Few Surprised by U.S. Vote Backing U.N. Measure on Israeli Deportations

Few in the American Jewish leadership seemed surprised or upset when the Security Council voted unanimously Monday evening to “strongly condemn” Israel for ordering the deportation of 12 Palestinian Arabs from the administered territories.

Since December 1987, the United States has supported three Security Council resolutions condemning Israel for deporting residents of the territories and abstained on three others, declining to exercise its veto option.

Israel has justified the deportations as necessary to maintain security in the territories.

Speaking to the Security Council before the vote Monday, Israeli Ambassador Yoram Aridor rejected the claim, reiterated in the resolution, that the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which bans the deportation of civilians from occupied territories, applies to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“The expulsion of extremists actively engaged in wrecking the peace process will help create the security and calm so essential for serious peace talks,” the Israeli envoy told the council.

The resolution was viewed as ensuring continued Arab participation in the peace talks, just as prior resolutions in late 1990 and early last year were seen as necessary to hold together the American-led coalition to oust Iraq from Kuwait.

But over the years, the United States has allowed the Security Council gradually to ratchet up the tone of the debate.

In January 1988, the United States joined in a unanimous Security Council resolution demanding that Israel “refrain from deporting any Palestinian civilians from the occupied territories.”

That marked the first American vote for a resolution criticizing Israel in the 15-member council since 1983.

‘NOT BREAKING ANY NEW GROUND’

But such criticism is no longer considered exceptional.

In 1989, the United States abstained on two anti-deportation resolutions, the second containing stronger condemnation than Washington allowed in the first.

It then supported, in December 1990 and May 1991, further resolutions opposing the deportations.

Following the December 1990 vote, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement saying that “the Bush administration has seriously wounded our one staunch and democratic ally in the region.”

But on Monday, Malcolm Hoenlein, the conference’s executive director, adopted a much milder tone, saying, “It’s not breaking any new ground. It is a resolution without any sanctions.”

He said that in a meeting Monday with White House Chief of Staff Samuel Skinner, members of the Conference of Presidents pressed the administration to insist on inclusion of language in the resolution about what prompted the Israeli deportation order. “We think there ought to be an understanding that there were four murders,” said Hoenlein, “that these are people guilty of incitement, not people who have been chosen at random.”

Hoenlein was referring to the killings of a series of Israelis by Palestinians in the administered territories since October, when the Middle East peace talks began.

The order to deport 12 Palestinians accused of terrorist activities was announced Jan. 2 by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens, in response to the most recent killing, that of Doron Shushan, on New Year’s Day.

U.N. SILENT ON MURDERS

Aridor charged “Israelis are being systematically attacked before each stage” of the peace negotiations.

He criticized the Security Council for failing to condemn either the murder of Jewish civilians or that of Palestinians at the hands of “the death squads” of the Palestine Liberation Organization and affiliated organizations.

“All these murders — of Jews and Arabs alike — did not merit, even once, a condemnation by the Security Council or the General Assembly,” he said.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas Pickering, addressed that issue in his remarks to the Security Council.

Saying that Washington “views with concern the rise of violence in the occupied territories,” Pickering said, “We condemn, and we believe all countries should condemn, the increasing attacks on and deaths of Israelis, just as we condemn attacks on and deaths of Palestinians.”

But the resolution itself made no mention of Palestinian violence.

Martin Raffel, who heads the Israel Task Force of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, said that because the U.N. resolution reflected longstanding American policy, the prospect of its adoption aroused little discussion in a meeting Monday of the task force’s working group.

“There’s a sense that after the U.N. acts on deportations, the peace talks will resume, and that’s really where the focus will be,” he said. “There’s nothing new here. We don’t want to contribute any more tension to the issue.”

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