- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2001

JERUSALEM — Israeli officials are proclaiming a resounding diplomatic victory out of the U.N. conference on racism in South Africa, which had been expected to produce rabid anti-Israeli resolutions at the behest of Muslim delegations.
"It is one of our greatest achievements ever at an international conference," Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said after publication of the conference's final declaration on Friday. "It is a stinging defeat for the Arab League."
Proposed language attacking Israel as a racist state as well as language regarded by many Jews as anti-Semitic were deleted from the final declaration at the insistence of European and other nations.
The United States and Israel had walked out in protest at the attacks on Israel by the Palestinian delegation and their Muslim supporters, a decision that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice defended in a U.S. television interview yesterday.
Participants "spent far too much time trying to condemn Israel and single it out, and I think the United States made the right decision to leave," Miss Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"We hope, as we heard, that the final document is better, but the sad thing is that this conference was hijacked and didn't deal with the agenda that it should have," Miss Rice said.
The final declaration from the conference in Durban, South Africa, expressed concern "about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation" and recognized the Palestinians' right of self-determination, but omitted any reference to Israel.
"Israel is satisfied that the clauses full of hate and incitement against it and the Jewish nation were removed from the conference's final document," said an official foreign ministry statement issued in Jerusalem. The statement, however, was somewhat less enthusiastic than that of the foreign minister himself.
"The language that was approved in Durban," said the ministry statement, "is not the best, and we opposed it, but it is completely different from the venomous decisions the extremist countries wanted passed.
"The non-democratic countries failed in their attempt to determine laws for the enlightened world on human rights issues that would have turned the conference into a theater of the absurd."
The reservation expressed in the official statement apparently referred particularly to the conference's recognition of the rights of refugees to return to their homes and property.
This could be seen as supporting the Palestinians' claim of the right of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to Israel. Israel believes such a move would mean the demise of the Jewish state.
Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior, the Israeli official most deeply involved in the Durban conference, said the Arab world had failed in its "arrogant" effort to turn the conference into an anti-Israel platform.
"There is not one word condemning Israel in the entire document," he said. "Not only didn't the Arabs succeed, it was the first time the whole world stood behind us. But I think it should concern us that there is so much hate against us in the Arab world."
Columnist Sever Plotsker wrote in the newspaper Yediot Achronot that the conference results were a diplomatic rout for the Muslim bloc thanks to the efforts of the United States, eastern and western Europe, Australia, Canada and South Africa.


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