SEVENTY-THIRD SESSION, 28TH MEETING (AM)
GA/SPD/688
16 NOVEMBER 2018

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Concluding its work for the main part of its seventy-third session today, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved 12 draft texts, of which 9 relate to Israeli practices in the occupied Arab territories and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

By a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Palau, Rwanda, Solomon Islands), 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.4/73/L.16).

That text has the General Assembly expressing deep concern about the Agency’s critical financial situation, caused by structural underfunding as well as rising needs and expenditures resulting from the deteriorating socioeconomic and humanitarian conditions.  The Assembly also expresses grave concern about attempts to discredit the Agency despite its proven operational capacity, record of effective provision of humanitarian and development assistance, and consistent implementation of its mandate, even under the most difficult circumstances.

By other terms of that text, the Assembly expresses deep appreciation to all donor countries and organizations that have sustained, accelerated or increased their contributions, helping to alleviate the Agency’s unprecedented 2018 financial crisis.  The Assembly also urges the Government of Israel to expeditiously reimburse the Agency for all transit charges incurred and other financial losses sustained as a result of the delays and restrictions on movement and access imposed by that country.

 

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The Committee also took 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.4/73/L.18), approving it by a recorded vote of 77 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 79 abstentions.

By that text, the General Assembly demands that Israel cooperate, in accordance with its obligations as a State Member of the United Nations, with the Special Committee in implementation of its mandate.  It further requests that the Special Committee continue investigating Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially violations of the Geneva Convention, as well as the treatment and status of thousands of prisoners and detainees — including children, women and elected representatives — in Israeli prisons and detention centres within the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Also by recorded vote, the Committee approved a draft resolution titled “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/73/L.14), by a recorded 161 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Solomon Islands).

By that text, the General Assembly expresses concern about the Agency’s severe financial crisis and its negative implications for continued delivery of its core programmes.  Also expressing grave concern at the difficult situation of Palestine refugees under occupation, in particular those in the Gaza Strip, it underlines the importance of assistance and urgent reconstruction efforts.  It calls upon all donors to continue strengthening their efforts to meet the Agency’s anticipated needs, including for recent emergency, recovery and reconstruction appeals, plans for the Gaza Strip and regional crisis-response plans to address the situation of Palestine refugees in Syria.

The Committee went on to approve — by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Palau, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Togo), a draft resolution titled “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/73/L.15).

By its terms, the General Assembly reaffirms 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.  It further stresses the need for the accelerated return of those displaced, strongly appealing to all Governments, organizations and individuals to contribute generously to the Agency and others in that regard.

The Committee also approved a draft resolution titled “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/73/L.17) by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Palau, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Togo).

By that text, the General Assembly requests that the Secretary-General take all appropriate steps to protect Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel.  Further, it calls upon Israel to render all facilities and assistance to the Secretary-General in implementation of the draft resolution, and upon all parties concerned to provide the Secretary-General with any pertinent information concerning such property inside Israel.  Moreover, the Assembly urges 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 final-status peace negotiations.

The Committee went on to approve — by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Palau, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, 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.4/73/L.19).

By the terms of that text, the General Assembly demands that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories it has occupied since 1967, and that it comply scrupulously with the provisions of the Convention.  The Assembly also calls upon all High Contracting Parties to the Convention to continue to exert all efforts to ensure Israel’s respect for its provisions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The Committee then approved the draft titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/73/L.20) by a recorded 153 votes in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Togo).

By its terms, the General Assembly condemns acts of violence, destruction, harassment, provocation and incitement by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It also calls upon Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention and comply with all its obligations.  By further terms, the Assembly calls for accountability for the illegal actions perpetrated by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

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.4/73/L.21), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 6 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 9 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Togo).

By its terms, the General Assembly demands that Israel cease all measures contrary to international law, as well as discriminatory legislation, policies and actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It also demands that Israel comply fully with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and cease all its settlement activities, construction of the wall and any other measures aimed at altering the character, status and demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Further, the Assembly demands that Israel comply with its obligations under international law and cease its imposition of prolonged closures and economic and movement restrictions, including those amounting to a blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The Committee also approved – by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 14 abstentions, a draft resolution titled “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/73/L.22).

By its terms, the General Assembly calls upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and, in particular, to desist from establishing settlements.  It also calls upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and identity cards on Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan.

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Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee first took up a series of draft resolutions (documents A/73/C.4/L.14-L.17) relating to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The representative of Indonesia introduced the drafts, saying they reflect the severe funding shortfalls jeopardizing the Agency’s operations.  They also reflect the international community’s strong support for UNRWA’s mandate, under which it serves the 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she added.  Highlighting the Agency’s delivery of vital services pending a just solution to the Middle East conflict, she said efforts to mobilize resources and ensure continuity of those essential services continue.  Donors responded with generosity at high-level meetings, as reflected in the drafts, calling for predictable funding of UNRWA, she recalled.  Detailing the list of drafts and summarizing their content, she said they reaffirm the international community’s support for the Agency.

The representative of Cuba then introduced five drafts relating to 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.4/73/L.18-L22).  She said they focus on well-documented violations of international law, particularly international humanitarian law, perpetrated by Israel.  Unfortunately, the number of such violations and human rights crises increased in the period covered by the report, with Israel continuing its illegal building of settlements in the occupied West Bank in contravention of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) and other relevant resolutions.  The texts under consideration address all such violations, further reiterating calls for Israel’s compliance with the United Nations Charter, the Fourth Geneva Convention and all relevant United Nations resolutions and urging measures to guarantee accountability for ongoing violations.  She expressed hope that Member States will support the drafts and take prompt measures to end Israel’s occupation.

The Committee then moved to take action on the four UNRWA-related drafts.

