A week after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to make Palestine an “observer” state in the United Nation, Israel appears to be aggressively acting out—going ahead with the construction of more settlements in Palestine territory and refusing to join the rest of the world in a treaty to ban nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
While Israel and the U.S. have been pressuring Iran to allow inspectors to certify that it isn’t building nuclear weapons, Israel itself refuses to confirm or deny that it has nuclear weapons and refuses to join a Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in the Middle East—joining India, Pakistan and North Korea, who also refuse to join. In addition, after Israel said it wouldn’t be attending a conference in Helsinki to ban nuclear weapons in the Middle East, the United States also said it wouldn’t be attending—leading to the conference’s cancellation since the U.S. was one of the sponsors, along with Russia and Britain.
While the frustrated Arab nations, who are eager to remove the threat of nuclear war from the region, accused the U.S. of backing out because of Israel’s stance, the U.S. said the reason was political turmoil in the region and Iran’s defiant stance on nonproliferation.
These recent instances of the U.S. backing Israel without conditions while Israel thumbs its nose at the rest of the world certainly proves the case that the White House was making during the presidential campaign—that President Obama is just as loyal and unquestioning in his backing of Israel as his predecessor, George W. Bush.
But at least the U.S. expressed disapproval at Israel’s stubborn insistence to build new settlements on Palestinian territory—a move that Palestine has long claimed is in violation of international law, which is a position Palestine now has the possibility of pursuing if it tries to seek membership in the International Criminal Court.
But despite the grave objections of countries like Britain, Australia, France, Spain and Sweden, in addition to the U.S., Israel says it will not bend to international pressure and will build where it wants to build.
As if to prove its point, Israel sent a construction crew to the Hebron region of the West Bank earlier today, accompanied by military and security forces, and tore down a mosque in the village of Farqqa, according to the head of the village council, CNN reported. The Obama administration expressed its opposition to Israel’s actions yesterday, saying the location of the construction in the Ma’ale Adumim area would block the formation of a contiguous Palestinian state.
But a spokesman for the Israeli government spokesman insisted that the building was not a mosque but “a building that was used for prayer.” The spokesman Guy Inbar said an Israeli court has deemed the building illegal and said it has no connection to recent political developments.
The reaction from other nations was swift, with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr saying he was “extremely disappointed” with Israeli’s decision and the British Foreign Office calling Israel’s move “deplorable.” The foreign ministries of France, Spain and Denmark issued similar statements asking Israeli officials to reverse their decision.
But a senior official from the office of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s actions were in response to the UN General Assembly vote, issuing a statement saying, “Israel is not sitting with her hands tied.”
“Israel will continue to stand by its essential interests even in the face of international pressure, and there will be no change in the decision that was taken,” the official said, who asked not to be named.
The resolution approved yesterday in the UN by a vote of 174-6 with 6 abstentions calls on Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty “without further delay” and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Those voting “no” were Israel, the U.S., Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.
While the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly are not legally binding, but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight.
Just before Monday’s vote, Iranian diplomat Khodadad Seifi told the assembly, “The truth is that the Israeli regime is the only party which rejected to conditions for a conference.” He called for “strong pressure on that regime to participate in the conference without any preconditions.”
In the other major Mideast story, the world is showing increasing anxiety that the desperate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is planning to use chemical weapons against his rapidly proliferating enemies. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement warning Assad that using chemical weapons would cross a U.S. red line.
“I’m not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice to say we are certainly planning to take action,” Clinton said.
The anxiety comes from a New York Times story that Assad’s forces have been moving chemical weapons. The Israeli government reportedly has been asking the Jordanian government to allow it to take out many of Syria’s chemical weapons sites, but Jordan has declined the requests, fearful that it would provoke its neighbor, Syria, to turn its aggressions on Jordan, knowing that Jordan is cooperating with Israel.