If what is happening in Israel and the Palestinian territories at the moment were taking place almost anywhere else in the world the UN Security Council would be in permanent session and Secretary General Kofi Annan would be putting together a peace keeping force to keep the two sides apart and to calm down the situation. Why, then, is this not happening? The answer is because the United States and Israel do not want it. Whenever a proposal for a UN role in the Israeli/Palestinian situation is made in the Security Council the United States vetoes it. This happened most recently only two months ago and subsequently last week's report by former US Senator George Mitchell specifically rejected the lesser proposal of a UN observer force.

There was, perhaps, a certain logic in the American position when its President was personally engaged in diplomacy to bring the two sides together in a peace process. But President Bush and Secretary of State Powell are doing nothing, at least visibly, beyond issuing statements of concern. There must be a limit to the number of times that Israel's response to Palestinian terrorism can be called “excessive” and “disproportionate”.

If the UN is not allowed to play the role for which it was intended there will be no relief for Israelis or Palestinians. Considering their background, the Israelis show an extraordinary lack of understanding of the nature of Palestinian terrorism. Demonising Yasser Arafat will not stop terrorism it springs naturally from a dispossessed people who see it as the only weapon they have left to use.

Tanks and F-16 fighter jets cannot put down terrorism - only constructive attention to its causes will bring it to an end.

Ray Fleming


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