UNITED NATIONS (Nov. 20)
U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar reportedly has agreed to send a personal envoy to Israel, a move Israeli officials hope will defuse tension over their refusal to accept a U.N. investigation of the Temple Mount shootings last month.
According to reports form Strasbourg, France, corroborated by Jewish leaders here, Perez de Cuellar said Monday he would be sending an envoy shortly.
The U.N. Secretariat refused to confirm or deny the news, which was announced by Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, who was in Strasbourg for a meeting of the European Parliament.
Levy and other officials have said they hope this will relieve the pressure the Security Council has exerted on Israel over the past six weeks. This includes two U.S.-backed resolutions condemning Israel for the fatal shootings of at least 17 Arabs, calling for a U.N. investigation and asking Perez de Cuellar to issue a follow-up report.
Israel rejected the idea of an investigatory mission, leading Perez de Cuellar to issue a report–currently under consideration by the Security Council — recommending that the signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 convene to discuss the situation of Palestinians living under Israeli rule.
The convention, which Israel has signed, says that civilians living in occupied areas are entitled to protection and safety.
Israel maintains the convention does not legally apply to the administered territories, although its humanitarian principles are nonetheless upheld and applied.
DISPUTE OVER ENVOV’S MANDATE
There appears to be some dispute over what mandate will be given to the U.N. envoy. Israeli officials say the envoy will probably be Jean-Claude Aime, who visited Israel in June, after an Israeli Jew shot seven Palestinians outside Tel Aviv. They would like to think of this visit as a continuation of Aime’s previous one.
Officials in Jerusalem have said the envoy will not investigate the Temple Mount shootings nor will he consider steps to “protect” Palestinians living under Israeli rule.
Although U.N. officials have not stated on what basis Aime will travel to Israel, some news reports say it is to investigate the Temple Mount shootings. U.N. spokespersons have said no prior conditions will be placed on the mission.
Agreement to send an envoy was apparently reached after negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem and the United Nations. The idea was that Israel would take some step that would allow the Security Council to refocus its attention on the Gulf crisis and Iraqi aggression, said Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Reich said that while Israel and the United Nations might view the purpose of the mission differently, “it wouldn’t be the first time a diplomatic issue has been seen differently” by the parties involved and nevertheless brought about a “resolution of problems.”
Israel, meanwhile, faces potential trouble from the Security Council under a resolution introduced last Friday by four non-aligned members. It calls for U.N. observers now stationed in Jerusalem to be sent to monitor the situation in the administered territories and report back to the Security Council.
The draft, now under debate, reiterates calls for Israel to accept the legal applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the territories and “welcomes the calls for convening, at an appropriate time, a properly structured international peace conference.”
The resolution is not expected to pass in its original form, although there is reportedly some support for calling a meeting of the convention’s signatories.
Israel also still faces an upcoming credentials vote in the General Assembly, during which Arab countries routinely call for a vote on Israel’s status, and the vote is just as routinely tabled.
This year, Arab countries, realizing the futility of such a move, asked for and received a postponement. They used the time to draw up a proposed amendment stating the credentials do not cover Israeli-administered territories, including East Jerusalem, which Israel considers part of its sovereign, undivided capital.
Israel has condemned the move as an attempt to brand Jews with a yellow star, a reference to Nazi actions during World War II.