibilities and appealed to it to strengthen international humanitarian law by obliging Israel to respect international legitimacy, and to halt policies which would only exacerbate security issues in the area.  Policies aimed at lengthening the days of occupation would only backfire.  The only way to realize security was to find a peaceful and just settlement, based on Council resolutions and the principle of land for peace and the Arab peace initiative.

YAHYA A. MAHMASSANI, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, said the Council met today to consider the settlement policy of Israel and the construction of the separation wall.  Those activities would prevent a comprehensive and just peace in the region.  A year had elapsed since the legal opinion of the ICJ, which had established that those activities were illegal.  A year had also elapsed since adoption of resolution 10/15 of the tenth emergency session of the Assembly.  The occupying Power continued its defiance of the international community’s opinion.  The claims of Israel that the wall was a temporary measure intended to protect Israeli citizens was misleading.  By constructing the wall and building settlements, Israel sought to prevent geographical continuity between Palestinian population and establishment of a viable PalestinianState. 

He said all attempts of Israel to impose a solution by force had failed.  The only way to peace was through negotiations of the parties concerned on the basis of international resolutions.  He called upon Israel to stop construction of the separation wall and withdrawal from Gaza.  That withdrawal could not be an end in itself, but was but a first step to implement all obligations of both parties to end the conflict.  Israel was fully responsible for the deterioration of the situation in the region.  In accordance of the Beirut summit, he called upon the Council to revitalize the peace process in accordance with the Council resolutions and on the basis of the principle of land for peace.

AMR ABOUL ATTA (Egypt) said the Council was meeting nearly one year after the ICJ’s advisory opinion, which was gaining increasing international support.  Changes to the path of the wall were insufficient and ran counter to conditions determined by the Court’s opinion.  Although the wall was illegal, the Israeli Government had decided a few days ago to continue building it around Jerusalem, isolating thousands of people in East Jerusalem.  Israel had taken a unilateral decision to withdraw from Gaza.  The positive potential of the withdrawal must not be poisoned by the construction of the wall and its expansion at holy sites.

Egypt would continue expanding all efforts, with both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, to ensure that the Palestinian Authority had the necessary control in Gaza and to promote the needed infrastructure, he said.  Egypt would continue playing its role at all levels in order for the Middle East to become a region of peace.  The Council must send a strong message that peace required implementing the decisions of the Assembly’s 10th emergency session and the ICJ opinion, in order to alleviate the daily suffering of the Palestinian people.  Both sides must work together in order to ensure the success of the Israeli withdrawal.

ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI (Yemen) said the situation in the Palestinian territories had been deteriorating, as a result of Israel’s building of settlements and construction of the separation wall.  Many Palestinians had died because of the Israeli practices, such as extrajudicial killings, and the movements of Palestinian people and goods were still limited.  Despite the understanding of Sharm el-Sheikh, the Israeli authorities were continuing to destroy houses and seizing Palestinian land, which had increased unemployment and poverty.  The illegal construction of the separation wall, including in East Jerusalem, contravened the principles of international law and the advisory opinion of the ICJ.  It also ran counter to the provisions of the fourth Geneva Convention. 

He said it was important that the withdrawal from Gaza should be followed by complete withdrawal from all OccupiedTerritories.  Withdrawal should also be accompanied by respect for Palestinian water rights and air rights.  The withdrawal should not be used as a justification for continuation of occupation, but should be a step towards implementation of the Road Map.  He emphasized the importance for the international community and the Council to assume their responsibilities regarding the suffering of the Palestinian people, who wished to live in peace on their territories, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) said that the international community had endorsed the finding by the International Court of Justice that the wall and its associated regime were unlawful and that Israel had the obligation to dismantle it, cease further construction activities and make restitution and reparation for the damage brought about by its construction.  Yet, Israel had, once again, chosen to disregard the international community’s will and to continue actions that were both in contravention of international law and incompatible with the realization of a two-State solution to the Middle East crisis.  During the past year Israel had pressed ahead with the construction of the wall and settlements, despite the fact that the security situation had improved dramatically.

