The report of the High Commissioner on Human Rights published on November 27 expresses its deep concern for the violence in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It voices strong reservations about the Palestinian conduct. The report also includes problematic elements which we find unacceptable.
The report claims that Israel uses excessive force. During the visit of the High Commissioner, Mary Robinson, Israel made it clear that the IDF is only taking action in response to violence, and is acting in self-defense. It is also using great restraint, with the aim of avoiding civilian casualties, where possible.
With regard to settlements, this issue will be discussed at the negotiating table. Israel demonstrated great willingness to discuss this issue during the Camp David summit, but the Palestinian leadership chose to resort to violence, instead of exhausting the negotiations process.
The Commissioner believes that the deployment of an international observer force in the territories should be considered, a matter which is being discussed in UN forums. In this context, Israel wishes to make it clear that it opposes the deployment of any international force prior to the accomplishment of an agreement.
With regard to the implementation of closures which cause some hardship for the Palestinian population, we wish to clarify that this is an essential security measure which has been taken following the Palestinian release of notorious terrorists and the imminent threat of terrorist attacks in Israel.
Israel respects the principles of humanitarian international law, and is doing its utmost to facilitate humanitarian assistance, the transfer of medicine and medical equipment, including medicine from Arab countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations. Unfortunately, the Palestinians have exploited ambulances for use in hostilities, and by doing so, flagrantly violate international law.
Israel reiterates that it will not cooperate with the implementation of the operative clauses of this one-sided resolution of the UN Commission on Human Rights of October 19, 2000 and the ECOSOC resolution of November 22, 2000. These resolutions were supported by a coalition of Arab and non-aligned states, conflicting with the positions of western countries known for their respect of human rights.
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. rights chief Mary Robinson called Monday for international monitors to be sent to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where she accused Israel of ``excessive use of force'' against Palestinians.
In a report to the U.N. General Assembly, she called on both Israeli security forces and the Palestinians to spare civilian lives and property, and make efforts to halt the ''current dangerous escalation'' of violence.
The death toll in two months of clashes in the tense region reached 281 people, most of them Palestinians, with the deaths of six Palestinians Monday.
Robinson said Israel had rejected so far the idea of an international monitoring or protection presence.
She also called for a halt to construction of new Jewish settlements in the territories, where Israeli military installations protecting them have become ``flashpoints for stone-throwing and shooting by Palestinians with severe retaliation by Israeli military,'' according to her report.
The former Irish president was reporting on a November 8-16 trip to Israel, the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Jordan and Egypt.
``The thrust of the report is urgently calling international attention to the bleak human rights situation in the occupied territories, the need for an international monitoring presence...and the need for measures to be taken to reduce the terrible violence,'' she told a news conference in Geneva.
``The number of killed and seriously injured -- disabled for life -- is very serious indeed, and a high percentage of those -- nearly 50 percent -- are under the age of 18,'' she added.
``I have put to them (Israeli defense officials) various points including the excessive use of force, live ammunition and rubber bullets at close range,'' Robinson said.
The economic effects have been ``devastating'' as Palestinians have also lost access to jobs because of Israeli security measures, the report said.
Partial Israeli Withdrawal Sought
Robinson called for Israeli defense forces to ``withdraw from some of their forward positions'' and lower their military profile generally in the territories, which she said could help break the cycle of violence.
``The construction of new settlements should cease and those located in the midst of heavily populated Palestinian areas should be removed,'' she added. ``As well as protecting settlers, Israeli security forces should also protect Palestinians from violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers.''
Robinson said that during her ``very frank'' meetings with senior Israeli Defense Force officers, she had raised the possibility of deploying an international monitoring or protection force in the territories.
``The viewpoint put to me was that Israel did not favor internationalizing the conflict in this way but they would prefer if possible to have dialogue resumed on the previous basis of continuing with basically the Oslo (peace) process.
``But I had an impression, it is just an impression, that it was not in fact completely ruled out on the Israeli side. I would hope that was the case,'' she added.