Creating people's geographies
NYT | November 11, 2006 | By WARREN HOGE
UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 11 – The United States vetoed a Security Council resolution on Saturday that condemned Israel for its military actions in Gaza and called for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the area.
The United States ambassador, John R. Bolton, told the Council that the resolution “does not display an even-handed characterization of the recent events in Gaza, nor does it advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
The resolution, introduced by Qatar, the Arab representative on the Council, had been amended during two days of negotiations to meet objections that it was not balanced. But Mr. Bolton said it remained “in many places biased against Israel [?] and politically motivated.”
In the vote, 4 countries abstained – Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia – and 10 were in favor – Argentina, China, Congo, France, Ghana, Greece, Peru, Russia, Qatar and Tanzania.
An original draft had made no mention of Palestinian rocket strikes into Israel and accused Israel of conducting a “massacre” of civilians in its attack at Beit Hanun on Wednesday that killed 18 civilians.
New language was inserted condemning the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel and calling upon the Palestinian Authority to take “immediate and sustained action” to end the rocket fire. But while the resolution named Israel as liable for the attacks on Gaza, it was silent on who or what group was responsible for the attacks on Israel.
In other changes, a reference to “indiscriminate” violence became “disproportionate” violence, and the words “military assault,” “aggression” and “massacre” were dropped in favor of the general phrase “military operations.”
Another provision had proposed that a new United Nations observer force be sent into the area to monitor a cease-fire, but it was substituted with language suggested by France that called for the creation of “an international mechanism for the protection of civilians.” Mr. Bolton said the United States considered this “a promise which is unwise and unnecessary and which, at any rate, raises false hopes.”
The resolution that was voted on requested that Secretary General Kofi Annan establish a fact-finding mission to investigate Wednesday’s attack and report back within 30 days and called for the resumption of international efforts to achieve peace by the so-called Quartet – the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States.
Israel has apologized for the deaths at Beit Hanun, blaming a “technical error,” and has announced its own investigation of the episode. But it has said it will continue operations to try to stop militants from launching rockets into Israel from Gaza.
The United States traditionally opposes what it considers one-sided Security Council resolutions on Israel, and Saturday’s vote was the fourth time in three years that Washington had taken such action.
In July the United States vetoed another resolution on Gaza; in March 2004 it vetoed a resolution condemning Israel for killing the Hamas leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and in December 2003 it blocked a measure protesting the construction of the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank.
Almost all of the 45 nations that spoke during a daylong debate on the Middle East on Thursday condemned Israel. Arab nations are now expected to move for a vote in the 192-member General Assembly, a path they have followed in the past when such measures have failed to pass the Security Council.
Unlike Security Council resolutions, those passed in the General Assembly are nonbinding and largely symbolic. But they generally attract widespread support when Israel, and, by extension, the United States, are the targets. [As if the legitimacy of the issue had nothing to do with it?!] Jean-Marc de la Sablière, the ambassador of France, said he felt the final negotiated text was “a balanced one” and would have sent the right message to both Israel and the Palestinians. He added, “I hope that the fact this text has not been adopted will not renew tensions on the ground.”