United Nations Report: General Assembly Resolutions Call for Land-for-Peace Settlement, Palestinian Refugee Right of Return

By Williams, Ian | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, February 1999 | Go to article overview
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United Nations Report: General Assembly Resolutions Call for Land-for-Peace Settlement, Palestinian Refugee Right of Return


Williams, Ian, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


UNITED NATIONS REPORT: General Assembly Resolutions Call for Land-for-Peace Settlement Palestinian Refugee Right of Return

As Netanyahu dilutes Wye, which in turn watered down Oslo, which implied abandonment of some major principles of international law, it seems the Palestinians are faced with a homeopathic peace settlement, in which the original components are so diluted as to be undetectable. So it was a faint sign of good news that just before President Clinton visited Palestine, the U.N. reminded the world what those principles are.

The General Assembly passed its annual series of resolutions, which took Israel to task for almost every aspect of its policy in the territories. The resolutions were passed overwhelmingly, with even faithful Micronesia, totally dependent on the U.S.Congress for its budget, more often than not deserting Israel and the U.S. That could be a further sign of what Palestinian envoy Nasser Al-Kidwa and others already had noted, that the U.S. Mission was much less thoroughly committed than usual to arm-twisting and browbeating on behalf of Israel.

There are several reasons for that, including the personality factor. Firstly, Ambassador-designate Richard C. Holbrooke is still in career limbo, between the weakness of the White House and the hardness of Jesse Helms, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman.

Acting ambassador to the U.N. Peter Burleigh is a professional State Department diplomat. So even though he formally stated the U.S. position, that the two parties should negotiate without the rest of the world getting involved, he was not driven to superhuman efforts on behalf of Likud. That is unlike his predecessor, Bill Richardson, whose vice-presidential ambitions dictated some grandstanding toward the Israel lobby.

On the other hand, the administration itself, despite being the most pro-Israeli in American history, is also showing signs of exasperation with Netanyahu's prevarication. It will be some time before Secretary of State Madeleine Albright emulates her predecessor Jim Baker and holds up the department's phone number for the use of anyone in the Israeli cabinet who sincerely wants peace. Even so, the White House is clearly unhappy.

The final factor is Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold, whose abrasive statements are, as Nasser Al-Kidwa says, more suited to Likud fund-raisers in Brooklyn than for serious United Nations deliberations. Taking the hard-line Likud slogan of "peace for peace," Gold told the General Assembly that the expression "land-for-peace" did not appear anywhere in Resolutions 242 (1967) or 338 (1973). "It did not appear anywhere in the Madrid invitation, and was not used by President Bush at the Madrid Conference. The clear thrust of Madrid and past agreements was that boundaries had to be negotiated and should reflect the quality of security and political arrangements."

Gold described the occupied territories as "disputed" territories, and threatened annexation if the Palestinians were to go ahead with the declaration of their state next year. He concluded that if Israel were called on to agree to specific boundaries as opposed to negotiations for "secure" borders, that would set a precedent for the entire world.

Small wonder that Al-Kidwa comments, "He is the representative of a party rather than a state. You don't come to the U.N. and argue against land for peace. You can say things like that in Brooklyn, but not at the U.N.!"

Gold provoked several Arab ambassadors, like Egypt's Nabil El Araby, into sharp factual corrections, while Al-Kidwa declared that "every principle of international law and justice has been violated by Israel, including those governing the protection of civilians in the time of war, maintenance of human rights and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons."

Not one resolution of the Security Council and General Assembly on the Middle East and the question of Palestine has been respected or implemented by Israel, Al-Kidwa pointed out.

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United Nations Report: General Assembly Resolutions Call for Land-for-Peace Settlement, Palestinian Refugee Right of Return
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