Draft Resolutions on Palestine Refugees, Israeli Practices in Occupied Arab Lands among 12 Approved as Fourth Committee Concludes Its Work

GA/SPD/628
8 November 2016
Seventy-first Session, 23rd Meeting (AM)

Draft Resolutions on Palestine Refugees, Israeli Practices in Occupied Arab Lands among 12 Approved as Fourth Committee Concludes Its Work

Members also Pass Texts on Special Political Mission, Question of Gibraltar

Concluding its work for the main part of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved 10 draft resolutions and two draft decisions today, on such issues as Israeli practices, to the operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to the question of Gibraltar.

The Committee approved – by a recorded vote of 86 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 71 abstentions – a draft resolution titled “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/71/L.11).

By its terms, the General Assembly would express grave concern about the critical situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a result of unlawful Israeli practices and measures.  It would condemn all illegal settlements, call for the lifting of Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, and for ending its indiscriminate use of force and military operations against the civilian population.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/71/L.9), approving it by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 4 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Paraguay, Vanuatu).

By that text, the General Assembly would call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply fully with the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949; by Articles 100, 104 and 105 of the United Nations Charter, and by the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, in order to ensure the safety of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) personnel.  It would urge the Government of Israel to expeditiously reimburse the Agency for all transit charges incurred and other financial losses sustained.  The Assembly would further urge the international community to provide or increase their contributions to UNRWA in order to address its serious financial constraints.

According to the terms of a draft titled “assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/71/L.7), the General Assembly would decide to extend UNRWA’s mandate until 30 June 2020.  It would call upon all donors to meet the Agency’s anticipated needs, including needs arising from conflict and instability in the region, and from the serious socioeconomic and humanitarian situation.  The Committee approved that text by a recorded 159 votes in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Paraguay, United States).

The Committee then took up a draft titled “persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/71/L.8, approving it by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu).

By that text, the Assembly would stress the necessity for an accelerated return of displaced persons, and call for compliance with the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements of 13 September 1993.  In the meantime, it would endorse efforts by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA to provide humanitarian assistance, on an emergency basis and as a temporary measure, to currently displaced persons in the areas in serious need of continued assistance as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities.

Taking up a draft titled “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/71/L.10), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu).

According to that text, the Assembly would request that the Secretary-General take all appropriate steps, in consultation with the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, for the protection of Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel.  It would further call upon Israel to render all facilities and assistance to the Secretary-General in implementation of the present resolution.  It would urge both the Palestinian and Israeli sides to deal with the issue of Palestine refugees’ properties and revenues within the framework of final status peace negotiations.

The Committee also approved a draft titled “applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories” (document A/C.4/71/L.12) by a recorded 155 votes in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Paraguay, Rwanda, Togo).

By its terms, the Assembly would demand that Israel accept the Convention’s de jure applicability in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, and that it comply scrupulously with its provisions.  It would further call upon all High Contracting Parties to the Convention to exert all efforts to ensure respect for its provisions on the part of Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Taking up a draft titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/70/L.13), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Paraguay, Rwanda, Togo).

Under the terms of that text, the General Assembly would condemn acts of violence, destruction, harassment, provocation and incitement by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and call for accountability for the illegal actions perpetrated in that regard.  It would demand that Israel comply with its legal obligations, as mentioned in the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice.

By the terms of a draft titled “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/70/L.14), the General Assembly would demand that Israel cease all practices and actions violating the human rights of the Palestinian people, including the killing and injury of civilians, arbitrary detention and imprisonment of civilians, forced displacement, and any obstruction of humanitarian assistance, among other things.  It would also call for urgent measures to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as urgent attention to the plight and the rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails.  The Committee approved that draft by a recorded 151 votes in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Paraguay, Rwanda, Togo).

It then approved a draft titled “the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/71/L.15) by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 13 abstentions.  By its terms, the General Assembly would call upon Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan, in particular Security Council resolution 497 (1981).  It would further call upon that country to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and identity cards on Syrian citizens.

