Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (item 31) Mr. Chairman,
Israel is committed to making peace with the Palestinian people and seeing the day when our two peoples live side-by-side in peace and security. We demonstrated this commitment to peace when, two weeks ago, the Government of Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners convicted of murdering Israelis. This was a traumatic event for Israelis. Families of the victims watched as terrorists who committed the most heinous crimes, were praised and celebrated in Ramallah. Yet as painful as it is, Israel took this step because we are willing to make painful compromises to reach an agreement. Peace demands that brave steps be taken by both sides.
Today’s meeting offers yet another window into that “theater of the absurd.” This committee has chosen to devote its valuable time on a one-sided report that distorts the truth and turns a blind eye to the reality on the ground.
Unfortunately, the report of the Special Committee under consideration today does not – as the title infers – seek to advance human rights or promote Palestinian development. Nor does it bring us a single step closer to a lasting peace. Instead, it furthers a biased and one-sided narrative of the conflict and in doing so, advances a clear political agenda aimed at discrediting Israel.
The report is saturated with harsh criticisms of Israel, but conveniently forgets to mention the 10,000 rockets and mortars that have been launched toward Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip since 2001. Apparently, the indiscriminate targeting of innocent Israeli men, women and children is not a matter worthy of this committee’s time and attention.
The committee’s report also fails to mention Hamas’s well known practice of concelaing military installations in schools, hospitals, civilian homes and in close proximity to UN facilities. All this is in flagrant violation of international law. Apparently, Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields and the repeated war crimes it commits is also not a topic worthy of this committee’s attention.
In addition to disregarding acts of terror aimed at Israelis, this committee chooses to completely ignore the human rights violations by Palestinians against Palestinians. This report is devoid of any mention of Hamas and the PLO’s persecution of the Palestinian homosexual community.
The report is also silent on the Palestinians’ failure to protect the right of Christians to freedom of religion. It doesn’t mention that women’s rights are trampled on by the extremist Hamas government or that reporters are routinely beaten and jailed by Hamas.
There is abundant evidence demonstrating that this Committee’s conclusions are predetermined. As such, Israel refuses, and will continue to refuse to cooperate with a body that has shown itself to be prejudiced from the outset.
We have witnessed positive developments in the West Bank and in Gaza over the past year. These developments have been acknowledged by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other bodies that genuinely seek to promote peace.
Every month, trucks carrying hundreds of thousands of tons of goods – including food, medical equipment and construction materials – pass from Israel into the Gaza strip. In fact, the capacity of the Kerem Shalom crossing exceeds Gaza’s demand for goods.
Israel continues to cooperate with a number of UN agencies, international organizations, and partner countries to advance development projects in the Gaza Strip. In the past three years, Israel has approved 277 development projects. Any delay in the implementation of these projects is a result of the executing bodies and not on the part of Israel.
Israel took these steps despite the fact that Gaza remains under the control of Hamas, a ruthless terrorist regime that has committed itself to the destruction of Israel, and despite the fact that Gaza has become a launching pad for rocket and mortar fire into Israel.
In addition to the materials permitted to enter the Gaza Strip for approved international projects, Israel has significantly increased the amount of building materials entering Gaza for private sector use. And yet, in exchange for our goods and goodwill, Israel is repaid with tunnels of terror.
Just a few weeks ago, the Israel Defense Forces discovered a two kilometer tunnel originating in Gaza and ending just outside an Israeli community – not far from homes, kindergartens and playgrounds. The tunnel was built by Hamas using 500 tons of cement that had been earmarked for construction. I’ll repeat that again – 500 tons of cement. To understand how much that is, the Statue of Liberty weighs 225 tons. Just imagine how many schools, hospitals and homes could have been built.
Instead of building houses, Hamas is building smuggling tunnels. And instead of building schools, it is building terror networks. This is the reality that Israel has to live with every day. Instead of using construction materials to build a better future for the Palestinian people, the leadership in Gaza is committed to destroying the State of Israel. It may just be my hearing, but I have yet to hear the countries that demand Israel allow more cement into Gaza condemn these crimes.
Economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians continues to strengthen. This past summer, Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara renewed their dialogue. In addition to these ministerial meetings, teams from the two finance ministries have met repeatedly to discuss a series of topical economic issues, including tax collection.
One of the most important outcomes of these discussions has been the implementation of a new computer interface which integrates Israeli and Palestinian customs and tax collection systems. As a result, customs data are transmitted to the Palestinian Authority on a daily basis.
This is an important step that improves the Palestinian tax-collection system and is expected to increase the efficiency of the Palestinian customs system. This will in turn increase the PA’s revenues from direct customs collections.
Since March 2013, Israel has been transferring tax money that it collects at the beginning of each month on behalf of the PA. This year alone, Israel has transferred about $850 million in tax revenues to the PA.
Today, more than 100,000 Palestinians earn their living working in Israel or are employed by Israelis in Judea and Samaria. Their income constitutes more than 10% of the Palestinian GDP. In August 2013 Israel issued an additional 5,000 work permits to Palestinians.
However, increasing the number of work permits is a short-term solution. In the medium term, Israel supports the creation of job opportunities for Palestinians, by Palestinians, and continues to assist in this endeavor. To further this goal, our Minister for Regional Cooperation attended a four-party meeting of ministers that took place in Jericho. Israel also participated in the dedication of a new Japanese-funded industrial park in Jericho. The Japanese estimate that the park will create 7,000 new jobs.
Israel is also working to improve the movement of people and goods in Judea and Samaria. During the last Ramadan holiday and throughout the summer, about one million Palestinians entered Israel.
In the first half of 2013, more than 190,000 truckloads of goods passed through the crossing points between Israel and the West Bank, an increase of 12% on a similar period in the previous year.
At the Allenby Bridge, work was recently completed on upgraded passenger terminals for the comfort of tourists and other travelers. Israel is also investing about $10 million to install a Dutch-supplied cargo scanner at the terminal.
And yet – none of these statistics, none of these developments, none of these achievements, are found in this report. Apparently, these facts are significant enough to be reflected in the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee Report, but are not worthy of mention by this committee.
It is truly absurd to hear some of the world’s most oppressive tyrannies lecture the Middle East’s only true democracy on human rights and rule of law. One would think their efforts would be better spent improving the human rights situations in their own backyards. These cynical attacks undermine the professional nature of this forum. It’s unfortunate that certain delegations insist on politicizing and monopolizing the valuable time of this body.
Allow me to conclude by saying that Israel remains committed to two states for two peoples. We are ready to make an historic compromise to realize the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state living side-by-side with the Jewish state of Israel. This is the time to seize the moment and work towards a lasting solutions, not spread lies and foster hate.
Israelis and Palestinians will have to work together to resolve numerous complicated problems. This will only be possible if our work is built on a foundation of truth, mutual recognition, and security.
I call on my Arab neighbors to join Israel in taking concrete and courageous steps to pursue the path of peace. Let us end the cycle of inflammatory rhetoric which constantly disrupts the work of this committee and start utilizing its scarce resources for the purpose for which they were intended – to improve the lives of people, rather than to destroy them.
I hope that all parties work to address issues at the negotiating table rather than by pursuing divisive UN resolutions. Israel reiterates that the only way to achieve a lasting peace is through direct negotiations.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.