Palestinian President’s Speech at UNGA
President of the UNGA,
Secy-Gen of the United Nations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I wish to extend my congratulations to Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser on his assumption of the Presidency of the Assembly for this session, and wish him all success.
I reaffirm my sincere congratulations, on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinians, to the government and people of South Sudan for its deserved admission as a full member of the UN, wishing them progress and prosperity.
I also congratulate the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, on his election for a new term at the helm of the UN. This renewal of confidence reflects the world’s appreciation for his efforts, which have strengthened the role of the UN.
The Question Palestine is intricately linked with the UN via the resolutions adopted by its various organs and agencies and via the essential and lauded role of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East – UNRWA – which embodies the international responsibility towards the plight of Palestine refugees, who are the victims of Al-Nakba (Catastrophe) that occurred in 1948. We aspire for and seek a greater and more effective role for the UN in working to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in our region that ensures the inalienable, legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people as defined by the resolutions of international legitimacy of the UN.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A year ago, at this same time, distinguished leaders in this hall addressed the stalled peace efforts in our region. Everyone had high hopes for a new round of final status negotiations, which had begun in early September in Washington under the direct auspices of President Barack Obama and with participation of the Quartet, and with Egyptian and Jordanian participation, to reach a peace agreement within one year. We entered those negotiations with open hearts and attentive ears and sincere intentions, and we were ready with our documents, papers and proposals. But the negotiations broke down just weeks after their launch because Israeli government refuses to commit to terms of reference — the core issue — for the negotiations that are based on international law and UN resolutions, and that it frantically continues to intensify building of settlements on the territory of the State of Palestine.
Settlement activities embody the core of the policy of colonial military occupation of the land of the Palestinians and all of the brutality of aggression and racial discrimination against our people that this policy entails. This policy, which constitutes a breach of international humanitarian law and UN resolutions, is the primary cause for the failure of the peace process, the collapse of dozens of opportunities, and the burial of the great hopes that arose from the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993 between the PLO and Israel to achieve a just peace that would begin a new era for our region.
The reports of UN missions as well as by several Israeli institutions and civil societies convey a horrific picture about the size of the settlement campaign, which the Israeli government does not hesitate to boast about and which it continues to execute through the systematic confiscation of the Palestinian lands and the construction of thousands of new settlement units in various areas of the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem, and accelerated construction of the annexation Wall that is eating up large tracts of our land, dividing it into separate and isolated islands and cantons, destroying family life and communities and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of families. The occupying Power also continues to push them away from their ancestral homeland and to undertake excavations that threaten our holy places, and its military checkpoints prevent our citizens from getting access to their mosques and churches, and it continues to besiege the Holy City. In addition, orders have been issued to deport elected representatives from Jerusalem.
The occupation is racing against time to redraw the borders on our land according to what it wants and to impose a fait accompli on the ground that changes the realities and that is undermining the realistic potential for the existence of the State of Palestine. At the same time, the occupying Power continues to impose its blockade on the Gaza Strip and to target Palestinians by assassinations, air strikes and artillery shelling, persisting with its war of aggression of three years ago on Gaza, which resulted in massive destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, and mosques, and the thousands of martyrs and wounded.
These are just a few examples of the policy of the Israeli colonial settlement occupation, and this policy is responsible for the continued failure of the successive international attempts to salvage the peace process. This policy will destroy the chances of achieving a two-State solution upon which there is an international consensus, and here I caution aloud: This settlement policy threatens to also undermine the structure of the Palestinian National Authority and even end its existence. In addition, we now face a threat to the future of a million and a half Christian and Muslim Palestinians.
In 1974, our deceased leader Yasser Arafat came to this hall and assured the Members of the General Assembly of our affirmative pursuit for peace, urging the UN to realize the inalienable national rights of the Palestinians, stating: “Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”. In 1988, President Arafat submitted the Palestinian peace program adopted by the Palestine National Council at its session held that year in Algeria.
When we adopted this program, we were taking a painful and very difficult step for all of us, especially those, including myself, who were forced to leave their homes and their towns and villages, carrying only some of our belongings and our grief and our memories and the keys of our homes to the camps of exile and the Diaspora in the 1948 Al-Nakba.
