By Williams, Ian
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , Vol. XII, No. 8
UNITED NATIONS REPORT: This Year's U.N. Resolution on Palestinians Will Include Their Right to Self-Determination and "Statehood"
The Wye peace talks excluded the U.N. -- and everyone knows why. The U.N. resolutions stressing the position of the occupied territories and the illegality of settlements mean that the so-called peace talks are more like ransom negotiations with a thief who only wants to hand back part of what he has purloined, and is using the Palestinian people as hostages to get title.
The Palestinian negotiators in Wye may have felt that they had no option but to agree to force majeure, but it doesn't mean that they have to like it. Further, according to Arab diplomats, the criticisms of Israeli policy are unlikely to be mitigated in this year's traditional General Assembly resolutions on Middle East issues.
Indeed the resolution on the fight of the Palestinians to self-determination will have the added words "including their statehood." That means that the European states may not sponsor it this year -- but they probably won't vote against it either. Nor is Netanyahu's behavior likely to gain him many more supporters than the traditional handful of Pacific islands.
The one Arab concession to Wye is that, instead of asking for a specific amendment to the U.N. Credentials Committee report excluding the territories from Israel's representation, this may now be in the form of a letter from the Non-Aligned Movement, that will appear in the Committee's Report. It will then be up to the U.S. and Israel to try to move an amendment in the full session.
The impatient will wonder why anyone bothers with the hot-air factory on New York's East River. On one level, anything that annoys and exercises the Israelis and the current American foreign policymakers as much as it does has to be worth doing. More seriously, the nations of the world have annually given their opinion, solidifying the international legal position of the Palestinians, and negating Israeli claims.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat himself, in his first speech to the General Assembly since Palestine achieved the status of "super-observer," giving him most of the prerogatives of a head of state, invoked the United Nations as "the source of international legitimacy and peacemaking." He also hoped that it would "stand by our people, especially as the five-year transitional period provided for in the Palestinian-Israeli agreements will end on May 4, 1999 and our people demand of us to shoulder our responsibilities, and they await the establishment of the fight of our people to self-determination."
However, legitimacy has not helped the Palestinians so far, as he implicitly recognized himself when he catalogued Israeli actions in the territories. He also managed to avoid committing himself to a declaration of independence next May -- while calling upon the world community to support him if he did.
Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold declared his country "satisfied" with Arafat's choice of a "negotiated settlement, rather than the option of a unilateral declaration." Just in case anyone thought that this was a reference to anything like even-handed negotiations between equals, Gold's statement referred to balancing "the concerns of the Palestinians" with "Israel's right for secure and safe borders." In the present parlous state of the Palestinians, the U.N. resolutions are almost the only weapons they have, apart from a declaration of statehood.
NERVE GAS AND SANCTIONS
At the end of October, it seemed that the Iraqis were revealed as having rather more in the way of weapons than it first seemed. But if they are guilty it was only by a majority vote by the jury, in the form of the group of scientists from the U.S., France and Switzerland, who examined missile fragments from Iraq. The U.S. researchers at Aberdeen arms laboratory had initially claimed the discovery of traces of VX nerve gas on 11 of the shards of the 43 warheads that had been dismantled and buried. …