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CIAO DATE: 02/01

The Role of the UN Security Council in Peace and Security in the Post-Cold War Era
First Steps in the Exploration of a Misunderstood Organ of Global Governance

Juergen Dedring *

International Studies Association
41th Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA.
March 14-18, 2000


This brief essay is part of a larger project to reevaluate the UN Security Council after the collapse of the Cold War system and the onset of what was then prematurely labeled the "new world order". The UN Security Council continues to be in the news, whether it relates to the unending sanctions and other punitive measures against Saddam Hussein's Iraq or to the escalating conflict in and around the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, to name just two out of the large list of issues with which the Council is seized. The argument about its effectiveness or ineffectiveness, relevance or irrelevance, does not seem to end. Many judgments about its place in the system of global governance are based on a superficial reading of the Council's resolutions and decisions lacking a parallel effort to look behind the closed doors of its confidential consultations and to observe the Council members in businesslike proceedings to deal with a pending conflict or dispute and thereby facilitate some easing of a dangerous confrontation. Such a perspective on the Security Council will improve the chances for a balanced assessment of its utility in the turbulent politics of the '90s. This paper is the first step in a major effort on the part of this author to delve thoroughly into the massive documentation available and to arrive at meaningful findings about the Council's place in the contemporary international system 1 .

While the fundamental change in the international system set in already in 1986/87, as a result of Gorbachev's radical revision of Soviet policies and his turn toward international cooperation, the effects of that course correction became evident in the successful termination of the long and bloody Iran-Iraq war through the formulation and adoption of a suitable format for a cease-fire eventually ratified by both the Iraqi regime and the Iranian government under Ayatollah Khomeini. This breakthrough, together with the movement towards the independence of Namibia and the resolution of several other so-called 'regional conflicts', documented persuasively that the paralysis of the Council as the central instrument for the maintenance of international peace and security had come to an end. The immediate response around the world was enthusiastic and full of renewed hope for a more peaceful world. Thus, at the onset of the last decade of the twentieth century, the possibilities for a stable global peace suddenly seemed strong and real and the Council and the international community looked with renewed determination and confidence into the future 2 .

The fact that the euphoric start of the 90's was brutally disturbed by the Iraqi aggression and annexation of small neighboring Kuwait and finally ruined in the course of the failed intervention in the internecine struggle in Somalia and that the following years were characterized by a resurgence of tension and antagonism enfeebling the impact of the Council's actions in an increasingly destabilized political environment is well-known. However, it is more important that one tries to understand why this most regrettable deterioration occurred and how it can be explained on the basis of necessarily incomplete data. While the context of these erratic and grating policy gyrations must be kept in mind as one engages in a minute examination of the intergovernmental decision-making processes in and around the Security Council, the focus of the present paper is restricted to a few separate issues. Based on the materials available about the Council's work, the first part deals with the way this organ and its fifteen constituent member governments have been operating throughout the ten years from 1989 through 1999 and how the mesmerizing increase in agenda items, consultations and meetings, as well as resolutions and Presidential statements has been managed by the diplomats assigned to this prestigious, albeit labour-intensive and time-consuming function. It will also be attempted to weigh the relative power of the respective fifteen members in shaping the thinking of the membership as a whole and to put this into the context of group representation and changing alignments in the Council's activity. A major aspect of that perspective is, of course, the standing of the foremost Council member, the powerful and highly ambivalent United States 3 .

Following this broad overview over the functions and practices of the Security Council in the first decade of the post-Cold War world, a more detailed analytical narrative is offered dealing with a side issue of the Middle East problem, namely the separate agenda item entitled 'the situation in the occupied Arab territories'. The reason for this choice is twofold: Firstly, the Council has taken up this matter throughout nine out of ten years of the period under review; thus it should offer a good insight into the fluctuations of politics within the Council and without. Secondly, the issue itself has evolved dramatically from wide rejection of the Palestinian claim for statehood in the mid-80's to acceptance and near-fulfillment of their authentic and legitimate aim for a national home, within the framework of a comprehensive peace accord between the Israelis, the Palestinians, and eventually the Arab states. In a situation where the US has been the dominant third party engaged in the complicated and treacherous politics of the Middle East, a key threat endangering international peace, it is especially noteworthy how the Council as a whole has persistently sought to play a meaningful role in fulfillment of its lofty mandate under the UN Charter. The trajectory of the Council's treatment of this controversial issue helps improve our understanding of the rich decision-making process out of which Council action emerges and of the varying contributions of the fifteen actors to the final decision on the matter. Only such detailed review will enable skeptical outside observers to grasp the full scope of the phenomenon of the closed proceedings that have prevailed since the early 1970's surrounding the Council with the necessary veil of confidentiality and discretion to do its work 4 .

On the basis of these two principal arguments, a first tentative step can be taken in explaining the largely misunderstood Security Council in its role as an organ of global governance. The questions that have been raised at the beginning of this essay will be reconsidered. As far as effectiveness and relevance are concerned, the preliminary impression garnered in the present paper will need to be replicated throughout the much larger study envisaged by this author. 5 Nevertheless, the first approach to a huge subject matter should not be underestimated. As the project evolves, initial judgments will be revised and fine-tuned, hopefully arriving at a more factual, even-handed and balanced comprehension of the inner workings and the political articulations of the Security Council. The whole complex of Security Council reform is not the subject of this essay. It also avoids deliberately the review of some of the biggest cases taken up by the Council, such as Iraq-Kuwait, Somalia, Rwanda, or the former Yugoslavia. Good research is available on many of these complex crises, and at this point in the pursuit of the given project it appears more useful to examine the neglected realms of the Council's involvement 6 . Still, many of the underlying issues and questions will evidently be on the minds of the academic observer and the practitioner including this author.

How the Security Council has worked in the 90's

The general misperception of the Council's activities is basically due to the fact that the decision-making leading to the utterances of the organ is for all practical purposes hidden from the public view. Since the height of post-war decolonization which brought with it many new member states from formerly dependent territories and also led to the increase in the Council's membership from the original 11 to 15 members of which ten fell into the category of nonpermanent members, it had become clear to the permanent members of the Council that the open conduct of its debates was no longer feasible or effective and that closed sessions away from the bright light of publicity were required in order to enable the divided and contentious membership to find a common consensus position obviating the need for formal voting that far too often resulted in stalemates and vetoes. The evolving consultation procedure that has been maintained in its basics until this day consisted of three phases, a first phase in which the Council President, in office during that particular month, would informally consult with the states parties bringing the matter to the Council as well as with individual Council members about the importance of the particular dispute or situation and about ways and means to handle the case. Assuming that the agreement in the first round was for proceeding with the matter, the President would then undertake a second round of informal consultations in which his partners would be groups or blocs within the Council, e.g. the nonaligned group, the Communist side, and the Western group, plus groups interested in the matter at hand on the outside of the Council. In this phase, the issue under consideration was still whether or not to place the item on the Council's agenda, but also what was feasible in terms of the Council's response to the crisis before it. If opinion was still in favor of pursuing with the request for Council involvement, the President would then commence the third phase of this elaborate and sometimes time-consuming procedure and invite all members and the Secretary-General to the consultation of the whole. In this closed session, with the President chairing the deliberations, the request before the Council would be fully aired and all necessary decisions were discussed and, if a consensus emerged, decided. That would include the procedural decision to place the item on the Council's agenda, a further procedural decision to invite outside parties and member states to the formal meeting of the Council, and, most importantly, arrive at a draft decision, resolution or Presidential statement, in blue copy, that would then require adoption or declaration in a formal public meeting of the Council. Due to the given complexity of many of these situations, it happened frequently that the consultation of the whole needed to be suspended or adjourned and then later resumed so that further bilateral and mostly multilateral contacts would help facilitate a full agreement among all fifteen members. The consequence of this lengthy procedure in search of a consensus position has been that the general membership of the organization and the wider public on the outside has been compelled to rely on rumors, allegations and leaks to find out what was going on behind the closed doors of the Council's chambers 7 .

The practice of these 'informals' continues until our time. Council members, permanent and nonpermanent, acknowledge that openness and transparency should characterize the Council's place on the international arena, but they all emphasize that without the prior confidential engagements the Council would not manage to present a united front in response to any of the many disturbances landing on the Council's plate. The crucial nature of the secret dialogue and interaction of the diplomatic representatives within the high walls of the Council's operations is dramatically confirmed by the fact that despite the tremendous avalanche of critical issues throughout the 90's, the Council in all these years has not once deviated from the standard recourse to the informal consultation of the whole. It would appear from all that has come out of the Council and its immediate diplomatic environment that the diplomatic actors, big and small, see no alternative to that by now long-standing and fully vetted practice.

This elaborate pattern of the Council's working methods has resulted in impressive statistics for the years under consideration. Culled from the annual reports of the Council to the General Assembly, the following picture emerges:

Since the content of the Council reports is exclusively the prerogative of the Council under the UN Charter and the Secretariat has no formal or informal input into format and substance of this annual document submitted to the General Assembly, the figures provided in the ten years of Council practice under review here convey a fascinating picture about what the members themselves see as pertinent and worthy of mentioning to a wider interested public. It is especially remarkable for the observer to see how much time is spent in the crucial consultation phase of the Council. Of course, quantity does not necessarily translate into quality. But there is no denying the fact that the membership on the Council is immensely labor-intensive and time-consuming. It also offers strong testimony that while there have been inevitably fluctuations in the number of meetings and formal decisions, one cannot detect any waning of the Council's engagement in seeking to fulfill its significant mandate in the maintenance of international peace and security.

