Security Council Considers Illegal Israeli Actions in Jerusalem and Adopts a Presidential Statement

The Security Council met on 30 June 1998, upon the request of the Permanent Mission of Sudan, in its capacity as the Chair of the Arab Group for the month of June. The Council convened to consider the complaints presented to the Council by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine with regard to illegal Israeli actions in Jerusalem. In specific, the Council considered the recent decision by the Israeli Government, on 21 June 1998, to expand the border of Jerusalem and extend the municipal boundaries over some Jewish settlements in the West Bank, establishing a so-called "umbrella authority".

Forty-three speakers addressed the Council on the matter, with the United Kingdom speaking on behalf of the members of the European Union (EU) and associated countries. All of the speakers, with the exception of Israel, strongly criticized Israeli actions, particularly the Israeli plans for Jerusalem, further intensifying the isolation of Israel and the firm position of the international community on the issue of Jerusalem.

The U.S. tried to postpone consideration by the Council of the matter, claiming that it might harm its efforts with regard to revival of the peace process. The Arab Group, however, decided to proceed with the formal debate of the Council on time, while being prepared to accept a few more days until action would be taken by the Council. From the start, the U.S. had indicated that it would veto any draft resolution. The Arab position was finalized as one wanting a vote on an Arab draft resolution, which was presented to the members of the Council, while at the same time expressing readiness to look into the possibility of a Presidential Statement, provided that the text of any such statement contained the necessary elements in terms of substance.

The United Kingdom produced several proposed texts for a Presidential Statement and then the U.S. produced drafts of its own, which were subject to intense discussions and negotiations. The Palestinian side was strongly inclined to insist on the draft resolution, but eventually agreed to go along with a Presidential Statement once reasonable substance with regard to the statement’s content was reached. This decision was taken against the background of strong advice from some EU friends to proceed and accept a Presidential Statement and similar strong advice from some Arab brothers, on the basis that unanimity by the members of the Council would be an added plus and that the agreed text effectively went beyond the traditional U.S. position and that such a step would isolate Israel even further.

Late on the night of 13 July 1998, the Security Council held a brief meeting and adopted a Presidential Statement (S/PRST/1998/21). Within that statement, it was expressed that the Security Council recognizes the importance and sensitivity of the issue of Jerusalem to all parties, and in the context of its previous relevant resolutions, it considers the decision by the Government of Israel, on 21 June 1998, to take steps to broaden the jurisdiction and planning boundaries of Jerusalem a serious and damaging development.

The Council called upon the Government of Israel not to proceed with that decision and also not to take any other steps which would prejudice the outcome of the permanent status negotiations. The Council further called upon Israel to scrupulously abide by its legal obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Further, in an important indication, the Security Council stated in the Presidential Statement that it would keep Israeli actions under review, which confirmed the logic of accepting the Presidential Statement as a limited step, in the right direction, which should be followed by further actions by the Council in case of Israeli lack of compliance.

The following is the text of Presidential Statement S/PRST/1998/21:

At the 3904th meeting of the Security Council, held on 13 July 1998, in connection with the Council’s consideration of the item entitled "The situation in the occupied Arab territories", the President of the Security Council made the following statement on behalf of the Council:

"The Security Council has considered the letters dated 18 and 22 June 1998 (S/1998/535 and S/1998/557), as well as the letters dated 8, 9 and 15 June 1998 (S/1998/481, S/1998/487 and S/1998/511), from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, and the letter dated 23 June 1998 (S/1998/558) from the Permanent Representative of the Sudan to the United Nations on behalf of the States members of the League of Arab States relating to the issue of Jerusalem.

"The Security Council recognizes the importance and sensitivity of the issue of Jerusalem to all parties and expresses its support for the decision of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel, in accordance with the Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993, that the permanent status negotiations shall cover the issue of Jerusalem. The Council therefore calls upon the parties to avoid actions which might prejudice the outcome of these negotiations.

"In the context of its previous relevant resolutions, the Security Council considers the decision by the Government of Israel on 21 June 1998 to take steps to broaden the jurisdiction and planning boundaries of Jerusalem a serious and damaging development. The Council therefore calls upon the Government of Israel not to proceed with that decision and also not to take any other steps which would prejudice the outcome of the permanent status negotiations. Further, the Council also calls upon Israel to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949.

"The Security Council supports the efforts of the United States aimed at breaking the stalemate in the peace process, calls upon all parties to respond positively to these efforts, notes that the Palestinian side has already given agreement in principle to the United States proposals, and expresses the hope that the permanent status negotiations can resume and progress can be made towards the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 and 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973.

"The Security Council will keep Israeli actions under review."