Without a vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution titled “comprehensive review of special political missions” (document A/C.4/71/L.6), by which the General Assembly would request that the Secretary-General hold regular, inclusive and interactive dialogue on overall policy matters pertaining to special political missions.  The Assembly would also request that the Secretary-General submit, to its seventy-second session, a report on those policy matters, including efforts towards improving expertise, effectiveness, transparency, accountability, geographical representation, gender perspective and women’s equal participation in respect of all special political missions.

Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved two draft decisions, on the question of Gibraltar (document A/C.4/71/L.5), and on the proposed programme of work and timetable for its seventy-second session in 2017 (document A/C.4/71/L.16), respectively.

Vice-Chair Wouter Poels (Belgium) noted in closing remarks that the Committee had approved a total of 35 draft resolutions and two draft decisions.  Throughout the session, it had held 23 formal meetings, covering a wide range of agenda items, including outer space, public information and atomic radiation.  The Committee’s work had made an important contribution to the debate on international peace, security and development, he said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Israel, Slovakia (on behalf of the European Union), the Russian Federation, Syria, and the State of Palestine.

Representatives of Mexico, Indonesia and Cuba presented the draft resolutions for action.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Background

Meeting to take action on pending draft resolutions, the Committee had the following texts before it:  comprehensive review of the special political missions (document A/C.4/7l/L.6); United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (documents A/C.4/71/L.7, A/C.4/71/L.8, A/C.4/71/L.9 and A/C.4/71/L.10); Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (documents A/C.4/71/L.11, A/C.4/71/L.12, A/C.4/71.L.13, A/C.4/71/L.14 and A/C.4/71/L.15); and question of Gibraltar (to be issued pending approval to extend the deadline for submission of draft proposals).  Also before members was a draft decision on revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (document A/C.4/71/L.16).

Action on Drafts

The Committee first took up the draft resolution “Comprehensive review of special political missions” (document A/C.4/71/L.6).

The representative of Mexico introduced the text, saying that mediation, prevention and peacebuilding were effective methods to ensure implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Strengthening the 2015 text, the draft resolution focused on improving expertise, effectiveness, transparency, accountability, geographical representation, gender perspective and equal participation of women in respect of all special political missions, he said.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the text.

It then took up a series of drafts relating to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (documents A/C.4/71/L.7-L.10).

The representative of Indonesia, introducing the drafts, expressed concern about the situation of Palestine refugees under occupation, including their safety, well-being and socioeconomic living conditions.  The drafts recognized the important role played by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which continued to support those in need through a number of education, health, relief and social programmes, he said.  Acknowledging the Agency’s financial crisis, the texts called upon donors to meet its anticipated needs arising from conflict and instability in the region.  Expressing regret over restrictions on the freedom of movement and access for UNRWA staff, vehicles and goods, he called upon Israel to cease the obstruction.

The representative of Cuba then introduced five draft resolutions relating to the work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (documents A/C.4/71/L.11-15).  She said the drafts focused on violations of international law committed by Israel in the context of its nearly 50-year-long military occupation.  Persistent human rights and protection crises had been witnessed during the reporting period, she noted, while Israel had continued its illegal policies and practices in a deliberate and systematic manner, causing widespread human suffering and destabilization.

Those practices included the killing and wounding of civilians, forced displacement, provocations and incitements, collective punishment and the blockade of the Gaza Strip, she continued.  “In Gaza, a dire humanitarian crisis persists and socioeconomic conditions have declined to the lowest levels since the onset of the occupation in 1967, creating an extremely toxic and unstable solution,” she said.  Drawing attention to Israel’s unlawful settlement campaign in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, she said the transfer of settlers, construction of the wall and demolition of homes continued abated.  The drafts addressed such violations through the relevant provisions of international law, calling upon Israel to abide by the United Nations Charter and relevant resolutions, she said, adding that they also called for immediate efforts to reverse negative trends on the ground and stop the situation from deteriorating any further.

The representative of Israel, in a general statement on the drafts relating to UNRWA and the report of the Special Committee, said they promoted a distorted picture of the situation by quoting selectively from documents and reports while absolving the Palestinian Authority of its responsibility for and role in creating the current situation.  Two of the drafts referred to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in the Jewish faith and sacred to all Abrahamic religions, but deliberately omitted any reference to the Jewish or Christian connection, she noted.  That opposition to recognizing the rights of others demonstrated the Palestinian mind-set, which represented a complete lack of tolerance towards other religions, other people’s heritage and the bond with that sacred site, she emphasized.  Israel, by contrast, recognized the rights of believers of all faiths, and worked to preserve the status quo, she said, adding that her delegation would vote against all the drafts.

