The Massacre at Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi in Al-Khalil on 25 February 1994

and the Adoption of Security Council Resolution 904 (1994) 

  • On 25 February 1994, at dawn local time, a massacre was committed against innocent Palestinians worshipping at Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi in Al-Khalil during the holy month of Ramadan. The massacre and its aftermath that day resulted in more than 50 Palestinians killed and over 200 wounded. The main perpetrator of the massacre, who died on the premises, was identified as settler Baruch Goldstein.
  • On 25 February 1994, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations sent a letter to the President of the Security Council and the Secretary-General of the United Nations informing them about the massacre and requesting "international protection through a direct international presence in the occupied Palestinian territory" and calling upon "the Security Council to immediately fulfill its responsibilities to take the necessary measures in reaction to the situation", and "to do so in a meeting to be held immediately due to the volatility of the situation and its dangerous nature". A draft resolution was also prepared by the mission and distributed to the members of the Council.
  • On 25 February 1994, the Secretary-General of the United Nations issued a statement concerning the massacre and the grave situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
  • The Arab Group met on that day at the request of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to consider the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Group agreed that the Permanent Representative of Egypt, in his capacity as Chairman of the Group for the month, would send a letter on behalf of the Arab Group in support of the Palestinian request for a formal meeting of the Council to consider the situation. The letter was sent on 25 February 1994.
  • The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) met on the afternoon of 25 February 1994, and a letter, as well as the statement adopted by the members of the OIC, was sent to the President of the Security Council by the Permanent Representative of Pakistan, in his capacity as the Chairman of the OIC. A letter was also sent on that day to the Secretary-General from the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
  • Following the initial distribution of the Palestinian draft, the U.S. delegation gave the indication that it preferred the issuance of a presidential statement by the Council. A draft of a presidential statement was prepared by the U.S. delegation and was informally circulated. The Palestinian delegation reacted negatively to the idea and indicated that adoption of a resolution was a must. The Palestinian delegation also heavily criticized the text proposed by the U.S. delegation.
  • On 25 February 1994, at the suggestion of the U.S., a meeting was convened among the representatives of the U.S., Russia (in their capacity as the co-sponsors of the peace process), Egypt (in its capacity as the Chairman of the Arab Group), and Palestine. During the meeting, the U.S. delegation explained its position in general terms and expressed the preference for issuing a draft presidential statement. The Palestinian delegation made it clear that the resolution was a must and that action by the Security Council should not be considered as a substitute to the peace process, but rather that such an action could only serve to encourage and facilitate resumption of the process.
  • On 26 February 1994, the U.S. delegation informally presented their own ideas in the form of a draft resolution, as if in amendment of the Palestinian draft, but it was in fact very different. The draft was unacceptable to the Palestinian delegation.
