A third resolution criticizing Israel for events in and after the Jerusalem Temple Mount incident of Oct. 8 has come out of the United Nations. It represents the vector of political forces in the Middle East: Arab insistence on punishing Israel and protecting the Palestinians, Israeli defiance of U.N. intervention, American determination to walk a line between solidarity with Arabs and fidelity to Israel. In terms of the special political requirement of the day, it is for the United States a success, since it preserves Arab support in the coalition against Iraq.
The Israelis are dismayed, and one can see why. Though it was watered down by American diplomacy, the surviving language criticizes Israeli occupation policy as though there had been no violent Palestinian provocation. It designates as "Palestinian" and "occupied" not just the West Bank but also Jerusalem, which almost all Israelis regard as sovereign, indivisible and inalienable. It expands the U.N.'s claim, resisted by Israel, to monitor the West Bank. Saying nothing of negotiations, it makes a conditional call -- but a call nonetheless -- for an international peace conference, which Israelis regard as a forum for gang assault.
But of course each new U.N. resolution cannot pretend to reflect the whole history of the Arab-Israeli problem. A resolution is more a snapshot of the moment, and this one shows that the Israeli position is getting lonelier. The reasons for international impatience at the slow pace of Middle East peace are evident. Everyone can see that just as the Palestinians were working themselves up before the Iraq crisis into a readiness to consider negotiations, the Israelis began to back off; when the crisis came, the Palestinians backed off. It is not farfetched that Israel be asked to comply with this resolution. It is not being made to seem the equivalent of aggressive Iraq. The principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war applies to Iraq's acquisition of Kuwait, which came about by Iraqi aggression and must be ended by Iraqi withdrawal. Israel's acquisitions of 1967 came about in response to Arab aggression and must be ended by negotiations in which the Palestinians and Arab states sit down with Israel and make peace.
This is a tense moment for Israel. As well as being under political assault at the U.N., it is under grave military threat from Iraq. The Palestinians whom it is expected to accommodate are in a phase of heedless infatuation with Saddam Hussein. No friend of Israel can expect Israeli concessions while the crisis goes on. But Israel should not hunker down against any criticism of the way it runs the occupation. This is not a time for grand Israeli-Arab initiatives, but it is certainly a time for Israeli care in the treatment of Palestinians living under its rule.