Due to a negative vote by a permanent member, the United States, the Security Council this evening for the second time in two weeks failed to adopt a draft resolution on the Israeli construction of a new housing settlement in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area of East Jerusalem.
The draft text, which would have demanded Israel's immediate cessation of construction of the East Jerusalem settlement, received 13 votes in favour to 1 against (United States), with 1 abstention (Costa Rica).
On 7 March the Council, following two days of debate on the occupied Arab territories, had, by a vote of 14 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions, failed to adopt a resolution calling for the reversal of the Israeli decision to begin construction of the Jabal Abu Ghneim settlement.
In explaining his opposition, the representative of the United States said neither the Council nor the Assembly should be inserting themselves into issues that the negotiating partners have decided will be addressed in their permanent status talks. Such interference could only harden the positions of both sides, and make their work more difficult.
He added that no one should interpret United States opposition to the resolution as an expression of support for the Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. Construction on the site was not helpful to the peace process. The parties must take special care to avoid pre-emptive actions that could be seen to prejudge the outcome of negotiations.
Following the Council decision, the Permanent Observer for Palestine said that it was difficult to accept that the veto had been cast to protect the peace process. The bitter reality was that the veto had been cast to shield Israel from the will of the international community and to exempt Israel from the provisions of international law. It seriously violated the provisions of the Charter and was definitely not in the interest of the Council and its credibility.
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The Palestinian and Arab position would not yield, he continued. "We are determined to protect our historic and legal rights, particularly in holy Jerusalem ... in accordance with the historic reconciliation between the two sides", he said. Regarding today's bombing in Tel Aviv, he condemned and rejected such acts as harming the peace process as a whole. The occurrence of such acts could not be isolated, however, from the grave and tense situation created by the actions of Israeli authorities.
The representative of Israel said that on the same day a number of Israelis had been killed and wounded by a terrorist attack, a number of Council members had voted for a one-sided draft resolution. Historically, time and again such one-sided resolutions by the Assembly and the Council had attacked Israel and encouraged the enemies of peace.
The Palestinians, he stressed, had in the peace agreements accepted the obligation to address terrorist activities and to take action against the terrorist infrastructure. They had instead chosen to release persons identified with terrorism. The group Hammas had claimed responsibility for the Tel Aviv bombing which killed 3 women and injured more than 40 others. The Palestinian leadership had not countered terrorist leaders or their stated intentions. He concluded by saying the Arab States had blatantly misused the Council.
Also making statements this evening were the representatives of Egypt, France, Costa Rica, China, Russian Federation, Portugal, Japan and Sweden.
The meeting, which began at 6:26 p.m., was adjourned at 7:28 p.m.
The Security Council met this evening to consider the situation in the occupied Arab territories.
It had before it a draft resolution (document S/1997/241) sponsored by Egypt and Qatar which reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling its relevant resolutions, in particular those concerning Jerusalem and Israeli settlements,
"Aware of General Assembly resolution 51/223 of 13 March 1997
"Stressing its support for the Middle East Peace Process and the need for the implementation of the agreements and commitments reached,
"1. Demands that Israel immediately cease construction of the Jabal Abu Ghneim settlement in East Jerusalem, as well as all other Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories;
"2. Requests the Secretary-General to submit a report on the developments in this regard."
Action on Draft Resolution
Speaking before action on the draft text, NABIL ELARABY (Egypt) said that for the second time in two weeks, the Security Council was being called upon to stop settlement actions in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area, in particular. The issue was being discussed again today as a consequence of the destructive policies of the Israeli Government, especially around Jerusalem. The draft resolution before the Council would call on Israel to cease the use of settlements to impose a fait accompli, which was rejected both in form and substance and a prejudgment on issues that should be negotiated in the final status phase of the peace talks.
The Arab Group of States had hoped the draft resolution would be brief and call on Israel to halt building of the settlements, he continued. It did not deal with any other issue. Consultations in the last few days in the Council had not been able to produce unanimous agreement on the matter. Egypt had warned, through the statement of President Hosni Mubarak, that the course of events in the region was taking a dangerous turn, due to the policies of the current Israeli Government.
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He condemned the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. Israel must realize, however, that its actions would have negative consequences. The only way towards peace was respect for the norms of international law and full respect of the commitments made by each side. Israel should honour the commitment it made in Washington, which proscribed action by either side that would prejudge the final outcome of negotiations.
Silence from the Security Council would send a dangerous message that would encourage the Israeli Government to continue violating international law, he said. It would also encourage it to avoid fulfilling its contractual obligations. That could abort the peace process, which was at a difficult stage. The international community must demand that Israel stop its settlement activities, which would only threaten the peace process.
