NEW YORK (Dec. 23)
Not even parliamentary procedure can keep the United Nations from condemning Israel.
Circumventing its own regulations, the United Nations called a special emergency session Dec. 20 and overwhelmingly passed two resolutions condemning Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians.
Conditions that would allow for a special General Assembly session are imminent danger to international peace and security, failure of the Security Council to act on the matter or a recess of the regular session.
The General Assembly currently is in the midst of its regular session.
Still, according to an official at the Israeli Mission to the United Nstions, the Palestinians have a majority that permits them to do virtually whatever they want, regardless of technical procedures. And those numbers guarantee a victorious endgame.
“Even if the Palestinians bring for a vote at the G.A. a resolution that Israel is on the moon, they will have a majority for it,” the official said.
“The legal question of the vote further demonstrates that the U.N. is delegitimizing itself,” said Amy Goldstein, national director of Israel, Zionist and international affairs for Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America.
The first resolution, which passed by a vote of 124-6 with 25 abstentions, was a duplicate of the resolution that the United States vetoed in the Security Council the previous Saturday.
Although it was the first time a U.N. resolution condemned “all acts of violence and terror resulting in the deaths and injuries among Palestinian and Israeli civilians,” the resolution singled out the Jewish state for criticism.
The resolution reiterated “the need for Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations,” without naming specific responsibilities on the Palestinian side or specific terror attacks that had led to an aggressive Israeli military side.
The Anti-Defamation League blasted the resolutions.
“Throughout the more than 15 months since the Palestinian campaign of violence and terror began, the General Assembly has continued to recycle
anachronistic and biased statements that have nothing to do with the actual situation on the ground,” the national director of the ADL, Abraham Foxman, said. “These resolutions serve only to encourage Arab and Palestinian theatrics on the world stage and have no practical purpose in creating a better future for Palestinians and Israelis.”
The resolution also called for a “monitoring mechanism” to help implement the recommendations of the Mitchell Report. That report, drafted by an international panel led by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, outlines a series of steps to return to peace talks, such as a halt to the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the disarming of Palestinian militants.
First, however, the Mitchell Report demands an unconditional end to violence. Israel insists it will abide by the Mitchell Report, but will not compromise on the precondition of a cease-fire.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, vetoed the resolution when it came up in the Security Council, saying its purpose was to “isolate politically one of the parties to the conflict.”
As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United States has veto power over the body’s binding resolutions. No nation can veto the non-binding resolutions produced in the General Assembly.
This time, the U.S. was joined by Israel, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu in voting against the resolution.
The second resolution expressed support for the Dec. 5 declaration by signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which condemned Israel for its “illegal” occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its alleged mistreatment of Palestinian civilians.
That resolution passed by a vote of 133-4, with 16 abstentions. Opposing were Israel, the United States, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.
The Israeli Mission to the United Nations isn’t worried about the latest diplomatic attack.
“Like Zionism is racism, this is just declarative,” said Ariel Milo, spokesman for the mission. Lacking legal or operative ramifications, the resolution is “rhetoric, and we’re used to that.”
According to Goldstein, the latest resolutions are another link in the chain of Arab attempts to turn Israel into a pariah state.
“We have seen time and time again that the Palestinians are manipulating the goodwill of other countries to justify violence against Israel — and be perceived as the victims, no less,” she said.
But this time, Goldstein said, the playing field has changed. Since September 11, she said, the American people and the Bush administration are waging a war against terror, and the Palestinian leadership is perceived as part of the problem.
“The use of violence to coerce or intimidate a civilian population is part of America’s definition of terrorism,” Goldstein said. President Bush and members of his Cabinet have refused to distinguish between “good” or “bad” terror, she said.
While gaining them symbolic victories at the United Nations, the Palestinians’ decision to court world opinion rather than acting strongly against terrorism may be costing them with some world powers.
The European Union recently denounced Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and called on him to reign in terrorists.
The P.A.’s behavior may also damage it as the United States rethinks its investment on behalf of Mideast peace.
“It boggles my mind that the Palestinian leadership can not understand how serious the American people are about this issue,” Goldstein said. Right now, “the American community is more interested in action than public relations.”