JERUSALEM (Oct. 15)
Israel’s furious reaction to the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the fatal shooting last week of 21 Arab rioters on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem intensified Monday.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, in a fiery speech at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session, issued a clarion call to the nation and to Jews the world over — particularly in the United States — to rally around Israel against the resolution, which he denounced as biased.
All Israelis and Jews abroad “can only look aghast” at the tendentiousness of the U.N. position, Shamir declared.
A similar call was issued by World Zionist Organization Chairman Simcha Dinitz, who urged Zionist groups around the world to protest the “distorted and one-sided resolution.”
The resolution, which condemned the excessive use of force by Israeli police that also left more than 150 Arabs wounded, called on the U.N. secretary-general to send a team to Jerusalem to investigate the incident and report back.
But Shamir’s Cabinet voted unanimously Sunday not to receive the U.N. mission or cooperate with it.
The Cabinet did not bar the U.N. secretary-general’s emissaries from entering Israel. But Defense Minister Moshe Arens, apparently reflecting the prevailing government attitude, made it clear in a U.S. television interview that it would be better if the three-member mission stayed home.
Washington, however, seems equally determined that the Security Council’s mandate is carried out.
“I want to see that U.N. resolution fully implemented,” President Bush told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Texas. “We are a part of it, and we think it’s the right step.”
In Washington, State Department spokes-woman Margaret Tutwiler said Monday that the United States “voted for this resolution because we think it is right. And therefore we are disappointed that the Israeli government has decided not to cooperate with the mission.”
A WARNING FROM MITTERRAND
In Paris, French President Francois Mitterrand said he hoped Israel would reconsider its decision. “A country which refuses to apply a Security Council decision risks a far more severe resolution,” he warned.
Prior to the Cabinet’s decision Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker had urged Israel to cooperate with the U.N. team.
In a letter to Foreign Minister David Levy, Baker warned that by rejecting it, Israel would open itself to charges in some quarters that it is no better than Iraq, which also ignores U.N. resolutions.
Baker’s letter also reportedly warned that rejection would keep the Jerusalem dispute in the limelight, while it is in the mutual interests of Israel and the United States to focus world attention on Baghdad and the Kuwait crisis.
Those pleas have fallen on deaf ears, given the mood in Israel.
Shamir accused the Security Council of deliberately ignoring a Palestinian attack on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall during the Sukkot holiday.
He defended the police, who he said reacted “to a cruel, criminal and unprecedented attack” on Judaism’s holiest site. According to Shamir, that was the ultimate sacrilege and should have occasioned unequivocal world condemnation and protest.
He insisted the violence was triggered by “the criminal acts of the Arab mob.”
Shamir also charged that the motive behind the Security Council’s unanimous support for the measure was “the current international situation.”
That was an oblique reference to Washington’s strenuous efforts to maintain the solidarity of its international alliance against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, especially the Arab component.
TOUGH RHETORIC AT CABINET SESSION
Other members of Shamir’s Cabinet were no less fervent in their condemnation of the U.N. resolution and the U.S. role in orchestrating it.
David Magen of Likud, the minister of economics and planning, reportedly spoke so harshly of the United States that Levy, himself a hard-liner, interjected, “Those are our closest friends you’re talking about.”
The mood of the Cabinet appears to reflect the views of the country as a whole, making it especially difficult for the opposition parties to speak out against government positions they consider extreme and counterproductive.
The Labor Party sought a middle position from which it could flay both the Security Council’s resolution for its bias and the government for various acts of omission.
Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, who addressed the Knesset after Shamir, said refusal to receive the U.N. team would only increase Israel’s isolation and ensure that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would divert world attention from the situation in the Persian Gulf.
Although Labor has taken a far more moderate stand than Likud on Jewish settlement in the administered territories, Peres criticized Foreign Minister Levy and Shamir as well for formally promising Baker last month that U.S.-guaranteed loan money for housing Soviet immigrants would not be used in areas captured by Israel in June 1967.
Peres said he would never have given the Americans such a sweeping commitment, because it implies clearly that those parts of Jerusalem that Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 are included. That severely prejudices Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the entire city, Peres said.
In saying this, the Labor Party leader was knowingly pouring salt on a wound. Levy has been criticized for his undertaking by one of Shamir’s closet aides, Yossi Ben-Aharon, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, and by Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, his rival for eventual leadership of Likud.
There are indications, in fact, that Shamir’s office is seeking ways to withdraw Levy’s commitment.
SUPPORT FROM JEWISH GROUPS
The government as a whole has mounted the political, diplomatic and rhetorical barricades to portray itself as defender of Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem against a cynical and largely hostile world.
Its point of view has largely been endorsed by Jewish organizations in the United States.
In New York, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council issued a statement Monday saying it understands “Israel’s reluctance to subject itself to the scrutiny of a U.N. commission of inquiry,” pointing out that the United Nations has had “an abysmal record with regard to Israel.”
NJCRAC, which represents 11 national Jewish organizations and more than 100 community relations councils, said it understood Israel’s concern that the U.N. team could “directly or indirectly call into question Jerusalem’s status.”
Similar statements were issued by a number of Jewish groups, including the normally dovish American Jewish Congress.
But Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Reform movement’s Union of American He brew Congregations, called on Jerusalem to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, saying “Israel would best be served by making its case to the world community.”
(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondents David Friedman in Washington and Edwin Eytan in Paris.)