Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has again stirred the pot of international controversy. In his address to the U.N. General Assembly during last month’s summit held in New York City, the South American president labeled the U.S. government “a terrorist state” and said that U.S. President George Bush could not be trusted.
Displaying his usual penchant for showmanship, Chavez followed these harsh statements with a ranting, paper-throwing tirade; eventually calling for the U.N. to move its headquarters from the U.S. because of the country’s perceived unilateral action in Iraq. “That’s why we propose to this assembly that the U.N. leave this country [U.S.] which is not respectful of the very resolutions of this assembly,” Chavez’s proclaimed.
The alternative proposed by Chavez – the historic city of Jerusalem. “The U.N. should be moved from New York to an “international city” outside the sovereignty of any state,” Chavez said. He ended his speech by claiming that other delegates in the U.N. also believed Jerusalem was a viable permanent home.
From Washington’s perspective, the time for such a move may be right. “This is the first time in the U.S. that there are people in power with a serious ideological disapproval of the whole principle on which the U.N. is based,” said Sir Brian Urquhart, a British-born former U.N. Under Secretary General. Relations between the U.S. and the U.N. have become increasingly strained since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. In addition, recent bribery and sex scandals have tarnished the image of the once proud international body; leading the U.S. to question efforts for reform.
Some members of Congress are now questioning their country’s $1.5 billion share of the U.N.’s overall $6 billion annual operating budget. Moreover, many U.S. citizens have become frustrated with the general performance of the U.N. over the years and may be more willing to consider a move of the U.N. to a foreign city like Jerusalem. In a 2005 Harris Poll, only 30 percent of Americans said they trusted the U.N.
Making Jerusalem the headquarters of the U.N. has been proposed in the past. The Maariv daily reported in July 2003 that Israeli leader Shimon Peres, a former Israeli prime minister, proposed that Jerusalem be declared “the capital of the world” as a way of addressing competing Israeli and Arab claims to the city. At that time, Peres suggested that the U.N. secretary general be declared the mayor of the city with the responsibility of appointing Jewish and Arab mayors to oversee the city’s neighborhoods.
Call for More Israeli Concessions
The recent call for a U.N. headquarters in Jerusalem is especially strange if one considers that Israel has been blamed for many, if not all, of the Middle East’s problems over the past half century. In August, the U.N. blamed the Israeli “occupation” for Arab ills in Judea, Samaria and Gaza saying that the security fence is worsening their economic situation.
In August, a U.N. committee on Palestinian rights, the Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, called for Israel’s withdraw from Gaza to be followed by similar steps in the West Bank and East Jerusalem leading to what the committee termed “a just and lasting solution of the Middle East conflict.” The committee went on to say, “Such actions would breathe new life into the political process, leading to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine and the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights.”
In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf urged Israel to show courage to solve the Palestinian dispute “once and for all.” He said this would require Israel to pull out of the West Bank and agree to a solution in Jerusalem that respected the city’s “international character.” “And for later, the sake of durable peace and harmony between Israelis and Palestinians – indeed between Israel and the Muslim world, would need to involve a final settlement to the status of Jerusalem,” the president said.
With increasing calls for concessions from all corners of the globe, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has openly expressed his hope that the U.N. will act with “fairness” toward Israel in the future. But even after the recent withdraw of Israeli citizens from Gaza, the U.N. and its Secretary General still want much more – and quickly. “What happens in the West Bank is very much on our mind.” U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said. “For us, [the quartet of the U.N., U.S. Russia and EU] it’s Gaza first and then the next stage will be the West Bank, not Gaza first and Gaza last.”
Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly last month, Prime Minister Sharon told the delegates that Jerusalem was the “eternal undivided” capital of the nation of Israel and a city the Jews have always treasured. Almost immediately after making this statement, Jordon’s Royal Committee for Jerusalem Affairs criticized Sharon for his “statement full of lies and falsehoods.” “How could this world organization [U.N.] allow a war criminal to review lies based on false claims and biblical legends in Palestine,” the committee said in a public statement.
Palestinians want Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem for their future state. Syria wants the return of the Golan Heights. Now, the U.N. may want the city of Jerusalem, as well. It is important to understand that any effort to move the U.N. from New York to Jerusalem may only increase, not decrease, the hostility toward Israel and calls for more concessions on the part of the small nation.
Could it Really Happen?
In light of Israel’s recent withdraw from Gaza, growing U.S. ambivalence toward the U.N. and private calls by certain world leaders to relocate the U.N., could a Jerusalem-based U.N. become a reality in the near future?
The legal structure for such a move is already in place. On November 29, 1947, Resolution 181 (II) was passed by the U.N. One of the key principles of the resolution was the establishment of Jerusalem as “corpus separatum,” a legal term meaning a “body of separate covenant.” In essence, the U.N. separated the city of Jerusalem from the rest of the world and created a separate covenant for it.
In 1950, the U.N. adopted the “Statute for the City of Jerusalem,” outlining regulations for the administration of the city by the U.N. and making it an “international city,” not governed by any nation, body or authority except the U.N. Following the passage of these regulations, Resolution 194 was passed by the U.N. which created a “Trusteeship Council” to oversee Jerusalem with full authority over the city. Its members include the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – Russia, China, France, Britain and the U.S.
Secretary General Kofi Annan’s has made U.N. reform his top priority moving forward. With this in mind, will Annan succumb to the interests of a growing anti-American bloc in the U.N. led by Venezuela, Iran, China and Russia and allow the U.N. to relocate from New York to Jerusalem?
Tel Aviv Should be Skeptical
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told the U.N. General Assembly in September that Israel would seek a seat on the U.N. Security Council for the first time. “The iron wall that stood between Israel and the rest of the Islamic world is coming down. Israel must take its rightful place, as a country with full and equal rights in this [U.N.] institution,” the foreign minister stated.
Such euphoric optimism concerning Israel’s full participation in the U.N. is shortsighted. Tel Aviv’s thirst for acceptance from the U.N. and other influential world leaders could lead to decisions that compromise the country’s very security. If Jerusalem truly becomes the “international city” as defined by the U.N., pressure for Israel to relinquish the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem will surely intensify – not diminish. The world’s leaders will immediately attempt to influence regional politics; placing global interests over Israel’s sovereignty and well-being.
The U.N.’s history concerning Israel is checkered with frivolous accusations and ill-conceived calls for concessions. Over the years, the U.N. has become a stage for the world’s charlatans to condemn the U.S. and to question the very existence of Israel. Israel’s leaders would be wise to seriously consider the motives behind any U.N. attempt to move its operations to the great city of Jerusalem.