The commitment required to make a meaningful and constructive contribution to the Council's work is especially daunting for small member states without the required diplomatic staff and substantive support from their foreign ministries back home. In many cases, the diplomatic mission to the UN in New York consists of one or two more junior diplomats in addition to the Permanent Representative heading the mission. Looking at the hours alone of required meetings and the massive documentation to be read and analyzed, even larger missions will be hard put to bring the necessary capacities to the Council duties while maintaining their usual load of formal and informal business in and around the UN and their constant connection with their governments and foreign ministry colleagues. Even a cursory look at the blue book containing all missions at the New York headquarters of the world organization documents the severity of this problem for many member states 8 .

Trying to match the Council's investment in time and decision output with the rise and decline of the Council's political standing during the 90's leads to the realization that the alleged decline in the Council's impact on internationally important conflicts and other emergencies at the end of that decade is apparently not reflected in terms of the frequency or relevance of the Council's formal decisions. The upswing in numbers of meetings and hours of consultations indicates a growing immersion in the necessary diplomatic interactions out of which resolutions and Presidential statements emerge. This sharp increase in time set aside for consultations of the whole - any other informal talks and inquiries are not counted under this rubric - together with the huge documentation put before the members for their processing reflects a busier and more conscientious intergovernmental body than had existed during the Cold War and at the onset of the post-Cold War era. Due to this strong evidence of the Council's diligence and sincerity it warrants a much more detailed careful inquiry into particular cases and the string of debates and decisions composing the Council's dealings and deliberations around these agenda items.

Another salient feature of the post-Cold War Security Council which has been noted in recent academic work on the UN, is the dramatic rapid decline in the number of vetoes cast by any of the five permanent members. Over a whole decade, the number of substantive vetoes altogether comes to less than 10. Several of these were exercised by the United States, China, and the Russian Federation. The rarity of these veto applications illustrates strikingly the stability and pervasiveness of the basic accord and unanimity which the overwhelming majority of Council members have shown in the acclaim of the fundamental principles of the UN Charter and in their compliance with these norms in the exercise of their functions as Council members. The political and ideological diversity among the nonpermanent members as well as among the P-5, as the permanent members are referred to, is still sufficiently large that the adoption of unanimous decisions by show of hands or by prior agreement is not a foregone conclusion. One can surmise that the enormous number of hours spent in consultations of the whole in 1998 and 1999 must have been necessary in order to arrive at a consensus on what to do in a pending matter. It deserves mentioning that consultations of the whole do not serve the purpose of empty rhetoric or unproductive polemics since the interested public is not there to listen nor are there the open windows through which the speakers would address their own communities. As the proceedings are closed, whatever is said serves the purpose of responding to the colleagues and advancing the search for a generally acceptable consensus that promises to tackle the crisis at hand.

Before taking up the examination of the specific case of the occupied Arab territories, a brief review of the foundations and milestones of the post-Cold War 90's will help set the tone for the subsequent close look at the divisive politics in the chronic Middle East crisis. Despite the universal attention to, and most favorable reception of, the Agenda for Peace prepared by the UN Secretary-General in spring 1992, there is good reason to look at the intergovernmental event preceding the preparation of this key report, namely the 3046th meeting of the Security Council, held at the levels of heads of state and government on 31 January 1992 in connection with the item entitled "The responsibility of the Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security". Following a series of formal statements of the assembled dignitaries - Hungary and Zimbabwe were the only Council members represented 'merely' at the foreign minister level -, the British Prime Minister Major in his capacity of Council President read out a Presidential Statement on behalf of the Council members which can only be described as revolutionary. It contained inter alia the following riveting paragraphs:

"... The members of the Council also recognize that change, however welcome, has brought new risks for stability and security. Some of the most acute problems result from changes to State structures. The members of the Council will encourage all efforts to help achieve peace, stability and cooperation during these changes.


"The absence of war and military conflicts amongst States does not in itself ensure international peace and security. The non-military sources of instability in the economic, social, humanitarian and ecological fields have become threats to peace and security. The United Nations membership as a whole, working through the appropriate bodies, needs to give the highest priority to the solution of these matters."

"... They (the members of the Security Council) recognize that peace and prosperity are indivisible and that lasting peace and stability require effective international cooperation for the eradication of poverty and the promotion of a better life for all in larger freedom." (S/23500, document, pp. 2, 3 and 5).

The fervent emphasis on the new world situation and the pro-active call for an energetic effort to address effectively the novel threats to peace and security constituted a clarion call to the world community to rally behind a newly strengthened and revitalized instrument of global governance, the UN as a whole and the Security Council in particular. Out of this new awareness of paradigmatic changes in international relations ending decades of paralyzing cold war rivalry, the request was issued to the Secretary-General to elaborate the inspiring ideas of a new international peace order sketched out in the visionary statement of the British President. It was reliably reported at the time of this first-time Security Council summit that the Presidential statement had been drafted in the UK foreign ministry and had been quietly consulted and agreed to by all fifteen members thus representing indeed the collective vision of the assembled leaders. Compared to the audacious phrasing of the Presidential statement, the Agenda for Peace was markedly more cautious and realistic reflecting the political limitations placed upon the Secretariat and especially on the Secretary-General as its head.

The strong commitment of the Council and its changing membership to the norms and concepts entailed in the startling meetings and documents of the early months of 1992 was clearly demonstrated in the consideration of the 'Agenda for Peace' item in subsequent years. After a first meeting on the newly issued 'Agenda for Peace' (3089th meeting, 30 June 1992, Pres. Statement S/24210) welcoming in principle the report and announcing its intention to take up important aspects in further meetings, this was indeed carried out resulting in thorough evaluative Presidential statements: 3128th meeting, 29 October 1992, Pres. St. S/24728 on peace-keeping operations; Pres. St. S/24872 dated 30 November 1992 on fact-finding; 3154th meeting, 30 December 1992, Pres. St. S/25036 on special economic problems of States as a result of sanctions imposed under Chapter VII of the Charter; 3166th meeting, 28 January 1993, Pres. St. S/25184 on cooperation with regional arrangements and organizations; 3178th meeting, 26 February 1993, Pres. St. S/25344 on the question of humanitarian assistance; 3190th meeting, 31 March 1993, Pres. St. S/25493 on the safety of UN forces and personnel deployed in conditions of strife; and 3207th meeting, 30 April 1993, Pres. St. S/25696 on the subject of post-conflict peace-building. At the 3225th meeting on 28 May 1993, the President issued another Presidential statement (S/25859) in which the Council announced the conclusion of the current phase of its examination of the 'Agenda for Peace' and presented, together with a brief summary of the main points of its earlier declarations, a striking and carefully argued plea for the strengthening of the UN potential for preventive diplomacy.

In response to a follow-up report by the Secretary-General on the peacekeeping issue, the Council held its 3372nd meeting on 3 May 1994 and, following prior consultations, authorized another Presidential Statement (S/PRST/1994/22) which spelled out in great detail the Council's consensus positions on a range of issues of concern relating to the improvement of the UN capacity for peace-keeping. On 27 July 1994, at its 3408th meeting, the Council further developed its policy consensus on peace-keeping questions and, responding to a new report of the Secretary-General on stand-by arrangements for peace-keeping (S/1994/777), presented its evolving thinking in form of another Presidential Statement (S/PRST/1994/36) underlining the pressing need for improving the capacity of the Organization for rapid deployment and reinforcement of its peace-keeping operations. Later in the same year, on 4 November 1994, at its 3448th meeting, the President again issued a statement (S/PRST/199462) which clarified the Council's position on the question of communication between members and non-members of the Council, in particular troop-contributing countries, and announced new procedures for joint meetings bringing together the Council's representatives, the troop-contributing countries, and relevant Secretariat staff for exchange of information and views.

In preparation for the UN fiftieth anniversary in 1995, the Secretary-General used the occasion to review the 'Agenda for Peace' in the light of the experience of the years since its issuance. His position paper (S/1995/1) dated 3 January 1995 gave rise to a new Council debate which was held at the 3492nd meeting on 18 January 1995 and at the 3503rd meeting on 22 February 1995. At the latter meeting, following consultations of the Council, the President made a statement on behalf of the Council (S/PRST/1995/9) in which the Council commented in great detail and very carefully on the views and recommendations of the Secretary-General and reaffirmed its strong conviction that everything should be done to enable the Council and the UN as a whole to better fulfill its Charter-given tasks. The extensive comments paid special attention to the general issues of conflict prevention, rapid deployment and stand-by capacity of peacekeeping troops for UN missions, post-conflict peace-building, and economic sanctions. The Council members also renewed their clear endorsement of increased responsibilities in peace and security tasks for regional and sub-regional organizations.

Addressing newly arising questions relating to the 'Agenda for Peace', the Council continued to take positions in the subsequent years. Thus, on 19 December 1995, at the 3609th meeting, in connection with a new report of the Secretary-General on standby arrangements for peacekeeping, the President made a statement (S/PRST/1995/61) on behalf of the Council in which states not yet participating in such standby arrangements were strongly encouraged to do so and thereby enhance the capacity of the UN for the planning, rapid deployment and reinforcement and logistical support of its peacekeeping operations. Following up from this meeting and statement, a large number of states requested a formal meeting of the Council to continue their dialogue on the urgency of regular and intensive consultations between the Council and the troop-contributing countries. That meeting was held on 20 December 1995, the 3611th meeting, at which numerous representatives addressed this important question without taking a formal decision yet.

On 28 March 1996, at the 3645th meeting, the Council took the issue up again and authorized the President to make a statement (S/PRST/1996/13) on its behalf in which the Council set out clear procedures for regular and frequent meetings between Council members, troop-contributing countries, and Secretariat personnel. This significant document expressed the Council's deepening involvement in central aspects of the Organization's enlarged role in peacekeeping, especially handling complex emergencies.

