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Monday, January 31, 2005

Why the change in the UN?

The blogosphere is commenting on the apparent change going on in the UN. I gave one cynical reason for it, and Israpundit gave another and I quoted Anne Bayefsky on her take.

Soccerdad adds some more interesting wrinkles and quotes, including this fascinating quote from Kofi Annan found by Meryl Yourish:

New York, 14 January 2005 - Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the Middle East

The Secretary-General condemns the Palestinian terror attack that caused the death of six Israeli civilians and injury to four others at the Karni crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip yesterday evening. He wishes to express his deepest condolences to the families of those killed and injured.

The Secretary-General hopes that this terrible incident will not be allowed to undermine the recent positive steps made by both parties. He also calls on the new Palestinian leadership to make all possible attempts to bring to justice the organizers and perpetrators of this attack.

The Secretary-General emphasizes again that violence cannot provide a solution to the conflict, and that only through negotiation can peace be achieved.

Notice that he called violence against Israel "terrorism"; he didn't condemn Israel for anything nor call for "restraint."

Yourish also points out that the EU has also given an uncharacteristic comment blaming terrorists for terror.

Evelyn Gordon in the Jerusalem Post gives the credit to a consistent Bush policy at the UN:

For years the US has vetoed resolutions it deemed too biased against Israel. But during the late 1980s and 1990s Washington was unable to sway any other council member to its side: With monotonous regularity such resolutions failed by a vote of 14-1.

Over the last four years, however, there has been a shift. While no country has yet joined the US in voting "no," there have consistently been two to four abstentions - usually from Europe, occasionally from Africa as well.

Since Security Council resolutions need nine votes to pass, this means that the council has been inching toward a situation in which anti-Israel resolutions could be defeated even without an American veto.

Bush achieved this shift by setting a clear, consistent standard for what constitutes bias: Condemnations of Israel are biased unless the resolution also condemns anti-Israel terror.

And, more importantly, vague condemnations of "all violence against civilians" do not qualify. The resolution must explicitly condemn Palestinian perpetrators such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

That is such a simple and reasonable demand that some countries have found it impossible to ignore. Yet the Palestinians, and hence the Arab countries that sponsor Security Council resolutions on their behalf, have never once been willing to agree.

The result is that a handful of nations that once voted consistently against Israel - England, Germany, Norway, Romania, Bulgaria and Cameroon - turned into frequent abstainers.

This is definitely worth watching. I'm distrustful of Annan but the theory that the current US administration policies are influencing the EU is worth thinking about. I still tend to think that the EU and UN sponsorship of the roadmap has a lot to do with it, because they have to appear to be honest brokers in order to participate in the process that they so desperately want to be involved in, at the risk of sinking into irrelevance.