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Israel's Disengagement Threatened by United Nations Revolt

by David Singer

Ariel Sharon's plans to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank need to be urgently reconsidered by him following the publication of a Report issued by eight United Nations (UN) human rights experts.

The Report threatens the continued unity of the Quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — in the implementation of the Roadmap calling for a two state solution designed to end the conflict between Jews and Arabs in the 6% of the former Mandate for Palestine called Gaza and the West Bank, in which neither Jews nor Arabs presently enjoy sovereignty.

The Report claims there is an incompatibility between UN support for the Roadmap and last year's advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN's own judicial body, on the legality of the security barrier erected partly on land in the West Bank.

"In large measure it seems that the ICJ's Opinion has been ignored in favour of negotiations conducted in terms of the Road Map process," the eight UN experts said.

The Roadmap negotiations, they continued, "seem to accept the continued presence of some settlements, which were found by the ICJ to be unlawful, and by necessary implication the continued existence of some parts of the wall in Palestinian territory".

"In short, there seems to be an incompatibility between the Road Map negotiations and the Court's Opinion that should be of concern to the United Nations, which is also a party to the Quartet. The United Nations clearly cannot make itself a party to negotiations that are not based on the Opinion of its own judicial body," the experts said.

These eight experts are not without considerable influential political clout.

They are: Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, John Dugard; Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Miloon Kothari; Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Erturk; Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Vernor Munoz Villalobos; Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt; Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diene; Chairperson, Rapporteur, Working Group on arbitrary detention, Leila Zerrougui; and Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, Sigma Huda.

Together they comprise a formidable rallying point for the 56 Moslem States to call on the United Nations to disown any further part in the implementation of the Roadmap and to put pressure on the European Union and Russia to abandon their support for that process.

It does not take a quantum leap in anyone's thinking to see the USA becoming isolated as the only proponent of the two State solution in which sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza is divided between Israel and a newly created second Arab State in what was once the Mandate for Palestine.

Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plans have relied heavily on the following three core assurances given to him by President Bush in his letter of 14 April 2004:

1. The United States would do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan other than the Roadmap.

2. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.

3. The Palestinians will have no right of return to Israel.

The fulfilment of these assurances has now been thrown into great doubt as a result of the challenge posed by the Special Rapporteurs Report.
UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, needs to immediately repudiate the Special Rapporteurs Report and indicate in the clearest possible language that the UN remains committed to the implementation of the Roadmap in all its aspects as part of the existing Quartet and irrespective of anything contained in the judgement of the ICJ.

Ariel Sharon has sought to justify his disengagement proposals as resulting from changed circumstances causing him to do a complete somersault from his former opposition to unilateral withdrawal, despite such opposition giving him a huge electoral majority at the last general elections held in Israel.

Whatever diplomatic advantages Sharon saw in changing his mind has now been totally undermined by the challenge posed by the Special Rapporteurs Report, which threatens to leave Israel and the Unites States exposed once again like sitting ducks in a shooting gallery.

Sharon has said nothing would affect Israel's planned withdrawal commencing on 17 August. He needs to cut out the political rhetoric and immediately postpone any withdrawal until the UN Secretary General gives him the above assurances.

If anything is to be learned by the Israeli Government from this episode, it is that undertaking to do anything unilaterally in the Middle East is pure folly of the most disastrous kind.
David Singer is an Australian Lawyer and Convenor of: Jordan is Palestine International — an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine.

Our special thanks to the author for submitting this article. A. G. S.