Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Public Forum Opening Remarks by H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin Head of Delegation Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People


Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, I would like to warmly welcome you to the United Nations Public Forum in Support of the Palestinian People.

Many of you also attended the United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, which just concluded yesterday. Among the topics discussed at that gathering was the question of Jerusalem, as a key to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Since this issue is of utmost concern to us all, it will also be the focus for this meeting of civil society.

Jerusalem arouses global passions in a way that few other locales can. And yet those passions, instead of creating a bastion of cross-cultural understanding and harmony, are changing one of the world’s great cities from a symbol of spiritualism and co-existence into one of injustice and suppression.

The international community has never recognized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem following its occupation in June 1967. Also our Committee views East Jerusalem as an integral part of the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel. We regularly point out and criticize Israeli policies of creating facts on the ground and changing the demographic composition of the city.

Since 1967, Israel has built more than 50,000 homes for Israelis in East Jerusalem. Compare that to 600 homes for Palestinians, the last of which were built 35 years ago. Since they cannot build legally, Palestinians are being forced to build without permits, which often leads to Israeli demolitions of their homes. And when it comes to real estate in the holy city of Jerusalem, an Israeli can buy a home anywhere. But a Palestinian cannot.

As we all know, East Jerusalem is home to a wealth of religious, archaeological and cultural sites. But we are seeing control of many of these sites falling into the hands of extreme settler groups. As a result, the Christian, Muslim and Palestinian aspects of the city are being swept under the rug. And because of Israeli restrictions, Palestinian Muslims and Christians are losing access to the historical mosques and churches to which they are emotionally attached.

The Committee considers that a negotiated solution on the status of Jerusalem, which takes into account the political and religious concerns of all sides, should be an integral part of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and lasting peace in the entire region. It should include internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to holy places by the Palestinian people and peoples of all religions and nationalities.

Any agreement that does not include East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian State will not lead to sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace. Also, Government-sanctioned settlement construction, transfer of settlers, house demolitions, evictions of Palestinian residents and other action aimed at altering or purporting to alter the legal status and physical and demographic character of the city, constitute violations of international law and must be ceased and rescinded.

It is my hope that today’s Public Forum will give you, as members of civil society, the chance to share your views on the situation in the city and to discuss on how to move forward on the topic of Jerusalem, and thus, on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in general. You will hear presentations on what is happening in the city today, including on home demolitions, forced evictions, settlements, the revocation of residency rights and IDs, and security concerns, including rising crime rates. A specific emphasis has been put on the role of non-State actors in promoting peace in Jerusalem, including through interfaith dialogue and people-to-people diplomacy.

Today’s meeting is part of our Committee’s programme of cooperation with civil society by providing venues and opportunities for organizations and individuals to come together to exchange views and broaden their international networks in support of the Palestinian people. Also, the Bureau of the Committee periodically holds consultations with civil society representatives to seek their input and new ideas as to how the Committee’s work could be improved. Moreover, the Committee continues to receive, with high appreciation, valuable analyses, statistics and other important information on the situation on the ground from academic institutes, think tanks and other organizations, which are extremely useful for our activities.

The Committee commends civil society organizations for their efforts to uphold international legitimacy with regard to the question of Palestine through advocacy and the mobilization of public opinion and for their initiatives aimed at alleviating the plight of the Palestinian people. The Committee also encourages civil society organizations to broaden their base, involving trade unions and other large organizations, and to focus and harmonize their advocacy efforts at the local, national, regional and international levels.

I would like to inform you that Phyllis Bennis, a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, and Sylvia Tiryaki, Deputy Director of the Global Political Trends Center here at Istanbul Kültür University, will moderate today’s Public Forum. On behalf of the Committee, I would like to thank Ms. Bennis and Dr. Tiryaki for agreeing to that role. I am sure we will have constructive and lively deliberations.

Thank you very much.

CLOSING SESSION Statement by H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin Head of the Delegation Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People


Distinguished speakers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process is drawing to a close. On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, I would like to thank all participants for their contribution to the successful holding of this Meeting. I would like to once again register our sincere appreciation to the Government of Turkey for hosting this timely and important event and for the generous hospitality extended to all of us. The Committee looks forward to continuing and expanding this excellent cooperation we have with Turkey towards the common goal of finding a solution to the question of Palestine.