Further important policy positions were developed and announced by the Council in the next months and years. A major debate on demining in the context of UN peacekeeping was held at the 3689th and 3693rd meetings (15 and 30 August 1996) allowing many voices to be heard on this growing problem and ushering into a full and extensive Presidential statement (S/PRST/199/37) dealing with international as well as UN-internal aspects of this scourge. Similarly, at the 3750th meeting on 12 March 1997, the Council members instructed the President, through the statement S/PRST/1997/13, to convey the Council's grave concern at the attacks against UN and other personnel in UN operations and issued an urgent appeal to the international community to promote and protect the security of this international personnel.

In pursuit of various aspects of the continuing 'Agenda for Peace' debate, the Council considered once again on 19 June 1997, at its 3790th meeting, the pressing problem of how to increase the protection for humanitarian assistance to refugees and others in conflict situations. In accordance with the understanding reached in prior consultations on the previous day, the President made a long statement on behalf of the Council (S/PRST/1997/34), in which the Council expressed its grave concern at the rise in attacks against refugees and other civilians and once again urged those concerned to comply strictly with the relevant rules of international law and international humanitarian law.

The growing international outcry about the special predicament of children in armed conflicts was the reason for the Council's consideration at its 3896th and 3897th meetings on 29 June 1998. On the basis of a thorough descriptive statement by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Council members and other representatives expressed their deepest dismay about the brutality and abuse inflicted on innocent small children and juveniles and indicated willingness to engage in concrete steps to counteract these horrible conditions. The Presidential statement (S/PRST/1998/18), at the 3897th meeting, summarized the commonly shared outrage at the cruel treatment of these helpless children, condemned their humiliation, brutalization, and sexual abuse as well as their forcible recruitment and use in armed conflicts, in violation of international law. The Council's attention to this serious condition was further illustrated by the fact that at its informal consultations of the whole on 25 March 1999, the Council members received a special briefing by the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict on his field visits to Burundi, Rwanda and the Sudan, some of the worst sites of this violent practice.

Under a new agenda item entitled 'Maintenance of peace and security and post-conflict peace-building', the Security Council returned to the consideration of a key topic emerging in the 'Agenda for Peace' debate. The Council took up this item at the 3954th meeting, on 16 and 23 December 1998, and the 3961st meeting, on 29 December 1998, providing for a full airing of this crucial concern and resulting in a lengthy Presidential statement on behalf of the Council (S/PRST/1998/38) setting out the full consensus elaborated in consultations prior and during the formal meetings. It documented once again the continuing pro-active attitude of the Council's fifteen members with regard to the undiminished need for international support for long-term peace-building in many of the world's trouble spots.

In line with its recent trend to take up general questions cutting across the particular disputes and situations, the Council turned to the problem of international humanitarian activities at its 3968th meeting on 21 January 1999. Under the agenda item 'Promoting peace and security: humanitarian activities relevant to the Security Council', the Council heard a briefing by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, following which all members offered their comments on the briefing and on the wider humanitarian challenges. This resumed discussion did, however, not lead to a formal decision, resolution or presidential statement. It should be recalled that in early 2000, the Council devoted another session to the humanitarian difficulties, thus validating the sincerity and urgency of its attention to this aspect of the post-Cold War world.

A related topic, namely the 'Protection of civilians in armed conflict', was on the Council's agenda from 12 to 22 February 1999. This discussion ran over several meetings, 3977th, 3978th, and 3980th meetings, on 12 and 22 February 1999, and brought the heads of UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to the debate on the unmitigated malaise as far as the situation of civilians in armed conflict is concerned. During the three formal meetings, many delegations took the floor and expressed their deep anguish over the pervasive conditions of insecurity for civilian populations. At the 3978th meeting, on 12 February 1999, the President made a statement on behalf of the Council (S/PRST/1999/6), in which the Council expressed its grave concern, reaffirmed the relevant obligations under the Conventions of the Hague, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, as well as other international legal norms, and in particular asked the Secretary-General to submit a report containing concrete recommendations to the Council by September 1999 at which time the Council would resume its consideration of this difficult subject.

This cursory overview over the Council's meticulous and insightful follow-up from the 1992 'Agenda for Peace' reform program makes it very clear that the momentum from that brief euphoric high point in multilateralism has not completely vanished. In the midst of a pressing agenda, the Council has taken the time to give careful consideration to the overall global developments and specifically look after oftentimes neglected legal, humanitarian, and socioeconomic aspects of the volatility and turbulence due to massive internecine violence in many troubled and dysfunctional human communities. The Council's numerous articulations on these generic issues deserve much closer examination. But it is sufficient for the present inquiry to simply sketch in broad strokes the commitment of the Council members to the overall strengthening of the Council in the manifold facets of its Charter-based peace mandate 9 .

The Security Council and the Situation in the Occupied Arab Territories - A Close Look

By the late 80's, the situation in the Middle East had not yet begun to ease. The relationship between the Israeli state and the Arab neighbors continued to be tense and gave often rise to strife and bloody clashes. Since the onset of the intifadah in 1987, the Israeli-Palestinian problem had exacerbated greatly, and the hope for some accommodation between the two sides had actually weakened as the violent confrontation seemed to find no end. Efforts to provide some reduction of tension and an initiation of even a minimal dialogue ended in futility. While the UN reminded the Israeli side of its obligations under the Geneva Conventions, the United States saw to it to nurture its close bond with the Israeli Government and viewed with suspicion and alarm the furious eruption of Palestinian anger, coming largely from the male youth of the camps and settlements housing the stateless Palestinian families. Nevertheless, the clear sign that the Palestinian community was no longer willing to accept silently the Israeli occupation and that the hopeless young generation rose against the mighty Israeli military and police despite the danger to their lives and limbs, started a process of rethinking and listening to the Palestinian side of the Middle East argument. Slow changes had also begun moving the Palestinian National Congress out of its rigid ideological convictions creating at last openings for Israeli peace advocates in the similarly hardened political dialogue within the Jewish community. Altogether, the situation was very serious, but not totally hopeless, although the day to day experience frequently documented only gloom and bleakness 10 .

The narrative of the Council's involvement with the side issue of the occupied Arab territories, an item that had lent itself to rhetorical posturing and demagoguery, picks up in mid-year 1989 - conforming to the Council's reporting period running from 16 June through 15 June twelve months later. In line with the regular practice of the Arab community, the current chair of the group at the UN, the Syrian Arab Republic, approached the Council by letter (S/20709) on 30 June 1989 requesting an immediate meeting on the occupied territories item in view of a major Israeli violation of the rights of the Palestinians. The Council's 2870th meeting was convened on 6 July 1989 in order to consider the Arab request. Before the Council took up the substantive aspect of the item, the President had to deal with some procedural matter, namely the request by the observer of Palestine that, in accordance with the Council's past practice, an invitation be extended to him to participate in the discussion on the item. The President then added that the request was not made pursuant to rule 37 or rule 39 of the provisional rules of procedure of the Council, but that if it was approved, the Council would invite the observer of Palestine to participate, not under rule 37 or rule 39, but with the same rights of participation as under rule 37 11 . As on earlier occasions, the representative of the US requested to take the floor on this Palestinian request and expressed his Government's strong disagreement with the request and the envisaged procedure giving the PLO representative de facto the same rights as any representative of a regular member state; he argued that resolutions adopted by the General Assembly on the Palestinian issue were not binding on the Security Council and that his delegation considered such an invitation appropriate only under rule 39. As required, a procedural vote was taken on the Palestinian request, which was approved by 11 votes in favor (Algeria, Brazil, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Finland, Malaysia, Nepal, Senegal, USSR, and Yugoslavia), to 1 against (US), with 3 abstentions (Canada, France, United Kingdom). It goes without saying that this US action sent a very hostile signal to the Palestinian leadership and community and offered them little hope for a major policy change in Washington.

The concrete issue before the Council was a bitter protest by the Palestinians against new deportations of Palestinians captured by the Israeli authorities. The PLO denied that these people were terrorists and denounced the cruelty and arbitrariness shown by the occupation authorities. In an extensive counter-argument by the representative of Israel, these expulsions were presented as a humane response to ruthless Palestinian terrorists and an attempt was made to offer a legal basis in the Hague Conventions of 1907 for the deportation measure. The US representative also took part in this debate stressing on the one hand that the US was strongly opposed to such expulsions as violations of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and saw them as unnecessary for public order and simply adding further tension in a troubled situation. On the other hand, however, the US was fully sympathetic to Israel's complicated position, further aggravated by the continuing intifadah. A key priority of the US administration at the moment was to promote efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table. For that reason, his delegation would abstain in the vote on the draft resolution which had been introduced.

The draft resolution (S/20710) which had been submitted by Algeria, Colombia, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Nepal, Senegal and Yugoslavia - all members of the Nonaligned Movement and current nonpermanent Council members -, was referred to by the President at the beginning of the meeting. Subsequently, at the 2870th meeting, it was put to the vote, received 14 votes in favor, to none against, with 1 abstention by the US, and was adopted as resolution 636 (1989). This tame text was a suitable and fair response of the Council to a case in which the responsibility of both parties was unmistakably set out and where proper remedies were listed. The three operative paragraphs read as follows:

  1. Deeply regrets the continuing deportation by Israel, the occupying Power, of Palestinian civilians;
  2. Calls upon Israel to ensure the safe and immediate return to the occupied Palestinian territories of those deported and to desist forthwith from deporting any other Palestinian civilians;
  3. Reaffirms that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Palestinian territories, occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem, and to the other occupied Arab territories; ...'