Taking action on all four texts, the Committee first approved the draft “assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/71/L.7), by a recorded vote of 159 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Paraguay, United States).

It went on to approve the draft “persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/71/L.8) by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu).

By a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 4 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Paraguay, Vanuatu), the Committee approved the draft “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/71/L.9).

The Committee then approved the draft “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/71/L.10), by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu).

It then took up a series of draft resolutions on the Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (documents A/C.4/71/L.11-15).

Taking up the draft “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/71/L.11), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 86 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States), with 71 abstentions.

It went on to approve – by a recorded 155 votes in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Paraguay, Rwanda, Togo), the draft “Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories” (document A/C.4/71/L.12).

The Committee then approved the draft “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/71/L.13), by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Paraguay, Rwanda, Togo).

Taking up the draft “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/71/L.14), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Paraguay, Rwanda, Togo).

It went on to approve, by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 13 abstentions, the draft “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/71/L.15).

The representative of Slovakia, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, pointed out that the bloc had not expressed any legal qualification of the term “forced displacement”.  The use of the term “Palestine” in any draft resolution could also not be construed as recognition of the State of Palestine, nor of the question of validity of or accession to treaties mentioned therein.  Noting that some of the drafts referred to holy sites in Jerusalem, he expressed concern about violent clashes at the Temple Mount/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and stressed the need for language reflecting the importance of that site to all three monotheistic religions, and recognizing religious and cultural sensitivities.

The representative of the Russian Federation, drawing attention to the text L.11, said that despite his country’s strong commitment to human rights, it would not give up its long-standing position, and had therefore abstained from voting.

The representative of Syria, making a general statement, said that the text sent an unequivocal message to Israel, demanding an end to its occupation of the Syrian Golan.  It demanded further that Israel comply with its legal obligations, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The landslide-majority vote had proven the rejection of Israel’s annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan, he said, calling for immediate affirmative steps to reverse the negative trends on the ground.  Noting with satisfaction that some delegations had abstained from voting, he urged them to join the international consensus in the coming years.

FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, Deputy Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, expressed gratitude to delegations that had voted in favour of the draft resolutions on UNRWA and on Israeli practices.  The texts reaffirmed the fundamental legal principles relevant to core issues on the question of Palestine, including Israeli settlements and the ongoing plight of Palestine refugees, both central to the search for a just, peaceful solution, she said.  Welcoming the recognition of UNRWA’s indispensable role and its contribution to the well-being, development and protection of Palestine refugees, she noted the significance of support for efforts to address the Agency’s debilitating and recurrent funding shortfalls.  Essential to such efforts was the request contained in the draft “Operations of UNRWA”.

She went on to reiterate the State of Palestine’s recognition of the long-standing and generous support of donor countries and the “unquantifiable support” of the host countries – Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.  Welcoming the reaffirmation of the international consensus regarding the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel since 1967, she said the international community’s calls for the complete cessation of grave Israeli breaches were equally important, and underscored calls to consider accountability measures in the event of Israel’s continued non-compliance.  The principled positions taken by Member States conveyed a clear message to Israel, she emphasized:  its violations could not be justified by any means or pretext and should cease immediately and completely, and the occupying Power was expected to comply fully with all its legal obligations.

The Committee also took up the draft decision “question of Gibraltar”, (document A/C.4/71/L.5), approving it without a vote.

It concluded by approving, also without a vote, the draft decision “proposed programme of work and timetable of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) for the seventy-second session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.4/71/L.16).

Concluding Remarks

WOUTER POELS (Belgium), Vice-Chair, noted that the Committee had approved a total of 35 draft resolutions and two draft decisions.  Throughout the session, it had held 23 formal meetings, covering a wide range of agenda items, including outer space, public information and atomic radiation.  The Committee’s work continued to make an important contribution to the debate on international peace, security and development, he said, adding in that regard, that the format of interactive dialogues and question-and-answer periods continued to be useful and informative.  He applauded the presence of senior officials during the session, including the General Assembly President and various department heads.

For information media. Not an official record.