Israel May Face Second Rebuke from U.N. on Temple Mount Riots

Israel may soon face a second rebuke from the U.N. Security Council for its handling of the Oct. 8 riots on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which left 21 Arabs dead and resulted in the first U.S. backed condemnation of Israel in eight years.

A strongly worded resolution now under consideration by the Security Council criticizes Israel for its unwillingness to cooperate with the U.N. team that was to investigate the shooting incident, in which Israeli police also wounded some 150 Arabs.

The new resolution, introduced last Friday by Arab and non-aligned members of the 15-member Security Council, “deplores the refusal of the Israeli government” to receive the U.N. team and “demands that it comply fully” with the original Oct. 12 resolution, which called for the U.N. secretary-general to send investigators to Israel.

But the new resolution is running into opposition from some members, including the United States and reportedly Britain. They are calling instead for a milder, non-binding statement from the Security Council president that would express regret over Israel’s decision.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Mission here said the United States does not feel a resolution would be “appropriate at this time,” but might support a presidential statement, depending on the exact wording.

Since last Friday, the Security Council has held informal consultative meetings on whether to adopt a formal resolution or substitute a presidential statement. The council was scheduled to convene in a formal session Tuesday evening to debate the matter.

If the council votes in favor of a formal resolution, the United States could veto it. But sources say Washington is reluctant to do so.

CONCERN ABOUT A THIRD STEP

Israeli officials fear a formal resolution could ultimately lead to a third measure calling for intervention of U.N. peacekeeping forces in East Jerusalem, which Israel views as an integral part of its undivided capital.

“One of our concerns is the potential for a peacekeeping force to be brought in, which is a decision Israel is not prepared to consider,” said one Israeli official.

But the more general Israeli concern is that the latest Security Council initiative to condemn Israel is succeeding in relegating Iraqi aggression and the Persian Gulf crisis to the sidelines. The Security Council has not passed a resolution against Iraq since Sept. 25.

There is also a danger the United States, in having to balance its close ties to Israel with its desire to preserve Arab support for the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq, is being forced into a potentially untenable situation.

“It’s a tough position for the United States,” said one U.N. source. “If they veto the resolution, then there is a danger of breaking up the coalition they’ve developed. But if they don’t veto or they abstain, it could be bad for Israeli-American relations.”

The United States has been publicly rebuked by American Jewish leaders and Israeli officials for supporting the Oct. 12 Security Council resolution.

Israeli officials have said the resolution was biased for only referring indirectly to the violence inflicted by rioting Arabs on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall. They have also said the presence of a U.N. mission in Jerusalem would implicitly question Israel’s sovereignty over the formerly divided city.

U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, unwilling to send an investigatory team while the Israeli government opposes it, has been trying to work out a compromise before the end of this month when he is to submit a report on the investigation to the Security Council.

Israel has offered to submit the results of its own investigation, which is being conducted by a three-member commission that is expected to complete its work by the end of this week.

But Perez de Cuellar has rejected this proposal as insufficient, and the matter remains unresolved.

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