FERNANDO BERROCAL SOTO (Costa Rica) said the Israeli decision ran counter to international law and threatened the peace process. Costa Rica had stressed the need for the Council to maintain unity to make its message clear; that the position of the Israeli Government was threatening the peace process. The recent terrorist attacks had made matters worse. There were dark clouds, but the views of the other side must not override those of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. In light of the lack of unity, he had been instructed to abstain on the draft resolution.
HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said it was regrettable that, despite the appeals of the international community, the Israeli Government had proceeded with the construction in Jabal Abu Ghneim/Har Homa. Such an action could undermine the peace process in the region. In that context, Japan would vote for the draft text. His delegation had taken part in discussions with other Council members in order to seek a unanimous message of the Council, which would call upon Israel to cease construction of a settlement in East Jerusalem.
He condemned terrorism, such as the act that occurred in Tel Aviv on 21 March. Such violent acts must not be allowed to derail the efforts for peace and stability. To avoid a deterioration of the situation, the parties should exercise restraint.
WANG XUEXIAN (China) said Israel had ignored the calls of the international community to stop its settlement activities. The peace process was thus threatened. He once again called upon Israel to stop construction. The issue of Jerusalem must be settled through negotiations and under the relevant Council resolutions. It was up to the Council to send a message to the Israeli Government to stop the settlement activities. He condemned all terrorist activities and expressed condolences to the families of those killed or injured in today's tragic incident.
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BILL RICHARDSON (United States) said the terrorist outrage earlier today, when a bomb exploded in a crowded cafe in Tel Aviv, demonstrated just how real a threat was posed by the enemies of peace. There was no place for terror or violence in the peace process. No circumstances could justify the resort to violence against innocent civilians. He welcomed the condemnation of the tragic incident issued by Yasser Arafat.
Concerning the controversy over the Har Homa/Jabal Abu Ghneim situation, he said his country's position was made clear in the debate earlier this month. While the United States shared the concerns expressed about the decision of the Israeli Government to begin construction on the East Jerusalem site, it disagreed on the best method of addressing the situation. His country, therefore, would vote against the resolution before the Council. Neither the Council nor the Assembly should be inserting themselves into issues that the negotiating partners had decided would be addressed in their permanent status talks. Such interference could only harden the positions of both sides, and make their work more difficult.
The United States opposition to the resolution should not be interpreted as an expression of support for the construction in East Jerusalem, he said. Construction on the site was not helpful to the peace process. The parties must take special care to avoid pre-emptive actions that could be seen to prejudge the outcome of negotiations. The decision on East Jerusalem was regrettable. The controversy would not be resolved, however, by interference from the Council. It could only be resolved by the parties themselves. Today's Council action lacked the spirit of support and encouragement for the peace process.
The Council then failed to adopt the resolution by a vote of 13 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 1 abstention (Costa Rica). The resolution was not adopted owing to the negative vote of a permanent member of the Council
Speaking after action on the text, HERVE LADSOUS (France) said it was regrettable that, despite hard work, consensus had not been achieved. He called upon the parties to continue the peace process. The Israeli authorities should gauge the effect of their actions on the peace process. The Israeli settlements were contrary to international law and were at variance with the peace process. It was particularly true in the Jerusalem area. The resumption of violence in the Middle East was a matter of serious concern. He appealed for restraint by both parties. The logic of peace and dialogue could and should prevail.
SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) condemned the Israeli settlement activities in East Jerusalem. The situation provoked by Israel's actions had worsened the situation in the occupied territories and threatened the peace
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process. Both parties must make every effort to avoid any further confrontation. The draft was an appropriate response by the Council to the situation. The Russian Federation would also have supported a presidential statement, if consensus had been reached.
ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal) said he had voted for the draft resolution and that he did not need to elaborate the Portuguese position on the decision by the Israeli Government to build a new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim/Har Homa. Portugal had co-sponsored the draft resolution considered by the Council at a previous meeting, as well as the one adopted by the General Assembly. The Israeli decision was illegal under international law and a violation of the agreements that had been reached so far by the parties. He had hoped that, at the present time, the Council would assume its responsibilities and firmly express its support for the Middle East peace process. Unfortunately, no consensus could be reached on the matter.
He condemned the recent terrorist bombing in Tel Aviv. He urged Israel to reconsider and stop all action that created mistrust among the Palestinian and Arab peoples and risked alienating them. The Palestinian people and their leaders should continue to show restraint and not resort to violence.
