UNITED NATIONS (Nov. 28)
Just as the Security Council was setting down this week for discussions on the Persian Gulf crisis before Thursday’s vote on a resolution supporting the use of force to counter Iraqi aggression, the Palestinian issue again was pushed to the forefront of discussions.
In what was a shock to both the Israelis and the Americans, the sponsors of the latest resolution on the situation of the Palestinians in the Israeli-administered territories insisted their amended resolution be voted on before the Security Council dealt with the Gulf crisis.
In Washington, the State Department registered its disapproval of the surprise initiative.
“On the eve of the ministerial session of the Security Council and as the secretary-general plans to send his envoy to Israel shortly, we believe that this is not the appropriate time to engage in a detailed debate on the issue of the occupied territories,” said Richard Boucher, the department’s deputy spokesman, said Wednesday.
Boucher added that after the vote on the use of force in the Gulf, the United States would be willing to discuss issues related to Israel and the Palestinians.
Although voting was expected to be put off until Thursday or Friday, the move on the resolution put the United States in the uncomfortable position of trying to balance its close ties to Israel with its need to maintain an Arab coalition against the Iraqi president.
A ‘DANGEROUS RESOLUTION’
“I think it is a dangerous resolution, and if the U.S. wants to avoid linkage of this issue and the Gulf crisis, then it can’t accept this resolution,” said Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“The United States must bite the bullet and, if necessary, veto the resolution,” he said.
The latest draft of the resolution before the Security Council, sponsored by Cuba, Yemen, Malaysia and Colombia, no longer calls for the stationing of U.N. military observers in the West Bank.
Instead, it calls for the Security Council to appoint an ombudsman to be sent to the administered territories, “to monitor and observe the situation, with the help of the United Nations personnel stationed there, and to report on it to the secretary-general of the United Nations and the Security Council.”
But as in the previous resolution, it endorses the idea of holding a meeting of the signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which protects the rights of civilians living under occupation.
It also urges the Israeli government to accept the legal applicability of the convention to the administered territories and “welcomes the calls” for convening an international peace conference on the Middle East.
Reich said acceptance of the resolution could accelerate U.N. involvement in Israeli affairs and finally lead to the stationing of military observers in the administered territories, something Israel strongly opposes.
Already the United States has twice backed Security Council resolutions critical of Israel since the Oct. 8 riots on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, in which 17 Arabs were fatally shot by Israeli police.
VISA FOR PLO OFFICIAL IN PROCESS
Reich added that anything short of a U.S. veto would be contrary to the spirit of the agreement reached between Washington and Jerusalem a few weeks ago over the expected visit to Israel of Jean-Claude Amie, Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar’s personal representative.
In Washington, meanwhile, a State Department official disputed reports that the United States had denied an entry visa for Farouk Kaddoumi, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s top foreign policy adviser.
Kaddoumi was expected to attend Thursday’s General Assembly debate on the Palestine question, which is scheduled each year to coincide with the anniversary of the 1947 U.N. resolution that partitioned Palestine and led to the creation of the State of Israel.
Kaddoumi’s visa application “has been received and is being processed,” said the State Department official, pointing out that Kaddoumi had previously received visas to attend General Assembly sessions.
(JTA correspondent Howard Rosenberg in Washington contributed to this report.)