UN Security Council warns Israel on Jerusalem plan
Palestine-Israel-UN, Politics, 7/14/1998
The United Nations Security Council's president issued a statement late yesterday labeling the Israeli plan to establish Jerusalem municipality as "a serious and damaging development," and placed Israeli action "under review."
The statement is not the resolution containing a condemnation that the Arab states had hoped for, but it contains strong language critical of Israel. If the measure had come to a vote on a resolution condemning the Israeli plan it's likely that the US would have used its veto power to block the motion, as it usually supports Israel at the UN. The statement also notes the council's support for US efforts to advance the peace process.
Marwan Jilani, the UN counselor for Palestine at the UN said that Security Council members "wanted to have something that the Security Council as a whole would agree to and would be sending a message to the Israelis rather than have a veto and send the wrong message to the Israelis."
Jilani said that although it is not a resolution, the statement is an official UN document, which will "carry a certain weight... and will be taken as a reference in regard to this Israeli action." He characterized the decision as the "first step towards putting pressure on Israel to reverse its decision."
In a June session, speakers from many states spoke out in a Security Council meeting in opposition to the Israeli plan, calling it a violation of international law.
In its presidential statement, the Security Council "calls upon the Government of Israel not to proceed with that decision and also not to take any other steps which would prejudice the outcome of the permanent status negotiations. Further, the Council also calls upon Israel to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention."
Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman responded to the statement by saying it "regrets" the statement, defending the plan as within the limits of peace agreements with the Palestinians and characterizing the expansion of the city as "municipal in nature" and "intended to extend Jerusalem's municipal jurisdiction only to areas west of the city."
However, the Israeli response did not address concerns that the plan would tip the demographic balance of the city further in favor of Jews at a time when the Arab population of Jerusalem is growing so much faster than its Jewish population that it has been projected as nearly equaling the Jewish population within 20 years.
Both Palestine and Israel claim Jerusalem as site for their capital, and the fate of the city is to be part of final status negotiations between the two sides. The Security Council statement noted the "importance and sensitivity of the issue of Jerusalem to all parties" and urged both the Palestinians and "to avoid actions which might prejudice the outcome of these (final status) negotiations."
"The Security Council will keep Israeli actions under review," the statement concluded. If Israel violates the content of the Security Council presidential statement then Palestine would be able to bring this issue back to the Security Council for further action by simply submitting a letter explaining the violations. "That is a serious message to the Israelis," Jilani said.
The UN Security Council Presidential statement marks the first time in a long time that the US has agreed to such strong language and putting Israeli action "under review" Jilani said.
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