U.S. Blocks Security Council Measure Deploring Israeli Action in Beit Sahur

Calling the resolution “one-sided” and “unbalanced,” the United States vetoed a Security Council measure Tuesday that would have criticized Israel’s treatment of a West Bank village whose residents refused to pay taxes.

That all of the remaining 14 countries on the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution illustrated that Israel’s recent tentative steps toward negotiating with the Palestinians have so far failed to win the Jewish state any additional support in the United Nations forum.

Tuesday’s measure focused on Israel’s response to a tax strike by the village of Beit Sahur. In a tax-collection operation that took place from Sept. 20 to Oct. 31, Israeli authorities confiscated approximately $1.5 million in cash and property from the 320 residents who had not paid taxes.

During the operation, the town was cut off from most visitors, curfews were imposed and telephone lines were cut.

On the final day of October, the Israel Defense Force ended its crackdown on the town and asserted that it had accomplished its goal there.

The Arab bloc requested the Security Council meeting, in order to consider a resolution declaring that the council “strongly deplores” actions by Israel in the West Bank, including “the siege of towns, the ransacking of the homes of inhabitants” and “the confiscation of their property and valuables.”

The measure, which was debated for two days, would have called on Israel to return the seized property and also would have requested “on-site monitoring of the present situation in the Palestinian territory” by the U.N. secretary-general.

Throughout the day Monday, Security Council members sat silently as Israel was repeatedly chastised by Arab representatives, not only in regard to Beit Sahur, but for its overall policies in the administered territories and its refusal to heed previous Security Council resolutions.

PLO ALLOWED TO ADDRESS COUNCIL

Zehdi Terzi, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s U.N. observer mission, was invited to participate in the debate, over the objections of the United States.

Terzi argued that the people of Beit Sahur had been forced to fund their own occupation and that “taxation without liberation is tyranny.”

He followed with a long list of charges of Israeli wrongdoing in the administered territories, including the unjustified killing and imprisonment of Palestinian residents.

Israeli Ambassador Johanan Bein, in his speech, countered Terzi’s charges with graphic descriptions of inter-Palestinian violence and criticized the fact that mention of Arab-on-Arab clashes in the territories had been omitted from the resolution under consideration.

While the resolution “purports to express concern about the Palestinians,” Bein said, it “ignores completely the premeditated and cold-blooded murder of 150 Palestinians at the hands of the PLO.”

Instead, he contended, the resolution “directs all its fury on entirely legal measures, such as tax collection.”

Under international law, Bein said, Israel is entitled to collect taxes in Beit Sahur, and furthermore, “the taxes levied in the territories are used solely to finance the provision of services for the Palestinian residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, such as health, education and welfare.”

AGAINST ‘ONE-SIDED RESOLUTIONS’

In an explanation of the U.S. veto, Ambassador Thomas Pickering said that “one-sided resolutions,” such as the Beit Sahur measure, and the debates that accompany them “exacerbate tensions and distract the parties from the critical issues that need to be addressed in the region.”

Tuesday’s measure was the third Security Council resolution in the past year condemning Israel that the United States has vetoed.

But the United States abstained from, and thereby allowed the Security Council to pass, resolutions this summer criticizing Israel for deporting Palestinians from the territories.

Recognizing this, Pickering said that the United States has “accepted passage of resolutions on these issues when they have met the tests of balance and fairness.”

Ironically, one of the sponsors of the draft resolution condemning Israel was the nation of Ethiopia, which, on the same day the debate began, restored full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state that it severed in 1967. The other sponsors were Algeria, Colombia, Malaysia, Nepal, Senegal and Yugoslavia.

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