New York Post Editorial, Monday, May 3, 1999


Although it went largely unreported by the mainstream news media, the prospects for peace in the Middle East took an ominous turn last week. In Geneva, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, with the full support of the European nations, officially endorsed Yasser Arafat's latest diplomatic offensive, of which we recently took note. The commission voted to support both Palestinian statehood based on the UN's original 1947 partition vote (Resolution 181) and the so-called "right of return" for all Arab refugees.

What is significant about the vote is that it mentions none of the subsequent bases for negotiating Middle East peace. Not UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which recognize the need for secure, recognizable borders. Not Camp David, the first Arab-Israeli peace agreement. Not the Oslo Accords, which mandate bilateral, direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

By endorsing Resolution 181, the UN also in effect approved its call to make the entire city of Jerusalem - including its western section, which has been under Israeli sovereignty since 1948 - a "corpus separatum" or separate entity. This concept, which has no basis in international law, is anathema - and rightfully so - to Israel, where there is a national consensus that Jerusalem must remain its eternal, undivided capital, a claim rooted in 3,000 years of history.

Israel has long considered this resolution null and void, noting that the Arab world rejected it in 1947. But Arafat has revived Palestinian interest in 181, seeing it as a way to undermine Israel's claim to Jerusalem and perhaps to shrink Israel's borders dramatically. For the resolution could empower the UN to claim all Israeli territory beyond the narrow 1947 borders - land that was universally recognized, even before the Six-Day War, as belonging to Israel.

By endorsing this insidious resolution, the Europeans have disqualified themselves from playing any meaningful role in the peace process.The Clinton administration, to its credit, refused to play along - Washington was the only Human Rights Commission member to vote against Arafat's ploy and has reaffirmed its commitment to Resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis for negotiations.

Arafat may be winning praise for agreeing not to declare a Palestinian state when the Oslo Accords expire on Tuesday - a unilateral step that violates his legal commitments anyway. But as the Geneva vote demonstrates, it would be naive to think that Arafat's intentions toward Israel no longer remain hostile.

A post-script to the above comes from the Ariel Center for Policy Research, via Bernard Shapiro of the Freeman Center:

"The UN Human Rights Commission…53 member nations (Israel's candidacy was rejected due to the claim that Israel violates human rights), voted in favor of the resolution (181), including all the European nations, and 8 abstained. Though the United States voted against, it adamantly refused to accede to the Israeli request to expend efforts to prevent the resolution's adoption."

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