Outcome of 1997 and Outlook for 1998

It has been a long time since Israel has been as isolated as it was at the United Nations in 1997. This has been the direct result of the policies of the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu, which have effectively been destroying the Middle East peace process.

At the beginning of 1997, in reaction to a new Israeli settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim, four European members of the Security Council, for the first time took the initiative of drafting a resolution demanding a cessation of Israeli settlement activities. The U.S. found itself alone in opposition to the draft resolution and had to exercise its veto to block the draft, an action that it repeated a second time against another draft less than two weeks later. In between, the 51st session of the General Assembly was resumed and the Assembly overwhelming adopted the text of the vetoed draft, underscoring the isolation of both Israel and the U.S. at the U.N.

Moreover, for the first time in fifteen years, in April 1997 the General Assembly convened the 10th Emergency Special Session to consider illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The session was convened after the successful fulfillment of its difficult procedural requirements, in spite of active opposition by the U.S. and passive objection by the European Union. The session was resumed twice (July and November) and three unprecedented resolutions were adopted with the usual overwhelming majority. The resolutions condemn Israeli settlement policy; demand a full cessation of settlement activities; reiterate the rejection of Israeli attempts to change the status of Jerusalem; call for cessation of all assistance to illegal Israeli activities; and for the first time, recommend the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 on enforcement measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and request an expert meeting as an interim step.

The General Assembly, during its 52nd session, adopted 21 relevant resolutions, 19 of which could be considered Palestinian resolutions. Those included extremely important issues such as the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, illegal Israeli settlements, rights of Palestine refugees and the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the all the occupied territory, including Jerusalem. All of those resolutions were adopted by a large majority and all of them maintained the same number of votes or received even more votes in favor in the 52nd session. Regrettably, however, endeavors to achieve the full participation of Palestine in the work of the U.N. were not successfully concluded due to strong American lobbying and a negative European attitude. In addition, the Arab Group, upon the request of the U.S. and Europe, decided to wait and not present an amendment related to Israeli credentials at the U.N. That was 1997. What about 1998?

The Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N. has set forth three tasks for early 1998. The first is completion of the endeavors with regard to the full participation of Palestine by putting the draft to a vote in the near future. The second task is to follow up the decisions of the 10th Emergency Special Session, in particular the expert meeting of the High Contracting Parties, which should take place no later than the end of February 1998 in accordance with resolution ES-10/4. The third is to engage in a broad dialogue on the issue of Israeli credentials in preparation for raising the issue formally. The third task has become increasingly important in light of recent Israeli statements, including statements by the Prime Minister of Israel, making extremely dangerous and illegal claims over parts of the occupied territory since 1967 (See page 4). In addition, the Security Council must resume its engagement in Palestinian and Middle East matters and must fulfill its responsibilities in this regard according to the Charter of the U.N.

The U.N. has undertaken valuable and important work to uphold Palestinian rights and to achieve peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough. In the near future, the U.N. will be needed even more, given the dismal situation of the peace process. The U.N. must exercise serious pressure on the Israeli side to comply with international law and the agreements reached, in line with the Charter of the U.N. and the obligations which should be fulfilled by the international organization.