  • At the invitation of the President of the Council, Djibouti, the Council met on 26 February 1994 (Saturday) to conduct informal consultations on the issue. The Pakistan delegation introduced the Palestinian draft, with little amendment, to the members of the Council. The French delegation introduced amendments to the Palestinian draft and informally distributed what came to be known as the French proposal.
  • Some contacts also took place on 26 February 1994 with the coordinator for the NAM caucus of the Security Council (Rwanda) and with the delegation of Pakistan, in its capacity as Chairman of the OIC, as well as with other members of the Council. In the informal consultations, the Council decided to meet again Monday to consider the situation.
  • Also, on 26 February 1994, the Secretary-General sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, expressing his belief "that a resumption of discussions on Gaza and Jericho will not by itself be sufficient to overcome the anxiety of Palestinians residing elsewhere in the West Bank," as the massacre and the circumstances in which it was committed, he stated, "heightened Palestinian feelings of insecurity regarding the Israeli settlers, whom they have long perceived to be operating outside the law". The Secretary-General also reaffirmed Israel's obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and stated the following with regard to the need to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinians in the occupied territories: "I am well aware that Israel has long opposed the deployment of United Nations military observers in the occupied territories. Yet I would urge you, in the present circumstances, to consider some kind of United Nations presence, possibly civilians whose terms of reference would be worked out in consultation with your government". The reaction to this letter by the U.S. and Israeli delegations was very negative.
  • On 28 February 1994, the four parties (U.S., Russia, Egypt, and Palestine) met again and had lengthy discussions in an attempt to reach agreement on a draft resolution. Several successive draft resolutions were produced, but disagreement remained prominent on the issue of Jerusalem, on the issue of an international presence and on the possible reference to a role to be played by the Secretary-General.
  • Following another meeting of the Arab Group, the Chairman of the group sent another official letter to the President of the Council, dated 28 February 1994, requesting that a formal meeting be immediately held and transmitting the text of a resolution adopted by the League of Arab States on 27 February 1994. After some contacts by the President of the Council, it was decided that the Council would meet in a formal session on 28 February 1994.
  • In a letter to the President of the Security Council, dated 26 February 1994, following the usual practice, the Permanent Observer of Palestine requested participation in the debate of the Council, using the traditional language in this regard. At the beginning of the first meeting of the Security Council, which was held on 28 February 1994, the U.S. delegation, for the first time did not raise an objection and did not insist on a vote with regard to Palestinian participation. The President informed the Council that he had received a letter from the Permanent Observer of Palestine requesting participation, and proposed, "with the consent of the Council, to invite the Permanent Observer of Palestine to participate in the current debate in accordance with the rules of procedure and the previous practice in this regard". There being no objection, it was so decided. The President then proceeded to invite the Permanent Observer of Palestine to take a place at the Council table. That scenario for Palestinian participation without a vote, including the formulation of language, was agreed upon between the two parties in advance. This represented a departure from the traditional position of the U.S. since December 1975.
  • The first speaker was the Permanent Observer of Palestine. He spoke in Arabic, and in his statement said the following:

