Menu JTA Search

Israel Disappointed with U.S. Vote on Resolution Against Deportations

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Israel is “deeply disappointed” with the U.S. support Tuesday night for a Security Council resolution demanding that Israel refrain from deporting Palestinians from the administered territories.

“We are deeply disappointed with the American vote. We have learned to expect one-sided and distorted resolutions from the Security Council, but we do not believe that the U.S. policy is to fall in with them,” Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

In a rare show of displeasure with Israel’s handling of the unrest in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the United States joined the 14 other members of the Security Council in adopting an Arab-sponsored resolution demanding that “Israel must refrain from deporting any Palestinian civilians from the occupied territories.”

The resolution also requests that Israel abide by the Geneva Convention of Aug. 12, 1949, which protects the rights of civilians in time of war and bans the deportation of civilians.

It was the second resolution in a month aimed against Israel. On Dec. 22, the Security Council voted 14-0 to strongly deplore Israel for its handling of riots in the territories. The United State, which as a permanent member of the Council has the right to veto any Security Council resolution, chose to abstain from voting.

Contrary to news reports that the United States last voted in favor of a Security Council resolution criticizing Israel in 1981, Israeli and American diplomats said Wednesday that such an American vote last took place in 1983.

‘UNNECESSARILY HARSH MEASURES’

Herbert S. Okun, the U.S. representative, told the Security Council after the vote that his country supported the resolution because it believes deportations of Palestinians are unnecessarily harsh measures to maintain order and only serve to increase tension in the territories.

“The United States recognizes that the Israeli authorities have the responsibility to maintain order in the occupied territories, and that they have the right to insist that the law is obeyed,” Okun stated.

“But as officials of the United States said, both publicly and in diplomatic representations, the actions of the occupying power must be in accordance with international law and practice,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Rose Berstein, said Wednesday that the United States voted for the resolution because its elements “are not different from what the U.S. has been saying in public” in recent weeks. She noted that the Reagan administration has called on Israel publicly not to deport any Palestinians and to adhere to the Geneva Convention.

Asked if the U.S vote in the Security Council Tuesday represents any change in American policy toward Israel, Berstein replied, “No, our policy has not changed. We did not vote against Israel. We only voted against the specific action of deportation.”

Netanyahu also said that he does not view the American vote as a change in U.S. policy toward Israel. “American policy is certainly not to promote the PLO and the forces of extremism,” the Israel envoy said, referring to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“Unfortunately, the last two resolutions by the Security Council, with U.S. acquiescence, will do just that. All those concerned with restoring tranquility must find a way to put a stop to the abuse of the Security Council by the PLO and its allies.”

In a speech at the Security Council after the vote, Netanyahu maintained that Israel has the right under international law to maintain order in the territories. He accused the PLO of organizing the riots in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the aim of damaging any prospects for a negotiated settlement in the region.

In Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called the American vote “a deviation in a serious direction” in U.S. government policy. And Moshe Arens, a Likud member of Knesset, spoke of a worrying “deterioration” in relations between the United States and Israel.

SHAMIR PLAYS DOWN VOTE

But Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir played down the significance of the vote, telling Likud ministers Wednesday that there were indications that the American move should be seen as a onetime action, rather than the sign of a radical shift in American policy toward Israel.

The prime minister urged that “verbal exchanges” between Israel and the United States not be intensified in the wake of the vote.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin appeared to shrug off the Security Council action. In a statement to reporters while touring the Gaza Strip Wednesday afternoon, Rabin said the decision to deport the Palestinians “is taken and is in the process of being implemented.”

In New York, Jewish leaders expressed “disappointment” over U.S. participation in the U.N. vote. Morris Abram. chairman of the Conferrence of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued a statement saying that the resolution “will not advance the cause of peace.”

“That approach will not lead to Arab-Israel negotiations,” he said, “but to further outbreaks and further disturbances.”

Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations, expressed similar sentiments in a statement released Wednesday. He called the U.S. vote regrettable and said the Security Council resolution “will be seen by the Palestinians as a license for further violence and further disturbances.”

Seymour Reich, president of B’nai B’rith International, said that instead of attacking the Israeli deportations, “the international community should encourage the Arab states and the Palestinian Arabs to declare their willingness to live in peace alongside of Israel, and not seek to destroy it.”

NEXT STORY