Israel’s traditional allies delivered stern warnings to Jerusalem last week. The message: if Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s right-wing government failed to co-operate with a UN inquiry into the Oct. 8 killing of 21 Palestinians on East Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the Jewish state would risk international isolation. As well, Western authorities warned that, by defying Security Council Resolution 672 authorizing the UN inquiry, Israel would divert world attention from Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait and imperil the 25-nation, U.S.-led alliance against Baghdad. But Shamir rejected the resolution outright. In fact, government officials announced plans—contrary to an undertaking with Washington—to settle thousands of Soviet Jewish immigrants in the annexed Arab sector of Jerusalem.
Visiting British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd was among the many Westerners who publicly urged the Israelis to find a graceful way to rescind their refusal to work with the UN inquiry. Declared Hurd: “Please do not be deceived. There is genuine unhappiness and anxiety [over the Temple Mount massacre].” The Bush administration delivered a similar message to Israel through diplomatic channels, and many influential American editorial writers echoed the call. Referring to the Israeli government’s sharp criticism of Western nations, including Canada, that voted for Resolution 672, The New York Times last week commented that the Israelis “might wisely turn from berating their friends to defeating the common Iraqi enemy.”
But Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Arens said that the Americans’ fragile Persian Gulf alliance would not be affected “by one event 1,000 km from Kuwait.” And the Shamir government appeared to repudiate a written undertaking that its foreign minister, David Levy, had given to U.S. Secretary of State James
Baker during a visit to Washington on Oct. 2. In return for U.S. guarantees of $475 million in loans for immigrant housing, Levy had pledged that Israel would not “direct or settle Soviet Jews beyond the Green Line”—the pre-1967-war border with Jordan. Still, Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Sharon last week announced plans to build 15,000 apartments for immigrants in East Jerusalem. Declared Baker: “East Jerusalem was not under Israeli control before June, 1967.1 don’t understand why this is not clear.”
Then, Levy wrote to Baker renouncing his earlier pledge. “If you think that we will change our credo because of these investment guarantees,” he said, “you should know that this will not happen.” Clearly, Israel was determined to pursue its own interests even if that course disaffects old friends and allies.
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