The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile -- under its new democratically elected and internationally supported leadership -- had redoubled its efforts to bring about reforms, he said.  Israel’s actions, therefore, clearly contradicted its statements that the wall was a temporary security measure.  In fact, on 10 July, the Israeli Cabinet had approved yet another extension of the wall, this time around East Jerusalem.  When that phase of construction was complete, a further 55,000 Palestinians would be cut off from their relatives, hospitals, schools, shops and places of worship.  According to Israel’s Minister for Justice, that project would help ensure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem.

He said that inaction by the international community on the separation wall had allowed Israel to solidify its occupation of East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, further altering the demographics facts on the ground.  Also, the collective failure to provide the Palestinian Authority with adequate assistance, so that it could exert its authority and establish law and order, had only strengthened the hand of extremists, who fed off the anger of a people living under military occupation.  At the same time, South Africa strongly condemned all acts of terror and violence directed against civilians, including terrorist bombings.

Stressing that the time had come to strengthen the moderates on both sides through active support, he said the construction of settlements and the separation wall -- and the associated destruction of Palestinian livelihoods -- must not be allowed to continue.  The settlement activities threatened to negate any positive aspects arising from the disengagement process.  South Africa, therefore, reiterated the call for strict compliance with the ICJ’s advisory opinion and for the immediate and full implementation of the Secretary-General’s mandate to establish a registry of damages causes by construction of the wall.

ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said the situation in the OccupiedTerritories was deteriorating as a result of Israeli practices, including extrajudicial killings, demolition of homes, expansion of settlements and extending the separation wall deep into the PalestinianTerritories and East Jerusalem, despite the opinion of the ICJ.  There was no doubt that those practices, especially building the wall including inside East Jerusalem, ran counter to international law.  The practices had also been proven to be useless.  True peace could not be established by building barriers or exerting violence, but one through a will to peace. 

He said his country reiterated its call on the international community to rapidly interfere, in order to provide protection for the Palestinian people, and to force Israel to halt its practices.  He reiterated the importance of stopping the construction of the wall and dismantling what had been build.  He hoped for a resumption of negotiations on the basis of the Road Map.  Returning to the logic of peace and recognizing the rights of the Palestinian people would provide an opportunity for the peaceful coexistence of the people in the region, he said.  The United Nations, in particular the Assembly and the Council, had a permanent responsibility for the Palestinian people. 

PAUL BADJI, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the issues before the Council were urgent and called for urgent solutions.  While the world’s attention was focused on the Gaza withdrawal, the Israeli Government actively continued a programme of building major settlements on the West Bank, extending the boundaries of Jerusalem and increasing the growth of the Israeli population in greater Jerusalem, all in contradiction to Israel’s obligations in the Road Map.  New tenders had been issued for the building of hundreds of houses, while Palestinian houses were being destroyed.  Most concerning was Israel’s plan to link East Jerusalem to settlements on the West Bank by building 3,500 houses between the two.  That project would amount to cutting off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, preventing the Palestinian people from achieving their ultimate aim, namely the establishment of the capital of the future PalestinianState in that city. 

The international community had just commemorated the anniversary of the ICJ advisory opinion, which had clearly stated that the construction of the wall ran counter to international law, he noted.  Despite that agreement, Israel’s Government had not ended the construction, but had approved the building of further sections.  That development would not result in ending the conflict, as the construction of the wall would prevent the Palestinian people from exercising their inalienable rights and damaged prospects for a viable PalestinianState that was contiguous with Israel. 

The Committee believed that Israel was responsible for the security of its citizens and that the disproportionate use of force again Palestinians could not be justified, he said.  He urged Israel to comply with its obligations and end the construction of the wall in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories, including in and around Jerusalem, and to dismantle the parts already constructed.  Israel should also end its settlement expansion and transfer of populations towards the West Bank.  The international community should have long ago acted to end the construction of the wall and the creation of new settlements.  Israelis and Palestinians should have embarked on a path of dialogue to bring about lasting peace.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said with every day that passed in the occupation by Israel of the PalestinianTerritories and the Syrian Golan, the suffering of the inhabitants increased.  The latest Israeli escalation was a new link in an endless chain of Israeli violations of international humanitarian law.  Instead of Israel’s full compliance with the advisory opinion of the ICJ, Israel, the occupying Power, continued construction of the colonial separation wall.  The Israeli plan for expansion would isolate Palestinians from their families, properties, schools and universities.  Israel was also planning to build a number of settlements to isolate East Jerusalem.  In that way, Israel would draw new borders, different from those in 1967.  The wall had become a symbol of oppression and the arrogance of power.  In addition to all those illegal actions, the Israeli occupation forces had escalated their aggression by destroying a large number of Palestinian homes and had assassinated a number of Palestinians. 

