United Nations Report: This Year's U.N. Resolution on Palestinians Will Include Their Right to Self-Determination and "Statehood"
Williams, Ian, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
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. Until now, the Iraqis claimed that they had never loaded the lethal agent in warheads because they had not perfected a stabilizer that would keep it from decomposing.
On the face of it, the U.S. reports proved, yet again, that the Iraqis were holding back parts of the weapons systems that they were supposed to have declared and destroyed. The Iraqis said it was a fix, and the U.N.'s Special Commission sent samples to the French and Swiss labs for their evaluation. Then came the retaliatory bombing of the Al-Shifaa pharmaceutical plant based on U.S. lab reports, even though there now seems overwhelming evidence that the plant was indeed entirely non-military.
Just to confuse the issue, it was revealed that the samples that the Swiss and French were looking at were not the same as those the U.S. had tested. It was not very good science and very maladroit PR. Even so, the French found degradation products of a nerve agent that they said could be VX, or Satin or Soman. On the other hand, they say they could also originate from other compounds such as detergents.
Indeed, all the laboratories also found compounds that indicated extensive use of detergents. Since people don't normally run warhead fragments through a dishwasher, this led to nasty suspicions that Baghdad had tried to launder the samples precisely to hide the evidence of preparations for chemical mayhem. The samples "had no obvious explanation," said UNSCOM's report to the Security Council, which also suggested that Iraq be invited "to explain first the origin and history of the fragments...and then the presence of degradation products of nerve agents."
Not fortuitously, the report came just as the Security Council was sitting down to consider U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan for a "comprehensive review" of what Iraq needed to do before sanctions could be lifted. This was far from seizing on the Annan compromise, based on long discussions with Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and which some Council members thought too generous. In line with Security Council Resolution 1194, any such review could only be after Iraq had resumed full cooperation with the UNSCOM and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). inspectors. Since then, Baghdad has quibbled and raised a whole series of questions. The review will not start until the Iraqis resume cooperation with the UNSCOM inspectors, so it is certain that sanctions will remain for the foreseeable future.
The sanctions are coming under intense fire across the world. The coordinator of the U.N.'s oil-for-food program, Denis Halli-day, resigned to protest what he called "the damage and futility" of the sanctions regime, which, he said "probably strengthens the leadership and weakens the people of the country." A lifelong U.N. employee, the Irish Quaker described his distaste at working under the U.N.'s blue flag when four thousand to five thousand children a month were dying because of the breakdown of sanitation and water supplies. Careful not to lend support to Saddam Hussain's regime, he denounced the "open-ended and politicized" disarmament regime imposed by UNSCOM.
When he followed his U.N. press conference with a hearing on Capitol Hill, he stressed the danger of an upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism among young Iraqis isolated by the sanctions and embittered by their consequences. It may or may not be true, but he shrewdly realized that this was the only way to make people in Washington who are unconcerned about Iraqi suffering sit up and take notice.
In 1990, using 1987 statistics, the first Human Development Report compiled by the U.N. Development Program had Iraq at the top end of "medium human development," countries, 54th in the world rankings. This year's report, based on the 1995 statistics, has it as 127th. Life expectancy just before the sanctions was 65, with an adult literacy rate of 89 percent. Now Iraqis on average are dead by 58.5 years and only 58 percent are literate.
The harsh application of sanctions on Iraq is, in fact, giving sanctions a bad name, making countries reluctant to support what was, after all, supposed to be a humane alternative to war. At the end of October, for example, the U.N. General Assembly passed a Libyan-sponsored resolution calling for the immediate repeal of national laws imposing unilateral sanctions on other countries. Only the U.S. and Israel voted against it, while 80 voted for it. The 67 nations who abstained were probably expressing their opinion of Libya as much as of sanctions, although the Europeans explained that they did not want to be seen as opposing U.N.-imposed sanctions -- such as those imposed on Libya because of its refusal to hand over suspects wanted for the Lockerbie bombing.
Meanwhile Colonel Muammar Qaddafi is still quibbling over the most recent Security Council compromise which would allow the suspects to be tried in The Hague under Scottish law by Scottish judges. U.N. representatives are shuttling between Tripoli and New York trying to allay his fears.
He now says his main problem is that, if found guilty, the two suspects will have to serve their time in Scottish prisons. U.N. officials are trying to convince him, firstly, that if the evidence supports the Libyan suspects, they will not be found guilty, and secondly, that if convicted, they will not be handed over to American or British security services for interrogation.
Madeleine Albright, with typical bluster, told a group of relatives of Lockerbie victims at the end of October that the compromise would be withdrawn by Dec. 21 if the Libyans had not complied.
Of course, she had no mandate to speak on behalf of the United Nations, whose members are highly unlikely to jump to order even if the U.S. Congress finally agrees to payment of just enough of the overdue U.S. dues to avoid losing the American vote in December -- while leaving over $1 billion in arrears outstanding.
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Publication information: Article title: United Nations Report: This Year's U.N. Resolution on Palestinians Will Include Their Right to Self-Determination and "Statehood". Contributors: Williams, Ian - Author. Magazine title: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Volume: XII. Issue: 8 Publication date: December 1998. Page number: 44. © Not available. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.