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The United Nations and Israel

Four U.S. Rejections Scuttled Security Council Resolution

By Amira Hass
Ha'aretz Palestinian Affairs Correspondent
April 13, 2001

Four U.S. 'noes' scuttled chances of a European proposal for a UN Security Council resolution that would have recommended ways - including "a mechanism for defense" - to halt the deterioration in the situation between Israel and the Palestinians, European sources said yesterday.

The four noes, say sources in the behind-the-scenes talks, shocked the representatives of the four European countries that put together the resolution - Ireland, Britain, Norway and France. One European source declared less than diplomatically that, "The American noes proved that Israel is a full member of the Security Council, and has the veto as well."

The Americans did not want any mention of the settlements, the Geneva Convention and international law; they opposed mention of the word "siege"; and they objected to any mention of the principle of land-for-peace, said European sources.

The Europeans said they got the impression that Washington wanted only a UN call for an end to the violence and an opening of the roads out of Palestinian towns and villages. "An economic sweetener," is how one diplomatic source described it.

The sources added that, if there was one incident above all that turned the Americans against any compromise on a resolution, it was the murder of 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass in Hebron by a Palestinian sniper.

On March 27, the United States cast a veto on a resolution submitted by the non-aligned countries in coordination with the Palestinian delegation to the UN. In Israel, it was reported that the European proposal was not submitted because of Palestinian objections: Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat had not wanted to appear at the Arab League Summit, then under way in Amman, as someone ready to compromise on the Palestinian issue.

But the story is much more complex: The American noes, say European sources, are what scuttled the compromise resolution, which was based on the hope and assumption that there would be no U.S. veto.

In the days leading up to the resolution's vote, the Arabs and their allies had actually given up hope that their own resolution would get further than a U.S. veto, so had agreed to forgo their resolution if the Europeans went ahead with one of their own. This meant the Europeans had to negotiate with the Americans over the formula.

European sources said it was true that the Palestinians wanted a vote during the Arab League Summit in Amman, and that if they had not pressed for that deadline, a compromise might have been worked out. But the sources stress they undertook the job with "a most pragmatic" approach, hoping for a Council consensus giving meaning and substance to the Security Council's role.

The European proposal went through several drafts. The first was prepared by the ambassadors in New York. But their home foreign ministries regarded it as tilting too much toward the Palestinians, and it went through some revisions.

It was clear that Washington would object to any proposal that suggested posting foreign troops in the area, if such a proposal lacked the support of both sides. At the same time, it appeared to the Europeans that Washington wanted a consensual resolution that would help the two sides halt the deterioration in relations.

That is how the Europeans came up with the relatively ambiguous phrase, "a mechanism for defense" that the nonaligned countries - and the Palestinians - could accept.

During backroom discussions, it appeared the Americans were also divided, and it seemed for a while that a consensus could be worked out. But then two things happened: The Arab League Summit pushed the Arabs to press for an immediate vote, and Shalhevet Pass, a 10-month-old toddler from a Hebron settler family, was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

The child's murder changed the U.S position entirely, one European source said. Another said that the Americans would have vetoed any resolution. Or as a third source put it: Even if there were changes and amendments to the resolution, the United States would have vetoed it.

The differences in approach were clear, said one diplomat, explaining that, "The Americans regard both sides as equally responsible for the violence. We think that it's clear the violence has to be stopped, but its roots have to be seen clearly."

The Europeans view the relationship of Israel and the Palestinians as that of the occupier and the occupied, so the two sides are not equal, either in raw power or in responsibility for the situation. Therefore, the Europeans regard the Geneva convention - which specifically prohibits "the transfer of the occupying power's population" into the occupied area - as a critical cornerstone of international law for the situation.


'A misunderstanding'

U.S. officials refused to comment on the negotiations over the European resolution, and refused to confirm or deny the four noes described by the European diplomats or any influence the toddler's death had on the vote.

However, they do admit the terms - Geneva convention, settlements, and siege - did come up in the negotiations, and acknowledged that the United States stands behind the principle of "land for peace," as formulated both at the Madrid conference and by the Olso agreement. "So," said a U.S. diplomat who asked for anonymity, "maybe there was a misunderstanding in New York."

He said the United States would have backed any resolution that called for an end to violence and a return to negotiations. the two sides halt the deterioration in relations.

That is how the Europeans came up with the relatively ambiguous phrase, "a mechanism for defense" that the non-aligned countries - and the Palestinians - could accept.

During backroom discussions, it appeared the Americans were also divided, and it seemed for a while that a consensus could be worked out. But then two things happened: The Arab League Summit pushed the Arabs to press for an immediate vote, and Shalhevet Pass, a 10-month-old toddler from a Hebron settler family, was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

The child's murder changed the U.S position entirely, one European source said. Another said that the Americans would have vetoed any resolution. Or as a third source put it: Even if there were changes and amendments to the resolution, the United States would have vetoed it.

The differences in approach were clear, said one diplomat, explaining that, "The Americans regard both sides as equally responsible for the violence. We think that it's clear the violence has to be stopped, but its roots have to be seen clearly."

The Europeans view the relationship of Israel and the Palestinians as that of the occupier and the occupied, so the two sides are not equal, either in raw power or in responsibility for the situation. Therefore, the Europeans regard the Geneva convention - which specifically prohibits "the transfer of the occupying power's population" into the occupied area - as a critical cornerstone of international law for the situation.

However, continued the U.S. diplomat, since the bilateral agreements signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) included the settlements as an issue for negotiations, the United States believes the UN should stay out of the settlement debate. As for the Geneva Convention issue, UN involvement would be a matter of prejudgment in an issue that must be resolved between the two parties, he said.

"U.S. opposition to the settlements is because they undermine relations between the two sides and the continuing negotiations," and not because the Geneva convention prohibits them, said the U.S. source. Thus. the Americans refer to Gaza and the West Bank as occupied territories, but since Oslo, the Geneva Convention is no longer relevant, because the issue is now bilateral between the two sides, the U.S. source explained

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