54th plenary meeting
Wednesday, 20 November 2002, 3 p.m.
Mr. Kavan …………………………………………….
In the absence of the President, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Chau, (Viet Nam), Vice-President, took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.
Agenda item 22 (continued)
Cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations
(h) Cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union
Report of the Secretary-General (A/57/375)
Draft resolution (A/57/L.38)
Mr. Mobarak (Egypt) ( spoke in Arabic) : Mr. President, I am pleased to convey to you and to Member States a tribute from the Egyptian parliamentarians, on whose behalf I speak. We fully believe in the importance of cooperation with the United Nations through the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Cooperation between these two bodies is a major objective of the Egyptian Parliament, and we are doing our utmost to encourage this, as we had done during Egypt’s presidency of the IPU, from 1995 to 1999.
The Egyptian delegation would like to underscore the suffering of Palestinian parliamentarians due to the closure imposed by the Israeli occupation forces. They are unable to discharge their duties as representatives of their people. They are not able to move about to meet with their constituents or attend the sessions of their parliament. Israel’s policy aims at destroying Palestinian civil and national institutions, contrary to claims Israel makes that it is the only democracy in the region. True democracies do not occupy other peoples’ territories by force or usurp their rights.
Israel has ignored the fact that Palestinians have legislative and executive bodies that have been elected under international monitoring. Egypt calls on parliamentarians throughout the world to urge their Governments to come to the support of Palestinian parliamentarians, who are suffering because of the destruction of their civil and legislative institutions. Such an elected Palestinian legislature would be able to guide its people towards peace, stability and development.
The Acting President (spoke in Arabic): I shall now call on those representatives who wish to speak in exercise of the right to reply.
Mr. Shacham (Israel): I must, regrettably, ask the indulgence of the General Assembly in order to respond to comments made earlier this afternoon by the representative of Egypt.
It is unfortunate that in the discussion of an issue dear to us all — cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations — the delegation of Egypt found it necessary to voice an extraneous and irrelevant attack against my country. That behaviour is even more puzzling in the light of the fact that today, throughout Israel, ceremonies and events are being held to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the late Egyptian President Sadat’s courageous visit to our country and the launching of negotiations that led to the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab State.
It is hard to think of an agenda item more dedicated to multilateralism than the item under consideration, which praises cooperation over divisiveness. Why, then, did it become imperative for the Egyptian speaker to single out Israel for a scathing, and even inaccurate, politically motivated sideswipe? That, unfortunately, is far from an uncommon occurrence. Time and again, in the plenary General Assembly and in the Assembly’s various committees, Egyptian speakers have singled out Israel for attack and denigration in statements on universal agenda items that have nothing to do with the Middle East.
My delegation could have also taken the floor in order, perhaps, to call upon the world’s parliamentarians to join together in protest over the lack of legislative power of the rubber-stamp Egyptian Parliament, or perhaps to protest the authoritarian regime in Egypt, which consistently violates the human rights of religious and ethnic minorities, homosexuals and women. But we chose not to do so.
Seeing the attitude of Egypt’s representatives at the United Nations and that of its Government at home, the people of Israel ask themselves, “ Where is the peace?” We were promised land for peace, so we withdrew from the entire Sinai peninsula. And yet, we received only hatred and animosity. We were promised land for peace, so we offered far-reaching withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. Yet, we received in return a ruthless campaign of terrorism that has left nearly 700 Israelis dead and thousands wounded.
While Israel appreciates the fact that peace officially exists between us, I ask my Egyptian colleagues to consider how this kind of behaviour influences the Israeli people, who nurture the hopes and promises of peace, yet see that in return for comprehensive concessions they get only rejection, hatred and violence.
Mr. Atta (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic): We are surprised at the comments of the representative of Israel. We merely cited irrefutable facts about the daily experiences of those living in the occupied territories. A policy of closures, imposed by the Israeli occupying forces, has been in force for the past two years. Furthermore, a travel ban is in operation every day that prevents Palestinian parliamentarians from moving about within the Palestinian territory. Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian civil institutions is another fact.
Finally, the representative of Israel referred to true democracy. A true democracy does not occupy the territory or usurp the rights of others, as Israel has been doing for half a century. The Israeli representative should be ashamed that the Israeli State is the only State in the twenty-first century that is engaged in military occupation of another people’s territory.
The meeting rose at 6.05 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.