UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. (Dec. 8)
Israel has flatly rejected demands by the United Nations Security Council that it rescind all measures taken since June, 1967 to change the status of Jerusalem and to refrain from similar actions in the future. At the same time, Israel denounced the Security Council position, taken in a resolution on July 3, 1969 and condemned its failure to prevent “destruction and sacrilege” in the Old City of Jerusalem during the 19 years it was in Jordanian control.
The Israeli stand was disclosed today by Secretary General U Thant in a report to the Security Council. The reply, transmitted to Mr. Thant on Nov. 27, came after Mr. Thant had made three separate requests of Israel for information on what steps it was taking to comply with the Security Council resolution. The first request was made on Aug. 27.
In his reply, Foreign Minister Abba Eban reminded Mr. Thant that the division of Jerusalem arose out of Jordan’s “illicit armed action” in 1948 in defiance of the Security Council’s cease-fire appeals. The division was terminated, he said, “by hostilities initiated by Jordan in 1967.”
The Foreign Minister pointed out that “Jerusalem has been the focus of Israel’s faith and nationhood for 3,000 years hand has been Israel’s center of Government for two decades.” He declared that “it is inconceivable that Jerusalem should be torn apart again or that any international interests can be served by pressing for the city to be dismembered.”
These interests, he said, “are based on the Holy places of three great monotheistic religions. For the first time since 1948 the shrines of all faiths have been open to access by those who hold them sacred.” Israel has ensured that the Holy Places will “be administered under the responsibility of the religions concerned,” Mr. Eban declared. He pointed out that places of worship and religious institutions destroyed or damaged in the assaults of 1948 and 1967 have been or are being restored. He repeated the Israel Government’s willingness “to work out agreements with the representative bodies of the three religions to ensure that the universal and sacred character of the Holy Places is appropriately expressed and free access to them guaranteed.”
The Israeli Foreign Minister reminded the Secretary General that “Jerusalem is a living, secular city with 200,000 Jewish and 70,000 Arab inhabitants,” He pointed out that “normal movement and visit, residence, business activity and employment are open to all citizens in all parts of the city. Its economic welfare is being advanced and plans are taking shape to enhance its dignity and beauty.” He cited the participation of over 7,000 Arab residents in the recent Jerusalem Municipal election as demonstrating “their positive interest in the day-to-day administration of the united city.”
The progress made by united Jerusalem in the past two years, Mr. Eban said, “stands in sharp contrast to the situation which prevailed from 1948 to 1967 in the Jordan occupied section. After its occupation in 1948, the Jewish quarter of the Wailing-Old City was practically destroyed and scores of synagogues in it were laid waste. The ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated and partly demolished. No Jews were allowed access to “their most sacred shrine”–the Western (Wailing Wall, Mr. Eban noted, and even Moslem Arabs residing in Israel were not allowed to reach their Holy places.
Mr. Eban told the Secretary-General that “international opinion has every reason to regret that the Security Council remained completely indifferent to the destruction and sacrilege of Jewish houses of prayer, residences and burial grounds and violation of the principle of free access to the Holy Places. It would be incongruous,” he declared, “for a body which did nothing to prevent Jerusalem’s violent division to work now against its peaceful union or to censure measures taken to ensure the livelihood of all its inhabitants and to maintain public law and order despite occasional terrorist attacks upon the civil population, organized, directed and financed by the very Jordanian authorities which showed such callous disregard for Jerusalem’s peace and sanctity on many occasions during the past 20 years.”
“The sacred associations which are evoked by Jerusalem.” Mr. Eban declared, “should not become the object of political and religious incitement without regard for the genuine interests of the city and its inhabitants, as was the case during the unfortunate recent Security Council debate.” He expressed the belief that “world opinion will come to welcome the new prospect of seeing this ancient and historical metropolis thrive in unity, peace and spiritual elevation.” When final peace is established, Mr. Eban said, “it should embody agreements with the appropriate Christian and Moslem authorities to ensure expression of the universal religious interests involved.”