The Committee has convened this Meeting to garner support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Our special thanks go to the distinguished speakers for sharing with us their valuable insights and expertise. We know that there are still large obstacles lying ahead in the peace process. We clearly know what those hurdles are. We know that crucial provisions of international law and United Nations resolutions are not being upheld. We are all actually aware of what needs to be done to bring peace, as articulately described in the concluding document just presented. Some of the issues we have discussed during the past two days are extremely sensitive, politically and emotionally, but none of them can be neglected and excluded from the permanent status negotiations if a lasting peace is to be achieved.

The international community has legal and moral responsibilities to restore the long-lost justice. The Committee reiterates that the root cause of the conflict is the occupation by Israel of the Palestinian Territory, which has lasted for more than four decades. Palestinians have suffered for far too long. Years of occupation have also affected the lives of Israelis. This unacceptable situation must be urgently redressed to allow both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security.

As I said in my opening statement, what is more important than the deliberations is to translate all the ideas and suggestions into reality. Our Committee will always be at your disposal for this endeavour. The Committee will continue to work to raise awareness of the question of Palestine based on the mandate given by the General Assembly of the United Nations. I would like to announce that our next meeting will be the United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine, which will be held in Rabat, Morocco on 1 and 2 July. Invitations are currently being sent out.

I would like to inform you that related documents and all other information about this Meeting will be available on the “Question of Palestine” website maintained by the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat. A list with the respective links has been distributed by the Secretariat. I would also like to invite you to visit the new Facebook page that the Division has recently launched, which will help you keep updated on all of our activities.

Before concluding, I would like to express our Committee’s sincere appreciation to the staff of the United Nations Secretariat , the Division for Palestinian Rights, the Conference Services team coming from Vienna, all interpreters, the press officer, the staff of the Sheraton Hotel, and staff of the Intra servicing company. The successful holding of the Meeting would have been impossible without their professional assistance.

Thank you all once again.

OPENING SESSION Statement by H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin Head of the Delegation Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People


Distinguished speakers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you to the United Nations International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, under the theme “Ending the occupation and establishing the Palestinian State.”

At the outset, allow me to reiterate our Committee’s sincere appreciation through His Excellency Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, for the decision of the Government of Turkey to host our important Meeting. The holding of this Meeting in this country holds great significance. We are very much aware and appreciative of Turkey’s foreign policy dynamism and the leadership role it is playing in the region in recent years on many issues. The contribution of Turkey to the quest for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict spans many decades. Let me recall that Turkey was one of the three founding members of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, established in the wake of the 1948 war. Having deep historical and cultural roots in the region, Turkey is strategically placed to be a trusted interlocutor to the various conflicting parties, while at the same time remaining a steadfast champion of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

Turkey is always at the forefront in the region, whether promoting intra-Palestinian reconciliation, suggesting innovative solutions to the stalemate in the peace process, working on revitalizing the other tracks of the Middle East peace process, providing educational opportunities for Palestinians, sending relief goods to Gaza, building industrial zones, tirelessly advocating and mobilizing for the two-State solution, or patrolling as part of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron or UNIFIL in Lebanon. The commitment of Turkey to peace and stability in the region is well known and deeply appreciated by the international community, and we are privileged to have Turkey as a founding member of the Committee.

Our Committee, established in 1975 as the only United Nations organ exclusively entrusted with the political aspects of the question of Palestine, attaches great importance to this Meeting. We are grateful to all the officials from Governements and intergovernmental organizations, as well as to the experts and civil society representatives participating in our Meeting. Let me state, however, that I would not consider our mission accomplished if this Meeting solely provided a platform to restate our long-held positions, important though they are. We hope it would take us a step further towards a critical re-examination of some of the long-held assumptions and old patterns related to the peace process.

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Madrid peace conference, which ushered in the peace process. We need to take a hard look at what went right and, more importantly, at what went wrong in the intervening two decades. The sovereign State of Palestine, free from foreign occupation, is still just a vision. The sense of frustration is palpable among Palestinians and in the region in general, both with the open-ended Israeli occupation and the open-ended peace process, which has proceeded by fits and starts, in bouts of inconclusive negotiations, raising expectations then failing to meet them. The patience of Palestinians with the peace process, and with the two-State solution in general, is wearing thin.