In a nearly exact replay of the previous occasion, the Council convened on 30 August 1989 at its 2883rd meeting in order to consider the letter of 29 August 1989 by Qatar, requesting on behalf of the Group of Arab states, an urgent Council meeting. The meeting began again with a US statement and a procedural vote on the invitation of the Palestinian representative. After that procedural prelude, the President drew attention to the text of a draft resolution (S/20820) submitted by the six nonaligned Council members.

The issue before the Council was another round of Israeli deportations of Palestinian civilians. The Israeli spokesman divided his statement between a forceful denunciation of Palestinian terrorism and a legalistic defense of Israel's drastic punitive action. The US representative explained that his delegation would abstain, as in the earlier case of resolution 636 (1989), because it was once again a case of illegal deportations by Israel.

The Council then proceeded to vote on the draft resolution which again received 14 votes in favor, to none against, with 1 abstention (US) and was adopted as resolution 641 (1989). The preambular and operative parts of the resolution were word-for-word nearly the same as for resolution 636 and were welcomed by the Palestinian spokesman as evidence of the UN role in the search for a peaceful solution in the Middle East.

The story of the Council's treatment of the issue of the occupied Arab territories took an unexpected turn in early November 1989. The representative of Kuwait, in his capacity as current Chairman of the Group of Arab states, requested by letter dated 3 November 1989 (S/20942) an immediate Council meeting. The Council convened on 6 November 1989 at its 2887th meeting and considered the item at the 2887th to 2889th meetings, on 6 and 7 November. At the beginning of the 2887th meeting, following the issuance of several routine invitations, the Council was again obliged to through the procedural vote regarding the invitation of the Palestinian representative. Right at the onset, the President also drew the Council's attention to the text of a draft resolution (S/20945) submitted by the six nonaligned members of the Council. The new developments in the occupied territories, and especially a new Israeli raid against Palestinian Beit Sahur, caused many statements by Arab friends and neighbors castigating the undiminished domination by Israel of the territories occupied since July 1967 and condemning the escalation in the harsh Israeli rule. Other representatives from the nonaligned group, from the Western group and from among the permanent members raised questions about where to go in the ever more urgent search for some peaceful end to these periods of friction and violence. The draft resolution before the Council envisaged not just references to the Geneva Conventions, but emphasized the ultimate goal of comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the area and sought on-site monitoring by the UN Secretary-General of the current situation in the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.

Evidently as a result of further consultations outside the formal Council sessions, the sponsors presented to the Council before its 2889th meeting on 7 November a slightly revised version (S/20945/Rev.1) of their initial submission. The most important change in the wording was a clear softening of the language from (The Council) 'demands', in old para. 6, to 'urges, in new para. 3, most likely a concession to the US delegation. At the same meeting, the revised draft resolution received 14 votes in favor, to 1 vote against (US), and was not adopted, owing to the US veto. Following this unfortunate defeat of a consistent and moderate response to a clearly deteriorating situation in the occupied territory, the US delegate reiterated his Government's preference for the peace process and voiced objections to what he called one-sided resolutions and against a permanent monitoring role of the Secretary-General in the area. The US Government would welcome occasional visits of the Secretary-General. It also had taken up the recent events in Beit Sahur directly with the Israeli authorities conveying to them the critical attitude of the US. At the conclusion of the third meeting, the Palestinian representative explained how upset he and his people were about the US veto, but renewed emphatically the Palestinian desire for peace.

When the Council returned to the issue of the occupied Arab territories on 15 March 1990, the approach and venue had changed considerably. By letter dated 12 February 1990, the representative of the Soviet Union had requested the convening of a Council meeting. At its 2910th meeting on 15 March 1990, the Soviet letter was included in the agenda under the agenda item 'The situation in the occupied Arab territories'. After the normal procedural moves, the Soviet representative explained his Government's request for a meeting because it wished to focus on the unacceptable Israeli settlement policy in the Palestinian territories. What was especially disturbing was the settlement of Russian Jews in occupied areas. The discrepancy of the evolving practices in the occupied territories from the principles of the Middle East peace as spelled out in Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) was blatant and required the Council's attention.

Leading off an unusually large number of statements over several meetings, the Palestinian representative underlined the extreme urgency of a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. He mentioned most favorably the recently established US-Palestinian contacts geared toward the advance of the peace efforts and appealed to the US to pursue this new policy. At the 2910th and 2911th meetings, on 15 March 1990, the 2912th meeting, on 27 March 1990, the 2914th meeting, on 28 March 1990, the 2915th meeting, on 29 March 1990, and the 2920th meeting, on 3 May 1990, Arab states, nonaligned states and intergovernmental organizations, as well as several Western countries presented their diverging views on the controversial tendencies in the Israeli settlement buildup and on the need, and opportunity, for an eagerly awaited opening for a general peace in the region, to be achieved with the help of the UN and regional organizations.

While these deliberations were continuing, the nonaligned members of the Council tried to formulate a text for a draft resolution that would enjoy unanimous support in the Council. On 12 April 1990, they sponsored a draft resolution in provisional form (S/21247) which provided inter alia for the Council deploring the Israeli settlement policy which was in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, calling upon Israel to desist from this illegal policy and upon all other states not to assist Israel in this activity, and requesting the Secretary-General to keep the situation under close review and to report to the Council on the implementation of the resolution by 31 May 1990. The language and spirit of this draft was moderate and pragmatic listing the points that seemed to encompass the attitudes of all members including in particular the United States. But by the time the next meeting devoted to the occupied territories was convened, nearly three weeks had gone by, but the few statements presented at the 2920th meeting on 3 May 1990 did not give any hint as to the fate of the nonaligned draft resolution. It is likely that it was quietly abandoned because of unmistakable evidence of US opposition to this restrained attempt to block Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.

Throughout these weeks, the exchange of letters to the Council President or the Secretary-General from the parties to the Palestinian issue was quite intense reflecting the restlessness on the part of the Arabs and Palestinians in promoting their peace-related aims. In the midst of these frequent communications, the representative of Bahrain, as chairman of the Arab group, sent a letter dated 21 May 1990 (S/21300) requesting an immediate Council meeting. The next move came in two notes of the Council President, both dated 22 May 1990 (S/21309 & S/21310), informing the other Council members that consultations among them about Bahrain's request had resulted in the agreement to hold the first meeting on the matter at Geneva at the UN Office on 25 May 1990, at 3 p.m. to continue until the speakers' list was exhausted. This highly unusual and dramatic decision to move the Council's operations across the Atlantic to the Palais des Nations building at Geneva was due to the unrelated fact that the US immigration authorities were unwilling to issue on short notice, if at all, a visa for Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader to come to UN headquarters in New York..

It comes as no surprise that the meeting at Geneva was mostly a rhetorical exercise in which the sober goal to find a solution to the given critical situation was overshadowed by the desire to impress the Council members and the numerous state and organizational representatives in attendance. Arafat opened the debate with a long and comprehensive statement illustrating the great suffering of the Palestinian people, Israel's heavy-handed role as occupying power, and the precious chance for both sides to explore the options for a peaceful solution, in close cooperation with the UN. Israel was represented by then Ambassador Netanyahu who delivered a sharp and uncompromising attack on Palestinian terrorism and refused to make any concession on the Israeli strategy and its current policies. The polemical tone was replicated by spokesmen of more radical governments which saw little justification to abandon the armed struggle against the Israeli oppressor. But in general, an attitude of good will and political restraint prevailed placing proper emphasis on nonviolent approaches to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Throughout the previous round of meetings in New York and at the Geneva deliberations, the US did not take the floor a single time. This silence on the part of the biggest member of the Council and of the whole organization had to be viewed with great worry, and it did not bode well for any upcoming occasion of collective decision-making.

The Council continued its consideration of the item at its 2926th meeting on 31 May 1990 in New York. The President drew at the beginning of the meeting attention to a new draft resolution (S/21326), submitted by the seven nonaligned members (Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Yemen and Zaire), which envisaged the establishment of a three- member Security Council Commission to be dispatched immediately to examine the policies and practices of Israel in the occupied Palestinian areas.

Prior to the vote, a few statements were made including a sharply worded rejection by the Israeli representative of the draft resolution and the proposed commission in particular. Following a very brief suspension, the Council proceeded to the vote. The nonaligned draft received 14 votes in favor, to 1 against (US), and was not adopted, owing to the US veto. After the vote, the US representative explained that his delegation was strongly opposed to the dispatch of a Council Commission, while it would be agreeable to occasional visits of the Secretary-General. The Soviet representative who had initiated the examination of this complex issue since the 2910th meeting, expressed regret that the US had not been able to give its consent to the very moderate suggestion for the employment of a Council mission.

In a small postlude after the failed spring initiative, on 19 June 1990, following consultations, the President issued a statement on behalf of the members of the Council (S/21363) in which the Council strongly deplored an incident on 12 June 1990 in a UNRWA clinic located in the Gaza Strip in which an Israeli officer had thrown a tear-gas grenade into the building and wounded innocent women and children; the Council expressed its dismay that the penalty imposed on that officer had been commuted and reaffirmed the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the Palestinian territories. The swift reaction to this incident reflected the Council's unanimity regarding the event and the mode in which the criticism was issued. Here, the US joined the other fourteen members in the censure.

Digressing from the annotated narrative for a moment, it should be stressed that during the Council's reporting period June 1989 through June 1990, the world had undergone fundamental change starting with the end of Soviet rule over Eastern Europe and the demise of Communism in all of Eastern Europe. The standing of the USSR itself had begun to weaken massively, and the role of the US emerging from forty years of bipolarity and Cold War had strengthened greatly. While these global changes were occurring, one observes in the Security Council over the Middle East issue a hardening of the US attitude hewing more closely to the harsh stand of the Israeli government and disallowing the involvement of essentially peaceful methods coming from the UN including a limited monitoring role for the Secretary-General and a Charter-based Council role in investigating the critical situation in the area. One is left a little bit with a puzzle why the only superpower in the evolving international order appeared unwilling to involve itself in an inevitably leading role in the new modes of global governance through the instruments of multilateralism available in the provisions of the UN Charter.

