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December 14, 1990 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-12-14

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U.S. Walks The Line
In U.N. Negotiations

A Security Council measure underscores
the difficulty of keeping both Israel
and the Arabs happy.


Special to The Jewish News

he ever-fraying
tightrope walked by
the United States on
the Persian Gulf crisis was
brought sharply into focus
by the intense diplomatic
maneuvering over the pro-
posed United Nations
Security Council resolution
urging an international con-
ference on Israel and the oc-
cupied territories.
Initially, the conventional
wisdom in Washington sug-
gested that the administra-
tion would accept such a
resolution, or at least not
veto the measure in
deference to the fragile co-
alition of Arab nations
aligned with the U.S.
against Iraq. To veto the
proposal outright, the pun-
dits concluded, would em-
barrass the coalition by
associating its Arab mem-
bers with a U.S. stand in
support of Israel.
Worrisome reports to that
effect circulated early last
week among American Jew-
ish leaders, who viewed the
possibility with horror and
as another sign of the de-
teriorated relationship bet-
ween Washington and
Jerusalem. Indeed, a U.S.
decision to abstain from ve-
toing any measure that, in
effect, forces an interna-
tional conference upon Israel
would mark a new low point
in relations between the
United States and the Jew-
ish state.
It would also remove all
doubt of Washington's will-
ingness — President Bush's
public comments notwith-
standing — to link set-
tlement of the Israeli-
Palestinian question with a
peaceful resolution of the
Gulf crisis, should it be forc-
ed to make that choice by po-
litical developments at
Saddam Hussein has
sought to establish that
linkage almost from the


Will linkage be perceived between Gulf tensions and a Mideast peace

beginning of the four-month-
old Gulf crisis. American
Jewish and Israeli officials
fear Washington could be
forced to take such a position
by the erosion in public and
congressional support for its
hard-line stance toward
By late last week,
however, the administra-
tion's position on the Securi-
ty Council resolution began
to shift. President Bush
became convinced that U.S.
acquiescence to the proposal
as originally written would
be widely viewed as a con-
cession to Iraq — something
he has also said he would not
do — particularly coming so
soon after Saddam Hussein's
decision to free all Western
hostages held by Iraq.
The sigh of relief
emanating from the offices
of American Jewish organ-
izations was almost audible.
"From the beginning, it
was clear that this was a
mischievous resolution, that
it would undermine

Council president proposing
such a conference in lieu of
an actual Security Council
vote on the measure.
Such statements are con-
sidered less binding than a
resolution bearing the ap-
proval of council members.
As originally written, the
Security Council resolution,
officially proposed by the
panel's four "nonaligned"
members — Malaysia,
Yemen, Colombia and Cuba
— criticizes Israel for its
handling of the Oct. 8 Tem-
ple Mount incident, during
which at least 17 Palestin-
ians died at the hands of
Israeli security forces. The
resolution also seeks to ex-
tend some form of U.N. pro-
tection to Palestinians living
in the territories.
Most troublesome from the
pro-Israel standpoint,
however, was language call-
ing for an international
peace conference at "an ap-
propriate," but unspecified,
future date. The conference
would be "properly polit-
ical," have "the participa-
tion of the parties con-
cerned" and "would
facilitate the achievement of
a comprehensive settlement
and lasting peace in the
Middle East."
Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir, in remarks
that reflected Israel's long-
standing mistrust of a U.N.
that once equated Zionism
with racism, immediately re-
jected any such move.
Jerusalem interprets all
calls for international set-
tlement of the Palestinian ,
situation as undue pressure
intended to force com-
promises that might en-
danger Israel's security.
"Free and democratic
states continue to cater to
the pressures and threats of
a group of dictatorial
governments" led by the
Palestine Liberation Organ-
ization, Mr. Shamir said in
New York on Monday, the
day prior to his meeting in
Washington with President
Bush. "Enemies of freedom,

Security Council negotia-
"We made it clear in nu-
merous contacts with the
administration that a U.S.
abstention would be
equivalent to an affirmative
vote," said Seymour Reich,
chairman of the Conference
of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organiza-
"The idea was to keep the
pressure on, and to keep
making it clear that the en-
tire process of fighting over
this resolution is demeaning
to the United States," added
Malcolm Hoenlein, the Pres-
idents' Conference executive
A somewhat different opi-
nion was offered during the
week by Edgar M. Bronf-
man, the Canadian Jewish
leader who heads the World
Jewish Congress.
Writing in The New York
Times, Mr. Bronfman said
that whatever the outcome
of the Security Council
debate, shifting global alli-
ances make an international
conference on the Middle
East inevitable.
In view of this, he wrote,
"Israel should make every
effort to reach some agree-
ment with the Palestinians"

whatever chances there
might be for a solution to the
Middle East situation," said
Jess Hordes, Washington di-
rector for the Anti-
Defamation League of B'nai
Once the U.S. point of view
changed, Washington's tac-
tic became to delay any
Security Council action
while seeking to negotiate a
change in the wording of the
resolution so it would read in
a way that all parties could
live with — at least for the
That strategy appeared to
be working by the middle of democracy and basic human
rig hts cannot be prophets of
this week, although the out-
progress . . . Nor can the
come remained inconclusive
U.N. open a new chapter as
at press time.
long as dictatorships like
There were reports that
Libya and Iraq can sit in the
Syria, Egypt and Sau di
Security Council, while
Arabia — the Arab world's
Israel is the one U.N. mem-
three major powers current-
ber excluded" from the
ly aligned with the U.S. —
had agreed to soften the
An outpouring of pro-
Israel lobbying on the part of
The reports said that the
American Jewish organiza-
three powers would settle for
tions accompanied the
a statement by the Security

As expected,
Shamir had harsh
words for a
settlement of the
Palestinian issue.

in advance of any settlement
forced upon it by an interna-
tional conference to which it
may not be a party.

"Israel cannot hold back
such a tide; it should not
try," Mr. Bronfman said.
"While the U.S. tolerates no
direct link between the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict
and the Gulf crisis, to assert
that Israel is somehow not a
piece of the overall regional
security mosaic is naive: The
low profile Israel has kept
during the Gulf crisis has not
kept the world from perceiv-
ing the underlying connec-

Ira Rifkin is assistant editor of
the Baltimore Jewish Times.
James D. Besser is Washing-
ton correspondent for The Jew-
ish News.



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