The representative of Israel, making a general statement, said the Special Committee and its mandate fail to address Arab aggression against his country, emphasizing that non-stop threats, violence and lack of regional stability constitute the main reasons for the failure to achieve peace.  At the United Nations, democratic voting procedures lack the necessary checks and balances, allowing nations to bully and act in discriminatory fashion against Israel, he said, pointing out that, as a Jewish State, it is a minority in the world.  It should be able to enjoy the same rights as the majority, he added, noting however that the whole United Nations system is subject to the interests of certain groups of nations discriminating against Israel.  Regarding UNRWA, he recalled the Commissioner-General’s remarks concerning refugee status, noting that only in the Palestinian situation is it inherited automatically rather than on a case‑by‑case basis.  Noting that the United Nations helps those in other refugee situations to end that status by resettling them elsewhere, he said that if that approach were applied to the Palestinian situation, millions of people would not be considered refugees.  He went on to outline the terror exercised by Hamas against civilians in Gaza and its de facto control of the Strip, noting that that no speaker in the Committee addresses that topic.  He emphasized that his delegation will not, therefore, join the series of anti-Israel resolutions, adding that no other country would act differently under the circumstances.

The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, said her delegation opposes the introduction of anti-Israel draft resolutions.  Expressing disappointment that those texts continue to single out Israel, she said they are quick to condemn its actions but say nothing about terrorist actions against Israeli civilians.  They blame Israel for the situation in Gaza while none mentions Hamas, she added.  The United States will vote against those one-sided draft resolutions and will be shifting from “abstention” to “no” on certain texts, she pledged.  As for UNRWA, she said the fundamental model and fiscal practices defining the Agency are unsustainable and called for new approaches, including bilateral support.  Describing the text “Occupied Syrian Golan” as absurd, she called upon the United Nations to focus on the conflict in Syria and its impact on that territory’s residents instead.  She went on to emphasize that her delegation will no longer abstain when the Organization engages in its vote on the Golan Heights, a text sponsored by the Syrian regime responsible for grievous war crimes in the area.  The United States will vote against that text, she vowed.

Next, the Committee approved the draft resolution “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/73/L.14), by a recorded vote of 161 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Solomon Islands).

It went on to approve — by a recorded 155 votes in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Palau, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Togo) — the draft resolution “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/73/L.15).

By a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Palau, Rwanda, Solomon Islands), the Committee approved the draft resolution “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/73/L.16).

The Committee then approved the draft resolution “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/73/L.17), by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Palau, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Togo).

The representative of Switzerland, speaking in explanation of position, said his delegation voted in favour of the drafts because UNRWA plays a key role in regional stability, adding that as a donor, Switzerland has contributed to the sustainability of the Agency’s work in the region.

The representative of Austria, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, pointed out that the regional bloc has not expressed a legal qualification of the term “forced displacement”, adding that the use of the term “Palestine” cannot be construed as recognition of the State of Palestine.  Expressing concern over mounting tensions around holy sites in Jerusalem, she called upon Member States to uphold the status quo for Haram al-Sharif in accordance with previous agreements and to preserve the role of Jordan.  The language of the draft resolution must reflect the importance of the three religions’ holy sites in Jerusalem, she emphasized.

Next, the Committee took up a series of resolutions related to 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.4/73/L.18-L.22).

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.4/73/L.18), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 77 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 79 abstentions.

It went on to approve — by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Palau, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, 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.4/73/L.19).

The Committee then approved the draft “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/73/L.20) by a recorded 153 votes in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, 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.4/73/L.21), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 6 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 9 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Togo).

It then approved — by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 14 abstentions, the draft “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/73/L.22).

The representative of Syria, speaking in explanation of position, noted that the entire membership of the Special Committee, except the United States and Israel, sent an unambiguous message to Israel regarding its occupation of the Syrian Golan by voting overwhelmingly in favour of the relevant draft resolution.  There is no time limit on the matter, regardless of the undermining efforts of Israel and the United States, he emphasized.  Condemning Israel’s attempt to conduct elections, establish settlements and coordinate with terrorists in the Golan, he said the occupation provides protection to terrorists and squanders the region’s wealth through exploitation by United States oil companies working in the region, he said, describing the contrast between that country’s negative vote and the overwhelming support for the draft resolution as a further demonstration that the role of the United States as a sponsor of peace in the region has ended.

The representative of Israel, expressing gratitude for support from the United States, said thousands were being slaughtered every day in Syria while the Government remained hooked up to the “IV” of Iranian support, adding that people seem to forget that reality when given a chance to slander Israel.  While it might not be popular to vote against the drafts, Israel will not be bullied into releasing the Golan Heights, he stressed.

The representative of Iran noted that by approving the draft resolutions, the Special Committee demonstrated its support for Palestine and its intention to hold the Israeli regime accountable for its actions.  While many resolutions have been adopted since the beginning of the conflict, Israel’s non-compliance, bolstered by the support of the United States, has prevented the international community from finding a resolution of the crisis, he noted, underlining that the Palestinian question must be resolved by terminating Israel’s occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian State.

The representative of Syria, making a general statement, emphasized that the question of Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan is not a question of whim governed by Israel, but a diplomatic and legal question.  That country’s representative was unable to understand the political legal message of today’s vote, he said, pointing out that he used the expression “Golan Heights” as an inaccurate description of the Occupied Syrian Golan, which includes valley, rivers and other land features.  The term “heights” indicates that the area must be retained for security purposes, as in the middle ages, he said, pointing out that higher ground no longer has any bearing on military security.  Regardless, the territory is Syrian, he emphasized, warning that if Israel does not return it to Syria, it has opened the door to other options, including war.  Furthermore, if Israel does not care for United Nations resolutions, it should exit the Organization, he added.

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For information media. Not an official record.