"This abominable massacre was committed by elements introduced into Palestinian territory in flagrant violation of international law, in particular the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and a number of Security Council resolutions. The cause of this act is the policy pursued up to this very day by successive Israeli governments in connection with the establishment of settlements."

"The settlers have been heavily armed. Israel and its occupying forces have carried out all kinds of illegal practices, not in keeping with law or logic. What has taken place must be understood in that context. It is the result of a campaign of illegitimate Israeli settlements and the climate this has created, and not an isolated act, regardless of the numbers involved in the committing of this crime. In any event, we remain convinced - and all the evidence points in this direction - that the massacre was committed by several persons, including the main perpetrator, who unfortunately had arrived in the occupied territories form the United States of America."

"We believe that the Security Council should rapidly adopt a new resolution in which it would strongly condemn this massacre perpetrated against our people and would assume its responsibility for the protection of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, in accordance with previous resolutions adopted by the Security Council, in particular resolution 681 (1990)."

  • The Permanent Representative of Egypt, in his capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group, made the second statement before the Council. The Permanent Representative of Israel was the third speaker, and for the first time remained seated at the Council table for the duration of all the meetings. Others who spoke during that session included Pakistan, Tunisia, Jordan and the Permanent Observer of the OIC.
  • On 1 March 1994, the Committee on Palestine of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) met to consider the situation and issued a statement. The Permanent Representative of Indonesia, in his capacity as Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of NAM, sent a letter to the President of the Security Council, transmitting the statement of the Committee on Palestine which was adopted on that day.
  • Another lengthy meeting took place on 1 March 1994 among the previously mentioned four parties, during which there was further discussion on the position of the U.S. with regard to its reservations about the reference to Jerusalem as occupied territory and the call for a temporary international presence throughout the occupied territory to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian people, statements they felt would be in conflict with the provisions of the Declaration of Principles, signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization on 13 September 1993, and the peace process being conducted. The Palestinian position was also made clear during that meeting. Broader agreement on the text was reached during the meeting, however, disagreement on some points remained.
  • The second session of the Council was convened on 1 March 1994 to continue debate and consideration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The President of the Council for the month of March was France. The list of speakers that evening included Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Libya and Lebanon.
  • On 2 March 1994, the Council convened again to continue the debate. The speakers that evening were Indonesia, Greece, Syria, Algeria, Malaysia, Kuwait, Turkey, Sudan, Iran, Ukraine, Japan, Senegal, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Bahrain and Bosnia and Herzegovina. That concluded the list of speakers who had signed up for the debate.
  • On 3 March 1994, a Palestinian delegation went to Washington to meet with U.S. officials, which included a meeting with the Secretary of State on 4 March 1994. The purpose of the delegation's visit was to explain clearly the Palestinian position vis-a-vis returning to the peace negotiations. However, part of the discussion did deal with the resolution in the Security Council. It became very clear during those meetings that Jerusalem was a major stumbling block.
  • The OIC met once again, on 7 March 1994, to follow-up the situation and developments since the massacre. Special emphasis was placed on the centrality of the issue of Jerusalem to the Islamic world. A statement was also issued on that day.
  • On 9 March 1994, another meeting took place among the four aforementioned parties and, after extensive discussion, agreement, ad referendum, was reached on a text, which was then sent to both Tunis and Washington for approval. At that time, it was suggested that Russia and U.K. sponsor the draft. Later on France indicated its willingness to sponsor the draft and it became known that other countries were willing to the same as well. It was the general feeling that agreement was achieved and that the Council was on its way to vote.
  • By the end of the day, of 9 March 1994, a sudden change occurred in the position of the U.S., indicating their unreadiness to vote, and it became obvious that the American wish not to take action was not directly linked to the text itself. An informal meeting of the Council, which was scheduled for that day, was cancelled.
  • On the 10th of March, the Palestinian delegation undertook extensive consultations with members of the NAM caucus with the aim of having the resolution tabled by the caucus. The caucus also met with the Permanent Representative of the United States to explain its intention to proceed with the tabling of the resolution. She requested them to wait until the next day, when she would be in a position to definitively give them the final position of the U.S. on the resolution.
