U.N. Demands End to Israel Housing

April 25, 1997

By The Associated Press UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Ignoring an appeal from the United States, the U.N. General Assembly demanded Friday that Israel stop building Jewish housing in a disputed area of Jerusalem. The resolution also recommends an end to ``all forms of support'' for Israeli settlement activities, the first time there has been anything remotely approaching a threat of collective international action. Broadly, it could encourage some countries to prevent their firms from doing business with Israeli firms involved in such housing although it doesn't say that explicitly. The vote was overwhelming -- 134-3, with 11 abstentions. Only the tiny Pacific island state of Micronesia joined the United States and Israel in voting against the resolution, approved at the end of the General Assembly's first emergency session in 15 years. The United States argued that the issue is between Israel and the Palestinians, and that the United Nations should stay out of it. While several major countries -- Germany, Norway, Canada and Australia -- abstained, the resolution fared better than a weaker one last month that was adopted by 130 votes. The vote not only reflects widespread international opposition to the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but also to the Clinton administration campaign to keep the world body out of Israeli-Palestinian affairs. ``The message which was sent today by the international community is a very powerful one,'' the Palestinian U.N. representative Nasser al-Kidwa said. The emergency session was called after the Israeli government decided to build a 6,500-unit housing project on an area of Jerusalem the Palestinians want as a future capital. Israel considers Jerusalem its undivided capital. While the United States has criticized the project, Washington believes international involvement will further frustrate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. ``This can only harden the positions of both sides and make their work even more difficult,'' U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson told the General Assembly before the vote. Richardson said the resolution submitted by Arab and Muslim countries ``sets a dangerous precedent'' by infringing on the authority of the Security Council. Last month, the United States vetoed two resolutions in the Security Council that would have criticized Israel over the housing project. There is no veto in the General Assembly but its resolutions are non-binding. The resolution demands ``immediate and full cessation'' of the housing project and ``calls for the cessation of all forms of assistance and support for illegal Israeli activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, in particular settlement activities.'' An earlier draft recommended a ban on trade with Israeli groups directly involved in settlement construction. But the language was softened to win support from European nations and Japan, which voted for it. Japanese Ambassador Hisashi Owada said his government believed that a resolution ``containing collective measures'' would not ``necessarily be the best way to push the peace process forward.