U.S. Casts 2nd Veto in 2001 and 10th ESS of General Assembly Resumes

In the early morning hours of Saturday, 15 December 2001, the U.N. Security Council voted on a draft resolution regarding the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The draft was introduced by Egypt, Chair of the Arab Group, and Tunisia, the Arab member of the Council. 12 Council members voted in favor of the draft, the U.K. and Norway abstained and the U.S. exercised its veto against the draft, thus preventing its adoption. This was the second U.S. veto in the year, along with the veto cast on 27 March.

12 votes were cast in favor of the draft despite the U.S. objection and pressure against it. The important elements of the vote included a unified position by the Non-Aligned (NAM) members of the Council; 2 out of 3 European Union (EU) members (France, Ireland) voting in favor; and China, Russia and Ukraine supporting it. This clearly reflected the seriousness of the Council members regarding the real dangers of the situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In fact, Israeli tanks and occupying forces had by then entered all major Palestinian cities and even reached the headquarters of President Arafat in the city of Ramallah.

The result of the vote, as well as the statements made by the speakers participating in the debate, conveyed wide support for the necessity of actions by the Council and real worries about Israeli actions, particularly those directed against the Palestinian Authority. A unanimous position was also expressed with regard to condemning all acts of terror as well as all acts of extrajudicial executions, the excessive use of force and the widespread destruction of properties. Moreover, the entire exercise, which began on Thursday, 13 December, with the request for an immediate meeting of the Council by the Arab Group, illustrated once again that the U.S. position was untenable and that the Security Council must become involved in a serious manner in the situation.

As a result of the U.S. veto preventing the Council from taking action, and immediately following the holidays, on 18 December the Arab Group supported a call by Palestine for the resumption of the 10th Emergency Special Session (ESS) of the General Assembly to consider "Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory", which was held under the "uniting for peace" formula. On that same day, South Africa, in its capacity as the chair of NAM, also formally supported the resumption of the session in a letter to the President.

The Palestinian side suggested, and the Arab Group agreed, to present 2 draft resolutions the first consisting of the same text of the draft vetoed by the Council and the second focusing on the 4th Geneva Convention and the Declaration adopted by the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention, convened 5 December 2001 at Geneva. The idea of seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court Justice on the legal repercussions of the grave Israeli violations of the Convention, as well as the legal repercussions for the High Contracting Parties in terms of ensuring respect for the Convention, was also considered. Due to the lack of time however, the idea was postponed in favor of supporting the Declaration of Geneva and calling for the observance of that Declaration.

The 10th ESS of the General Assembly was convened on Thursday, 20 December, for one session, given the fact that the 56th Session was to conclude the next day. A limited number of speakers addressed the session, mainly representing groups, such as Egypt (Arab Group), Qatar (OIC), South Africa (NAM), Senegal (CEIRPP), Chile (Rio Group), Belgium (EU), and Tanzania (OAU).

The results of the vote on resolution ES-10/8 were 124 in favor, 6 against (U.S., Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Tuvalu) and 25 abstentions. Resolution ES-10/9 was adopted by a vote of 133 in favor, 4 against (U.S., Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia) and 16 abstentions. The U.K. was the only EU member to abstain on ES-10/8 and Canada and Australia were among the few States abstaining on both resolutions. (The complete texts of both resolutions are included below.)

Once again, the voting results as well as the statements made during the 10th ESS clearly reflected the serious concern of the international community regarding the Israeli actions and the situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. Definite unhappiness was also conveyed by the membership of the Organization with regard to the way the Security Council has been dealing with the matter. The resumed ESS was convened after a huge Israeli campaign attempting to pressure and isolate the Palestinian Authority and its elected President, Yasser Arafat, only to show that Israel is in fact the isolated party needing the usual, automatic protection of the U.S. to shield it from the will of the international community.