December 19, 2000
The Palestinian demand for a UN observer force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was defeated Tuesday in the Security Council when the United States, Russia and other key countries abstained, arguing it could jeopardize the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Palestinian supporters on the 15-member council demanded a vote, knowing in advance they faced almost certain defeat or at least a U.S. veto. Behind-the-scenes efforts to persuade the Palestinians to ditch the resolution and agree to a non-binding press statement supporting an end to the violence and the new round of peace talks failed.
In the end, the United States did not have to exercise its veto rights because the resolution failed to muster the minimum nine "yes" votes in the council. Only eight council members supported the resolution - Bangladesh, China, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mali, Namibia, Tunisia, and Ukraine. Seven council members abstained - Argentina, Britain, Canada, France, Netherlands, Russia and the United States.
The Palestinian UN observer Nasser al-Kidwa said the only explanation for Israel's success was the high level of pressure of the United States on all other council members. He complained that the council only becomes active when it deals with the enemies of the United States, and said the vote showed that Arabs and others cannot rely on the Security Council for justice.
Calling the vote a wise decision, Israel's UN Ambassador Yehuda Lancry said it sent a strong message against the trend to permanently and automatically use the United Nations as a means of diplomatic harassment against Israel.
Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Liel said the decision was one of Israel's biggest diplomatic victories at the UN in almost two decades.
"Veterans at the foreign ministry can't remember an achievement like this in the last 19 years or so, whereby an anti-Israel resolution was rejected by the Security Council," he told Israel Radio.
The Associated Press and Reuters