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                             ISRAEL
                              FAXX

Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                     May 19, 1995, V3, #93
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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U.S. Vetoes U.N. Condemnation of Israel

By Elaine Johanson (United Nations), Laurie Kassman (Cairo), Al Pessin (Jerusalem), Douglas Roberts (Geneva)

The United States used its veto at the United Nations Wednesday for the first time in five years on a resolution calling on Israel to rescind its decision to confiscate land in Arab east Jerusalem. Israel considers all of Jerusalem its capital and has claimed its right to develop the city.

Fourteen of the Security Council's 15 members voted in favor of the resolution. But the American veto killed it. The US has already expressed disapproval of the Israeli confiscation. But it maintains the issue should be resolved in talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Jerusalem -- a city sacred to Jew, Muslim and Christian -- is considered a flash-point in the peace talks.

The Palestinian observer expressed disappointment, saying the US deliberately thwarted the international community from expressing its position. Oman -- a member of the Council -- warned the failure to pass the resolution will cast a shadow over the peace process.

At issue is a plan by Israel to build homes and a new police headquarters on 134 acres of east Jerusalem -- which it seized in the 1967 war. But those who supported the Arab resolution see it as something much deeper. One Council member called the decision by Israel ill-timed and ill-advised -- whatever its motivation.

The vote ended a debate that began last Friday. Some 40 speakers addressed the Council. Virtually all of them criticized Israel and called for an end to what the Arabs termed a land-grab in Jerusalem.

The US veto of a UN resolution criticizing Israel's plans to confiscate land in east Jerusalem was expected. But still it has sparked new anger and frustration in the Arab world. Some Palestinians question the US role as an honest broker in the Middle East. And Arab diplomats say the US action demonstrates a prejudice toward Israel and endangers the peace process.

The deputy secretary-general of the Arab League, Adnan Omran, calls the veto a betrayal of confidence in the role of the Security Council. "What is the role of the Security Council then, only to impose sanctions against Arab countries? Is this what the United States wants? How can the US, which is the major country responsible for peace and security claim that the Security Council is not responsible for dealing with this situation."

Arab nations lobbied for a tough UN resolution to condemn the Israeli land confiscation as a violation of international law and of the 1993 PLO-Israeli peace deal.

Omran says the veto underlines a US bias toward Israel and renews doubts about the US role as an honest broker in the peace process.

"The majority of people believe there is no hope there will be a US foreign policy vis-a-vis the Middle East. People think this policy is totally an Israeli one and that the United States can never see a policy except through Israeli eyes. And this is a very dangerous thing."

In his weekly newspaper column, Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz warns that peace can never be achieved as long as the fate of Jerusalem remains like a thorn in the hearts of Muslims.

Palestinian officials are disappointed and Israeli officials relieved by the US veto of the resolution. The spokesman for Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat says the veto will hurt the US image among the Palestinian people. But he said the Palestinian Authority will continue to try to work with the United States in the Middle East peace process.

The spokesman, Marwan Kanafani, says he watched the Security Council vote on television with Arafat. "He was very upset. He was very, you know, disappointed. He expected the United States to be more, 'even-handed,' in that flagrant violation of the agreement."

But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Rafi Gamzou, not unexpectedly, has the opposite view. "The American veto will help the peace process and will consolidate it because it will bring back an issue that belongs to the peace process to the right track and not to the Security Council, which is not the appropriate forum."

A senior Palestinian official called for immediate negotiations with Israel on the final status of the Holy City of Jerusalem. Faisal Husseini made the proposal at an international conference in the Swiss city of Montreux.

The Palestinian official was attending a two-day review of the multilateral negotiations designed to complement the bilateral peace talks between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Husseini suggested creation of a new working group on Jerusalem within the framework of the multilateral talks. But Israel rejected that suggestion, saying the final status of the Holy City can only be settled by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

Husseini then suggested that those negotiations begin immediately. Israel's delegate, Yossi Beilin, said he would transmit the proposal to his government.

Under the terms of the Israeli PLO accord, talks on the final status of Jerusalem and the occupied territories are not due to begin until next year.

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