UNITED NATIONS, JAN. 5 -- The Security Council unanimously called on Israel tonight to refrain from deporting any Palestinian civilians from the occupied territories.
It was the first time since 1981 that the United States joined in any Security Council resolution aimed against Israel, and the American statement explaining the vote was unrelievedly critical of Israeli policy.
Israel's decision to deport nine Palestinians is a violation of a 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians under occupation, said U.S. Ambassador Herbert Okun. "The U.S. further believes that such harsh measures are unnecessary to maintain order," he said.
Okun said the Israeli actions "also serve to increase tension rather than contribute to the creation of a political atmosphere conducive to reconciliation and negotiation." He also noted that Washington had opposed the Israeli decision, and expressed the hope that the Israeli government would reconsider.
This harsh statement was in contrast to recent statements by U.S. officials in Washington playing down their differences with Israel.
Israeli Ambassador Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the resolution as hypocritical and charged that the motive of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which drafted the text that was put to the council, was to restore its control of the territories "to try to destroy us."
He defended the deportation order as "the only measure left to halt these agitators" and vowed that Israel would maintain security in all areas under its control "as we see fit."
In private, Israeli diplomats made no attempt to hide their bitterness toward Washington, charging that the U.S. vote played into PLO hands.
Last month, one Israeli noted, the United States abstained on a resolution deploring the excess use of force employed against West Bank and Gaza Strip demonstrators. By permitting it to pass without a veto, he said, the United States let PLO chief Yasser Arafat "boast of a new rapprochement with Washington." Tonight's U.S. vote, he added, reinforces a signal to Middle East moderates, including residents of the territories, "that the PLO gets results from the United States."
It was the PLO's choice to focus this resolution solely on the deportation issue, in hopes of winning American support. Western diplomats confirmed the analysis that it would enhance Arafat's prestige in the occupied territories.
The United States has for two decades taken the position that the Geneva Convention applies to the Israeli occupation, something all Israeli governments have disputed. In 1980, the Carter administration voted for a resolution criticizing the Israeli deportation of several West Bank mayors.
The last time the United States joined a council resolution aimed at Israel was Dec. 17, 1981, when the council criticized the application of Israeli law in the Golan Heights.
The United States, negotiating with the PLO through the Third World members of the council, won a change in the resolution eliminating language that would have demanded a ban on deportation.