UNITED NATIONS, May 7 (UPI) -- With 54 nations abstaining as a protest over what they called an imbalanced resolution, the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday condemned by 74-4 vote Israel's West Bank offensive.
The resolution also criticized Israel's failure to cooperate with Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Jenin refugee camp fact-finding team and calls for his own report on Jenin.
Following the Arab Group's failure to get similar pro-Palestinian measures through the Security Council because of threats of vetoes from the United States, the Non-Aligned Movement-sponsored the resolution in the 189-member assembly. However, its resolutions are advisory and do not carry the weight of international rule as does a council resolution.
A last-minute move by the European Union to insert language against terrorist attacks in Israel in the Assembly draft resolution was ignored, according to diplomats. The effort, joined by several other nations, including Japan, resulted in the heavy abstention as a protest to the overall resolution.
The measure "condemns the attacks committed by the Israeli occupying forces," and "condemns also the refusal by Israel ... to cooperate with the secretary-general's fact-finding team."
In a paragraph suggested by the Rio Group, it "emphasizes the importance of the safety and well being of all civilians in the whole Middle East region, and condemns in particular all acts of violence and terror resulting in deaths and injuries among Palestinian and Israeli civilians."
The resolution calls for implementation of the Fourth Geneva Convention regarding the protection of civilians in times of conflict, calling for "concrete action ... to ensure respect by Israel" of the convention.
The measure was adopted shortly after 9 p.m. EDT after a paragraph-by-paragraph vote requested by Russia, which itself endorsed each paragraph and the whole document because, as Ambassador Sergei Lavrov said, they were based on previously approved resolutions passed in the United Nations.
The resolution also calls for full implementation of the March 30 Security Council measure demanding a cease-fire and an end to violence, requests Annan to submit his own report on Jenin "drawing upon the available resources and information," demands an end to Israel's "hindrances and obstacles to the work of humanitarian organizations" and U.N. agencies, calls for "urgently needed assistance and services" to alleviate the current humanitarian situation and reconstruction efforts and "calls upon all concerned parties to redouble their efforts to assist the parties to end the current crisis and bring them back to negotiations towards the achievement of a final settlement on all issues."
Several diplomats said they abstained because the resolution was "unbalanced" in favor of the Palestinian side.
The assembly resumed its 10th emergency special session to consider "illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian Territory" and to approve the draft measure, introduced by Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. Kumalo said the Security Council had yet to officially react to that Israeli rejection.
Pretoria's envoy led more than two-dozen speakers in daylong debate, most of whom condemned Israel while supporting the Palestinians.
However, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte led off his remarks avowing Washington's strong friendship for Israel as well as the Palestinian people.
"The way forward to peace will not be advanced by resolutions such as this or through unbalanced rhetoric that prejudges what the parties must work out," he said. "We believe the best way forward is to advance the comprehensive strategy that the Quartet reaffirmed following its meeting last week (in Washington)."
He was referring to the Quartet of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.
Negroponte said the assembly resolution bore little resemblance to council resolutions on the Middle East, failing to mention that the council measures were more balanced because of Washington's refusal to approve any draft that wasn't balanced.
"This resolution is filled with one-sided rhetoric condemning one-party in this two-party conflict," he said. "And for those who believe that resolutions like this one -- and the speeches that endorse them -- help the Palestinian people, I suggest, that such rhetoric does the very opposite. It undermines the credibility of their cause and deepens the divide between the Palestinians and a neighbor with whom one day, sooner or later, they will have to live in peace."
The official Palestinian Observer, Nasser Al-Kidwa, told the assembly that there was a serious crisis in Palestinian territory and the Middle East along with a crisis in the international system, although he wasn't sure which crisis led the other. Nonetheless it was why the resumption of the special session was sought.
"In response to the suicide bombings in Israel, which have been unequivocally condemned by the Palestinian Authority and which have hurt our Palestinian national interest, (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon attacked the Palestinian security apparatus instead of attacking the groups that committed these attacks," said Al-Kidwa. "He attacked the Palestinian Authority and the vision of peace instead of attacking the opposite political vision that seeks the continuation of confrontation and violence."
Al-Kidwa said there was "unjustified destruction beyond belief to the infrastructure, including water, electricity and road networks and the destruction of several ministerial buildings with all their properties and records."
One square kilometer of the camp where 13,000 refugees were living, was "obliterated by bulldozers after helicopter gun ships fired missiles," he said, calling on the international community to take a stand "against the horrendous acts committed by the Israeli occupying forces against our people."
The U.N. Development Program said Tuesday that although it would not have an official estimates of damage until May 15, it was allocating $1.5 million for a Palestinian Authority institutions recovery program focusing not only on physical damage to buildings and equipment, but also on strengthening staff through training and policy advice.
Tim Rothermel, the special representative of the UNDP administrator for the Program for Assistance to the Palestinian People, said a rough estimate of total damage in the West Bank could range between $300 million and $400 million.
Ambassador Yehuda Lancry of Israel also saw a challenge for the international community, with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat freed from Israeli imprisonment in his Ramallah headquarters, once again able to lead his people. "Now is the time to mobilize the forces for peace in the region, to supplement existing efforts and exert maximum pressure to keep the level of violence down."
The Israeli envoy said, "Unfortunately here at the United Nations, it seems that the Palestinian delegation is more comfortable with acrimony than harmony. It would prefer to perpetuate a campaign of disinformation, to continue one-sided condemnation of Israel, and seek new resolutions and other bureaucratic diversions that serve to prevent us from exploiting the opportunity that lies before us.
"Such are the tactics of the Palestinian leadership that, in defiance of all reports from the region, continues to speak of Israeli atrocities, Israeli massacres, and so forth," said Lancry, like Al-Kidwa, a man who speaks in quiet measures. "Today, the international community is well aware that what really transpired in Jenin bears no resemblance to the Palestinian account."
He said 56 Palestinians were killed in Jenin, compared with the hundreds originally reported by the Palestinian leadership, "the overwhelming majority of them armed gunmen," adding that had the international community known that when the council endorsed Annan's fact-finding team, "it is doubtful that a fact-finding effort would have been considered appropriate."