WASHINGTON (May. 24)
Vice President Al Gore is siding with Israel in two key disputes with the Palestinian Authority.
Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday night, Gore rejected Palestinian demands to resurrect the United Nations’ 1947 Partition Plan that divided Palestine into Jewish and Arab states with Jerusalem as an international city.
“The only bases for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations” are U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of land for peace, Gore said, prompting applause from delegates at the pro-Israel lobby’s annual policy conference.
Resolutions 242 and 338, which called on Israel to return an unspecified amount of the territory captured during the 1967 Six-Day War, has been interpreted to recognize at a minimum Israel’s 1949 borders.
Gore also said the United States would boycott a scheduled July 15 international meeting in Geneva proposed by the Palestinians to protest Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The meeting would bring together signatories of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs treatment of civilians during wartime.
“The conference is a badly disguised attempt to single out Israel for criticism,” Gore said, adding that the United States would urge other nations to boycott the session as well.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Zalman Shoval, who sat on the dais during Gore’s speech, said he was “very pleased” with the vice president’s “positive” remarks.
“We are very glad our view has now been shared by the administration and by no less a spokesman than the vice president,” he said.
With regard to resurrecting the Partition Plan, Palestinian officials have cited that plan, known as U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, as the basis for their claims to statehood and the return of refugees who fled their homes during Israel’s War of Independence.
The Arabs rejected the plan when it was first proposed, leading to Israel’s declaration of statehood, which the Arab states rejected by launching war against the new country.
Despite his rejection of the Palestinians’ bid to revive the Partition Plan and to focus on Israeli settlements in Geneva, Gore, during his 30-minute speech to AIPAC, expressed strong support for both Israel and the Palestinians.
“The Palestinian people must be free to determine their own future. They must be able to live freely and in safety,” Gore said, echoing President Clinton’s recent promise to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
“At the same time Israel must have defined and secure borders. Israel must live free from the fear of terror,” he said.
In the wake of Israeli Prime Minster-elect Ehud Barak’s victory, these goals can be achieved, Gore said.
Barak’s “remarkable record in defense of Israel’s security makes him an immensely credible voice in support of peace,” he said.
Moments later AIPAC’s president, Lonnie Kaplan, read a message from Barak to the delegates in which the prime minister-elect sought to silence growing tensions between members of his Labor Party and AIPAC.
Barak, who declined an invitation to speak via satellite to the conference, said in a letter to delegates, “Historically important tasks lie ahead of us, and only joining hands together can bring about their successful accomplishment.”
Barak’s associates have criticized the group for tilting toward Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s election, a charge the pro-Israel lobby vehemently denies.
Meanwhile, a senior Clinton administration official denied a USA Today report that Barak and Arafat recently an accord regarding the future of Jerusalem.
“There’s nothing going on,” U.S. Middle East peace envoy Dennis Ross said in a brief interview Monday after delivering a speech to AIPAC. “Barak is working on forming a government.”
Ross earlier told AIPAC delegates to approach such reports “with great skepticism.”
Senior Palestinian officials also reportedly denied the story as “baseless.”