US Threatens UN Over Israel’s Assassinations
US Threatens UN Consensus Condemning Israel’s Assassination Decision
Roed-Larsen Says Arafat far from Irrelevant, Stresses True ‘Parallelism’
The UN Security Council was scheduled Tuesday to vote on a Palestinian-drafted resolution condemning Israel for plans to “remove” President Yasser Arafat, under a US threat to veto the draft unless Washington sees a more “balanced” motion condemning so-called Palestinian “terrorist” groups as well, following a day-long debate in which nation after nation took to the microphone and blasted the Jewish state over the plan its government approved on Thursday.
More than 40 member states of the United Nations on Monday condemned the Israeli decision to “remove” Arafat by exile or by assassination as “a major political mistake and adversely affect the peace process," they said.
The council began consultations on a resolution drafted by the Palestinians late Friday and then adjourned until Monday, despite Palestinian pressure for a quick vote.
In the interim, the council issued a press statement expressing "the view that the removal of chairman Arafat would be unhelpful and should not be implemented."
British ambassador and acting Council president Emyr Jones Parry said he expected a vote Tuesday. Parry and his US counterpart John Negroponte both said they wanted to see a more “balanced” resolution.
The US ambassador repeatedly said Washington would not back a measure that did not condemn Palestinian “terrorist” groups. He called the current proposal "very lopsided, one-sided resolution, totally against Israel and supportive of the Palestinian position... It doesn't contain the explicit condemnation of terrorism that we think ought to be in there."
Diplomats said that Syria, the only Arab member of the 15-member council, made some changes in the text but that failed to satisfy the United States. It was unclear whether Arabs would agree to amend the text further to win American support.
The diplomats added the United States had not explicitly ruled out the possibility of abstaining if the resolution in the present form is put to vote.
American ambassador John Negroponte told the council that ending “terrorism” must be highest priority. He condemned Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and asserted that any resolution must condemn them to get US support.
However, the United States warned Israel Monday that expelling or killing Arafat "would not help matters" as it pushed to salvage its tattered road map to Middle East peace.
"We have made it clear that expulsion, in any form, just would not help matters and only serve to give Arafat more (of) a world stage," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "That includes expulsion or killing."
His comments came after Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a television interview that assassinating Arafat was “definitely” an option.
Palestinian UN Envoy Walks out
The Palestinian UN envoy Nasser al-Kidwa said the council must take an immediate stand "when illegal actions are taken by member states."
The Palestinian draft "demands that Israel, the occupying power, desist from any act of deportation and to cease any threat to the safety of the elected president of the Palestinian Authority."
It calls for the cessation of violence - including all acts of “terror”, provocation, incitement and destruction - and increased efforts by both sides to ensure implementation of the “roadmap” peace plan.
It also would reiterate the council’s concern at the “tragic and violent” events that have taken place since September 2000 when the latest Israeli-Palestinian clashes began, “and the recent dangerous deterioration of the situation, including the escalation in extra-judicial executions and suicide bombings.”
Kidwa warned the council that any action against Arafat would mean an end of the Palestinian Authority and the peace process. He walked out of the council as Israeli ambassador Dan Gillerman began speaking.
Arafat far from Irrelevant, Says Roed-Larsen
The Norwegian UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, in a speech to the Security Council on Monday, said that Yasser Arafat is the legitimate leader of the Palestinians and refuted the claim made several times by the Israeli government and supported by the US, that Arafat was irrelevant to the peace process.
"Mr. Arafat is democratically elected, and as such, the legitimate leader of the Palestinians. He embodies Palestinian identity and national aspirations. He is now far from irrelevant."
Declaring that the Middle East now stood at the crossroads between recommitment to peace and descent into major bloodshed, the senior UN envoy for the region called for determined international engagement and a bold acceleration of the “roadmap” process to jump start efforts to resolve the crisis.
"Given the current situation, it might be appropriate to speed up the Road Map," Roed-Larsen said, saying that viewing the situation in hindsight, the process had moved too slowly and incrementally when what was needed were bold steps to achieve a true “parallelism” for ending terrorism against Israelis by Palestinian militants and occupation and settlement of Palestinian territory by Israel.
"Bold steps, related to settlements and security, and involving increased activity from the international community might be necessary in order to improve the environment and assist to jump start a resumption of the process," he said in his briefing.
"We are now crossing dire and stormy straits," he declared of the recent cycle of violence and counter-violence on both sides, which over the past month has killed 38 Israelis and 43 Palestinians. "At this difficult time we have no choice but to increase our efforts to implement the roadmap."
The UN envoy said neither side had "seriously and actively" addressed the core concerns of the other - for Israel security and freedom from terrorist attack, for Palestinians a viable independent state based on pre-1967 war borders.
"The two key issues in the peace process are terrorism and occupation," he said, stressing that progress on the latter issue was essential for a Palestinian Prime Minister to win the necessary popular base to clamp down on terrorism.
"This essential public support could best be achieved, under the current circumstances, through abandonment of settlements. The continued expansion of settlements produces the opposite effect," he added, noting that over the past four months a single but essential issue - security for Israel from terrorism - became the sole focus of “roadmap” implementation.
"We must reassert the principle of parallelism by beginning to end both terrorism and occupation," he declared.
Without a major change in the
situation, Roed-Larsen said, "further deterioration,
resulting in major bloodshed, seem inevitable."