Fourth Committee Approves Nine Drafts on Israeli-Palestinian Issues as It Concludes Main Part of Seventieth General Assembly Session

GA/SPD/603
17 November 2015
Seventieth Session, 25th Meeting (AM)

Fourth Committee Approves Nine Drafts on Israeli-Palestinian Issues as It Concludes Main Part of Seventieth General Assembly Session

Members also Approve Draft Decision on Work Programme for Seventy-First Session

Concluding its work for the main part of the General Assembly’s seventieth session today, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved nine draft resolutions — all by recorded vote — relating to Palestine refugees and Israeli practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft decision (document A/C.4/70/L.11) on its proposed programme of work and timetable for its seventy-first session in 2016.

Taking up 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.4/70/L.19), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 84 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Panama, United States), with 74 abstentions.

By terms of the text, the General Assembly would express grave concern about the continuing detrimental impact of ongoing unlawful Israeli practices and measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, such as excessive use of force by Israeli occupying troops against Palestinian civilians, as well as tensions, instability and violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, due to Israel’s illegal policies and practices.

Also by the text, the Assembly would reiterate its demand that Israel, the occupying Power, cooperate, in accordance with its obligations as a Member State of the United Nations, with the Special Committee in implementing its mandate.  It would deplore the continued lack of cooperation in that regard.  The Assembly would further deplore those policies and practices of Israel that violated the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories, as reflected in the report of the Special Committee covering the review period.  It would request the Special Committee, pending the complete termination of the Israeli occupation, to continue to investigate Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

The Committee then turned to another draft resolution, titled “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/70/L.17), 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 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Nauru, Paraguay).

By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would express deep concern about the extremely critical financial situation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Agency — also known as UNRWA — and about the extremely difficult socioeconomic conditions faced by Palestine refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Among other things, the text 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 the personnel of the Agency.

Further by the text, the Assembly would urge all States, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations to support UNRWA's valuable and necessary work in assisting Palestine refugees in all its fields of operation by providing or increasing their contributions to the Agency.  It would also urge UNRWA to further explore innovative and diversified means to mobilize resources, including through partnerships with international financial institutions, the private sector and civil society.

By the terms of a resolution titled “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/70/L.15), the General Assembly would express grave concern about the especially difficult situation of Palestine refugees under occupation, including with regard to their safety, well-being and socioeconomic living conditions.  It would affirm the necessity for the continuation of UNRWA’s work and the importance of its unimpeded operations and provision of services.  The Committee approved that text by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 10 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Paraguay, United States).

A draft resolution titled “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/70/L.16) was approved by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Madagascar, Paraguay).

By its terms, the Assembly would express concern about the continuing human suffering resulting from the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities, and reaffirm the right of all persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities to return to their homes or former places of residence in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.  In the meantime, it would endorse the efforts by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA to continue to provide humanitarian assistance, as far as practicable, on an emergency basis and as a temporary measure, to persons in the area who were currently displaced and in serious need of continued assistance as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution titled “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/70/L.18), which would have the General Assembly reaffirm that Palestine refugees were entitled to their property and to the income derived therefrom, in conformity with the principles of equity and justice.  The Assembly would call upon the Secretary-General to 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 urge the Palestinian and Israeli sides, as agreed between them, to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees’ properties and revenues within the framework of the final status peace negotiations.  That text was approved by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Madagascar, Paraguay).

The Committee also approved a resolution 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.4/70/L.20) 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, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Paraguay, Togo).

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

A draft resolution on “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/70/L.21) was also approved by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Madagascar, Paraguay, Togo).

By its terms, the General Assembly would express grave concern about continuing settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, on the part of Israel, the occupying Power.  It would condemn those activities as violations of international humanitarian law, relevant United Nations resolutions, agreements reached between the parties, and obligations under the Middle East Quartet’s Roadmap, and as actions in defiance of calls by the international community to cease all settlement activities.  The Assembly would further condemn acts of violence and terror against civilians on both sides, and all acts of violence, destruction, harassment, provocation and incitement by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, against Palestinian civilians and their properties, as well as acts of terror by several extremist Israeli settlers.  It would call for accountability for the illegal actions perpetrated in that regard.

