United Nations Report: U.S. and Israel Seek to Forestall General Assembly Condemnation

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United Nations Report: U.S. and Israel Seek to Forestall General Assembly Condemnation

As readers open this issue of the Washington Report, the United Nations General Assembly will be opening its 48th session in New York. Many of the resolutions will be the old and predictable ones, but if the Clinton administration has its way, there will be fewer resolutions concerning Israel. The American and Israeli missions to the U.N. have drawn up a joint list of issues upon which they hope to defer discussion or block General Assembly resolutions in this session. On the list are Israeli nuclear weapons, the intifada, the Golan Heights, relations between Israel and South Africa, and Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and of Palestinian human rights in the occupied territories.

It is likely that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's declared intention of making a quarter of a million Lebanese and Palestinians quit their homes during the recent attack on south Lebanon also will be placed on the U.S.-Israeli list for non-discussion in the General Assembly. But, then, it was not discussed in the Security Council either.

The only resolution passed that was remotely relevant to Lebanon was to renew the mandate for the UNIFIL peacekeeping forces. Lebanon asked for a Security Council meeting to discuss the Israeli attack, but then backed off under pressure from the U.S. As U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright told the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in July, the U.S. would "continue to stand by Israel."

So, instead of condemning a clear breach of international law, the Security Council simply issued a presidential statement, attached to the UNIFIL renewal, which asserted that "any state shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations." Partially redeeming the U.N.'s reputation, Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali himself named the perpetrator when he condemned the "incessant Israeli attacks despite previous appeals for restraint" and insisted that the "policy of forcing people to abandon their homes must be stopped forthwith."

The Washington Report spoke to Lebanese Ambassador to the U.N. Dr. Khalil Makkawi about the tragic events and found him at least as forthright as the secretary-general. Ambassador Makkawi explained that he had suspended his call for a Security Council meeting on instructions from Beirut, "because we knew from past experience that it is one thing to ask for a council meeting, and another thing to come out with a resolution or a statement from it. So we thought from the good offices of certain major powers we could get a result."

However, he still thinks that the Israeli attack on his small country was indeed a U.N. responsibility. Comparing the assault with the 1982 invasion, he said, "It is unbelievable, the audacity of the Israeli prime minister telling our people to leave, threatening otherwise that they might be killed. In effect, he executed a scorched-earth policy."

He also put the lack of an Arab League resolution in context. "You know the Americans always, when you bring any issue concerning Israel to the Security Council, object on the pretext that this will hinder or obstruct the peace process--which is not true," he complained. "They have done it many times, but it has increased Israel's appetite for more aggression. On the contrary, if the Security Council were to pronounce itself in the strongest manner against the behavior of Israel it might make Israel think twice before embarking on such steps."

Turning from American evasions to Israeli invasions, the Lebanese envoy was scathing. "It has been proven futile, counterproductive and does not help the peace process. They pretend that they were waging this war on Hezbollah, when the facts prove that this was war on Lebanon and the civilian population. …