Annual U.N. Debate on ‘palestine’ Concludes with Typical Rhetoric

The General Assembly’s annual debate on “The Question of Palestine” was wrapped up Monday after three days of impassioned speeches from over two dozen representatives calling for a settlement to the longstanding conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Yoram Aridor, Israel’s new U.N. ambassador, responded by reminding those gathered in a halfempty General Assembly chamber of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s calls for “the killing of Jews.”

He criticized both the United Nations and Arab states for attacking rather than accepting Israel’s hand in the search for a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“When it comes to the treatment Israel receives at the United Nations, imagination has no limits,” Aridor said in a speech last Friday.

But much of this year’s debate was less about Israel’s full-scale destruction and more about how to end the 3-year-old intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which has claimed the lives of more than 400 Palestinians and 17 Israelis.

Over and over again, speakers called on Israel to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians through an international Middle East peace conference.

“The urgency in finding a solution has become even more imperative in face of the gravity of the situation” that has developed in recent weeks, said the Egyptian ambassador, Amre Moussa. He referred to a report issued last month by U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar that called for an end to the violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

“A just and lasting settlement of Palestine is a necessary prerequisite for insuring peace throughout the world,” Moussa said in his speech last Friday.

E.C. CONCERNED ABOUT IMMIGRATION

This year’s debate once again opened on Nov. 29, the day 43 years ago that the U.N. General Assembly approved the partition plan for Palestine, splitting the British Mandate territory into two parts, one for Jews and one for Arabs.

Although most of the speakers taking part in the General Assembly debate hailed from non-aligned or Arab countries, the position of the European Community was set forth by the Italian ambassador, Vieri Traxler, whose country has assumed the E.C. presidency through the end of December.

“The 12 (E.C. nations) stress the inadmissability of territories occupied through force,” Traxler said Friday.

Referring to the flood of Soviet Jewish emigres to Israel and Palestinian fears that the Soviets will be settled in the West Bank, precluding some sort of Palestinian state there, Traxler said the E.C. members “recognize and support the right of Jews to emigrate, but not at the expense of the Palestinians in the occupied territories.”

The General Assembly is now expected to take some action on the Palestinian issue, such as a resolution calling for greater movement on the part of the United Nations toward publicizing the Palestinians’ position. But General Assembly resolutions are non-binding on member states.

NO SECURITY COUNCIL VOTE YET

The Security Council, meanwhile, has not yet voted on the latest resolution addressing Israel and the Palestinians, which was under consideration last week but pushed aside so that the council could vote on a resolution approving the use of force to dislodge Iraq from Kuwait.

The latest resolution stems from a Nov. 16 proposal put forth by four non-aligned members of the Security Council, in which they called for the appointment of an ombudsman to oversee the position of the Palestinians in the administered territories.

That resolution, introduced by Colombia, Malaysia, Yemen and Cuba, will probably be amended in line with a Finnish proposal calling for the appointment of an ombudsman “in principle.”

Israeli officials have expressed dismay over the latest attempt by the Security Council to involve itself in issues Israel believes fall solely within its own jurisdiction.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations released a letter last Friday calling on President Bush to veto any such resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

The group, a coalition of 46 national Jewish organizations, said the effect of such a resolution would be “to keep the Arab-Israeli conflict on the Security Council agenda and deflect the focus from Iraq’s aggression.”

While the United States has not indicated which way it would vote, it has over the past two months supported two resolutions criticizing Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinians, a move attributed to the desire of the United States not to shake its Arab coalition against Iraq.

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