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.22), the General Assembly would urge all parties to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, especially in areas of religious and cultural sensitivity, including East Jerusalem.  It would also urge the parties to take every possible step to defuse tensions and promote conditions conducive to the credibility and success of the peace negotiations.  It would further demand that Israel, the occupying Power, cease all practices and actions that were in violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people, including the killing and injury of civilians, as well as their arbitrary detention and imprisonment.  It would also demand that Israel cease its settlement activities.  That text was approved by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 9 abstentions (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Honduras, Madagascar, Malawi, Paraguay, Togo).

In its final action today, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/70/L.23), approving it by a recorded 156 votes in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 14 abstentions.  By its terms, the General Assembly would call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply with the relevant resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan, in particular Security Council resolution 497 (1981).  It would further call upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, and from its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.

The delegations of India and Kazakhstan subsequently indicated that they had intended to vote in favour of all nine draft resolutions.

Committee Chair Brian Bowler (Malawi) said, in closing remarks, that all delegations had demonstrated a keen interest in ensuring that the international community remained focused on the important political and decolonization matters before the Committee.  Noting that the body had held 25 formal meetings during its current session, he welcomed the presence of senior officials, including the General Assembly President and the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, during some of the Committee’s deliberations.

Presenting drafts for action today were representatives of Indonesia and Cuba.

Also speaking during the meeting were representatives of Panama, Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union), the State of Palestine and Syria.

Action on Drafts

The Committee first took up a series of draft resolutions relating to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (documents A/C.4/70/L.15-A/C.4/70/L.18).

The representative of Indonesia introduced the drafts, saying they were based on resolutions from previous sessions and reflected updates to the situation of Palestine refugees.  They reflected the international community’s strong support for UNRWA, especially its indispensable efforts in providing education, health care and other basic services.  The Agency’s efforts were particularly underscored by the grim reality faced by Palestinian refugees in the context of the ongoing crises and instability throughout the region and the continuing deterioration of political, humanitarian, socioeconomic and security conditions.  The co-sponsors hoped the drafts would again receive the overwhelming support of Member States, which would reaffirm the international community’s longstanding support for UNRWA and its principled support for, and solidarity with, Palestinian refugees and their rights, well-being, human development and protection, pending a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The representative of Cuba then introduced five drafts 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.4/70/L.19–A/C.4/70/L.23).  He said the texts referred to many of the alarming events disclosed in the Special Committee’s report and that of the Secretary-General.  Israel’s ongoing violations of the rights of the inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territories had intensified during the period under review, he said, adding that its actions caused widespread human suffering, including the death and injury of civilians, the arrest and detention of more than 1,000 individuals in the last month alone, the incitement of violence and a host of flagrant violations of Israel’s obligations as the occupying Power.  It had stepped up the construction of settlements and the appropriation of natural resources, actions that weakened the feasibility of a two-State solution.  The reports also dealt with the critical situation in the Gaza strip, where 1.8 million Palestinians lived in the shadow of Israel’s blockade.  The situation in Gaza had been exacerbated by Israel’s 2014 military aggression, which had had major negative socioeconomic impacts on the population, he said.

Moving to take action on all nine draft resolutions, the Committee first approved a draft resolution titled “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/70/L.15), by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 10 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Paraguay, United States).

It went on to approve, by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Madagascar, Paraguay), a draft resolution titled “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/70/L.16).

By a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Nauru, Paraguay), the Committee approved a draft resolution titled “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/70/L.17).

The Committee then approved a draft resolution titled “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/70/L.18) by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Madagascar, Paraguay).

The representative of Panama, speaking in explanation of position, shared some thoughts on the draft resolutions referring to item 55, particularly draft resolutions A/C.4/70/L.21 and A/C.4/70/L.22.  Noting that Panama’s foreign policy was based on dialogue and consensus, he said that, for that reason, the country had historically voted to “strike this delicate balance” between the right of Palestinians to an authentic State and the right of Israelis to live in peace with secure borders.  If the overall goal was to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it seemed irrelevant how a country such as Panama voted, he said.  Only through dialogue, negotiations and ultimately a two-State solution would the conflict be ended.

Taking up 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.4/70/L.19), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 84 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Panama, United States), with 74 abstentions.

It also approved, 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, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Paraguay, Togo), a draft resolution 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.4/70/L.20).

By a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Madagascar, Paraguay, Togo), it then approved a draft resolution titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/70/L.21).

The Committee then took up a draft resolution 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.22), approving it by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 9 abstentions (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Honduras, Madagascar, Malawi, Paraguay, Togo).

It went on to approve, by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 14 abstentions, a draft resolution titled “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/70/L.23).

