Palestinians seek UN vote blaming Israel; US wants changes

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians and their supporters are asking an emergency meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday to adopt a resolution blaming Israel for recent violence in Gaza — and the U.S. is demanding that Gaza’s Hamas rulers be condemned as well.

The draft resolution proposed by Arab and Islamic countries deplores “any excessive use of force” by Israeli forces, particularly in Gaza, and demands that Israel “refrain from such actions.” It also seeks recommendations to protect Palestinian civilians.

The U.S. says Israel is unfairly singled out in the draft and has proposed an amendment condemning Hamas for firing rockets into Israel and inciting violence along the Gaza-Israel border fence, “thereby putting civilians at risk.” ,

The Palestinians and their supporters decided to go to the 193-member assembly, where there are no vetoes, after the U.S. vetoed virtually the same resolution in the Security Council on June 1. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called that Kuwait-sponsored resolution “grossly one-sided” for criticizing the use of force by Israel while not mentioning the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza.

Haley sent a letter to all U.N. member states Tuesday calling the proposed General Assembly resolution “fundamentally imbalanced” for “ignoring basic truths about the situation in Gaza” and not mentioning Hamas.

The proposed U.S. amendment would also condemn the diversion of resources in Gaza to building tunnels to infiltrate Israel and equipment to fire rockets and express “grave concern” at the destruction of the Kerem Shalom crossing point to Israel “by actors in Gaza.”

Haley said the amendment “is not controversial” and simply condemns “behavior we should all recognize as harmful to the Palestinian people.”

General Assembly spokesman Brendan Varma said Wednesday the world body would first hear speeches from member states. The amendment will then be put to a vote followed by the resolution, he said.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said Tuesday night that he is lobbying 191 member states — all but the U.S. and Israel — and expects to win.

While Security Council resolutions are legally binding, General Assembly resolutions are not, although Varma stressed that they do reflect “political will” as well as international opinion.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon issued a statement welcoming the U.S. amendment.

“It is despicable for any country to even consider to vote for a resolution condemning Israel while refusing to support the condemnation of Hamas,” he said. Such behavior is hypocritical at best, and at worst amounts to openly emboldening an internationally recognized terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of countless of innocent people.”

The Palestinians sought a Security Council resolution after Israel’s military killed civilians during mass protests in Gaza aimed at the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas overran the territory.

Since the near-weekly protests began March 30, more than 120 Palestinians have been killed and over 3,800 wounded by Israeli army fire. The overwhelming majority of the dead and wounded have been unarmed, according to Gaza health officials. Israel says Hamas has used the protests as cover for attacks on the border fence.

The marchers have also pressed demands for a “right of return” for descendants of Palestinian refugees to ancestral homes in what is now Israel. More than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled in the 1948 Mideast war over Israel’s creation. Two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million residents are descendants of refugees.

The draft General Assembly resolution calls for “immediate steps towards ending the closure and the restrictions imposed by Israel on movement and access into and out of the Gaza Strip.”

It also “deplores the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilian areas,” but doesn’t say who is doing the firing.

The draft asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to make proposals within 60 days “on ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation,” including “recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism.”

Standing with a half dozen Arab and Islamic supporters Friday, the Palestinian ambassador said Guterres “should utilize all the tools available to him in the (U.N.) Secretariat and on the ground, and with all of the collective mind of all of us who are ready and willing to help in any possible way.”

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