The next moves on the Palestinian issue came only after the great divide, namely the Iraqi aggression of August 1990, which resulted in large-scale global changes and also had a noticeable impact on the central facets of the Middle East problem. The change in the Palestinian fortune is doubly surprising if one remembers that Arafat in his anger and despair had voiced loud support for Saddam Hussain's tirade against Arab meekness and American duplicity.

Based on the request by the letter dated 26 September 1990 (S/21830) by Yemen for a Council meeting, the Council, at its 2945th meeting on 5 October 1990, took up the matter again. The Palestinian spokesman emphasized that the question before the Council was the future of Palestine. Yemen announced that it planned to propose a draft resolution for the Council's attention. The Israeli representative placed emphasis on the Iraqi threat and sought to link Yemen and the PLO to the Iraqi aggressor. The debate continued through the 2946th and 2947th meetings, on 8 and 9 October 1990 respectively, with numerous statements reflecting the wide range of political positions on the Middle Eastern question. On the day of the 2947th meeting, the seven nonaligned members submitted a draft resolution (S/21851) which revived the suggestion for a three-member Council mission to examine in particular the new incidence of violence in the Al Haram Al Shareef precinct in Jerusalem.

The Council returned to the consideration of the item at its 2948th meeting on 12 October 1990. At the beginning, the President drew attention to a new draft resolution (S/21859), submitted by Canada and the United Kingdom, subsequently joined by Cote d'Ivoire, Finland, France, the USSR, and Zaire as sponsors. In the subsequent discussion, the Palestinian representative alleged that the US had stalled on the draft resolution which was before the Council because it was not satisfied with the initial text.

The President stated that, as agreed in prior consultations, the Council should proceed to vote on draft resolution S/21859. He also clarified that, according to his understanding, the reference to "the territories occupied by Israel since 1967" included Jerusalem. The President then made a statement in connection with the draft resolution in which he pointed out that in the informal consultations leading to the consideration of the pending draft resolution, the Secretary-General had explained that the purpose of the mission which he would send out, would be to look into the circumstances surrounding the recent tragic events in Jerusalem and other similar developments in other parts of the Palestinian territory and to submit by 24 October 1990 a report with findings and recommendations. The Council thereafter proceeded to the vote: the draft resolution received 15 votes in favor and was adopted unanimously as resolution 672 (1990).

This resolution representing the unanimous view of the full Council expressed alarm at the violence which took place in several holy places and caused the death of over twenty Palestinians and the injury of more than one hundred and fifty people, condemned the acts of violence committed by Israeli security forces, called upon Israel to abide by the applicable provisions of the Geneva Conventions, and requested, in connection with the decision of the Secretary-General to send a mission to the region, that he submit his report by the end of October 1990.

This brief summary of the resolution, an important step forward in the evolution of the US policies in the Middle East, makes clear that the earlier unwillingness of the US to join in draft resolutions less critical of the Israeli role as occupying power had nothing to do with the substance or the spirit of the texts in question but reflected a combination of powerful domestic considerations and a nearly blind support for, and faith in the goodness of, the Israeli leadership and security forces. With resolution 672 (1990), one can argue, the US administration had corrected its course relating to the Middle Eastern policy problems and embarked on a new journey seeking to balance its overall approach and be as evenhanded as the international situation demanded. One of the most interesting aspects of this story line of the occupied Arab territories is the occasionally deviating or derailing US position over the years of dealing with the issue until the end of the 90's.

The first test of the newly found consensus in the Council came on 24 October 1990, at the 2949th meeting, where the President drew attention to the text of a draft resolution (S/21893), submitted by Colombia, Cuba, Malaysia and Yemen. The subsequent statements revealed a very heated atmosphere in which the Palestinians expressed their deep frustration and the representative of Sudan supported by several nonaligned delegations called for strong punitive measures including measures under chapter VII of the Charter in response to the defiance shown by the Israeli government. The Israeli representative dismissed these attacks and argued that res. 242 (1967) and res. 660 (1990) against Iraq were not comparable. In the subsequent vote, the draft resolution was adopted unanimously as resolution 673 (1990). Under this resolution, the Council deplored the Israeli refusal to receive the Secretary-General's mission to the region, urged the Israeli government to reconsider its decision and to comply fully with resolution 672 (1990), and requested the Secretary-General to submit the report under resolution 672 (1990).

On 7 November 1990, at the 2953rd meeting, the Council resumed consideration of the item and included also the Secretary-General's report under resolution 672 (1990) (S/21919 and Corr.1 and Add. 1, 2 and 3) in the agenda. The detailed and circumspect report of the Secretary-General offered an explanation why his mission had not been able to visit the troubled sites in the Palestinian territories and what Israel had provided to justify its non-cooperation with the Council and the Secretary-General. In reviewing the whole situation, the Secretary-General concluded that only a satisfactory answer to the legitimate Palestinian goals and grievances would eventually lead to a comprehensive solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Whereas the Palestinian spokesman praised the Secretary-General's report and applauded the sentiment that only the full satisfaction of the Palestinian demands would help bring a peaceful solution, other speakers offered more radical thoughts. The discussion carried over into the 2954th meeting on 9 November 1990, at which the representative of Palestine also showed a video tape of the clash between Palestinians and the Israeli security force.

Searching for an appropriate response to the Israeli obstruction, four nonaligned Council members (Colombia, Cuba, Malaysia and Yemen) submitted on 15 November 1990 a draft resolution subsequently revised (S/21933/Rev.3). Aside from the regular preliminary references and operative stipulations, the draft specifically welcomed the idea of convening of a meeting of the high contracting parties to the fourth Geneva Convention and suggested seeking the advice of these on how to ensure Israel's respect for the Convention under all circumstances.

At the 2957th meeting, on 16 November 1990, the item was further debated. But nothing was said or done about the nonaligned draft. Following another hiatus, the item was taken up again at the 2965th meeting, on 5 December 1990. The statement by the representative of Palestine revolved around current suggestions on how to approach the search for peace, on the proposal for a peace conference, and on Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions. The 2966th meeting on 8 December 1990 was opened by the Soviet request for a suspension of the formal meeting. The subsequent procedural debate demonstrated a rather angry argument by several nonaligned members about the abuse of the rules of the procedure for hidden political purposes and about the inexcusable waste of time. Their views were countered by the Canadians, the UK and the US; the American delegate favored the suspension of the meeting to give more time for consultations on the nonaligned draft. By a procedural vote of 9 in favor, to 4 against, with 2 abstentions, the proposal for suspension was adopted.. The 2967th meeting on 10 December 1990 and the 2968th meeting on 12 December 1990 were similarly suspended.

At the 2970th meeting (Part I), on 19 December 1990, the representative of Finland reported on intensive efforts to resolve outstanding differences regarding the intended Council decision. Once more, in order to gain further time, the UK representative proposed yet another suspension which was adopted by 9 votes in favor to six against. At the 2970th meeting (Part II), on 20 December 1990, the President referred to draft resolution S/22022 prepared in the course of the Council's consultations. He then made a statement on behalf of the members of the Council (S/22027) in which the members reaffirmed their determination to support an active negotiating process for the Middle East peace, and agreed that an international conference, at an appropriate time, properly structured, should facilitate efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement and lasting peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Following two statements before the vote, the draft resolution was adopted unanimously as resolution 681 (1990).

This long and comprehensive resolution spelling out the goals for peace in the Middle East and the tools to work toward that lofty goal constituted a milestone in the UN involvement in the whole issue area. Taking its cue from the Secretary-General's report, the resolution picked up the reference to the Presidential statement concerning the method and approach for comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, and then expressed grave concern over Israel's rejection of resolutions 672 and 673 (1990), deplored the resumption of deporting Palestinians, urged Israel to accept the de iure applicability 12 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to all occupied territories, requested the Secretary-General, in cooperation with the ICRC, to develop further the idea expressed in his report, of convening a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the said Convention and to discuss possible measures to be taken by them to secure full compliance with the provisions of the Convention, and also requesting the Secretary-General to monitor the situation in the occupied areas and to draw upon UN and other personnel and resources present in the wider area, needed to accomplish this task and to keep the Council informed.

After the vote, most of the Council members explained their vote and expressed their pleasure at the Council's unanimity. Among them, the US delegate used the occasion to remark on the wider context of the envisaged renewed peace process.

This decision by the Security Council can be viewed as the true turning point in the way the US and the UN dealt with the Middle East question. At last, the US had made the decisive move and reached out to invite the Palestinians to join the others in the international community. The former terrorists and fanatics were welcomed as legitimate partners in the planned collective peacemaking under the UN auspices as well as under the special tutelage of the US as leading designer and operator of the scheduled peace conference. The distance traveled by the US from total rejection to warm embrace and good will must be acknowledged and appreciated. Looking at this specific development, one cannot but point out that after the condemnation of the Iraqi aggressor and the buildup of an international coalition to reverse the annexation of Kuwait, the US had to redefine its political strategy to become attractive and inviting to Arab states and governments which feared the Iraqi threat but needed some powerful protection to join in the anti-Iraq campaign. For that reason, the US had to make important concessions to the Palestinian party, as an integral part of the Arab community. These forces ultimately were responsible for the sea change in US policy in the Middle East, including its UN component.

