The US government chose to veto a UN Security Council resolution on Tuesday, September 16, pressing Israel not to "remove" Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. It was, yet again, John Negroponte who raised his hand conveying his country's objection.
Briefly after Negroponte, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, had the honor of bending international will through the American veto for the 77th time since the creation of the United Nations in 1948, he rushed to make sense out of his government's insensible act. The draft was "flawed", Negroponte exclaimed, for it failed to include a "robust condemnation of acts of terrorism, an explicit condemnation of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades."
But Negroponte, as well as every other member state of the United Nations knows too well that even with an "explicit" condemnation of Hamas, an American veto was likely to be unleashed anyway.
To its credit, the draft resolution did in fact condemn violence and terrorism, demanding "complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction." It further hailed the US-proposed initiative, the Roadmap for Peace, perhaps with the hope that such praise would tickle a soft spot in the US administration's heart.
Nonetheless, Negroponte looked as callous as he appeared last time when he vetoed another resolution condemning Israeli's killings of three UN workers in the West Bank and Gaza. They included Iain Hook, a British relief worker in Jenin, who was killed at pointblank after Israeli soldier "mistook" his mobile phone for a weapon. Negroponte justified his objection of the draft in Dec 20, 2002, by accusing the draft of being "one-sided" and not "conducive" to Middle East peace efforts.
If condemning the murder of UN workers is not "conducive" to peace, why did every UN member, at the Security Council and General Assembly "strongly" condemn the "terrorist" and "criminal" attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad on August 19, 2003? Is there a time when the killing of UN personnel is permissive and a time when it is tabooed?
But if Negroponte was indeed critical of the resolution, which calls on a sovereign country to refrain from deporting or physically harming an elected leader of another nation, and if it was true that condemning the killings of UN workers is "not conducive" to peace, then why did the US veto the December 2001 resolution that called for the deployment of unarmed international observers to end the Middle East bloodshed?
The draft was put to a vote shortly after the Palestinian uprising exploded in the Occupied Territories, and was solely aimed at creating a barrier between both sides as a first step before resuming peace talks. Then, the number of people killed from both parties was minimal. Without the needed international intervention, the death toll has bloated, now standing at 2,599 Palestinians and 861 Israelis. If the US refrained for once from abusing the sacred right it possessed at the council, one has to wonder how many lives could have been saved.
From the 77 vetoes used by the US at the Security Council, 26 have been in attempt to cripple any tangible international role in the ongoing Middle East conflict. The US government has often sought to monopolize the role of the third party in the conflict. While suffocating any outside effort aimed at ending the conflict, it miserably failed itself in being an honest broker. This time, Negroponte took his country to a new low, refusing to openly reject the forced deportation or even murder of an elected leader. (Israel officially agreed to "remove" Arafat, a decision that meant, according to Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert either killing, exile or isolation of the Palestinian leader.)
Negroponte has failed, and most likely intentionally, to mention that the US veto had little to do with Israel's true intentions, the US' official stance from those intentions or the language of the resolution itself, whether explicitly pointing out Hamas or not. The pro-Israeli veto was a pre-calculated decision put into practice decades ago, but was officially declared in August 2002. And of course, who else but Negroponte would carry the good news? On August 02, Negroponte said that the US would veto any Middle East resolution that fails to condemn Palestinian terrorism, explicitly listing all Palestinian groups that Israel singled out as terrorist.
The US decision of last year, hailed by Israel and pro-Israeli groups in the US as one that will "change the rules of the game", was a green light for Israel to do as it pleased without fearing any repercussions, even if mere words of condemnation by the international body. A spokesman for the Israeli mission at the UN, Ariel Milo celebrated the decision, saying that now Arabs are in the spotlight, not Israel.
"If they decide not to condemn Palestinian terrorism, then any resolution they come up with will be a nonstarter," Milo said. "The onus is on them to see if they're serious."
If Israel went ahead and murdered Arafat, to ensure the passing of a resolution that would condemn the murder, the Security Council would have to condemn Palestinian resistance as terrorist with an "explicit" mention of every organization that Israel requires. This is indeed the logic that Negroponte used when he carried out his government's wish by raising his hand high on Tuesday.
But what Negroponte and the US government behind him might have ignored is that the latest veto didn't only cripple any attempt to move forward in resolving the Middle East crisis. It further contributed to the growing reputation worldwide of the United States as a rogue state, a dishonest broker, and a biased party without any genuine interest in peace and stability in the Middle East.
Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American journalist and editor-in-chief of The Palestine Chronicle online newspaper. He is the editor of the anthology: "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion." Baroud is also a researcher for the Qatar-based al-Jazeera Net English.