UNITED NATIONS (Dec. 20)
A Security Council resolution adopted Friday that “strongly condemns” Israel’s expulsion of 415 Palestinians from the administered territories is not noticeably stronger than one adopted by the 15- member body last January.
That resolution condemned an Israeli decision to deport 12 Palestinians from the territories, a decision that was never fully implemented because of Israeli court rulings and a policy shift made soon after Israel’s Labor government came to power last summer.
But the issue could soon return to the world body’s agenda, said an Israeli official, because unlike previous cases, this time the deported Palestinians are being barred by Lebanese authorities from entering the territory beyond the Israeli-controlled border security zone.
Instead, the 415 deportees are huddled in the no-man’s land between Israeli and Lebanese army checkpoints, where they have begun organizing their own refugee community.
The Palestinians deported last Thursday were among 1,600 rounded up by Israeli security forces last week in the wake of attacks by the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement that have killed four Israeli soldiers and a border policeman this month.
On Sunday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East took responsibility for helping the deportees, who had previously received supplies, including portable heaters and tents, from both U.N. peacekeeping troops and the Red Cross. According to the Palestinians, more than a third are already suffering from the winter conditions. Temperatures are dropping below freezing at night.
This was Israel’s largest deportation of Palestinians in peacetime.
But Israeli officials have emphasized that these expulsions, unlike those ordered by the previous Likud government, are only temporary. Deportees will be allowed to return to the territories in as early as nine months or two years at the latest.
The linchpin of Friday’s Security Council resolution is the charge that Israel has violated the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which prohibits civilians from being deported from occupied territories.
The resolution “specifically reaffirms the applicability” of the convention to “all Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem.” Israel disputes this interpretation of the convention, arguing that the territories have no clear legal status since the cessation of the British Mandate.
The major differences between Friday’s resolution and the one adopted in January are the explicit statement included this time that the deportations violate the convention and a request for the U.N. secretary-general to consider sending an envoy to Israel to follow up on the resolution.
Israeli diplomats succeeded in toning down the language of the draft resolution, which in spots had been “much worse,” according to one Israeli official. Among other things, the draft would have required a much stronger role by the secretary-general.
Still, because the Lebanese government is preventing the entry of the deportees into its territory, the issue may not fade away and the secretary-general may become involved.
In October 1990, following the killings of at least 17 Palestinians by Israeli security forces on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the secretary-general sent an envoy to Israel, who was received by Israeli officials.
According to some reports, Lebanon is resisting the entry of the deportees for fears they will join up with the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah. Lebanese officials, however, have denied that this is their motivation.
The “strongly condemns” language contained in Friday’s resolution was first used against Israel in the resolution last January. It reflected the willingness of the United States, which holds veto power in the Security Council, to ratchet up the tone of the condemnation.
That was seen as reflecting both American annoyance at Israeli policies and also a U.S. desire not to derail the Middle East peace talks. Earlier condemnations had occurred while the United States was trying to create and preserve its coalition against Iraq.
Since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in December 1987, the United States has supported three other resolutions condemning deportations, and abstained from voting on two more.
Israel’s representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Gad Yaacobi, defended the “temporary removal” of the Palestinians as “consistent with the instructions of international law and Israeli law.”
He devoted the bulk of his presentation, however, not as “a defendant in the dock,” but “as an accuser of the forces of terrorism.”
The resolution made no mention of the killings of the Israeli soldiers or the murder last week of a 29-year-old border policeman, Sgt. Maj. Nissim Toledano.
Yaacobi described the Hamas movement as an enemy of peace, citing a plot to assassinate Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini.
He quoted the leader of the Islamic Jihad organization, Sheik Assad Tamimi, as telling the German magazine Stern that “No Jew is innocent! All Jews must be killed.”
He noted, as well, “the legitimate actions taken recently by other governments in the region in the face of violence and threats by Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups.” This was a reference to countries such as Egypt, which has recently engaged in its own harsh crackdown against Islamic fundamentalism.
Yaacobi stressed Israel’s desire to continue the peace talks, which Hamas opposes.
Despite the anger from the Arab states over the deportations, the new mood inaugurated at the October 1991 peace conference in Madrid continued in the Security Council chambers Friday.
Both Israel and the PLO were invited to the Security Council table to make their presentations. While in the past the Arab countries might have walked out on Israel, and the Israeli delegate might have removed himself to the back of the hall, this time both stayed put. In addition, with only one empty seat for the other ambassadors to make their case, representatives of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan took turns sitting next to Yaacobi.