The UN Security Council met Wednesday to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, but took no decision about the violence that has claimed the lives of more than 260 people in eight weeks.
The Palestinian observer to the United Nations, Nasser Al-Kidwa, urged the council to vote for a draft resolution to be submitted next week calling for about 2,000 unarmed UN observers in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.
"Let us be frank," he said. "The parties, after all that has happened, cannot put an end to this violence alone."
The Israeli ambassador, Yehuda Lancry, retorted that "an international force, whether of peacekeepers or observers, is not needed to stop the violence."
And added: "Nor is it even clear whether such a force would be successful."
The United States, one of five permanent members with a power of veto in the council, said it would reject any proposal that did not have the support of both sides.
Al-Kidwa made it clear to reporters later that he had not been talking about a compromise proposal for attaching observers to an international fact-finding commission.
The commission was set up after Israeli Premier Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat last met, at the five-part summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, which ended on October 17.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the five-man commission would convene for the first time in New York on Sunday and meet him the following day.
Annan has been mandated by the Security Council to consult Israelis and Palestinians on the possible use of observers, and held separate meetings with Lancry and Al-Kidwa on Monday.
He said he had "no breakthrough to report" but that talks were continuing.
Al-Kidwa said the Palestinians wanted a force with "a clear mandate from the Security Council" represented by the UN flag, a UN commander and troops in blue berets.
"The fact-finding commission can expand as much as it wants to expand. We have no problem with that and we welcome the work," he said.
"The establishment of a UN observer force is a different matter. It has to come out of a decision by the Security Council."
But Israel's distaste for any UN presence was manifest in Lancry's speech.
The meeting coincided with an emergency session of the Israeli cabinet, called after a car bomb killed two people and injured 55 others in the northern Israeli town of Hadera.
Barak said he held Arafat's Palestinian Authority responsible for what he called "a barbaric attack against our innocent citizens."
But at the United Nations, Lancry said, "there is no call for an inquiry into Palestinian violations."
"The only words of outrage and condemnation are directed against Israel," he added.
He did not note that the council was meeting 33 years to the day after it adopted its historic Resolution 242, the cornerstone of all subsequent efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
That resolution called on Israel to withdraw from territories it had occupied in the "six-day" war of June 1967, but at the same time said all states in the region must recognize each other's right to live within secure and internationally recognized boundaries.
In their speeches, Lancry and Al-Kidwa touched on the core of the conflict in a way which echoed that fundamental, still unrealized bargain.
Lancry accused the Palestinians of wanting to renege on the Oslo agreements, struck in September 1993 by Arafat and the late Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin, which committed the two sides to direct negotiations.
The accords had "provided a viable mechanism for the Palestinians to realize their goal of self-determination," Lancry said, adding that "98 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live under Palestinian rule."
But Al-Kidwa pointed out that 60 percent of the Gaza strip is home to more than one million Palestinians, while the remaining 40 percent is occupied by 5,000 Israeli settlers.
"Have you any idea how big the Gaza strip is?" he asked the council, but received no reply.
It covers 363 square kilometers (140 square miles).
"The problem resides in occupation itself," Al-Kidwa said.
""The end of the occupation would lead to an end to all these problems, and therein lies the remedy for them." -- UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)