The United States abstained as the Security Council voted 14-0 Friday to condemn Israel’s “armed aggression” in its air raid on the Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunis.
The resolution, considerably milder than originally proposed by Tunisia and nonaligned nations, avoided any mention of sanctions or punitive U.N. action against Israel, and stated only in general terms Tunisia’s “right to appropriate reparations.” It also urged member countries to “take measures to dissuade Israel from resorting to such acts.”
U.S. Ambassador Vernon A. Walters explained that the United States, despite its deep friendship for Tunisia, could not support a resolution “disproportionately placing all the blame for this latest round of the rising spiral of violence in the Middle East on only one set of shoulders.
“It is the collective responsibility of sovereign states to see that terrorism enjoys no sanctuary,” Walters said.
At Least 60 Dead
Eight Israeli F-15 fighter-bombers bombed the PLO headquarters in a suburb of Tunis early Tuesday, killing at least 60 people and injuring about 100. Israel said the attack was in retaliation for the slaying last week of three Israelis aboard a private yacht in Larnaca, Cyprus, and other acts of terrorism blamed on the PLO.
Tunisia’s draft resolution originally demanded reparations from Israel and asked other member states to impose punitive measures against Israel pending the U.N. imposition of mandatory sanctions.
The language was modified because of the recognition that the original resolution would have been vetoed by the United States.
Walters supported Israel’s contention that the air strike was an act of self-defense. Israeli Ambassador Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking before the vote, called the PLO headquarters a “nerve center of terrorism” that had directed numerous acts of violence at Israel.
In a last-minute address to the council, PLO spokesman Zehdi Labib Terzi charged the United States with “collusion” in the raid, asserting that the U.S. 6th Fleet was aware of the operation throughout its seven-hour duration. He said the fleet jammed Egyptian radar to prevent detection of the Israeli planes.
In response to the suggestion of U.S. complicity, raised by the representatives of several countries as well as the PLO spokesman, Walters said: “This is false and those who make this accusation know that it is false. The United States had no knowledge of nor did it participate in this operation in any way.”