NEW YORK (Oct. 18)
American Jewish leaders met Thursday with the U.S. envoy to the United Nations to express their anger and outrage over U.S. backing for last week’s Security Council resolution condemning the killing of 21 Arabs on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by Israeli police.
“Not many kind words were shared” with Ambassador Thomas Pickering, said Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which represents 46 national Jewish groups.
“This was certainly a heated and charged meeting, and I think we sent a message to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. that Israel is being treated unfairly and according to a double standard,” Reich said at a news conference following the session.
The meeting was attended by 75 members of the organization and reportedly was one of the most confrontational in years, with the Jewish community leaders expressing their shock and indignation over the sudden U.S. shift against America’s strongest ally in the Middle East.
According to Reich, Pickering implied U.S. support for the resolution stemmed from the political necessity of maintaining its coalition with Arab countries against Iraq in the Persian Gulf crisis.
But Reich said Pickering also seemed to suggest that the use of live ammunition by the Israeli police and the location of the confrontation on one of the holiest Moslem sites led the United States to support the resolution.
“When we heard this explanation, we couldn’t understand,” the Jewish leader said. “Israel has an unblemished record in protecting holy places, and we are sure there will be cases in the future when live ammunition no doubt will be used,” he said.
SECRETARY-GENERAL DELAYS DECISION
In Washington, Secretary of State James Baker came under similar fire at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Several members of the panel criticized the Bush administration for supporting the U.N. resolution condemning Israel.
Rep. Lawrence Smith (D-Fla.) called the U.N. resolution “unbalanced.”
Baker retorted that the Israeli response to the Arab rioting had been “unbalanced, and the resolution condemned the response.”
“We think that killing 21 people and wounding 150 through live fire simply was inexcusable,” he said.
But Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) said criticizing Israel before it had completed its own investigation was like issuing a sentence before the trial.
At the United Nations, meanwhile, Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar apparently has decided to wait before deciding whether to send a mission to Israel to investigate the Oct. 8 killings.
Such a mission was authorized in the resolution condemning Israel for the killings, which was adopted by the Security Council on Oct. 12. Last Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet issued a statement saying it would not cooperate with the U.N. investigation.
In response, Perez de Cuellar asked Israel to clarify its intentions by Thursday. Having received no response, the secretary-general requested a meeting Thursday evening with Israel’s acting U.N. representative, Ambassador Johanan Bein.
During the meeting, Israel was asked to provide the ways and means for the secretary general to follow through on the resolution’s demands, according to Yuval Rotem, a spokesman at the Israeli Mission to the United Nations.
“We agreed to cooperate on ways to assist the secretary-general to complete his report,” Rotem said.
Jewish leaders said officials of Israel, the United States and the United Nations are currently engaged in discussions aimed at exploring whether Israel’s own internal investigation, expected to be completed by early next week, could possibly satisfy the resolution’s call for a U.N. investigation of the killings.
During the meeting between Pickering and the Jewish leaders, the U.S. ambassador “indicated to us that discussions were on the way in an attempt to satisfy the needs of the resolution and put the issue behind us,” said Reich.
“In our judgment,” Reich said in a statement, the Israeli investigation should “meet the needs of Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar in fulfilling his mandate, so that the U.N. Security Council can get back to the real business at hand: dealing with the danger posed by Saddam Hus sein.”
(JTA correspondent Howard Rosenberg in Washington contributed to this report.)