|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
317th Meeting (AM)
Palestinian Rights Committee Discusses Developments in Occupied Territory,
Political Process, Report of United Nations Fact Finding Mission on Gaza
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, meeting back to back with the Security Council briefing this morning by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, heard briefings on the latest developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and progress in the political process, and reviewed its activities since its last meeting in May.
Insisting on the need to bring Israel into compliance with its obligations under international and humanitarian law, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations, outlined the “tragic situation” in Gaza and described Israel’s continued settlement practices, including the recent authorization of 465 new units in the Jordan Valley and hundreds in East Jerusalem. Israel’s failure to stop its settlement activities had prevented the parties from finalizing a peace treaty by the end of 2008 and could lead to a religious confrontation in East Jerusalem. After seven months of efforts by the United States, the Quartet and the United Nations, Israel continued to fail to meet that requirement. He had high hopes for United States President Barack Obama’s speech to the General Assembly next week.
“If we wait for all issues to be resolved in Gaza before we begin the reconstruction process, we are going to wait for a long time,” he said, pressing for action on the Secretary-General’s suggestion to embark on the projects approved by Israel more than two years ago in the amount of $94 million. As those projects would require allowing construction materials to cross the borders, they could also pave the way for additional construction projects, totalling more than $1 billion, which would lead to the creation of new jobs. While the proposal had been presented to Israel in June, the Israelis had yet to act on it. Israel continued to punish the entire 1.5 million population of Gaza. In that, too, it must be brought into compliance with the global consensus.
With regard to accountability, which had been under discussion since the Israeli incursion into Gaza, he referred to the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission, which had been established by the Human Rights Council and chaired by Justice Richard Goldstone. The report noted, among other things, that Israel had not yet repaid the $11.2 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for damages caused by the war. Israel had also failed to cooperate with the Fact Finding Mission. The mission’s recommendations would be submitted to the Human Rights Council on 29 September. If its requirements were not met, namely the recommendation for Israel to undertake an independent inquiry into the events in Gaza within six months, the matter could be passed onto the Security Council and, ultimately, to the International Criminal Court, with the goal of bringing to justice those responsible for the war crimes.
The overall objective, he concluded, was peace based on justice, a Palestinian State alongside Israel, an end to the tragedy in Gaza, the prevention of a potential explosion in East Jerusalem due to the settlement issue, and accountability that would forestall the commission of crimes from the Israeli side in the Gaza Strip or East Jerusalem.
The situation in Gaza remained a matter of utmost concern for the Committee, agreed Committee Chairman, Paul Badji ( Senegal). Throughout the past three months, Israel had opened Gaza crossings arbitrarily, allowing in only basic supplies to avoid a larger humanitarian crisis. Despite the financial pledges by the international donor community, reconstruction after the devastating war of last December and January could not begin. And, despite the international community’s efforts to persuade the Israeli Government to freeze all settlement activity, including the so-called “natural growth”, that country’s leadership had yet to accept the idea of a settlement freeze and, last week, had announced its decision to continue expanding settlements in the West Bank.
Reporting on the developments that had taken place since the Committee’s last meeting on 19 May, he mentioned the 4 June statement by President Obama in Cairo, in which Mr. Obama had reiterated his commitment to the creation of a Palestinian State and the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Among other important events, he also described the Quartet meeting of 26 June and an open debate by the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, on 27 July.
He added that it would be appropriate for the Committee to address some of the issues raised in the report of the Fact Finding Mission in its activities scheduled for the coming months. He also reported on two major international meetings of the Committee, in Jakarta 8 to 9 June, and in Geneva, 22 to 23 July. Related activities had followed both meetings.
Elaborating on the meetings, he said that in Jakarta, where, for the first time, a group of Israeli peace activists had presented as experts in the world’s largest Muslim country, the focus had been on the question of Jerusalem. The goal of the Geneva meeting had been to reinforce the will of the international community to uphold international humanitarian law, following the war in Gaza. All Governments had been encouraged to respect their legal obligations under the Geneva Conventions and to apply them in a two-State solution. Regional organizations had been called upon to apply their own directives with respect to international humanitarian law and human rights.
Also addressing the Committee today was Andrew Whitley, Director of the UNRWA Liaison Office in New York. From the Agency’s perspective, nine months since the end of the Israeli military operation in Gaza, there had been no progress in implementing relevant Security Council resolutions and facilitating United Nations work on the ground. The priority projects proposed by the Secretary-General and Mr. Serry to the Israelis had not advanced, in large part, due to the lack of building materials. Goods continued to be smuggled through the tunnels, and that, unfortunately, strengthened Hamas’ position. There had been no progress on the issue of compensation for property and goods. Overall, the humanitarian situation in Gaza continued to deteriorate, with people increasingly dependent on international aid.
He added that UNRWA welcomed the Goldstone Report and expressed hope that its recommendations would be implemented swiftly and fully.
Also this morning, the Committee elected, by acclamation, Pedro Núñez Mosquera of Cuba as its Vice-Chairman, following the departure of Abelardo Moreno Fernández, also of Cuba, who took up an important assignment in Havana in August.
Following his election, Mr. Mosquera emphasized his Government’s commitment to the implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and assured delegates of his readiness to stand firmly for the Committee’s objectives.
Brief interventions were also made by representatives of Tunisia and Indonesia.
As recommended by its Bureau in a working paper before the meeting, the Committee approved applications for accreditation from four civil society organizations: Cultura, Paz y Solidaridad Haydée Santamaría ( Spain); Giuristi Democratici ( Italy); Movement for the Rights of the Palestinian People and for Peace in the Middle East ( Portugal); and NGO Development Center ( Occupied Territories). St. John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital ( United Kingdom, operating in Jerusalem) and Institute of Peace and Development ( Pakistan) were admitted as observers.
Under other matters, the Committee was informed that the annual training programme for staff of the Palestinian Authority, conducted by the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights, had started on 14 September, with the arrival of two trainees from the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The delegates were also informed that Resolutions and Decisions of the General Assembly and the Security Council Relating to the Question of Palestine, while discontinued as a hard copy publication, would continue to be available online.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on 6 October to consider its annual report to the General Assembly.
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