JERUSALEM (Nov. 19)
Israel and the United Nations are at loggerheads once again. A U.N. General Assembly resolution deploring civilian deaths in a recent Israeli artillery barrage on the Gaza Strip stirred ire in Jerusalem on Sunday as officials grappled with ways to stem Palestinian rocket salvoes.
“We have no doubt that it is the State of Israel which must respond to attacks on civilians,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Cabinet.
“But those who preach morality and roll their eyes have yet to see fit to initiate a resolution in condemnation of those who are shooting with the goal of hitting civilians as a long-range, systematic policy.”
Last Friday’s resolution, which was passed by a vote of 156-7 with six abstentions, deplored the Nov. 8 shelling of Beit Hanoun, in which 19 civilians died. It called for a U.N. probe and for Israel’s immediate withdrawal of troops from the Gaza Strip.
While the resolution was non-binding, it underscored for many Israelis a sense of tacit international support for the Palestinians and indifference to the Jewish state’s efforts to contain the conflict.
“Israel withdrew a year ago from Gaza, has deployed its forces on the border with Gaza, was hailed by the whole international community for this step. It has been attacked time and again from Gaza by Palestinians,” said Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog.
“We cannot accept in any shape or manner the capability to attack Israel from across the border from Gaza. Any sane nation would do the same, and the U.N. condemnation is outrageous,” he said.
Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit accused the United Nations of hypocrisy.
“How come that Israel, which is the victim of attacks, hundreds of rocket attacks from Gaza at Sderot, Ashkelon and other cities, does not warrant even a discussion in the United Nations?” he asked.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, sounding a rare positive note, said the General Assembly vote appeared to be little more than a frustrated response to the failure of Qatar to get a resolution condemning Israel passed by the U.N. Security Council. That bid was torpedoed last week by the United States, which cast a veto.
Political sources said that Israel, which already ruled the Beit Hanoun incident a regrettable accident, was unlikely to cooperate with a U.N. investigation should it be mounted.
But Olmert cautioned his Cabinet colleagues that, given the security situation in Gaza, there was no guarantee such a tragedy would not happen again.
“If anyone has a better way for dealing with the Kassams, let’s hear it,” he was quoted as saying behind closed doors.
There was no reported response, though Defense Minister Amir Peretz did say he was trying to restart a shelved plan to develop a system that would shoot down the incoming rockets. Having a capable system would take years, security sources said.