  • On 11 March 1994, the U.S. delegation informed the members of the caucus that they had no objection to the resolution being tabled but would rather have limited sponsorship of the resolution. The caucus decided that Djibouti, in its formal capacity as their coordinator. would co-sponsor the resolution. In addition, Russia, U.K., France and Spain also co-sponsored the draft, which was issued as document S/1994/280 on that date.
  • On the afternoon of the 11th, the Permanent Representative of the U.S. informed the Palestinian delegation that the U.S. was not yet ready to vote and requested postponement until Monday. It was agreed that it could be postponed only until the 12th.
  • During the informal consultation of the Security Council, the Permanent Representative of Russia, without consulting with the Palestinian delegation, suggested the postponement of action until Monday, the 15th of March. The Council agreed to meet on the 15th at 11 o'clock. The Russian proposal was made at exactly the same time that the Russian Foreign Minister meeting with President Arafat in Tunis. It was the view of the Palestinians that the Foreign Minister was not aware of these developments at the Security Council during his meeting at PLO headquarters in Tunis.
  • On Saturday, 12 March 1994, the Permanent Representative of Russia, requested a meeting of the Council, with the aim of taking action on the draft resolution. In light of the request made, the President of the Council called for a meeting at 7 o'clock that evening. The Russian request for a meeting also came without prior consultation with the Palestinian delegation. A flurry of contacts then took place in both Tunis and New York, including contacts between the U.S. Secretary of State and President Arafat, in which the U.S. requested Palestinian assistance to avoid problems and to postpone the vote. The Palestinian position was conveyed to the President and members of the Council, including the caucus, which essentially was that they could not be against any request to have a meeting of the Council to take action on the draft, since this was in fact their stated position from the beginning. At the same time, however, the Palestinians believed that they should avoid direct confrontation with the U.S. The Palestinian delegation was indirectly trying to reach a compromise, while postponing action, and tried to get a decision by the Council on a fixed date for action to be taken.
  • The weakness of the Russian implementation and the lack of support among members, including those of the caucus, led to the eventual postponement without any compromise. No official meeting took place, and it was agreed that the original agreement of the Council, reached on 11 March 1994, would be followed.
  • On 14 March 1994, the President of the Council called for informal consultations in the afternoon. The Palestinian delegation got instructions to push for a vote regardless of the results. The Permanent Observer of Palestine informed the U.S. of these instructions. In a meeting with the NAM caucus, the Permanent Observer clearly requested that the caucus request a formal meeting and a vote, regardless of the outcome. He made it clear that the Palestinian leadership refused any linkage between adoption of this process and the resumption of the peace process and refused any attempt to drop the reference to Jerusalem.
  • The caucus then met with all the members of the Council individually in an attempt to reach consensus, and the pressure continued to increase on the U.S. to accept an exact date for action. Finally, the Permanent Representative of the U.S. promised to return on the next day, the 15th of March, with final specifics, including a date for the vote.
  • On 15 March 1994, the U.S. delegation informed the caucus and the other members of the Council that they were ready to accept the adoption of the agenda for a meeting to take place on the 18th of March. The Council, meeting in its informal consultation, adopted that draft agenda, which was issued in blue. (It is to be noted that the Prime Minister of Israel had been paying an official visit to the U.S. on the 16th and 17th of March.)
  • In the informal consultation, on 18 March 1994, the U.S. delegation confirmed what they had previously suggested to the Palestinian delegation concerning the procedure to be followed. They stated that they wanted the draft resolution to be adopted without a vote. However, the U.S. requested that the adoption of the resolution be preceded by a separate paragraph by paragraph vote. Further, they indicated that they would abstain on the 2nd and 6th preambular paragraphs, which referred to the "Occupied Palestinian Territory" and to Jerusalem as occupied territory, respectively. Their position was conveyed earlier to the Permanent Observer of Palestine, but the abstention on the 2nd paragraph came as a surprise to him.
  • At 4 o'clock, on 18 March 1994, the Council held its 4th session, with the aim of taking action on the draft resolution. All members of the Council made statements, either before or after the vote. The resolution was adopted according to the agreed scenario, which included a separate vote on each of the preambular and operative paragraphs followed by adoption of the resolution without a vote. After the voting on each of the paragraphs was completed, the President of the Council stated the following: "The Council will now proceed to take a decision on the draft resolution in document S/1994/280 as a whole. It is my understanding that the Council wishes to adopt the draft resolution as a whole without putting it to the vote. If there is no objection, I shall declare the draft resolution adopted. As I see no objection, it is so decided". The President then stated, "The draft resolution has been adopted as resolution 904 (1994)."
  • The Permanent Representative of the U.S. was the first to make a statement after the vote. The following are excerpts from her statement:

