JERUSALEM (Jan. 26)
Israel has bitterly criticized a report by U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali urging the Security Council to “take whatever measures are required” to force Israel to reverse the deportation of nearly 400 Palestinians.
In the report, delivered to the Security Council on Monday, Boutros-Ghali said Israel’s refusal to take back the Moslem fundamentalists it deported to Lebanon last month “challenges the authority” of the world body.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called the secretary-general’s request that the council act against Israel “almost unprecedented.”
Emerging Tuesday from a Knesset committee meeting, Rabin charged that the report “completely ignored the acts of extreme Islamic terror” and instead cited only the steps that Israel had taken against the terrorists.
Similarly, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement in New York calling the report “one-sided, ill-conceived and counterproductive to the cause of Middle East peace, because it would reward militant fundamentalist groups and encourage them to step up their efforts to murder Israelis and scuttle the peace process.”
In the report, Boutros-Ghali said he also wanted to discuss with Israel the possibility of placing U.N. monitors in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to protect Palestinian rights.
But a statement issued Tuesday by the Israeli Mission to the United Nations said Israel “categorically rejects the secretary-general’s recommendation to establish a U.N. monitoring mechanism in the territories.” It said such a mechanism would “serve only to agitate the extremists” and “encourage further unrest.”
U.S. LOBBIES ARAB DIPLOMATS
Boutros-Ghali’s report was a significant setback for Israeli officials, who had made a major effort in recent days to convince the Security Council to delay its review of the deportation crisis until after Israel’s High Court of Justice rules on the legality of the deportations.
The High Court decision, expected within a week, could provide a way out of the crisis if it orders the action reversed.
At Rabin’s request, former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman phoned Boutros-Ghali to request that the Security Council put off its debate on punitive resolutions. But Weizman, who knows Boutros-Ghali since the two worked together on the Camp David accords, was rebuffed by the Egyptian secretary-general.
In Washington, U.S. officials have also been lobbying for a delay in U.N. action.
Edward Djerejian, who is being kept on by the Clinton administration as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, met last week with diplomats from several Arab countries and reportedly asked them to postpone any U.N. action on the issue until after the Israeli High Court decision.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday that the United States prefers to resolve the deportation crisis “through active diplomacy. We would like to see those efforts exhausted before the Security Council considers taking action.”
But at the United Nations, the Palestine Liberation Organization was already hard at work this week on a proposed resolution that would impose sanctions on Israel unless it complied with a Dec. 18 resolution demanding that the deportees be returned to the administered territories.
The PLO proposal reportedly would ban all U.N. member states from any dealings with Israeli companies or establishments involved in violations of the Geneva Conventions, which protect the rights of inhabitants of occupied areas.
Such a resolution is likely to be amended before it comes to a vote in the Security Council, and in any case, Israeli officials are confident the United States will exercise its veto power as a permanent member of the 15-nation body.
Rabin pointed out that no U.S. administration has ever permitted sanctions against Israel to be adopted by the U.N. Security Council.
STATE DEPT. WON’T PROMISE VETO
And Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Israel Bonds leaders here that Jerusalem has received promises from the Clinton administration that it would do its “very best not to let a situation (develop) in which sanctions against Israel will be at all necessary.”
Likewise, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, William Harrop, said Tuesday he believed it was “most unlikely” that President Clinton would allow sanctions to be imposed against Israel.
Speaking on Israel’s army radio, Harrop noted, however, that it has been two years since Washington exercised its veto in the Security Council and would prefer not to do so now.
And in Washington, State Department spokesman Boucher refused to say Tuesday whether the United States would veto a sanctions resolution.
“At this point, that’s a hypothetical question,” he told reporters.
In Jerusalem, both Peres and his Foreign Ministry warned that U.N. action against Israel could disrupt the peace process.
“The United Nations must take into consideration that this time the issue is not whether to punish or not to punish Israel,” Peres said. “This time the problem is either to continue the peace process or not.”
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging the Security Council to “refrain from extreme and unbalanced declarations or resolutions that could jeopardize the peace process.”
It pointed out that despite the deportations, “all the Arab parties have expressed their desire to continue the negotiations.”
But the head of the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks welcomed Boutros-Ghali’s move, especially his call for U.N. monitoring in the territories.
At a news conference in eastern Jerusalem, Haidar Abdel-Shafi said it is “high time that the United Nations asserts its authority as an organization that is responsible for keeping peace.”
In southern Lebanon, meanwhile, the Pales- tinian deportees, who are stranded in a makeshift tent camp between Israeli and Lebanese army lines, rejected an Israeli offer to let them meet with their lawyers.
The offer was included as part of the government’s argument to the High Court that the deportees still had some legal means to fight against their deportation. Lawyers for the Palestinians argued that the deportations were illegal since the army did not allow any chance to appeal the order.
Abdul Aziz Ghantissi, a spokesman for the deportees, branded the offer as “an Israeli maneuver to reduce the pressure.”
(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondents Larry Yudelson at the United Nations and Deborah Kalb of States News Service in Washington.)