UNITED NATIONS (May. 9)
A three-month battle over a Security Council resolution that would condemn Soviet Jewish settlement in Israel’s administered territories reached a fever pitch here this week.
A final vote on the resolution was indefinitely postponed Wednesday morning. But sources said it could be reintroduced at any time.
The Israeli mission here and major Jewish organizations were alarmed by drafts of the resolution that had been circulated this week. They vigorously lobbied the Bush administration against supporting the language.
“The draft under discussion is very disturbing,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “We are very concerned about it, and we are engaged in discussions with the administration about it.”
“The almost-final touches have been put on a draft resolution which, in our view, is very grave and has in it elements which go beyond the context of what the U.S. would like to say,” said Ephraim Dowek, Israel’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.
What has upset the Israelis the most is not the specific language of the resolution, but the fact that the United States has been centrally involved in negotiations to draft a resolution containing language it would not have to veto in a Security Council vote.
The United States, as one of four permanent members of the 15-member Security Council, has the power to block any resolution by voting against it. If it abstains, however, the resolution can still be adopted.
U.S. ABSTENTION CONSIDERED LIKELY
It is generally believed that the United States would prefer a draft that it could abstain from voting on. But sources in the American Jewish community did not rule out the possibility of a U.S. vote in favor of the resolution.
A “yes” vote would send a clear signal to the Israelis about the depth of U.S. dissatisfaction with its settlement policies, especially if the draft includes specific language condemning settlement of immigrants in Jerusalem.
U.S. representatives have been involved in the negotiations with the non-aligned group of nations over the resolution ever since the Soviet Union brought the issue to the Security Council for debate.
Sources said that it was the Arab nations that decided to postpone the vote, because the Americans and the non-aligned countries were not able to hammer out language that would guarantee an American vote in favor of the resolution.
That fact does not lessen the Israeli government’s dismay that the United States is so actively engaged in the negotiations.
“There’s no point for the United States, as a friendly country and a staunch ally of Israel, to try and reach an agreement around a debate that was called for by the Soviet Union because of Arab pressure,” Dowek said.
“The Arab goals are not settlements or territories, but stopping the immigration to Israel, because they think the immigration is strengthening Israel and will make it more difficult to liquidate,” he said.
Dowek said the non-aligned group was giving the Arab nations “an umbrella for diplomatic purposes” and that the United States was, in fact, negotiating with the Arab countries.
“The Security Council and the United Nations, in general, are not the best place for the United States to send messages to Israel or to discuss matters of life and death for Israel with its sworn enemies,” he said.
A SUDDEN VISIT TO ISRAEL
Hoenlein said the Conference of Presidents expressed deep concern to the Bush administration on “the language, the content, and the timing” of the resolution.
He said the resolution “targeted” Soviet Jewish immigration, and he expressed concern that the resolution would come at a delicate time in Israeli politics.
Hoenlein spoke on his return Wednesday from a 24-hour visit to Israel with Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents.
According to reports, the meetings, which were held with acting Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and political leaders from a number of different political parties, were “intense” and “serious.”
The tone reflected the growing stresses in U.S.-Israeli relations, as well as concern among organized American Jewry about the political instability in Israel.
It was “an opportune time for us to go to get a better sense of what was going on in Israel,” Hoenlein said.
The trip was a last-minute decision, planned only after last weekend. Hoenlein said the discussions covered a range of topics, including the future of the peace process, U.S.-Israel relations and the resettlement of Soviet Jews.