Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of July 16, 1999


By Moshe Zak

The damage has been done. The conference of the Fourth Geneva Convention's signatory nations, which opened yesterday, has already inflicted the harm intended by its Arab sponsors. This is so because the conference adjourned with a consensus statement that it "reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."

The damage can be further broken down into a number points. Firstly, the conference was convened on the basis of a General Assembly resolution passed in February, that east Jerusalem is "Palestinian territory."

Second, the conference paves the way to a procedure circumventing the US veto at the Security Council against resolutions threatening Israeli with sanctions.

Finally, "Palestine" was invited to participate in the conference, together with all the signatory nations, with the same status, even though it is not a signatory. The conference, convened yesterday without the participation of Israel or the US, was not called to discuss the situation in the territories, as the Israeli media have inaccurately reported in the last few days. Nor was it called to amend the Convention. It was called to endorse - by its mere convening - the interpretation of the UN decision that the paragraph in the Convention signed in 1949 was applicable to a part of Jerusalem that was incorporated into Israel in 1967, as well as to other "Palestinian areas."

The UN decision to convene the conference, which only the US and Israel opposed, brings to fruition a previous action by the Arabs. At the UN conference in Rome in July 1998 to set up an international criminal court, the Arabs managed to insert into the definition of "human rights crimes," a clause describing Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria as a breach of human rights.

This ridiculous maneuver by the Arab states forced Israel to vote against the proposal, even though it was one of the countries pressing for the punishment of such crimes. This past week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat gave Ehud Barak an eight-week period to settle on the course of the negotiations with Israel's neighbors, but the PLO representative at the UN, Nasser Al-Kidwa, has stepped up the pace. He wants to set up legalistic obstacles on all the roads leading to a possible compromise. At his initiative the UN decision also imposed a prohibition on bypass roads in Judea and Samaria. This is an outright attempt to set up obstacles that will prejudge total withdrawal as the only option for the permanent settlement.

The barbed-wire fences that the Palestinians are trying to surround us with in Jerusalem via decisions by international conferences may lead to absurd consequences - such as a Palestinian institution filing a suit in the international courts against the minister for internal security for setting up an office in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line, in an area defined as occupied Palestinian territory.

Shlomo Ben-Ami doesn't have to worry. There will be no such foolish attempts for the next few years. But there is a custom in the UN of recycling resolutions and thawing out decisions that have been long frozen, such as the status of Jerusalem as stated in UN Resolution 181 of 1947, which has suddenly risen from the grave to threaten us. Not that it will decide our fate, but it is as annoying as the buzzing of a persistent mosquito.

Those who initiated this conference want to make the clause in the Convention forbidding forced transfer of population and demographic changes in conquered territories to apply also to "occupied east Jerusalem and other occupied Palestinian territories." Israel totally rejects the claim that any part of Jerusalem is occupied territory. It doesn't agree that the clause, which was included under the influence of the terrible acts of World War II, when the Nazis transferred millions of people, should be used to declare houses in French Hill or Ramot as illegal construction. Israel doesn't conduct expulsions and hasn't forced the Arabs of Jerusalem to leave. On the contrary, Arab neighborhoods have been built and others are in the planning stage, with the government's authorization and encouragement.

STEVEN Schwebel, now acting as president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, published an article in 1970 in a scientific journal, in which he proved that Israel's connection to the territories is stronger than Jordan's. Those were the days when Jordan was demanding the return of the territories from Israel. How much stronger is our status when weighed against that of the Palestinians', who can't even claim that the territories were conquered from them. They had no sovereignty there recognized in international law before 1967.

Nevertheless, Israel announced that as a humanitarian gesture it would treat the Arab population of the territories as required by the Geneva Convention. Meir Shamgar, then judge advocate-general, issued the instructions for the IDF's treatment of the population according to that principle. But there was never any justification for Israel freezing development of Jerusalem, nor is there now, just because an automatic majority in the UN is trying to make a clause directed against the actions of the Nazis apply to Israeli actions in Jerusalem.

This insolent comparison must be rejected immediately. Nor should we fall into the trap of an attempt to postpone the continuation of the opening session by three months. That is a transparent attempt to put the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations directly under a sword of Damocles, representing either the threat of an anti-Israel UN resolution, or warnings of an outbreak of violence.

(c) 1999 The Jerusalem Post

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