"It is precisely to serve and protect the peace process that my Government has - with great reluctance - made the difficult decision to allow this resolution to pass today, despite the existence of some language we find objectionable. For today in Washington my Government has announced several steps that will serve to restart the stalled Middle East peace process. First, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon have agreed to resume bilateral negotiations with Israel in April. Secondly, and of particular importance to the resolution we are discussing today, Israel and the PLO have had intensive discussions at the highest levels. They have finally agreed to convene a senior-level meeting, the timing of which will be announced in the days ahead.

The United States supports the operative paragraphs of the resolution that the Council has just adopted. However, we sought a paragraph by paragraph vote on this resolution because we wanted to record our objections to language introduced there. Had this language appeared in the operative paragraphs of the resolution, let me be clear: we would have exercised our veto. In fact, we are today voting against a resolution in the Commission on the Status of Women precisely because it implies that Jerusalem is "occupied Palestinian territory".

We simply do not support the description of the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war as "occupied Palestinian territory". In the view of my Government, this language could be taken to indicate sovereignty, a matter which both Israel and the PLO have agreed must be decided in negotiations on the final status of the territories. As agreed between them, those negotiations will not begin later than two years after the implementation of the Declaration of Principles.

Similarly, while my Government reaffirms our view that the Fourth Geneva Convention, of 12 August 1949, applies to territories occupied by Israel since 1967, we oppose the specific reference to Jerusalem in this resolution and will continue to oppose its insertion in future resolutions. As I have noted already, had this language been in the operative paragraphs, we would have vetoed the resolution.

Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues to be addressed in the negotiations. As President Clinton stated on 16 March, "In terms of the resolution of Jerusalem, the position of the United States has not changed. But that is a matter for the parties to decide. And in accord with the declaration, it is something to be ultimately decided at a later point. That's what we think should be done".

Under the Declaration of Principles, it is an issue which Israel and the PLO have agreed will be dealt with in the final status negotiations. My Government does not believe that it is helpful to the negotiations to include the kind of reference that is made to Jerusalem in this resolution. It could prejudge the outcome of the negotiations. The Security Council should respect the parties' agreement in this regard."

  • The Permanent Observer of Palestine was the last to deliver a statement before the Council. The following are excerpts from his statement:

"The emerging details about the massacre itself - including the sudden and suspicious absence of the Israeli security elements at the beginning of the massacre and their participation in the shooting afterwards, and the policies implemented by the security forces of Israel, the occupying Power, with regard to Israeli settlers - confirm once again the validity of our general position that the massacre and all other heinous manifestations are simply the natural outcome of the ideology and mentality of settler colonialism on our Palestinian land.

The problem, then, is the illegal presence of settlers on our land. This cannot be reduced to the presence of extremist settlers only, in spite of the fact that they are the worst, and it definitely cannot be reduced to Baruch Goldstein, in spite of the fact that he has become the symbol of the problem, both in its origins and its outcome. Thus there can be no serious or real solutions to this problem without the adoption of new policies aimed at the reversal of the situation existing today and, at a later stage, the dismantlement of the settlements.

The second issue, which we raise as a result of discussions which have taken place here in the Council and which have been tainted by misinformation, regards the reference in the text of this resolution to Jerusalem as part of the occupied territories since 1967 and the relationship between this reference and the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993. It is well known that reference to Jerusalem as part of the occupied territories has been a consistent practice of the Council for a long time. In fact, every single resolution relating to the Palestinian issue adopted by the Council in the past has contained this language formulation, in preambular paragraphs and, indeed, in operative paragraphs alike.

Thus, the Council's adoption of the same language today only reflects continuation of this policy. Any attempt to change this language poses the danger of a change in the policy.

Here, we wish to express our disappointment and our deep concern over the abstention of the delegation of the United States of America in the vote on the last preambular paragraph in the resolution as well as in the vote on the second preambular paragraph, which came as a total surprise to us at the very last moment. We earnestly hope that those abstentions do not signal a departure from the United States' long-held consistent position on this sensitive issue.

With reference to the question of the potential impact of the Declaration of Principles on the question of Jerusalem and on other important issues such as settlements and refugees, which have been postponed until the second stage of negotiations between the two sides, I categorically affirm that the legal and political status of those issues is determined by international law and international legitimacy. Furthermore, postponement of negotiations on those issues has no bearing whatsoever on their current legal and political status. For example, according to international humanitarian law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and several Security Council resolutions, the settlements are illegal and constitute obstacles to peace. They remain so, whether there has been no negotiation on them at all or there shall be negotiations tomorrow or after two years. The same applies to Jerusalem.

Arab East Jerusalem has been an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967, and according to relevant Security Council resolutions and the principles of international law, all measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, aimed at changing the status of Jerusalem are null and void. If the Declaration of Principles has any bearing on this, it should be understood in favor of the position of the international community and not the opposite, since Israel accepted in principle that the final status of Jerusalem will be subject to negotiation.

