Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

United Nations Report: For Second Time, General Assembly Votes to Condemn Israeli Settlements

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

United Nations Report: For Second Time, General Assembly Votes to Condemn Israeli Settlements

Article excerpt

United Nations Report: For Second Time, General Assembly Votes to Condemn Israeli Settlements

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson is indeed a nice guy, and not only because Israeli Chargé d'Affaires David Peleg says so. He is friendly to and approachable by staff, delegates and press alike. But one can't be sure that anyone has actually asked him the question put by several Palestinians at the U.N. Why, since he has some Native American ancestry on his Mexican mother's side, is he not more sympathetic to another people who were dispossessed from their land by settlers?

In the meantime, back in the Security Council, on March 21 he cast the 72nd U.S. veto, his second, and Washington's 34th veto on Middle Eastern affairs, effectively as a proxy veto for Israel. Even by the usual outrageous standards, this was difficult to justify. It was the blandest and most anodyne resolution possible, mildly reprimanding the Israelis for building settlements in East Jerusalem. It did not call for action, condemnation or even express a legal opinion. Moved by Egypt and Qatar, the resolution simply called for what the U.S. administration itself had called for, that Israel stop the construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim and at settlements elsewhere in the Middle East. Apart from the U.S. veto, very heavy pressure from Washington persuaded the Costa Rican delegate to abstain. The rest of the Council, including all of the U.S.'s best friends, voted for the resolution.

Neither U.S. nor Israeli delegates want the world organization involved in the "peace process," which they say should be conducted entirely on the basis of bilateral negotiations. Of course, in the real world, the Palestinians are so weak, that this is like watching a Sumo wrestler mug a 6-year-old and standing by because it would be "unfair" to intervene.

Which is why, within hours of Richardson's veto, the Palestinian Mission had set in train a move to the General Assembly, where of course the U.S., and hence Israel, has no veto. In fact, just as the subject went twice to the Security Council and was vetoed there twice by the U.S., this was its second trip to the General Assembly.

After the first U.S. veto in the Security Council (No. 71), a similar resolution was passed in the General Assembly by 130 to 2 (the U.S. and Israel) votes. It was after the U.S. again vetoed the second, watereddown resolution in the Security Council (No. 72) that Palestinian delegate Nasser Al Kidwa again took a resolution to the General Assembly.

However, that resolution did not call for action. Under the U.N. Charter, the General Assembly technically cannot deal with matters which the Security Council has under discussion. The exception, however, is that under a 1950 resolution called "Uniting For Peace," the General Assembly decided that it could take action on matters vetoed in the Security Council.

Arab diplomacy has made a quantum leap in sophistication.

Ironically, it was the U.S. that drafted and moved the proposal designed to thwart the Soviet veto. One can't help wondering if its framers ever thought that its most frequent use would be against the American veto. To call a special "emergency" session, the U.N. moved at its traditional glacial pace. It took several weeks before the necessary letters came from a majority of members to call the meeting, but when it did there was little doubt of the outcome.

When the vote came, on April 25, so compelling were the U.S. and Israeli arguments that they persuaded the Federated States of Micronesia to vote no as well. …

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