ANDERS LIDEN (Sweden) said his delegation had, in a Council meeting on 5 March, expressed deep concern about the Israeli Government's decisions to build settlements in the occupied territories, including the recent one at Jabal Abu Ghneim/Har Homa. Sweden had in the last few days been trying to find an agreement on a presidential statement, but, regretfully, no agreement was achieved on the matter in the Council. Only when the Council spoke with one voice could it send a clear message and make its influence felt by the parties involved.
He had voted for the draft resolution and supported its contents. The Foreign Minister of Sweden, Lena Hjelm-Wallen, in a statement on 19 March, deplored the commencement of construction on the Jabal Abu Ghneim hill. She had called upon the Israeli Government to abandon its settlement policy. This morning she had also strongly condemned the terrorist attack in central Tel Aviv and urged restraint, in order to prevent an escalation of the violence. He quoted from the Minister's statement, "The only way forward is to return to the peace process".
NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that the United States had exercised the right of veto for the second time in less than two weeks, and for the third time in less than two years, with regard to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular East Jerusalem. And for the second time the Council had failed to carry out its responsibilities and duties for the preservation of international peace and security.
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Israel, the occupying Power, persisted in its violation of international law, he continued. It persisted in its unrelenting pursuit of changing the legal and demographic status of Jerusalem, ignoring the natural and historic rights of the Palestinian people there. It was also extremely regrettable that the veto had been cast in the aftermath of Israel's actual commencement on 18 March of the building of the new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim.
It was difficult to accept that the veto had been cast to protect the peace process, he said. The bitter reality was that the veto had been cast to shield Israel from the will of the international community and to exempt Israel from the provisions of international law. It seriously violated the provisions of the Charter and was definitely not in the interest of the Council and its credibility. It was the duty of the international community to reject any attempt to exploit the peace process by neutralizing the law and leaving the Palestinian side subject to the occupier and the existing imbalance of power on the ground. International legitimacy was the sole weapon of the Palestinian people.
He said he would resort to other United Nations organs, particularly the General Assembly. It was the Assembly that had partitioned Palestine and bore special responsibility within the framework of the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects. He called upon Israel not to misunderstand what had happened in the Council today. The Palestinian and Arab position would not yield. "We are determined to protect our historic and legal rights, particularly in Holy Jerusalem ... in accordance with the historic reconciliation between the two sides", he said. If the Israelis were committed to that, so were the Palestinians.
Regarding the bombing in Tel Aviv, he condemned and rejected such acts as harming the peace process as a whole. The occurrence of such acts could not be isolated, however, from the grave and tense situation created by the actions of Israeli authorities. He called particular attention to recent "irresponsible" statements by certain Israeli officials.
DAVID PELEG (Israel) said on the day a number of Israelis had been killed and wounded by a terrorist act, a number of Council members had voted for a one-sided draft resolution. Historically, time and again such one-sided resolutions by the Assembly and the Council had attacked Israel and encouraged the enemies of peace. The Palestinian willingness to politicize the issues was a threat to the peace process. It was not as if the Palestinians had not themselves violated the peace agreements.
He went on to outline actions taken by Israel in support of the peace process. The Palestinians had chosen to generate political pressure outside the region, rather than return to the bilateral negotiating process. The
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Palestinians had, in the peace agreements, accepted the obligation to address terrorist activities and to take action against the terrorist infrastructure. They had, instead, released persons identified with terrorism.
The group Hammas had claimed responsibility for the Tel Aviv bombing, which killed 3 women and injured more than 40 others, he said. The Palestinian leadership had not countered terrorist leaders or their stated intentions. For example, a leader of Hammas, released by the Palestinian Authority a few days ago, had addressed a rally today claiming that the path of jihad was the only way to free Jerusalem. The Palestinian leadership continued to ignore its responsibilities under the agreements to end terrorism. The language of incitement seldom remained in the realm of words alone, he added.
He said Israel had made all the necessary preparations for the resumption of peace talks later in the month. He expressed the hope that the Palestinians would join with Israel to negotiate, rather than turning to other means. The Council had been blatantly misused by the Arab States. It should express support for the peace process and unequivocally fight terrorism.
Mr. ELARABY (Egypt) said, in response to the Israeli statement, that he could not accept the argument that the introduction of a subject related to the maintenance of international peace and security, particularly in the Middle East, was a blatant misuse of the Council. The 15 members of the Security Council were acting on behalf of the United Nations and the Council had been vested with the responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. Since the Council could attend to peace and security anywhere in the word, the Middle East should not be an exception.
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