UNITED NATIONS (Feb. 10)
Israel has criticized a United Nations decision to call for an international conference on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The U.N. General Assembly’s decision Tuesday evening “was passed out of narrow political motives and not because of humanitarian considerations,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said.
Israel said it would boycott any such meeting, the terms of which have yet to be decided.
The General Assembly called for the conference to be held in Geneva on July 15.
The request for an unprecedented meeting of the signatories to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs treatment of civilians during wartime, passed by a vote of 115-2, with five abstentions and 36 member-nations absent.
Only the United States joined Israel in opposing the non-binding resolution.
The vote came during an emergency special session of the 185-member General Assembly.
The vote followed two days of heated debate on the issue, which was originally put on the agenda in 1997 at the request of Arab states.
The Arab request came in the wake of Israel’s decision to start constructing a Jewish neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem.
Groundbreaking at Har Homa, which the Palestinians call Jabal Abu Ghneim, sparked Palestinian riots and a terror attack on Israel — which was followed by a 19-month impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. No further construction has taken place.
In addition to calling for the Geneva conference, Tuesday’s resolution reiterates previous U.N. resolutions demanding the end of Israeli settlement activity in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.”
The General Assembly also blamed Israel for suspending the implementation of the Wye agreement.
The October 1998 agreement, touted as an important step forward in the peace process, called for further Israeli redeployments in the West Bank in exchange for concrete Palestinian steps on security issues.
Israel criticized the U.N. resolution as politically motivated.
Citing historical examples of international conflict, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Dore Gold, said the resolution “seeks to apply the Fourth Geneva Convention selectively in only one case: Israel.”
As a result, Gold told the General Assembly during debate on the issue this week, “international humanitarian institutions, which have remained neutral since 1949, will be inevitably compromised.
“Many U.N. member-states will find themselves to be targets of these sorts of initiatives.”
Switzerland’s observer to the United Nations said his country “cannot consider taking an active role in convening and preparing this conference” until the signatories to the convention define general principles for calling such a meeting that are not specifically tailored to this particular case.
Long-time U.N. observers are viewing the resolution’s passage as a blow to the world body’s credibility.
Harris Schoenberg, the director of U.N. Affairs for B’nai B’rith International, said, “Considering they have never had a meeting to discuss the most grievous crimes” — some cite Cambodia, Rwanda and Kosovo as examples — “it’s morally inane.”