We hope that no party would contemplate distorting or manipulating the facts or would attempt to change the realities related to these important issues, because such attempts would certainly lead to dangerous results, which must be avoided."

"The resolution adopted today by the Council is undoubtedly an essential and important step forward. The resolution itself demonstrates that the Council has upheld its own responsibilities towards the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. In this resolution, the Council, after it strongly condemns Al-Khalil massacre, calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, given its obligations and responsibilities, to take specific measures, including confiscation of arms, with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers. The Council, at the same time, call for measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians throughout the occupied territory, including a temporary international or foreign presence. The Council then requests the co-sponsors of the peace process to undertake the necessary support for the implementation of those measures.

The main issue here, as Members are aware, is the provision of protection for the Palestinian civilians under occupation. The materialization of such protection will lead to the creation of a new situation on the ground, in which our people may start to have a normal life, albeit a limited one, until the end of the occupation. The Security Council, as is clear from the resolution, did not get into the details of this issue. That fact does not, however, absolve the Council from its responsibilities towards the implementation of the resolution in the direction defined by the Council today and decided in its previous resolutions, particularly resolution 681 (1990).

We believe that the main task now is the implementation of the resolution. For our part, we will work with the parties concerned to begin this implementation immediately. The experience of our people with previous Security Council resolutions is not a happy one, and we strongly hope that things will be different this time."

"We, the Palestinians, have a vested interest in the peace process and its success, and we are committed to it. But, at the same time, we say that the resumption of this process as if nothing had happened is not feasible, and suggesting such a thing is unacceptable and even immoral. The restarting of the process and its successful conclusion depend on the credibility of the process, the credibility of its sponsors and the credibility of its participants, especially the Israeli government, which should adopt clear measures to respond to the pain and the needs of our people and not only to deal with the negative impact of the massacre on the Israeli side.

The Palestinian people need to be convinced that Israel is serious about peace. That, however, will be very difficult to achieve without them first becoming convinced that no more massacres will be committed against them in the future."

  • At the request of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, the Arab Group held a series of meetings, on 22, 23 and 25 March 1994, to discuss the U.S. positions expressed by the Permanent Representative of the U.S. before the Security Council on 18 March 1994, particularly on the issue of Jerusalem. In implementation of the decisions of the Arab Group, the Ambassador of Libya, the Chairman of the group for the month of March, sent a letter to the President of the Security Council and to the Secretary-General on the legal status of Jerusalem. Another letter was written to the Permanent Representative of the U.S., and it was hand-delivered during a meeting that took place between an Arab delegation and the U.S. delegation.
  • Note: On 25 March 1994, the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations issued a press release stating the following:

"Over the past few days, several Jordanian officials have been making confusing comments on the issue of Jerusalem in connection with the action taken by the Security Council on 18 March 1994, when it adopted without a vote Resolution 904 (1994). Until now, the Palestinian side has avoided responding to those puzzling statements because of the centrality and sensitivity of the issue of Jerusalem for all Arabs, and in an effort to avoid any hint of possible disagreement on this crucial issue.

Today, however, the Arab daily newspaper "Al-Hayat" reported that the Permanent Observer of Jordan to the United Nations, in a similar statement, suggested that the issue of Jerusalem might have been better served if the Palestinian side had accepted removal of the reference to Jerusalem from Resolution 904 (1994). While the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations expresses its astonishment over such a statement, it emphasizes the fact that the removal of the reference would have been the first time not to refer to Jerusalem as part of the occupied territories in any Security Council resolution. Having done that would have amounted to total submission to illegitimate requests from the United States administration on this important issue.

The Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations wishes to state that the Palestinian side remains proud of its position of prinicple, and calls for a united Arab front to confront the indications of a change in the American position on this important issue and the possibility of further deterioration of that position. At the same time, the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine expresses its satisfaction with the joint position adopted by the Arab Group in its meeting on 24 March 1994, taking a series of actions in this regard."