Following is the statement of Mr. Bader Al Dafa, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN-ESCWA Executive Secretary on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (29 November).
“The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People comes in the wake of General Assembly resolution 181 of 29 November 1947 that called for the partition of Palestine into two states. While in fact the Israeli state did materialize, the international community has yet to live up to its commitment towards the Palestinian people.
Paradoxically, the international community is firmly committed to the realization of a viable Palestinian state, yet this goal remains elusive. After six decades, Israeli practices in the occupied territory continue to be the most serious obstacle towards achieving this international commitment.
A few weeks ago I reported to the General Assembly on the deepening of the socio-economic crisis in Palestine. I do not wish to re-visit the exceptionally grim, humanitarian, social, economic and geographic realties in the occupied territory. But I would like to point out that Israel’s closure regime accentuated by the 408 km-long barrier in the West Bank and isolation of the Gaza Strip, have lead to increasing the poverty rates to 64 per cent, while unemployment has soared to 30 per cent. Today, there are 2.1 million poor Palestinians, compared with 1.3 million at the end of 2005. Sixty-five per cent of households rely on informal borrowing to make ends meet. Just think about what these figures actually mean.
Unfortunately, that is not all. The strict regime of closures is accompanied by the relentless buildup of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. We have witnessed a growth from 126,000 in 1993 to some 450,000 Israeli settlers in 2007. Here again there is international consensus on the illegality of settlements and their devastating role in the search for peace.
In summing up this sad state of affairs, I wish to refer to a recent presentation delivered by UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayed. She warned, and I am very much in agreement with this opinion, that the Palestinians have lost their faith in the international community’s ability to act in their best interests, since they cannot understand why stipulations of international law appear to be ignored in the occupied territory. This would have far reaching implications, which include – among other things - loss of hope, frustration and anger.
The longer we wait for peace, the greater the suffering, and the greater the price we will have to pay in order to achieve it. It is hoped that the Annapolis meeting in Maryland, USA, shall succeed in restarting the Middle East peace process. A process that is in conformity with the relentless calls of the Secretary-General and the international community for the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement, based on the relevant international norms and United Nations resolutions.
Amidst an increasingly crisis ridden Middle East, where perceptions are polarized into black and white, we cannot afford an endless continuation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We need to break the cycle of violence, hate and suffering. We are already sixty years late. “