UNITED NATIONS (Dec. 20)
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations quickly and vehemently denounced Thursday’s unanimous vote in the Security Council condemning Israel for resuming deportation of Palestinians and urging a greater U.N. role in the administered territories.
“This is a biased, unbalanced resolution in which Arab violent provocations are being condoned and Israeli defense against this violence is being condemned,” said Aridor, as he left the Security Council following the vote.
In a short speech delivered to the council after the resolution passed, Aridor frequently raised his voice in anger and pounded the table as he accused the 15-member Security Council of treating Israel unfairly.
“Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, gets special, separate and unequal treatment from this council on a consistent basis,” he said.
Aridor dismissed the resolution’s reference to Jerusalem as part of the “Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967” by stating simply “With respect to the reference in this resolution to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel, our position is well-known and does not require any further elaboration.”
The resolution was immediately denounced by American Jewish groups and leaders, who issued a flurry of statements following the afternoon vote.
“By failing to exercise its right of veto, the Bush administration has seriously wounded our one staunch and democratic ally in the region,” said the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which represents 46 national Jewish groups.
BACKS INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
The resolution, which came to a vote only after days of intense negotiations led by the U.S. and Finnish ambassadors, also asks the secretary-general to work toward convening a meeting of the signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
Although Israel is one of the 164 signatories to the convention, which lays out the rights of civilians living under occupation, Israeli officials do not accept its legal applicability to the administered territories, although officials say its humanitarian principles are upheld.
Council support for an international peace conference on the Arab-Israeli conflict — which had been placed in the text of an earlier draft of the resolution — was relegated to a non-binding presidential statement read aloud by council President Abdalla Saleh al-Ashtal of Yemen.
This is the first time the Security Council has mentioned an international peace conference, and Ashtal called it an “important” step.
Said Aridor: “No time is appropriate for the convening of a so-called international peace conference, but anytime is appropriate for bilateral and direct negotiations between Israel and its neighbors.”
The United States, anxious not to endanger its Arab coalition against Iraq, effectively negotiated to tone down the resolution since it was first introduced by Colombia, Cuba, Malaysia and Yemen last month.
In a statement to the council after the vote, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering was careful to separate the United States from some aspects of the resolution, despite his vote.
JERUSALEM REFERENCE RETAINED
Pickering said he believed the council should have made reference to and condemned the use of violence by Palestinians, adding the United States did not believe it would be effective to convene a meeting of the signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Referring to the article that calls on the secretary-general to utilize U.N. personnel already stationed in the region to monitor the situation of the Palestinians, Pickering said the United States opposed efforts to change the mandate of the personnel there.
He also said the reference to Jerusalem — which the United States had tried but failed to have removed — was merely a “demographic and geographic description and not indicative of sovereignty.”
Some Jewish groups condemning the vote criticized the United States for effectively allowing resolution of the Persian Gulf conflict to be linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict, something Pickering and other council members denied.
Most of the groups assailed the resolution for unfairly condemning Israel and applying a double standard by not criticizing other countries that have been accused of far-worse human rights violations.