Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Rescinding U.N. Resolutions on Israel Won't Solve Mideast Problems

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Rescinding U.N. Resolutions on Israel Won't Solve Mideast Problems

Article excerpt

Rescinding U.N. Resolutions on Israel Won't Solve Mideast Problems

Happy the land without United Nations resolutions about it. Or at least one might assume so from the statistics. The Balkans have now been the subject of more than 50 Security Council resolutions in two years, in addition to some 40 presidential statements. Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon reminded the General Assembly this September that between 1968 and 1993 more than 80 U.N. resolutions and statements about his country were adopted. Naturally, Palestine has been the subject of more resolutions than any other country.

However, some national leaders want resolutions. In a provocative (because it was honest) speech, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki complained that "Not once in 41 years did Eritrea, scene of the longest war in Africa, and victim of some of the grossest violations of human rights, figure in the agenda of the United Nations." He reminded delegates that it was in 1950 that the U.N. decided to hand over his countrymen to Ethiopia, and then abandoned them to their fate for decades.

A similar thing happened to the Palestinians in 1947, and of course now history repeats itself with monotonous regularity as the Bosnians are sold down the River Drina. But the United Nations can serve as the memory and conscience of the world community, which is why President Afwerki is so indignant at its silence.

So while the headline writers announced peace in our time in the Middle East, it fell to Prime Minister Hariri to speak for some of the people who saw no reason to celebrate too loudly. "The responsibility for the return of the Palestinians to their homeland, and finding a satisfactory solution to their status," Hariri said, "remains within the competence of the international community. If, indeed, we would like to see an end once and for all to chapters of pain and anguish in the Middle East, then the status of the Palestinians should be resolved in a way that ensures a decent living for them commensurate with their legitimate aspirations, rights and dignity."

Although the confessional balance of population in Lebanon may have motivated that speech, it nonetheless remains true. This is why the joint Israeli-U.S. effort to rescind or rewrite the 32 General Assembly resolutions on the Middle East is unlikely to produce the effects the U.S. and Israel want.

One of the resolutions they consider "outdated" concerns Israeli nuclear weapons. Unless someone noticed Yitzhak Rabin handing over some 200 nuclear warheads on the White House lawn, it is difficult to see why the Assembly would reconsider. Israel's sensitivity about these resolutions means that it would be foolish of those who negotiate against them to practice unilateral diplomatic disarmament by rescinding resolutions stating generally accepted principles of international law.

Ignoring International Law in Bosnia

Looking at what is happening in Bosnia gives an awesome example to those who think that it is enough to have international law or U.N. resolutions on one's side. Many people have foreseen the Bosnians joining the Palestinians in their bitterness. And they would be justified, since, if possible, the international community has been more actively complicit in the bitter fate of the Bosnians with its enforcement of the arms embargo.

It would be satisfying to assume that, although the peace settlement being forced on the Bosnians flies in the face of every known principle of international law, those guilty of genocide, rape and similar war crimes will be brought to justice. …

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