In the following three years, the US maintained its new course of fairness and impartiality pleasing to the Palestinians and bearable to the Israelis and proved in its voting behavior on the occupied Arab territories that it was eager to be consistent in its own political dealings. On six occasions, the basic issue brought to the Council was the continued use of deportations by the Israeli authorities against Palestinian activists and suspects. The Council restated its clear disapproval of the Israeli measures on these occasions and reminded in each case the Israeli government of its legal obligations under the Geneva Conventions. These instances were the Presidential Statements of 4 January 1991 (S/22046), 27 March 1991 (S/22408), and 4 April 1992 (S/23783), as well as Council resolutions 694 (1991) of 24 May 1991, 726 (1992) of 6 January 1992, and 799 (1992) of 18 December 1992. All these decisions were arrived at in prior consultations among the members, and the resolutions were adopted unanimously. They all were based on the fundamental text of resolution 681 (1990) which had been instrumental in clearing the road to the multidimensional peace process centered around the authority and influence of the US as key peace promoter.

The next large-scale confrontation about the conditions in the occupied Palestinian areas erupted over what is universally referred to as the 'Hebron massacre' committed in the early morning hours of 25 February 1994 by Jewish extremist settlers against defenseless Palestinian citizens while they were praying in the Ibrahim Mosque in Hebron. The worldwide outrage against this brutal attack was met by deep sorrow and contrition on the part of the Israeli government and people who vowed to restrain and punish those extremist elements.

When the Council convened at its 3340th meeting, on 28 February 1994, the progress in the Arab-Israeli peace process was strikingly demonstrated by the US finally dropping its objection to the specific invitation formula used for the representative of Palestine 13 . Since the US no longer opposed the Palestinian request, no procedural vote was required, and the invitation was extended "with the consent of the Council". The Palestinians had advanced in their international standing in the UN and, more importantly, in their relationship with the US, the sponsor and key supporter of the Palestinian hopes for the ultimate durable peace. The large number of statements required four sessions (3340th-3342nd, and 3351st meetings, on 28 February, 1 March, 2 March and 18 March 1994).

While the many speakers from all over the world voiced their distress and anger about the bloody event in Hebron in the public meetings, quiet efforts were pursued behind closed doors to unite the Council members behind a carefully phrased censuring draft resolution that would not jeopardize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process which had made extraordinary progress in the past few years. The results of that patient and persistent endeavor emerged finally at the 3351st meeting, on 18 March 1994, as the speakers' list reached the end. At the beginning of this crucial meeting, the President drew attention to the text of a draft resolution (S/1994/280), submitted by Djibouti, on behalf of the non-aligned members of the Council (Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan and Rwanda), France, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom. The President further pointed out that a paragraph-by-paragraph vote on the draft resolution had been requested. In this series of votes, all paragraphs but the second and sixth preambular paragraphs were adopted unanimously. The two exceptions were adopted by 14 votes in favor, to none against with 1 abstention (US). Following these separate votes, the draft resolution as a whole was adopted without vote as resolution 904 (1994).

Before the resolution as a whole is summarized, it is quite revealing to consider the two preambular paragraphs which incurred the US abstention. The second preambular paragraph ("Gravely concerned by the consequent Palestinian casualties in the occupied Palestinian territory as a result of the massacre, which underlines the need to provide and security for the Palestinian people) and the sixth preambular paragraph ("Reaffirming its relevant resolutions, which affirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 to the territories occupied by Israel in June 1967, including Jerusalem, and the Israeli responsibilities thereunder) do not in and of themselves strike the impartial observer as especially harsh and objectionable, especially as they reiterate, slightly differently phrased, earlier resolutions and other decisions agreed to by the US. In this connection it is worth mentioning that after the vote, the US representative (on this occasion it was Mrs. Albright) explained that the US delegation had accepted the text in order to save the Middle Eastern peace process, despite what she called some objectionable phrasing. This wording offers at least a glimpse of the long and laborious wrangling in the intra-Council consultations in search of a general consensus.

Offering very strong language describing the massacre and the unfortunate ramifications in the preamble, the operative part of resolution 904 (1994) is much more moderate and oriented toward the active resumption of the peace process. In the first three paragraphs, the Council strongly condemns the Hebron Massacre and its aftermath, calls upon Israel to continue to take measures including confiscation of arms, in order to prevent illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers, and calls for measures to guarantee the safety of the Palestinian civilians in the occupied territory, including a temporary international presence, which was provided for in the Declaration of Principles (S/26560), in the context of the ongoing peace process. The fourth and fifth paragraphs speak specifically to the peace process, requesting the co-sponsors of the peace process, the US and Russia, to continue their efforts to invigorate the peace process, and reaffirms its support for the peace process and calls for the implementation of the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993 in Washington, D.C., without delay.

Despite the courteous reference to Russia as co-sponsor of the peace process, the reality behind this phase of the Council's dealing with the unsettled matter of the occupied territories points to the US as the key actor in any and all aspects of the Middle East dynamic. The severity of the Hebron massacre forced the US and Israel to concede important points to the Palestinians and their sympathizers in the Arab community and in the developing world. The Israeli Government launched a major campaign to mitigate the fallout from the brutal settler attack on devout Moslems in the Hebron mosque. The US as the driving external force for an undiminished pursuit of the elusive, but feasible comprehensive peace in the Middle East needed to entice the Palestinian party with small favors such as the end to the procedural game and with the slightly bigger concession of joining the other Council members in an unwelcome, but unavoidable rebuke of the Israeli authorities over the recurrence and apparent escalation of anti-Palestinian violence. The delicate balance that the US tried to maintain throughout these paradoxical developments was a difficult act to perform, especially if all this is placed against the background of the deeply divided domestic politics in America. For these and related reasons, one must pay close attention to the unmistakable warning issued by the US representative about words and deeds seen as intruding and interfering in the intensive and discrete measures of facilitation provided by the US in the multi-faceted elements of the ongoing peace process.

At the next occasion, in early 1995, when the Palestinians again came to the Council in order to complain about the continuation of the Israeli policy to expand settlements in the occupied territories, the debate provided some clarification, however not in the way the Palestinians had wanted it. Various Council members, especially the US, but also the UK and some other spokesmen, saw a disadvantage in the Council's being convened in that the frictious nature of the Council argument would possibly sour the atmosphere in the ongoing talks in the peace process. The search by the Palestinian party for concrete political support of its viewpoint was not successful in that after a prolonged exchange of accusations and various supporting declarations the Council did not take a position or adopt any type of decision and simply adjourned. Still, the somewhat impatient lecturing on the part of main Western powers gave a warning not to be ignored by the Palestinians and their supporters.

The rift between the pro-Palestinian faction and the US widened dramatically during the Council's 3536th and 3538th meetings, from 12 to 16 May 1995. The subject matter was a major complaint by the Palestinians about the Israeli confiscation of 53 hectares of land in East Jerusalem, traditionally home of the Arabs. The Council was asked to put a stop to the Israeli practice of illegal territorial annexation since the Israeli government refused to accede to the Palestinian protests and legal charges. The Israeli viewpoint, though most carefully laid out, was not shared by any other participant in this deliberation. But while the UK and France chastised Israel severely for this new provocation and illegal breach, the US reacted quite differently: it admonished the Israeli side most gently and deplored mostly what it described as a divisive debate.

At the beginning of the 3538th meeting, on 17 May 1995, the President referred to draft resolution S/1995/394, submitted by Botswana, Honduras, Indonesia, Nigeria, Oman and Rwanda, and put it to the vote. The draft resolution obtained 14 votes in favor, to 1 against with no abstention, and was not adopted, due to the US veto. Explanations of the vote before and after the actual voting offered a good insight into what had gone on in the informal consultations in order to bridge the wide gap between the overwhelming majority of members and non-members and the US holdout dissenting from the broad consensus on the issue. The US representative declared quite firmly that its veto had been cast out of principle. It viewed direct talks between the parties as the only path to a final peace. In the US view, the Council had improperly sought to declare itself on a matter that was specifically reserved for the permanent-status talks between Israelis and Palestinians, but it was essential that there would be no interference with the parties on that question. It is remarkable that the Western partners of the US expressed great regret at the US opposition and pointed to the good will and readiness to compromise that had pervaded the prior informal explorations and detailed negotiations.

This negative turn in the UN ability to affect strongly the rather volatile swings and setbacks in the Middle East peace process and the widening distance between the US as leading world power and the Security Council in its capacity as guardian of international peace were the main consequences of the Council's repeated failures in Middle Eastern concerns. The period of political harmony and effective cooperation in the Council lasting from 1990 to 1994 on the occupied Arab territories item confirmed the optimistic expectations about the potential for meaningful engagement of the Council in global and regional conflict situations and exemplified the convergence between multilateral and unilateral diplomacy in the post-Cold War world. The next few years document the renewed split between the collective approach and the desire of the world power to go it alone in the Middle East and in other global problems.

Nearly a year later, in April 1996, another round in the consideration of the occupied Palestinian territories took place. While the 3652nd meeting on 15 April 1996 did not usher into any type of Council decision, it could serve as a barometer of growing frustration and resentment among the members and the interested immediate parties. The Palestinian spokesman expressed appreciation for the actual holding of the public meeting without failing to state his deep disappointment about the lack of action. The representative of Egypt raised the troubling question as to the legitimacy - or the lack of it - of the Council's standards applied to different types of aggression and viewed this as evidence of a double standard, a charge that only the more radical governments had so far raised. The US delegate expressed great annoyance about the particular discussion taking place and spoke "against endless debate in New York", displaying the deepening American disenchantment with the political processes in and around the UN.

