Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
28 Dec. 2000 - 3 Jan. 2001
Issue No.514
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Impotent decisions

By Salama Ahmed Salama

Salama Ahmed SalamaEgypt and the Arab states are making Herculean diplomatic efforts in the UN Security Council to secure decisions and recommendations that, while providing Arab newspapers with headlines, turn out to have no impact on the real world.

During the last UN term, positive decisions were taken concerning the Palestinian question, some of which involved levelling blame and criticism at Israel. But on the practical level they affected neither Israel's policy -- its continuous, daily aggression against the Palestinian people -- nor the positions of the world powers that control the Security Council, particularly the United States, which considers itself the guardian of world peace.

The Security Council's decision not to send international troops to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank this week was the last link in a chain of responses that prove that depending on the Security Council or the United Nations does not result in protection for the Palestinians against Israeli bombardment, the destruction of houses and shops and the sniper gangs who target the leadership of the resistance. This renders any diplomatic gains completely worthless.

The Security Council's rejection of the draft resolution, which had been modified to call for surveillance but not actual protection, is a consequence of the position adopted by world powers on the issue, including those states -- Russia, France and Britain -- whose alleged interest in achieving a just resolution proved illusory. By abstaining, the three states finally sided with the American-Israeli position (which had opposed the resolution, rejecting both surveillance and protection initiatives, since the beginning), even though European Union states, headed by France, had supported and encouraged the idea. In this way, they spared the United States having to use its veto.

Called for by the Arab summit in Cairo, supported by the Islamic summit in Doha, it is hardly surprising that this resolution should have met this fate, particularly in light of Clinton's obsessive efforts to resume the peace negotiations. The Palestinian administration gave America a good excuse to scuttle the resolution by failing to insist on minimal protection for the Palestinian people as a condition for resuming the negotiations.

Promises of a change in Barak's position on Jerusalem -- which drove a Palestinian delegation straight to Washington -- were therefore in fact no more than a trick.

The sovereignty over East Jerusalem that Barak now offers the Palestinians is limited and superficial, and would take a single Israel signature to become null and void. What price is to be paid? A complete concession on the issue of the refugees. This denies over five million Palestinians the right to return to their homeland and to receive retribution, as well as creating a profound problem for a country like Lebanon, which categorically refuses to settle refugees within its borders.

Diplomatic endeavours seem to conceal current Arab weaknesses. It is easy for Arab and Islamic summits to pass resolutions that call for protecting the Palestinian people or establishing a war crimes tribunal, but it is also common knowledge that such decisions are unrealistic, that the Arabs alone would not be able to implement them, and that those states that possess the means to do so will shoot them down as soon as they are conceived. Why lean on a wall that cannot support you when you know it is going to give way?

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