By many significant measures the Palestinians are worse off today than they were at the outset of the peace process. One of the obvious casualties has been their freedom of movement. Two thirds of Gazans under 30, meaning those who grew up during the peace process, have never had an opportunity to set foot outside Gaza. They have no first-hand experience of the world outside, and that includes the West Bank. The unacceptable blockade has reduced Gazans to building houses out of mud, to replace those wantonly destroyed during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead more than a year ago. The situation in the West Bank is not much better, with the separation wall and settler-only roads criss-crossing the land, dotted with Israeli settlements and checkpoints. The end result is geographical discontinuity, which is discouraging investment and choking off meaningful economic development, leaving the Palestinians massively dependent on foreign aid. Needless to say, humanitarian assistance and budget support by donors mostly going to pay current civil service salaries are hardly a sustainable basis to build a viable State on.

Against this rather bleak background, the resumed indirect Israeli-Palestinian negotiations mediated by the United States offer some encouragement. Our Committee welcomes the start of the indirect talks and hopes that they will soon lead to tangible results on the ground, such as unobstructed movement of persons and goods in the West Bank, and end of the blockade of Gaza, the release of Palestinian prisoners and the enlargement of the area under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Equally important is a credible mechanism to monitor and ensure the parties’ compliance with their Road Map obligations and other commitments while the talks unfold. The parties should refrain from any unilateral actions changing the status quo on the ground and from incitement that could jeopardize the ongoing efforts. Such steps would create the required atmosphere for direct negotiations between the parties that will tackle all final status issues without exception.

Unfortunately, the initial signs are far from encouraging. On the ground, new massive settlement projects are awaiting the end of the 10-month settlement freeze. Demolitions of Palestinian homes continue unabated. Top Israeli officials are signalling the intention to persevere with the illegal settlement campaign in occupied East Jerusalem and to continue to depopulate the city of its indigenous Palestinian population, in defiance of the collective will of the international community, including the Quartet, and in total disregard of international law. These acts undermine the very basis of a negotiated settlement and destroy the credibility of the political process.

To quote President Abbas, Jerusalem holds the key to a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. A clear message should be sent to Israel, the occupying Power, that its unilateral actions aimed at altering the status of East Jerusalem and its demographic and cultural characters will not be recognized by the international community and will be firmly rejected.

Equally disturbing are the new Israeli military orders threatening thousands of West Bank Palestinians with deportation. Labelled as “infiltrators” in their own native land, these Palestinians can be arbitrarily deprived of their right of residency and summarily deported at the whim of a military commander. These and other similar measures constitute grave violations of international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.

A positive development that we have been championing is the comprehensive blueprint for a Palestinian State in two years unveiled by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in August 2009, which has garnered wide support by the international community. Aiming to end the Palestinian economy’s dependence on Israel, harmonize the legal system and streamline governance, the plan also involves building infrastructure, harnessing natural resources, and improving housing, education, and agriculture. The Plan aims to end the occupation by creating positive facts on the ground. No longer content to be at the mercy of external forces, the Palestinians want to take control of their destiny, building a future incrementally from the ground up. The Palestinian State-building agenda complements the negotiating process, and hopefully the two will run on mutually reinforcing tracks and eventually converge in the not so distant future. The revolutionary nature of the plan demands an equally bold response by the international community.

The right of the Palestinians to self-determination and sovereignty, acknowledged by the terms of General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947, has been annually reaffirmed by successive UN resolutions adopted by the overwhelming majority. This right is an inalienable right, which means it is not contingent on any agreement or someone’s goodwill, and it is not for any party to the negotiations or external Power to withhold or grant.

Upon the expected conclusion of the Fayyad Plan in August 2011, it will be time for the other countries supporting the Palestinian right to self-determination so overwhelmingly with their votes in the General Assembly to stand up and be counted, follow the lead of others and recognize Palestine, as a responsible member of the community of nations. It gives me great pleasure to recall that our host Turkey was among the first countries to recognize Palestine, and I would like to encourage other countries represented here to do likewise when appropriate. At the end of the projected two years, this recognition could be enshrined in a Security Council resolution clearly determining the borders of the Palestinian State based on the pre-1967 lines. By putting the weight of its authority behind this plan, the Council would create the necessary political framework for ending the occupation and implementing the two-State solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our Committee is convinced that only serious and sustained international engagement will bring about a peaceful and negotiated settlement of all outstanding issues and reverse the growing support for radical forces that promote violent and unilateral approaches to ending the conflict. The Committee remains committed to contributing constructively and actively to international efforts aimed at the achievement of a peaceful settlement.

This United Nations International Meeting is one important step in that direction. We are looking forward to analyses and inputs from our distinguished experts representing think tanks, academic institutions, the United Nations, and civil society.

I thank you all and hope that in the course of the coming two days, you will have an opportunity to engage in a stimulating and useful discussion of the issues at hand.

Thank you very much.