It was purely accidental that the next urgent complaint from the Arab side came in late September 1996, at the time of the opening of the fifty-first regular session of the UN General Assembly. The letter dated 26 September 1996 by Saudi Arabia conveyed the position of the Arab group with regard to "the action taken by the Government of Israel in opening an entrance to the tunnel extending under the Western Wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem" and requested an immediate meeting of the Security Council. On the same day, the observer of Palestine requested such a meeting (S/1996/791) and the representative of Egypt, a Council member, supported the Saudi Arabian request and also called for the immediate convening of the Council (S/1996/792). Several other communications on the same incident signified a high level of tension in the Arab community.

The result of the coincidence mentioned above was that the 3698th meeting, on 27 and 28 September 1996, was held at a very high level: most of the attending representatives were of Foreign Minister rank. The debate was opened by the de facto Foreign Minister of the embryonic Palestinian state who leveled harsh accusations against Israel as occupying power and listed the grave casualties suffered by the Palestinian community (86 dead, with more than 1,000 injured). He also explained to the Council that the opening of the tunnel at the holy Islamic site was a big provocation and needed to be rescinded.. The escalating difficulties with the Netanyahu government made it necessary that the Council issue a clear condemnation of the Israeli measures and send a fact-finding mission to the site for further clarification of the situation. Despite the strenuous as well as dismissive rebuttal statement by the Israeli representative, the main tenor of the following interventions by Foreign Ministers and other dignitaries was full of empathy for the Palestinian suffering and stressed at the same time that the peace process between the two sides should be completed as soon as possible. The US representative (at the ambassadorial level) appealed to the parties to stop the violence, restore calm and resume the forward movement of the peace process.

At the same time, efforts were under way to find common ground among the Council members for a positive decision regarding this latest Palestinian-Israeli clash. At the second resumption of the 3698th meeting, on 28 September 1996, the President referred to draft resolution S/1996/803 which had been prepared in the course of the Council's prior consultations. The draft resolution received 14 votes in favor, to none against with 1 abstention (US), and was adopted as resolution 1073 (1996). The text of this resolution provided the implicit explanation for its most evident moderation and pragmatism. Otherwise, the US would not have abstained, but would have wielded a negative vote. In the preamble, the Council expresses its deep concern about the tragic events in Jerusalem and the areas of Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip, and also states concern about developments at the Holy Places of Jerusalem, and in the operative part, calls essentially for the cessation of all injurious acts and for immediate resumption of negotiations within the Middle East peace process.

Considering the graveness of the bloody clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian civilians, it can only be described as a miracle reflecting the realism, free of false hopes and illusions, of the Palestinians and their Arab friends and supporters that such a toned-down text was acceptable to them. They got little satisfaction, but they knew that nothing more could be extracted from Israel's main patron, the US. In a way, this September debate constituted a basic surrender to the unmistakable fact that the US had taken over the exclusive control over the peace process and the concretely available options for the achievement of the ultimate peace accord.

Despite their bleak assessment of their chances for a fair hearing in the Council as currently constituted, the Arabs sought recourse once again to the involvement of the Council in response to a new and even graver Israeli provocation in the occupied areas. Launching a massive new housing project in a historically Arab section of East Jerusalem, the government of Israel was ruthlessly creating new facts on the ground and seeking to make the many changes irreversible. This new step was taken in blatant violation of international law and of relevant Council and General Assembly resolutions on the subject matter. Due to the explosive nature of the confrontation, the Arab group and sympathizers in the UN sought in early March 1997 another Council debate. In reaction to that clear demand, the Council reached an understanding in prior consultations to accede to the request and convene the 3745th meeting, on 5 March 1997.

With the Palestinian representative setting out the new damaging developments in East Jerusalem, in Jabul Abu Ghniem, involving plans for some 6,500 housing units and about 25,000 new settlers, and appealing to the Council to affect the Israeli behavior, and with the representative of Israel dismissing the Palestinian charges as unfounded and describing the new projects as part of a municipal program to deal with the needs of a vibrant growing community, the dimensions of the latest crisis were sharply delineated. The subtext of the given argument was, however, in evidence in numerous statements by Council members. The first to raise that underlying issue was the representative of Egypt who saw a clear breach of the principle of the sanctity of pacts and insisted that Israel had to abide by international law, including binding Security Council decisions. The British delegate stressed the seriousness of the incident and considered it not reasonable to ask the Council to ignore this dangerous turn of events. Others similarly emphasized the role of the Council in connection with the examination of such conflictual situations in the Middle East and with the principal endorsement of the peace process.

The extended debate widened by the statements of many nonmembers carried over into the afternoon of 5 March and into the next day. When the Council returned for the 3747th meeting on 7 March 1997, the President referred to draft resolution S/1997/199, submitted by France, Portugal, Sweden and the UK, and declared that the Council was ready to vote on it. The draft resolution received 14 votes in favor, to 1 against (US) with no abstention, and was not adopted owing to the US veto. In statements before and after the vote, explaining the votes, the basic contrast between the US and the other fourteen members in the handling of the issue before the Council was clearly spelled out.

While the majority deeply regretted the US veto, it felt that the draft cosponsored by the four West-European members was fully reflective of the sense of the Council in unanimously backing pursuit and fulfillment of the Middle Eastern peace process. In opposition to that attitude and action, the US representative claimed that the Council's draft would not have nurtured trust and confidence among the two parties in negotiation for a mutually beneficial peace agreement. The American ambassador went so far to argue: "... Members have heard our views on the appropriateness of outside interference in the direct negotiations between the parties. We have never believed, ..., that it (the Council) is an appropriate forum for debating the issues now under negotiation between the parties. It is not...." He also claimed that the draft resolution made "sweeping statements concerning the legal status of Israeli settlements" and added, moreover, that Council action to blame one or the other party or to interject itself into permanent-status issues was not "the right way to go about this."

This painful setback for the Palestinian cause was revisited only two weeks later when, at the request of Qatar, on behalf of the Arab League, the Council convened the 3756th meeting on 21 March 1997. At the beginning of the meeting, the President referred to draft resolution S/1997/241, submitted by Egypt and Qatar, and added that the Council was ready to vote on the text. Prior to the vote, the representative of Egypt explained that the Council had been convened to vote on a draft resolution calling for an end to the construction of the Jabul Abu Ghniem settlement project and all other settlements in occupied territories. Israel should stop using settlements as an instrument for imposing a fait accompli. The critical question was whether the Council would be able to play its Charter role and stop Israel's erroneous policies.

Responding to the probing Egyptian question, the US delegate reiterated the position taken at the 3747th meeting and insisted once more that neither the Council nor the General Assembly should insert themselves into issues to be settled by the parties in permanent-status talks; in his government's judgment, the public debate in the Council just exacerbated the tensions.

Following the voting procedure in which the draft received 13 votes in favor, to 1 against (US) with 1 abstention (Costa Rica), and was not adopted owing to the American veto, other Council members offered their views on the new defeat of meaningful Council action and restated their firm belief in the importance of further steps on the road to peace. The Palestinian spokesman shared his disappointment with the Council and addressed specifically the US: "The bitter reality is that this veto has been cast to shield Israel from the will of the international community and to exempt Israel from the provisions of international law and of the Charter of the United Nations." He further affirmed the supremacy of international law over the issues pending in the peace process and also restated the Palestinian and Arab commitment to the peace process, to the agreements reached and to the need to work for their implementation. The Israeli representative presented a radically different perspective in which terrorism was the dominant concern and where the anti-Israeli bias of the UN and its principal organs was something that the government and people of Israel could not easily forget. He shared with the US representative the aversion against the Arab practice of dragging the UN bodies into matters to be dealt with by the immediate parties and of misusing these organs for political warfare against his country. The last word in this 3756th meeting was spoken by the Egyptian representative: "I cannot accept a statement made in the Security Council that says that bringing to the Council a matter relating to the maintenance of international peace and security in the Middle East - at any time - would be a blatant misuse of the Security Council. We 15 members , regardless of how we voted today, are acting on behalf of the membership of the United Nations. We are members of the Security Council - whether we are permanent members or non-permanent members, whether we were elected or were accepted in 1945 as permanent members. The Council is vested with the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Council is entitled to look at any issue relating to peace and security anywhere in the world. The Middle East is not an exception."

This striking cri de coeur offers in a nutshell the principal issue at hand in the Council's stand on the Palestinian grievance. The double bill of the vetoes at the 3747th and 3756th meetings revealed in stunning clarity the deep cleavage separating the lone world power from the other fourteen members of the Council, key Charter instrument for international peace and security: whereas the other members of the Council and, beyond that, probably the total UN membership, value the given tools as legally based and politically sound for peace and security matters of concern to the Council as the latter decides on a case-by-case basis, the US looks askance at the multilateral institution and is torn between acting unilaterally and working within the framework of the UN and other international organizations. The desire to exercise its leading role through the skillful use of the UN machinery is compatible with the other movements in multilateral diplomacy, but the denial of the right of these bodies to carry out their Charter-based functions and tasks cannot be tolerated or condoned by the other members of these global organizations. In that sense, Egypt spoke for everybody else in insisting on the principles of equality and universality for collective bodies and their state members.

