JERUSALEM (Jul. 14)
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said this week that a dispute with the United Nations over Israeli shipping through the Straits of Tiran to the port of Eilat would be resolved within a few days.
The blockade, under the auspices of the U.N. Security Council, was put into effect to prevent the supply of war materiel and commercial goods to Iraq via the Jordanian port of Aqaba, located a dozen miles from Eilat.
But Israel has protested that it is absurd to presume that Israel, a longtime foe of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and a victim of Iraqi Scud missiles during the Persian Gulf War, would be shipping goods of any kind to Baghdad.
Peres suggested that one possible solution of the crisis would be for Israelis to check the Israeli ships, instead of the American troops now in charge who check all vessels.
Peres was speaking to the Knesset, whose members submitted a number of motions on the agenda to discuss the crisis.
So far, Israeli protests and explanations that Israel has no intention of smuggling supplies to Iraq have not convinced the U.N. authorities, creating an absurdity by which Jordanian ships are allowed through, while Israeli cargo boats are forced to turn around and travel through the Suez Canal to its Mediterranean ports.
This has caused angry protests by Eilat port workers and others whose lives depend on the harbor traffic.
Knesset member Rafael Eitan, head of the right-wing opposition Tsomet party, blamed U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for the crisis, saying he wanted to prove to the Arabs how he “takes care” of the Jews.
But Peres ruled out the notion that Boutros-Ghali was behind the problem. He said Israel was told the matter was being handled by the U.S. Defense Department and the United Nations, and that Israel had been promised a response as soon as possible.