U.N. chief urges Security Council to make Israel return Palestinians

January 27, 1993|By Newsday

UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has asked the Security Council to "take whatever measures are required" to force Israel to rescind the Deportation of nearly 400 Palestinians from the occupied territories, triggering a behind-the-scenes diplomatic frenzy here that could embarrass the Clinton administration.

In an unusually blunt report that employs language similar to that used in dealing with Iraqi aggression in the Persian Gulf, Mr. Boutros-Ghali said that a monthlong effort to seek compliance with a Security Council resolution ordering Israel to return the Palestinians to their homes had been frustrated.

It is now time, he said, to act firmly.

"The refusal by Israel to ensure the safe and immediate return of rTC deportees . . . in my view, challenges the authority of the Security Council," Mr. Boutros-Ghali said in the report, released yesterday.

"In these circumstances, I would be failing in my duty if I did not recommend to the Security Council that it should take whatever measures are required to ensure that its unanimous decision is respected."

Israeli officials immediately rejected the report as one-sided -- "completely ignoring terrorism and singling out only the steps taken against it," Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said in Jerusalem.

Mr. Rabin added that he had received assurances from the Clinton administration that it would block any move in the council to impose sanctions.

While the council has yet to schedule a meeting on the issue formally, several members said yesterday that they have no choice but to act, although none would commit to a specific course of action.

Arab countries met here yesterday to consider ways of pressing for tough Security Council action based on a draft resolution being circulated by Palestinian observers.

The draft calls for a limited set of economic sanctions against Israel, prohibiting relations with public or private enterprises that do business in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The resolution would bar Israel from any international meetings on human rights.

If Israel fails to comply by Feb. 9, the United Nations would then take even tougher actions, the draft said.

"We believe that the adoption of such a draft resolution . . . will prove the ability of the council to deal honestly and with even-handedness with all matters before it," said the Palestinian representative, Nasser Al-Kidwa.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali's report puts the United States in a dilemma, either to veto the proposed resolution and jeopardize the Arab good will that ensured the success of the anti-Iraq coalition, or take the unusual step of punishing Israel, a close ally and reliable partner in an unstable region.

The U.S. ambassador to Israel, William Harrop, was quoted on Israeli army radio as saying that Washington was unlikely to agree to sanctions. Officials in Washington also indicated that they would try to fashion a compromise that would enable the United States to avoid exercising its veto power while showing that it does not condone Israeli violation of Security Council resolutions.

Right now, said a Western diplomat here, the best thing that could possibly happen is for the Israeli Supreme Court to declare the deportations illegal and thus save everyone the embarrassment of having to take a stand.

The court is expected to rule by Friday on a motion brought by human rights lawyers.

Saying that the 415 Palestinians were associated with terrorist organizations, Israel expelled them Dec. 17, and when Lebanon refused them entry, they became stranded in a frozen no-man's-land, where they live in tents. (Fourteen men deported in error have since returned and five others were hospitalized.)

The next day, in a strongly worded resolution that repeatedly referred to Israel as "the occupying power," the Security Council unanimously ordered their immediate return.

Israel refused, prompting calls for forceful U.N. action.

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