NEW YORK (Mar. 20)
The mayor of Jerusalem, members of Congress and nearly every major American Jewish organization have weighed in with immediate criticism of U.N. Security Council Resolution 280.
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert sent a letter to President Clinton expressing “shock and disappointment” that the U.S. government did not veto the U.N. resolution.
The letter, which was released on Sunday, stated, “This resolution, which is intended to entice the PLO back to the negotiation table, will in fact create serious obstacles in the peace process” by raising “false and unrealistic expectations on the part of the Palestinians regarding the future of Jerusalem.
“The people of Israel will refuse to support any move that raises doubts as to the status of Jerusalem as the united capital of the State of Israel.
“As mayor of Jerusalem, and on behalf of all Jerusalemites, I have to express to you my deep disappointment that you did not instruct (U.N.) Ambassador (Madeleine) Albright to prevent the adoption of this resolution,” the letter said.
The resolution, which was passed Friday — three weeks after the mass murder of at least 29 Palestinians at a Hebron mosque — criticized the killings, called for measures to guarantee that Palestinians be protected in the future and for the speedy implementation of the self-rule accord signed last September in Washington.
But the resolution’s preamble contained language regarding Jerusalem that Jewish leaders found impossible to swallow.
Within hours of the resolution’s passage, condemnation of the resolution’s language was issued by leading Jewish organizations, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, B’nai B’rith, the Zionist Organization of America and the American Zionist Movement.
FINDING A COMPROMISE FORMULA
Referring to “territories occupied by Israel in June 1967, including Jerusalem,” the preamble’s avowal that Jerusalem was occupied territory flew in the face of a prime dictum of the Israeli and American Jewish leadership — that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel.
In a compromise formula worked out before the resolution came to a vote, the United States was able to abstain on this and another paragraph of the preamble while being able to approve the resolution as a whole.
In addition to abstaining on the paragraph about the status of Jerusalem, the United States abstained on a second paragraph that said the Hebron attack “underlines the need to provide protection and security for the Palestinian people.”
That language could be construed as lending support to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s demand that an international force be sent to the territories to protect Palestinians.
A paragraph in the main body of the resolution, which the United States supported, called for an international presence in the territories, “which was provided for in the declaration of principles” that formed the basis of the Palestinian self-rule accord.
Israeli officials have supported the idea of an unarmed international presence in the territories, stressing that this was a point already negotiated in the declaration of principles, which was signed in Washington in September.
While the United States twice abstained during the voting, the 14 other members of the Security Council voted for every paragraph in the resolution.
During their negotiations leading up to the Security Council vote, American officials had operated on the belief that passage of the resolution was key to restarting the Israeli-PLO negotiations, which were halted by the PLO after the Hebron murders.
DO ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS?
And indeed, the U.S. approach did bear fruit. Following the resolution’s passage, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher announced at a hastily called news conference that Syria, Jordan and Lebanon had agreed to return to Washington next month to resume negotiations with Israel.
U.S. officials also believed that the PLO would now resume negotiations.
The three Arab states, like the PLO, had broken off the talks following the Feb. 25 Hebron incident.
But in its strategy at the United Nations, the United States had adopted an ends-justifies-the-means approach toward the resolution — a tactic sharply attacked not only by the American Jewish leadership but also by members of Congress.
A day before the vote on the resolution, Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.) circulated a letter criticizing the Clinton administration’s handling of the resolution.
The letter, which was signed by 83 of the 100 members of the Senate, said in part, “Sacrificing core principles for short-term objectives will ultimately retard, not advance the peace process.”
And shortly after the passage of Resolution 280, Jewish groups provided their verdict on the day’s Security Council proceedings.
The Conference of Presidents said in a statement that the “preamble’s reference to Jerusalem as occupied territory is couched in objectionable, offensive and inappropriate language and a cause for deep regret and disappointment.
“No U.N. resolution can diminish 3,000 years of Jewish history, with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the statement read.
A similar response was issued by AIPAC. “We regret that the administration abstained on the section of the resolution pertaining to Jerusalem because the pro-Israel community, an over-whelming bipartisan majority of Congress and the president himself have consistently maintained that Jerusalem is, and always should be, the eternal, undivided capital of Israel,” AIPAC said in its statement.
Lynn Lyss, chair of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, issued a statement saying that the organization was “extremely disappointed” that the preamble referred to Jerusalem as occupied territory, but went on to support the “overall thrust” of the resolution’s condemnation of the Hebron killings and its call for a speedy resumption of the Israeli-PLO dialogue.
Melvin Salberg and Abraham Foxman, the national chairman and national director, respectively, of the ADL, said they were “disappointed that the United States failed to veto on principle” the resolution because of its language on Jerusalem.
But “we are reassured by the (Clinton) administration’s strong disavowal of that language,” the ADL leaders said in their statement. “We urge the administration to publicly reaffirm its longstanding support for Jerusalem as the united and undivided capital of Israel.”
Reps. Charles Schumer and Nita Lowey, both of whom are New York Democrats, also criticized the resolution.
‘A DOUBLE STANDARD’
Schumer questioned why a similar resolution was not introduced before the Security Council regarding the killings of Israelis by Arab terrorists. Resolution 280 “proves once again the United Nations’ bias against Israel and its lack of credibility in dealing with the Middle East even handedly.”
“There’s a double standard when the U.N. can’t wait to condemn Israel, but remains silent when Jewish blood is shed at the hands of Arab terrorists, as has been the case during the many months of the current peace effort,” Schumer said in a statement.
Lowey said that “this administration has made a major mistake by caving in to (PLO Chairman Yasser) Arafat. The United States should have vetoed this one-sided resolution.”
The Clinton administration, expecting harsh fallout from critics of the resolution, has been hard at work on damage control.
In a conference call with leaders of the 50 member organizations of the Conference of Presidents, before the Security Council vote Friday, Vice President Al Gore reaffirmed the administration’s position recognizing a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Asserting that a U.S. veto might have prevented the peace talks from resuming, Gore explained that the United States would have exercised its veto if the reference to Jerusalem had been in an operative paragraph of the resolution rather than in its preamble.
Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, expressed a similar view before the Security Council on Friday.
“The United States supports the operative paragraphs of the resolution that the council has just adopted,” she said. “But let me make it clear — we would have exercised our veto” had the language on Jerusalem been in the resolution’s operative paragraphs.
“We simply do not support the description of the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war as occupied Palestinian territory,” Albright said. “In the view of my government, this language could be taken to indicate sovereignty — a matter which both Israel and the PLO have agreed must be decided in negotiations on the final status of the territories.”
(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Michele Chabin in Jerusalem.)