Yet, because we believe in peace and because of our conviction in international legitimacy, and because we had the courage to make difficult decisions for our people and we agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22% of the territory of historical Palestine – on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I confirm, on behalf of the PLO which will remain so until the end of the conflict in all its aspects and until the resolution of all final status issues, the following:
1. The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of their inalienable national rights in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the land of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in the June 1967 war, in conformity with the resolutions of international legitimacy and with the achievement of a just and agreed upon solution to the Palestine refugee issue in accordance with resolution 194, as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative which presented the consensus Arab vision to resolve the core the Arab-Israeli conflict and to achieve a just and comprehensive peace. To this we adhere and this is what we are working to achieve. Achieving this desired peace also requires the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay.
2. The PLO and the Palestinians adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms, especially State terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between the PLO and Israel.
3. We adhere to the option of negotiating a lasting solution to the conflict in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy. Here, I declare that the PLO is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference based on international legitimacy and a complete cessation of settlement activities.
4. Our people will continue their popular peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation and its settlement and apartheid policies and its construction of the racist annexation Wall, and they receive support for their resistance, which is consistent with international humanitarian law and international conventions and has the support of peace activists from Israel and around the world, reflecting an impressive, inspiring and courageous example of the strength of this defenseless people, armed only with their dreams, courage, hope and slogans in the face of bullets, tanks, tear gas and bulldozers.
5. When we bring our plight and our case to this international podium, it is a confirmation of our reliance on the political and diplomatic option and is a confirmation that we do not undertake unilateral steps. Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or de-legitimizing it; rather we want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine. We only aim to de-legitimize the settlement activities and the occupation and apartheid and the logic of ruthless force, and we believe that all the countries of the world stand with us in this regard.
I am here to say: We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peace-making. I say to them: Let us urgently build together a future for our children where they can enjoy freedom, security and prosperity. Let us build the bridges of dialogue instead of checkpoints and walls of separation, and build cooperative relations based on parity and equity between two neighboring States – Palestine and Israel – instead of policies of occupation, settlement, war and eliminating the other.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Despite the unquestionable right of our people to self-determination and to the independence of our State as stipulated in international resolutions, we have accepted in the past few years to engage in what appeared to be a test of our worthiness, entitlement and eligibility. During the last two years our national authority has implemented a program to build our State institutions. The reports issued recently by the UN, the WB, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) and the International Monetary Fund confirm and laud what has been accomplished, considering it a remarkable and unprecedented model.
It is no longer possible to redress the issue of the blockage of the horizon of the peace talks with the same means and methods that have been repeatedly tried and proven unsuccessful over the past years. The crisis is far too deep to be neglected, and what is more dangerous are attempts to simply circumvent it or postpone its explosion.
It is neither possible, nor practical, nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual, as if everything is fine. It is futile to go into negotiations without clear parameters and in the absence of credibility and a specific timetable. Negotiations will be meaningless as long as the occupation army on the ground continues to entrench its occupation, instead of rolling it back, and continues to change the demography of our country in order to create a new basis on which to alter the borders.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a moment of truth and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world. Will it allow Israel to continue its occupation, the only occupation in the world? Will it allow Israel to remain a State above the law and accountability? Will it allow Israel to continue rejecting the resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice and the positions of the overwhelming majority of countries in the world?
I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (PBUH), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the Diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: Enough. It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence.
At a time when the Arab peoples affirm their quest for democracy – the Arab Spring – the time is now for the Palestinian Spring, the time for independence.
My people desire to exercise their right to enjoy a normal life and democracy like the rest of humanity. They believe what the great poet Mahmoud Darwish said: Standing here, staying here, permanent here, eternal here, and we have one goal, one, one: to be.
I say: The time has come for my courageous and proud people to live like other peoples of the earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland. I would like to inform you that, before delivering this statement, I submitted, in my capacity as the President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, an application for the admission of Palestine on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, as a full member of the UN.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I call upon Secretary-General to expedite transmittal of our request to the Security Council, and I call upon the distinguished members of the UNSC to vote in favor of our full membership. I also call upon the States that did not recognized the State of Palestine as yet to do so.
Your support for the establishment of the State of Palestine and for its admission to the United Nations as a full member is the greatest contribution to peacemaking in the Holy Land.
I thank you.