Although the confrontation and sharp delineation of the opposed positions at the 3747th and 3756th meetings encourage seeing these meetings as the climax of the Council's handling of the occupied Arab territories item, there is something of an epilogue in 1998, the last year of the decade considered here in which the agenda item was taken up by the Council. Again, the Palestinian party, through a letter of Sudan dated 23 June 1998 (S/1998/558), came to the Council to complain about yet another enormous violation of the existing legal provisions regulating the status of Jerusalem and other contested locations. As the Palestinian submission explained, the new fait accompli generated by the Israeli plan to expand the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem would nullify the special status of the City which the UN had assigned after the 1967 war. The Palestinian people had come to seek the Council's help in their struggle to prevent the continuing illegal annexation of Palestinian land. The Israeli representative countered the charge by denying the alleged annexation plot and accused the Palestinian side of large-scale noncompliance with the Israeli-Palestinian peace-related agreements. The subsequent exchanges reflected rather general disdain about the newly created conditions in and around Jerusalem and urged the Israelis and the Palestinians to return to the path of peace and resume the implementation of the agreed next phases. The critical reaction to the new scheme of an 'umbrella municipality', as described by the Israeli government, was shared by the US representative who viewed this new ploy to change the Jerusalem situation with concern and urged the parties to go back to the pursuit of the peace process. Following the lengthy sequence of statements in the 3900th meeting extended into the afternoon, the Council returned to the item on 13 July 1998 at the 3904th meeting, where the President stated that he had been authorized by the Council to make a statement on behalf of the Council (S/PRST/21). In this declaration, the Council emphasized the importance of the special status of Jerusalem, called upon the parties to avoid actions which might prejudice the outcome of the permanent status negotiations, considered the decision of the Israeli government on 21 June 1998 to take steps to broaden the jurisdiction and planning boundaries of Jerusalem a serious development and appealed to the government not to proceed with that decision, and expressed support in several paragraphs for the US efforts to bring the peace process back on track.

In a certain manner, the presidential statement ending the last round of charges, denials and observations serves as a perfect ending to the somewhat meandering and convoluted course on which the issue of the occupied Palestinian territories has traversed nearly ten years since 1989. The achievement of the consensual statement of 13 July 1998 is due to the underlying unspoken agreement that neither of the two main antagonists would stir the calm of the temporary cease-fire. After the immense endeavor to breach the wall of US rigidity and stubbornness in 1996 and 1997 had ended in failure merely leading into dead-end streets going nowhere, the principal parties and the other players decided to seek a materially beneficial compromise. The road to Palestinian statehood in a condition of peace and stability would be longer and more difficult bowing to the US-imposed outline, but the Palestinians and the Arabs realized that the only concrete alternative available to them then and in the foreseeable future would be to restart the armed struggle and try to overcome the Israeli adversary, a hopeless proposition.

It also enlightens the interested student of UN matters and of the Security Council that certain facts of life cannot be overlooked in the political reality of these intergovernmental bodies. The harsh lesson of the case which has been studied in some detail is unmistakably clear: the practice of UN organs, here especially the Security Council, differs from the Charter theory. The representative of Egypt gave expression in his concluding remark, after a disillusioning experience with the US exercising unhesitatingly its power of the negative vote to block a Council action to which it was opposed for tactical international and domestic reasons, to the basic principle and applied rules of the Council's place in international governance. Still, the counter-force of the independent political will of the US set up a barrier which the combined power of the other fourteen was unable to conquer or dismantle. The time-line of the occupied Arab territories narrative reveals that the force undergoing major changes and fluctuations in this particular story - and probably for many others - has been the US, the lone superpower, more enticed by the lures of unilateralism and hegemonial strength than any other contemporary major state. This fickleness of the foremost power in the current international system serves as a reasonable explanation for the mercurial effect the US has had in global politics.

Looking back over these nine or ten years, fair-minded analysts would concede that the Council has actually risen to the challenge of the complex Middle Eastern problem and given serious attention to the individual complaint and the overall development of the critical situation. One can also vouchsafe for the Council's astute and circumspect understanding of the ingredients of the case at hand and demonstrated mastery of the larger political implications. The Council through these years has relied on precedents, has linked past positions with new decisions and has adjusted to the exigencies globally as well as locally. The substantive contributions and the procedural accommodations have helped promote the exogenously driven peace process, enhancing wherever possible, the progress of the US peace plans.


Since this essay is part of a larger work in progress, tentative elements of a conclusion will be touched upon merely in telegram style. Many critical evaluative remarks are interspersed in the text of the narrative. But the gist of these randomly distributed markings and evaluations points to the following main findings and propositions:

  1. As a forum for the full display of conflicts and allegations the Council continues to be indispensable. The fact that an injured party can seek satisfaction by going for an encounter before the Council is still a major element of bringing about a reduction of tension. How often would the Middle East have exploded, had the recourse to the Council or General Assembly not existed? That is still true today. Of course, states have the freedom not to come to the Council, but oftentimes, it only means that they will arrive later when much blood has been spilled. In that sense, the Council has been and continues to be important for peace in the world.
  2. The role, functions and mandate of the Council enjoy an undisputed legitimacy. Its decisions may not always be perceived as legitimate, but the exercise of its Charter-based role is per definitionem legal and legitimate. It also can bestow legitimacy upon state parties and other actors and on particular conditions or outcomes. The defiance of the Council by big states and small states and more so by non-state actors, such as rebels and secessionists or civil war parties, is well-known and frequently blatant. Here, the tools of 'peace enforcement', as the Charter calls it, would need to be engaged to bring these defiant challengers to heel. But to do so, the Council must be united and willing to act forcefully. That, unfortunately, is still an unfulfilled dream 14 .
  3. The biggest challenge for the UN and especially the Council is the dichotomy of unilateralism and multilateralism. As argued above, the clarification of the role of the US as partner in multilateralism or unilateral actor is most urgent if the undiminished potential of the Council is to be realized. As long as that has not been done, the Council will he hampered and only partially effective and successful. If the future world will bring about the rise of new regional powers and develop into a more multipolar system, the relevance of the Council as a global peace guarantor is bound to rise. A limping and inactive Council could not handle the new threats to the peace that might emerge 15 .
  4. While the direct impact of the Council often leaves much to be desired, the indirect strength of the Council cannot be overlooked. The fact of its existence and the need for its authorization in many international situations and procedures move it for all practical purposes back into the center where the Charter had envisaged it. Here, the vision of that January 1992 Security Council statement should be recalled. What was said then has not been revoked nor amended. It maintains its timeliness in the 21st century and stabilizes the foundation on which the Council, with all its shortcomings and flaws, rests. The potential of the Council as guardian for peace and security remains as high as ever. The future world will experience more conflicts and very likely new crises and difficulties. The capacity of the Council as an intergovernmental body to address these new challenges is guaranteed in the current state of affairs. It will be up to the member states and the engaged non-state actors to improve the constitutional and financial underpinnings of the global peace instrument and enlarge the pool of norms and tools to protect the peace and security of the international community.


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*: Graduate Center, City University of New York; Draft. Comments welcome; Phone & fax no. (718) 776-6528; E-mail: Back.

1: The larger project for a book-length manuscript envisages an analytical account of the Security Council in the 90's dealing with the procedural and substantive side of the Council's work. The underlying assumption is that the Council's effectiveness and efficiency are higher than publicly perceived and that only a thorough description of its ten-year record will permit a fair and objective definitive judgment on the Council's viability and relevance. Several earlier essays have in part dealt with the overarching issues and with special aspects of the Council's role. Back.

2: Javier Perez de Cuellar, Pilgrimage of Peace. A Secretary-General's Memoir. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997, offers an excellent complementary account of the years of global change from the late 80's to the early 90's. Back.

3: The general evaluative description is based on Security Council reports and other Security Council documents which are indicated directly in the text. The author's long work experience in the Secretariat department dealing with the Council also is reflected in the argument developed. Back.

4: The agenda item of the situation in the occupied Arab territories is seen as critically important for the development of the overall Middle East problem both as far as the UN is concerned and as it relates to US foreign policy. Back.

5: The central purpose of my larger project is the reexamination and re-validation of the Security Council as a key component of the current global governance system in terms of effectiveness and relevance. Back.

6: The most visible aspects of the Council's place and work in world affairs has been dealt with in numerous monographs, collected volumes, articles and research reports. The Global Governance journal and memoirs such as the ones by Perez de Cuellar and Boutros Ghali should also be listed as prime resources. Back.

7: A basic sketch of this consultation procedure in its infancy is contained in Paths to Peace. The UN Security Council and Its Presidency. Edited and with an Introduction by Davidson Nicol. New York: Pergamon Press, 1981; especially chapter 1. Back.

8: The role of small states as nonpermanent members of the Security Council is clearly a lacuna in academic or policy research. A very recent unpublished paper by a Slovenian diplomat and scholar has shed light on that neglected dimension of diplomatic work in and around the Security Council. Such a new focus would help counter the tendency to regard only the large Powers including the five Permanent Members. An existing imbalance in political and academic attention could be at least somewhat corrected. Back.

9: The remarkable 'Agenda for Peace' series of Presidential Statements underline the importance of this type of Council decision. It helps to understand that resolutions and presidential statements are for all practical purposes equivalent and viewed in this fashion by the UN members. Back.

10: The brief sketch of the general developments in the Middle East serves only as background for the close and detailed look at the Council's handling of the occupied territories item. Back.

11: This formula for the Palestinian invitation to the Council meetings was unique in UN history and formally speaking quite improper. This case demonstrates that the Council is 'master of its own procedures' and not bound by past practice. Back.

12: The emphasis on the de iure applicability was crucial as Israel had claimed de facto acceptance, but firmly rejected its applicability on a de iure basis. Back.

13: The political nature of the initial US objection is fully demonstrated by the fact that the legal basis of the Palestinian request had not changed, but the political context, and therefore the US abandoned its position. Back.

14: This short statement just touches upon this author's basic view on the 'legitimacy' problem. Recent initiatives raising questions and concerns about legitimacy and democracy 'deficits' in contemporary governmental and intergovernmental institutions and processes require a separate broader and more probing argument. Back.

15: For the key US-UN relationship see Edward C. Luck. Mixed Messages. American Politics and International Organization, 1919-1999. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1999. This new book is an important contribution to the political and academic discourse. Back.