He said there were more than 8,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, among them children.  The number of Palestinians killed by Israel since 2000 stood now at more than 3,300, among them 41 staff of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  Was that not a war crime? he asked.  The Palestinian detainees and their brothers in the Golan lived in prisons that did not meet the most basic conditions of hygiene.  The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza must be complete and comprehensive.   Israel must also withdraw from the West Bank, including from East Jerusalem.  The Gaza withdrawal could not be accepted as a cover for the continuation of the occupation.  The Council must take bold and courageous decisions to force compliance with its resolutions and to ensure the rule of international law and to put an end to the cycle of bloodshed.

The United States today had raised the situation between Lebanon and Syria in a way that was not true, he said.  The tone of incitement in today’s statement did not bode well for Lebanon and for its relations with Syria.  The matter of transit between the two countries should not be raised in the Council.  The two countries were cooperating, without the interference of the United States, to resolve the problems.  It was strange that the United States would call on Syria to take stringent measures on the borders of a neighbouring country, at the same time that it expressed its concerns about the same measures on another border.

MOHD. RADZI ABDUL RAHMAN (Malaysia) said his country remained gravely concerned over the continuing deteriorating and precarious situation in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory.  Any act of violence inflicted upon innocent civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli, was unacceptable and deserved equal condemnation by everyone.  But his delegation could fully understand the despair of Palestinians and their responses to Israel’s continued occupation and annexation of PalestinianTerritories.  It was contingent upon both sides to transform the deadly cycle of violence and terror to enduring peace and security in the region.

He said the continuing construction by Israel of the separation wall in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory, including in and around East Jerusalem, seriously endangered the prospects for peace and undermined the implementation of the Road Map.  The construction of the wall was a clear violation of international law.  His delegation urged Israel to dismantle and discontinue immediately its construction.

Furthermore, he added, the planned Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip must be a full and complete withdrawal from the area, and must be followed by similar steps in the rest of the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory.  The international community, for its part, must continue working to attain a just and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Malaysia remained convinced that an independent and sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, would be the best hope for lasting peace in the region, with both Israel and Palestine living peacefully side by side within secure and recognized borders.

A GOPINATHAN (India) said the meeting came at a critical time.  Israel’s proposed withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank was scheduled to take place next month.  The international community was hopeful that the withdrawal would represent a step in the broader process and would be used as a springboard to revitalize the Road Map.  It was essential for the Israeli and Palestinian sides to coordinate the economic, civilian and security aspects of the withdrawal.  He hoped that the withdrawal would be followed by negotiations on final status issues.  Recent event had threatened the hopes for progress in the past few months.  The suicide bombings in Netanya and rockets fired from Gaza were condemnable acts, and he called on the Palestinian Authority to make every effort to prevent such actions.  At the same time, Israel’s forceful actions in response to the attacks, including targeted killings, could seriously compromise the calm that had prevailed in the past few months.  While he recognized Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence, any such moves should be exercised proportionately and in conformity with international law. 

Israel’s ongoing construction of the separation wall remained a source of deep concern, he said.  While no one could object to the construction of the wall in areas coinciding with the green line, its encroachment on Palestinian land and interests created great hardships for the people affected by its construction.  The construction of the wall on Palestinian land also threatened to prejudge the eventual outcome of the final status negotiations between the parties.  He called on Israel to take note of the Assembly resolution, based on the ICJ opinion, and called on the Secretary-General to establish the damage register.  One of the primary obligations under the Road Map was the requirement for Israel to halt all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001.  He also called on Israel to fulfil its obligations and desist from any further settlement activity.  It was critical that the international community work closely with the parties, with a view to encouraging them to fulfil their commitments. 

IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) said the construction of 90 per cent of the separation wall inside the Palestinian West Bank would isolate the Palestinian population and violate their basic rights.  The completion of the wall would mean the annexation of 1,000 square kilometres.  It was, therefore, not accurate to say that the wall separated Israel and the OccupiedTerritories.  It was an annexation of Palestinian lands.  Israel had given security reasons for justification of the construction of the wall.  If that were true, why not build it on the 1967 line? he asked. 

He said the construction disregarded Council resolutions 242 and 338 regarding peaceful settlement of the conflict through negotiation.  By continuing the construction, Israel ran counter to international law and gravely violated relevant Assembly resolutions.  The continued construction also ran counter to the advisory opinion of the ICJ.  The Council was called upon to take all measures to put an end to the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall.

REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said he was alarmed by the continuation of Israel’s unlawful construction of the wall in the territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, which was in blatant violation of international law and flagrant disregard of the ICJ’s advisory opinion.  The construction of the wall clearly violated the economic and social rights of the Palestinian people.  The international community could not ignore such problems as lack of water distribution and water pollution, as a result of infrastructure and environmental damages.  Israel’s plan to extend its wall around the illegal settlements in East Jerusalem would lead to the confiscation of even more Palestinian land and would exacerbate the free movement of Palestinian civilians to and from Jerusalem.

As the Council met, he said, Palestinian homes, factories and land continued to be destroyed for illegal settlements, rendering more Palestinians as refugees in their own land.  If such policies were allowed to continue, the possible final status issue of the occupied East Jerusalem in future peace negotiations would be threatened.  He hoped the Council would take immediate action to compel Israel to respect its international obligations under international law.  He was deeply disturbed by the continued atrocities by Israel towards the Palestinian people in the OccupiedTerritories.  Violence could never provide a solution to conflict, as it seriously undermined the prospects of peace.  Ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan, was the only sustainable option.  Israel must withdraw fully from Gaza and the rest of the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory, including East Jerusalem.  “Unilateral disengagement” from Gaza should not be used as a pretext for its continued colonization of the rest of the OccupiedTerritory, including East Jerusalem. 

FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories were still suffering from harsh social and economic conditions, as the result of unlawful Israeli practices, including establishment of checkpoints and construction of illegal settlements.  One year after issuance of the ICJ’s advisory opinion, the Israeli Government had decided to speed up the building of the separation wall around Jerusalem in order to complete the wall that would annex 8 per cent of the West Bank.  The aim was to make a large number of Palestinians leave because of humiliating constraints placed on them by Israel.  Israel would seize the lands to build more settlements in order to Judaize the territories.  The separation wall endangered the peace efforts in the region and might undermine the Road Map. 

He said the international community could not close its eyes to the suffering of the Palestinian people and must reiterate its solidarity with them.  It must urge Israel to abide by the advisory opinion of the ICJ.  What Israel did was not only contrary to international law, but also contrary to the spirit of the era.  The construction of the wall was a clear act of racism.  He reaffirmed that withdrawal from Gaza must be comprehensive and complete and must be followed by withdrawal from all Arab territories, including East Jerusalem.  The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza must also be followed by final negotiations on settlement of the conflict.  He called on the Council to work towards a just resolution in accordance with the Charter, relevant resolutions, international law and international humanitarian law and the Road Map.

MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI (Iran) noted that the International Court of Justice had found the construction of the separation wall, cutting through the occupied West Bank, to be illegal.  The opinion also found that the Palestinians had to be compensated for losses sustained due to its construction.  The General Assembly had also adopted a resolution on the barrier.  Blatant defiance was the Israeli response to the will of the international community.

The section of the wall being built through East Jerusalem cut through two densely populated Palestinian neighbourhoods, isolating an additional 65,000 Palestinian residents of the occupied East Jerusalem from their work, schools, hospitals and families.  The Israeli regime sought to achieve the goal of tilting the demographic balance and pursuing the aim of the Judaization of the city by imposing a fait accompli on the Palestinians.

International law maintained that no occupying Power had the right to change the features of the territories it occupied, he said.  The wall was a trespass against justice and basic human values, and those who claimed to be in possession of those lofty values should not stay indifferent about it, let alone condoning it.

