Published in The Jerusalem Post on October 4, 1998
Clinton pledged to minimize world economic turmoil. Tony Blair offered to host an international parley to close-out sources of funding for terrorists. Iranian president Mohammed Khatemi called for universal dialogue to promote peace and end violence, including terrorism. Nelson Mandela spoke of human rights. And Yasser Arafat talked of peace, refraining (oh so heroically!) from directly threatening to unilaterally declare Palestinian statehood.
For a moment, I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of the occasion. World leaders gathered in brotherhood for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly annual debate.
But the high passed quickly and I remembered what a disreputable place the UN has become.
Few noticed that in his ‘courageously restrained’ speech, Arafat also opened a new front of diplomatic aggression against Israel, threatening to mount a renewed challenge to Israel’s credentials in the GA later this month. This is something the PLO and Arab states haven’t done in several years.
In a crafty parliamentary maneuver designed to further isolate and embarrass Israel, the “Delegation of Palestine” (as the PA is known in the UN) will move to have Israel’s credentials to the UN plenary approved only as they pertain to the pre-1967 borders. In doing so, the PLO seeks to use the annual re-accreditation process as a weapon with which to advance its territorial claims against Israel.
There’s little worry here. Even the Europeans will oppose the PA initiative, along with several dozen Third World countries with their own territorial conflicts. They don’t like the precedent. But the very attempt to go after Israel this way proves my point: don’t look for brotherhood at the UN.
Ah, you’ll tell me, the UN has become a tamer place as far as Israel is concerned – at least since the Oslo accords were signed. Not so. Three months to the day after the handshake on the White House lawn, in December 1993, the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn Israel for exercising its sovereignty over Jerusalem. And the GA repeatedly has been used to bash Israel on this issue and others since then.
Moreover, Oslo hasn’t made us all that popular. Five years of Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation isn’t reason enough for the European Community to reconsider its opposition to the inclusion of Israel in the “West European and Other” regional grouping at the UN (which includes the US and Canada). Israel remains the only country denied membership in a UN sub-group, and consequently cannot be elected to key UN posts. Maybe after we hand over Jerusalem to the Palestinians….or maybe not.
Busy as it is with Israel, the august international body hasn’t had sufficient time to vigorously take on Algeria, where the slaughter of innocents continues daily, or the bloodletting in Indonesia, Albania, the Congo, Kosovo, Nagarno-Karabach, Sudan, Zaire, etc., etc. Or the tension between India and Pakistan, between Iran and Afghanistan, and so on. So much for the maintaining of global peace and security.
The Security Council has spent a lot of time on Iraq, but the sincerity of the effort and its insignificant results to-date now are being questioned. Scott Ritter, who just resigned his post as one of the lead inspectors for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with tracking Iraq’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, says the UN is making a lot of noise; hype without hope, and without genuine resolve to confront Iraq where needed. For this, he blames Washington.
So what’s left for the very big and expensive United Nations General Assembly to do? Debate Israeli human rights abuses in the “occupied territories” (last year, the PLO rep claimed we were spreading AIDS in the West Bank and Gaza!); and to be busy with “upgrading” the status of the Palestinians.
This year, “Palestine” went from a two-seat regular observer delegation to a six-seat observer mission with the right to co-sponsor resolutions. Wow! A true boon to international peace and justice. Next year, expect full-blown festivities marking the Palestinian declaration of independence and recognition in the General Assembly of the new member ‘state’.
Fine with me. Let the UN rustle-up some electricity, water, tax dollars and one-hundred-thousand-or-so day-jobs for Mr. Arafat, cause he ain’t going to get these commodities and luxuries from Israel any more when he decides to go out on his own.
You see, the UN is not irrelevant, as David Ben-Gurion once quipped derisively. (‘Ooom shmoom’ was his scornful dismissal). The ‘Ooom’ will have plenty to keep busy with after all.