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    Israel Refuses United Nations Humanitarianists Access to West Bank
    First published on Spectator.co.nz...
    By Selwyn Manning.
    This news has just come in. The Israeli government has announced that it will not facilitate entry of the UN Human Rights mission into Israel and the Palestinian territories. The mission was to have been led by UN rights chief Mary Robinson, former anti-apartheid leader Cyril Rhamaposa and Felipe Gonzales.

    Fred Eckhard, the UN Secretary-General's Spokesman released details of Israel's refusal a short time ago. He says: "Following a telephone call with former Spanish foreign minister Felipe Gonzalez, who was to have gone on that mission and Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, the members have learned that it will not be facilitated by the Israeli authorities."

    The UN Human Rights Commission had requested Mary Robinson to lead a mission to the Middle East to bear witness to human rights violations on both sides.

    The United Nations has been lobbying Israel to allow diplomats, human rights and aid agencies full and complete access to the Palestinian territories. But today's announcement is likely designed to halt United Nations moves to gather information on potential atrocities committed against the Palestinian people by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza areas.

    Also UN Secretary General Koffi Annan has been forthright in calling for an armed multinational peacemaking force to take occupancy in the Palestinian territories. Annan has also issued statement after statement calling for Israel to cease its "illegal occupation" of Palestinian towns , settlements and cities and control over the territories cited as under Palestinian Authority control.

    Listen to United Nations radio news...

    The United States has tempered its stance against Israel's offensive by degrees. Two weeks ago US President George W Bush issued demands that Israel cease killing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza territories and orchestrate an immediate withdrawal. Israel refused. The Whitehouse was in an embarrassing position - its ally and "close friend" was dealing it rhetorical blow after blow, always defiantly insisting human rights abuses against Palestinian civilians were secondary to Israel's internal security.

    Only now, after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cited the end of "phase one" are troops pulling back from offensive operations in the West Bank. The word among Palestinians is that Israel is now about to advance into the Gaza areas with a cleansing force.

    The diplo-speak from the Whitehouse is now cautious. Bush: "All parties must realize that the only long-term solution is for two states -- Israel and Palestine -- to live side by side in security and peace. This will require hard choices and real leadership by Israelis and Palestinians, and their Arab neighbours. The time is now for all of us to make the choice for peace. America will continue to work toward this vision of peace in the Middle East, and America continues to press forward in our war against global terror. We will use every available tool to tighten the noose around the terrorists and their supporters. And when it comes to the threat of terror, the only path to safety is the path of action."

    Listen to US President George W Bush's Whitehouse radio address...

    The United States does not endorse a multinational force in the Middle East. This is consistent with the Bush administration's positioning against the UN on foreign policy - it has deemed the UN impotent on many counts, particularly by repeatedly being the sole vetoing member opposing security council resolutions on Middle East solutions. It does endorse allowing human rights and aid agencies access to the Palestinian territories.

    This weekend the United Nations security council wound up its crisis meeting. The debate began late Thursday centring on the Secretary-General's proposal for a robust multi-national force. The Israeli representative, Ambassador Aaron Jacob, told the Council that an international presence could serve no useful role and that in addition it would need the agreement of both parties: "Israel has made it clear that it accepts third-party American Israel monitors to supervise the implementation of Tenet and Mitchell... but it cannot put its faith in a robust international presence, which could not be effective in the face of a continuing strategy of Palestinian terrorism."

    The Palestinian representative, Nasser Al-Kidwa, expressed his full support for a multi-national force. The Council debate continued Friday with the United States representative abstaining from any reference to the multi-national force. He stressed instead that it was not necessary to adopt any more resolutions but rather to implement the current ones on which there was agreement.

    The Security Council concluded the meeting expressing concern over the "dire" humanitarian situation of the Palestinian civilians amid reports of destruction and an unknown number of deaths in the Jenin refugee camp, the United Nations Security Council has called for the lifting restrictions imposed on relief organizations and stressed the urgent need for access to the Palestinian civilian population.

    Meanwhile Israeli tanks rumbled out of two West Bank cities Sunday after a crushing three-week occupation but kept up sieges of Yasser Arafat's headquarters and a Bethlehem church where gunmen are holed up.

    "We have finished this stage of the operation called Defensive Shield," Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters in Jerusalem.

    Amid continued international outcry in some quarters over Israel's policy, the army said it had left Ramallah, apart from the Palestinian president's compound, and pulled out of Nablus.

    Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed Israeli pullbacks as a "big deception," saying Israel still had security control of all Palestinian-ruled parts of the West Bank.

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