UN resolution -- Jerusalem isn't the only problem

By , Dr. Gruen is director of Middle East affairs of the American Jewish Committee. He has taught international relations and Middle East studies at Columbia University and the City University of New York.

A thorough analysis of the full text of UN Security Council Resolution 465, adopted on March 1, makes it clear why the affirmative vote of the US delegation seriously undercut the American-backed Camp David negotiating process, sowed widespread confusion concerning our Middle East policy goals, and undermined Israel's confidence in the US as a fair-minded negotiator.

The subsequent disavowal of the American vote by President Carter does not undo all the damage, for the resolution contains several pernicious elements in addition to the clauses concerning Jerusalem and the dismantling of settlements to which the President objected in his statement of clarification. The presence of all these elements contrary to previously accepted American policy should have prompted not merely an abstention but a threat of veto.

Following are some specific examples:

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1. This was the first time the US voted for a UN Security Council resolution speaking of "the Palestinianm and other Arab territories occupied since 1967" (emphasis added). This distinction gives support to the PLO contentin that the West Bank and Gaza district should form part of an independent Palestinian state and are not to be equated with other Arabm territories, such as Sinai or the Golan Heights, occupied from Egypt and Syria.

Resolution 465 thus interprets and in effect amends Resolution 242 in ways that are contrary to the stated American policy of opposition to a separate West Bank Palestinian state not linked to Jordan and contrary to the commitment made by the US to Israel on Sept. 1, 1975, to veto any changes in 242 that would adversely affect Israel. This commitment was reaffirmed by President Carter at the time of the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty last March.

Furthermore, this phrasing prejudges the ultimate issue of sovereignty over the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza, which are matters that the Camp David accords left for decision at the end of the five-year autonomy period. It is thus not surprising that the news of the US vote was initially hailed by the PLO in Beirut.

2. The call to Israel "to dismantle the existing settlements" goes far beyond stated American policy. United Nations Representative Donald McHenry's expressed reservation that it was "impractical" to dismantle the settlements was woefully inadequate. President Carter added that this call was "neither proper nor practical." He stated that "the future disposition of existing settlements must be determined during the current autonomy talks."

even this goes beyond previous American policy. The Carter administration has strenuously attempted, without success, to get Israel to agree to a moratorium on the erection of newm settlements during the time of the autonomy talks. (Israel did agree to a three-month freeze during negotiation of the Egyptian-Israeli treaty). The fate of existing settlements in the West Bank was at most considered a subject for discussion in the negotiations among Israel, Egypt, and Jordan and the proposed self-governing authority regarding a final Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty at the end of the five-year period.

3. The resolution also for the first time includes changes in the "institutional structure or status" of the Palestinian and other occupied Arab territories as among the Israeli actions it regards as lacking legal validity and constituting a "flagrant violation" of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Despite Mr. McHenry's statement that the US does not regard this language as "in any way prejudicing the outcome of the autonomy negotiations," the fact remains that the thrust of this language and of the resolution as a whole is precisely to undermine and negate the validity of the autonomy negotiations.

4. The resolution makes no distinction between other occupied territories and the part of Jerusalem recaptured by Israel from Jordan in 1967 -- thereby ending the illegal division of the city caused by the Jordanian invasion in 1948.

While the US does not accept the legal validity of unilateral actions taken by Israel in Jerusalem, it has always made it clear that Jerusalem was unique and therefore East Jerusalem could not simply be lumped together with other occupied territories, at this resolution explicitly does. It was precisely because of the complexity of the Jerusalem question, and the failure of the parties at Camp David to reach agreement on this subject, that it was decided to defer consideration of the ultimate status of Jerusalem until a later stage in the peace process.

The US vote on Resolution 465 is only symptomatic of the larger problem, which will not go away even if the US takes the unprecedented step of having its vote formally registered as an abstention. The resolution remains on the record as an official UN document. States hostile to Israel will be able to build upon it.

Moreover, the resolution perpetuates the existence of what had been an ad hoc Security Council commission on Israeli settlement activity. The commission had been established on March 22, 1979, (Resolution 446) on the basis of a Jordanian initiative clearly designed to undercut the US-backed Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty due to be signed four days later. The US did not support last year's resolution establishing the commmission. The March 1 resolution requests the commission to cnotinue to examine the situation in the occupied territories "including Jerusalem, to investigate the reported serious depletion of natural resources, particularly the water resources, with a aview to insuring the protection of those important natural resources . . ., and to keep under close scrutiny the implementation of the present resolution;" and asks the commission to report back to the Council before Sept. 1.

Since the question of control over natural resources is obviously among the agenda items of the current autonomy talks, the Security Council by means of this Arab-sponsored resolution attempts to undercut these talks. Instead of encouraging Palestinian and Jordanian participation in the Camp David process of direct Egyptian-Israeli negotiation, the Security Council resolution sets forth a competitive locus for presenting Arab grievances. This may serve the interests of the rejectionist Arab states and of the Soviet Union. It certainly runs contrary to the American interest in strengthening the current peace process in which the US has been a "full partner" trusted by both sides.

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