In recent months, over 60 Palestinians had been killed, bringing the number of deaths of Palestinians since September 2000 to over 3670.  The illegal numerous illegal Israeli practices had resulted in the further deterioration of the already dire socio-economic conditions of the Palestinian people, making their daily life unbearable.  It was unfortunate that the exercise of veto had prevented the Council from fulfilling its responsibility with regard to the Palestinian question, thus far.  Indeed, the selective show of resolve and discriminatory approach toward enforcing the Council’s resolutions undermined its credibility and adversely affected the overall international security system.

MONA JUUL (Norway) said Israel’s decision to disengage from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank was a brave step that should trigger the immediate implementation of the Road Map and the revitalization of the peace process.  The disengagement’s significant potential for revitalizing the Palestinian economy must be utilized.  The parties must coordinate the disengagement progress and cooperate effectively with James Wolfensohn.  The Palestinian Authority should speed up its reform programme and Israeldo what it can to create the conditions necessary for viable Palestinian economic growth.

The disengagement process, though, should not divert international attention away from the continued expansion of settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the continued construction of the barrier east of the green line.  Israel must stop and reverse the construction of the barrier inside Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.  Any change to the pre-1967 borders, other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties was unacceptable, she said.

Expressing concern over the recent escalation in violence, she urged Israel to exercise maximum self-restraint and the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and effective action against those involved in attacks.

Mr. MANNAN (Sudan) said the question of Palestine was at the centre of world attention and at the core of the conflict in the Middle East.  The deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the OccupiedTerritory constituted one of the biggest challenges for the Council in the discharge its mandate.  The situation, including in East Jerusalem, continued to deteriorate and the steadfast Palestinian people continued to bear the brunt of unjust Israeli practices.  Of even greater concern was the fact that Israel continued to construct its illegal wall on Palestinian territory.  Israel continued its unjust aggression by demolishing buildings for that purpose, in clear violation of international law.  Israel also persisted in its contempt for the Assembly’s resolutions and the ICJ advisory opinion.  The opinion on the “wall of injustice” was entering its second year.

Continuing, he said Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip must be a genuine, complete and full.  It must also be followed by full withdrawal from the rest of the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory, including East Jerusalem, and should be followed by the initiation of the final status negotiations.  He reaffirmed Sudan’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and its support for their just cause.  He called on the Council to adopt a firm position to compel Israel to abide by the United Nations Charter and international law. 

YURI ARIEL GALA LÓPEZ (Cuba) said that recent hostile actions by Israel, the occupying Power, must be added to its long lists of aggressions and violations of the most elemental human rights of the Palestinian people, including illegal settlements, demolition of homes, arbitrary detentions, State terrorism, building of a separation wall, strangling the Palestinian economy and extrajudicial killings.  The crisis continued to worsen.  He reiterated the need for Israel to respect international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.  The building of the separation wall should be stopped immediately. 

He continued to condemn the excessive use of force, the creation of a humanitarian crisis as a result of the restrictions of movement, and territorial expansion through the construction of the separation wall.  The problem in the Middle East could have been solved years ago if the Council had acted with transparency and without double standards.  The United States should avoid paralyzing vetoes in the Council when the matter was being considered.  It should also suspend financial support for military purposes to Israel, including aircraft and tanks that were being used against civilians.  His country showed solidarity with the Palestinian people, but also condemned the use of suicide bombings and other acts against Israeli civilians.  He reiterated that no just and lasting peace would be achieved in the Middle East without an end of the Israeli occupation, nor until the Palestinian people could exercise their right to an independent States with East Jerusalem as its capital, nor until the Israeli provocations in south of Lebanon ended, nor until the return of Palestine refugees was guaranteed and the settlements in Palestinian territories were removed.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the construction of the separation wall by Israel in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories posed a mortal danger to the peace process, seriously undermined the implementation of the Road Map and presented a major obstacle to the creation of a viable continuous PalestinianState.  Construction of the separation wall around Jerusalem would cut off some 55,000 residents of East Jerusalem from the rest of the city.  The international community had an obligation to ensure that Israel did not further ignore the ICJ opinion and Assembly resolution ES 10/15.  The situation on the ground continued to be of serious concern, with the reported “gradual erosion” of the ceasefire.  The principal victims of the tragic conflict remained innocent civilians, the bulk of them Palestinians.  The endeavours of President Abbas towards security reforms and the practical steps taken by the Palestinian Authority deserved the full support of the international community.