The representative of Luxembourg, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, said that, while he reconfirmed the bloc’s consolidated voting pattern on draft resolutions considered under agenda item 55, the European Union as a whole had not expressed a legal qualification with regard to the term “forced displacement”, used in a number of texts submitted under that item.  The use of the term “Palestine” in any of those draft resolutions could not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and was without prejudice to the individual positions of Member States on that issue and on the question of the validity of accessions to conventions and treaties mentioned.  Some of the drafts approved also referred to ongoing tensions surrounding holy sites in Jerusalem, and the European Union was concerned about worrying developments and violent clashes at Al-Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount while fully acknowledging Jordan’s role relating to holy Muslim shrines in Jerusalem.  It welcomed the understandings reached by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority on that issue last month while recalling agreements reached in October 2014 and calling for their full implementation.

FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, Deputy Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, expressed gratitude to those who had voted in favour of the draft resolutions on UNRWA, Palestine refugees and Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.  Their approval was a resounding affirmation of the Palestinian people’s rights, which reaffirmed, as in past sessions, the fundamental legal principles relevant to core issues on the question of Palestine, including the matter of Israeli settlements and Palestine refugees.  The Committee’s actions today exemplified the role that the United Nations could and must play in safeguarding human rights and upholding international law, as well as the tangible difference that could be made through multilateral diplomacy to collectively promote the rule of law in the absence of respect for it.

Reiterating her appreciation for donor countries’ support for UNRWA, especially in the context of the Agency’s unprecedented 2015 financial crisis, she also expressed gratitude for the support that Member States had accorded the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices.  She emphasized the significance of the reaffirmation of the international consensus on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, specifically the illegality of the Israeli settlement campaign and human rights violations against Palestinian people.  Equally important were the international community’s unequivocal calls for the complete cessation of grave breaches on Israel’s part.  The principled positions that Member States had taken again today conveyed a clear message to Israel, the occupying Power, that its violations could not be justified by any means or context.  They must cease, and Israel was expected to comply fully with its legal obligations, she said.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) thanked all delegations that had voted in favour of the draft resolution on the occupied Syrian Golan, saying that support for the text had sent a clear message to Israel that it was merely an occupying Power, no more, and that its occupation and human rights violations were unacceptable and must end immediately.  Israel alone had voted against the text, proving the isolation of its policies, which was its best legal punishment, given its continuing occupation of the Syrian Golan.  The overwhelming majority of States had voted in favour of the draft, asserting that Israel’s attempts to annex the Syrian Golan were null and void and had no legal effect, in accordance with Security Council resolution 497 (1981).  Syria retained the right to recover the occupied Golan by all legitimate means enshrined in the United Nations Charter and international law, he emphasized.

Israel’s violation of international law in that regard was a double and dangerous violation because it had issued arbitrary laws in annexing the Golan and had also brought in foreign settlers encouraged by financial incentives, he said.  It also exploited natural resources and arrested Syrian citizens living under the yoke of occupation.  Noting that Israel alone had voted against the draft resolution, in addition to having opposed all the other drafts presented under items 54 and 55, he said its votes formed an overt Israeli message to the international community that it was not concerned about the international consensus and international law.  He also noted that a small number of delegations had abstained from voting, and called upon them to join the consensus later by voting in its favour when it was presented to the General Assembly.  Any hesitation to condemn the forced annexation of foreign lands sent the wrong message — that the rule of the jungle was the law of the land.

Finally, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft decision titled “Proposed programme of work and timetable of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) for the seventy-first session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.4/70/L.11).

BRIAN BOWLER (Malawi), Chair of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), noted that the body had held 25 formal meetings during its current session, covering a wide range of agenda items, including public information, outer space and atomic radiation.  The format of interactive dialogues and question-and-answer periods continued to be mostly useful and informative.  He welcomed the presence of senior officials during the session, including the General Assembly President and the Deputy Secretary-General.

He said all delegations had demonstrated a keen interest in ensuring that the international community remained focused on the important political and decolonization matters before the Committee.  He went on to summarize agenda items, statements heard on those items, as well as related draft resolutions and decisions.  The items covered such topics as decolonization, assistance in mine action, University for Peace, outer space, atomic radiation, information-related questions, peacekeeping, special political missions, UNRWA and Israeli practices, revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, programme planning and the Committee’s reports to the General Assembly plenary.

For information media. Not an official record.