Letter: Selective enforcement of UN resolutions

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The Independent Online
Sir: All observers seem to be unanimous that Yitzhak Rabin has shot himself in the foot by ordering the deportation of 415 Palestinians. Yet it seems to me that successive Israeli governments have many more than two feet to shoot at because they keep getting away with internationally questionable conduct.

I was deeply disturbed by your leading article 'Triple standards?' (20 January). But, leaving aside my serious reservations on the use and abuse of certain words reflecting an unconcealed prejudice against Arabs, your major argument is that the United Nations has never addressed the issue of possible sanctions against Israel. The reason is not that Israeli violations were of minor importance but that American diplomacy traditionally shields Israel from punitive measures.

The nature of American-Israeli relations has always been decisive in determining regional developments in the Middle East. Whether an American president will force its local ally to act in accordance with the global vision of the US, or whether it will be restrained by domestic political considerations, depends on a variety of factors. For example, when, in 1991, President Bush's popularity was 91 per cent, he could afford to drag a reluctant Yitzhak Shamir to Madrid. Nine months later, when Mr Bush's ratings declined to 37 per cent, a triumphant Prime Minister Rabin easily extracted the dollars 10bn loan guarantees without offering the necessary freeze in settlement building.

For the world at large, the deliberations undertaken now in the Security Council are a test of the credibility of the new occupant of the White House. The Clinton administration must be extremely unhappy that the Israeli government welcomed its arrival in Washington by giving it a monumental headache. Will President Clinton see the UN machinery as one of the many instruments of American foreign policy? Or is American foreign policy, under his guidance, going to be an instrument of the UN's philosophy, charter and resolutions?

Yours sincerely,

AFIF SAFIEH

Head

Delegation of the Palestine

Liberation Organisation (UK)

London, SW7

27 January

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