He said it was vital that all sides avoid any escalation, observe the utmost restraint, and work to establish a stable environment for hope and security.  The Palestinian Authority must have the necessary international assistance to revive the economy and undertake the development activities essential for turning a new page in Palestinian life.  The Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank must be implemented in full coordination with the Palestinian Authority, must be full and complete, and must be the first step towards the end of the occupation of all Palestinian territories.  Israelis and Palestinians must deepen their dialogue and gradually move to address the final issues.  The implementation of the Road Map offered the most viable way forward towards sustainable peace.

Mr. EL YOUNSI (Libya) said the Israel occupation was continuing its repression against the unarmed Palestinian people.  The occupation remained the cause of the socio-economic suffering of the Palestinian people.  The practices of the occupation against the Palestinian people proved beyond a doubt that the Israeli Government was not serious regarding a just peace in the Middle East, which was manifested by its total rejection of international law and will.  The Israeli occupation had disregarded all peace initiatives, including the Road Map, choosing instead to continue building settlements, bringing in immigrants and constructing the wall.  Despite the ICJ advisory opinion, the Israeli Government had decided to complete the construction of the wall by 1 September to reroute it inside East Jerusalem.

Israel’s unilateral disengagement was a manoeuvre to divert the international community’s attention from its intention to take even more land, he said.  Any aggression on East Jerusalem would intensify the conflict in the region and destroy any hope of a peaceful solution, ushering in a new state of conflict.  The international community should assume its full responsibility and exert pressure on the occupying Power to comply with international will and implement resolutions calling on it to expedite the withdrawal from the OccupiedTerritory.

MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said the situation in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories, including East Jerusalem, was disturbing.  Expansion of settlements and the construction of the separation wall threatened to worsen the climate of instability.  When the Palestinians came to the Council, they requested nothing but the equal application of all of international law, including international humanitarian law, and the existence of a State for two peoples involved in a conflict at least as old as the United Nations itself.  The Palestinians were unfortunately faced with a daily despair that drove them into marginalization and extremism.  While condemning all acts of terrorism, regardless by whom or why they were perpetrated, he said that in order to eradicate the scourge, hope needed to be restored to the Palestinians for an independent State.

He cautioned against establishment of new settlements that would lead to a weakening of the peace effort and a delay in implementation of the Road Map.  He hoped that withdrawal for the Gaza Strip would be followed by genuine negotiations to continue the Road Map.  Regarding the separation wall, he said what was at stake was not the right of Israel to protect its security within its territory.  What was at stake was the fact that the wall was located beyond the green line of 1967, a clear violation of international humanitarian law and the rights of the Palestinians.  The illegal construction needed to be halted and the damage endured by the population in the OccupiedTerritories needed to be repaired.  He urged Israel to take down the wall and the settlements in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories and to launch a genuine effort to build a common future between the people involved.

AHMAD HAJIHOSSEINI, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), noted that Israel had continued constructing new stretches of the apartheid wall, cutting deep into Palestinian land, despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which had ruled it a violation of international law.  Israel’s continued confiscation of land was isolating Palestinian territories and severely damaging its economy, and depriving people of their farms, schools, hospitals and places of worship.  Israel was pursuing the unilateral demarcation of new borders in the West Bank that amounted to effective annexation of Palestinian territories, undermining the borders of the PalestinianState, and even annihilating the very possibility of its establishment.

He said the OIC called on the international community, especially the Council and the Quartet, to uphold international law and counter Israel’s illegal settlements and wall construction, and their damaging effects on the Palestinian people.  It further called on all States to impose punitive measures against any public and private entities that had contributed to construction of the wall, and all those profiting from settlement activity on the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory.  Regarding the Gaza strip, withdrawal must be full and complete and followed by Israeli withdrawal from the rest of the OccupiedPalestinianTerritory.

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For information media. Not an official record.