WASHINGTON (Feb. 2)
American officials are defending the compromise reached this week with Israel, saying its willingness to take back 100 of the men deported to Lebanon and shorten the exile of some 300 others satisfies the conditions of a U.N. Security Council measure. “It’s consistent in that it provides for the return of these people,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday. He added that the United States believes no further Security Council action is needed.
The compromise, hammered out during extensive consultations between American and Israeli officials, was intended to head off any action in the U.N. Security Council that could result in sanctions being imposed against Israel.
The problem is that the Palestinians have rejected the compromise, insisting that all of the deportees be returned immediately.
And they appear to have received support from U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who told a delegation of American Jewish organizational leaders on Tuesday that he did not believe the Israeli agreement would fulfill the terms of a Dec. 18 Security Council resolution.
Furthermore, a draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Israel is still circulating at the United Nations, though the non-aligned nations have not yet decided whether to support it.
ALBRIGHT LAUNCHES INITIATIVE
Secretary of State Warren Christopher has assured Israeli officials that the United States will now veto any U.N. sanctions initiative.
But Washington would clearly prefer to avoid such a move, since it would mark the first time America has exercised that prerogative since the end of the Cold War. A U.S. veto could also alienate the Arab nations, delaying the resumption of the Middle East peace talks indefinitely.
As a result, the new U.S. representative to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, has begun a major diplomatic initiative aimed at convincing the Security Council members that the deportation issue should be set aside, with a view toward getting the peace talks back on track.
Albright, who assumed her post only Monday, discussed her efforts Tuesday with Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gad Yaacobi.
Meanwhile, an 11-member delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations met at the United Nations with Boutros-Ghali.
Though there were disagreements, the conference’s chairman, Lester Pollack, described the discussions as “very good” and said that “both sides agreed the focus should be on the resumption of the peace process.”
Israel’s departing ambassador to Washington, Zalman Shoval, expressed confidence Tuesday that the Middle East peace talks would resume in “weeks rather than months,” because “everybody has too much at stake.”
(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Larry Yudelson at the United Nations.)