In a rare flurry of positive diplomatic developments for Israel, the United Nations this week passed a strong resolution against archenemy Syria and adopted a groundbreaking statement on Holocaust remembrance, the first resolution ever submitted to the world body by Israel. In Switzerland, meanwhile, steps were taken to accept Israel’s Magen David Adom into the fold of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The diplomatic triumphs came just a week after many countries rushed to condemn Iran’s president for calling for Israel’s destruction (see accompanying story). They also followed weeks of international good will over Israel’s pullout from Gaza
On Monday, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Syria to cooperate with the U.N. investigation into the murder last February of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, or face possible sanctions. The resolution threatens possible sanctions if Syria fails to cooperate. A preliminary report by U.N. investigators, issued October 21, blamed the murder on top Syrian and Lebanese officials and accused Syria of not cooperating fully in the probe.
The Security Council stopped short of threatening sanctions explicitly, in order to win the support of veto-wielding Russia and China, as well as Algeria. Still, the resolution held out the prospect of such measures and also indicated that top Syrian officials could be detained. Among the prime suspects in the killing of Hariri are Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brother Maher, head of Syria’s Republican Guard, and the president’s brother-in-law and military intelligence chief, Asef Shawkat.
In another sign of Syria’s weakening position, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a report criticizing Damascus for failing to stop the flow of arms and people to Palestinian groups in Lebanon. Jerusalem has deliberately kept a low profile on the Syrian issue, as the United States and France have led the way in rallying the international community against Damascus.
One day after the resolution on Syria passed, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously approved an Israeli-proposed resolution designating January 27 as Holocaust Remembrance Day. The resolution, the first ever submitted by Israel, rejects Holocaust denial and religious intolerance, calls on countries to institute educational programs and urges Annan to launch a special public relations campaign within the next six months. The resolution was co-sponsored by 104 countries, eight of them Muslim. The U.N. held a special session last January 27 to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
“I feel moved and blessed to present this historic resolution today, as an Israeli, a Jew, a human being and a child of a family of Holocaust victims,” Israeli ambassador Dan Gillerman said in his speech presenting the resolution to the General Assembly. Earlier this year Gillerman was elected one of the vice presidents of the assembly, the first Israeli to hold the post since 1952.
Welcoming the Israeli resolution, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden said it was an occasion not only to recall past crimes but also “to reaffirm our unfaltering resolve to prevent the recurrence of such crimes.”
“We cannot continue to repeat saying ‘Never again’ after Cambodia, Rwanda and Srebrenica,” he said.
Also this week, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom announced after meeting with his Swiss counterpart that Switzerland would host a diplomatic conference in December to deal with the exclusion of Israel’s Magen David Adom from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Shalom said the conference is expected to admit the Israeli organization formally, after years of obstruction by Muslim countries.
“We are very hopeful that the international diplomatic conference…will ratify Israel’s admittance to the International Committee of the Red Cross,” June Walker, national president of Hadassah, said in a statement. “Once this occurs, it will redress a wrong that has existed since Israel’s founding, and the last vestiges of Israel’s exclusion from the world health community will be erased.”