Libya, Israel Envoys Clash As Entebbe Debate Ends In Stalemate

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In short
In the fifth part of the Entebbe raid story, Libyan and Israeli Envoys Clash as two draft resolutions emerge at the UN Security Council. Neither resolution sails through as voting ends in stalemate.

Diplomacy was stretched to the limit as the Entebbe raid debate at the UN Security Council progressed towards a vote.

In an attempt to deflate some of the attacks, Chaim Herzog, Israeli Ambassador to the UN singled out Libya and accused it of supporting international terrorism. This set off an exchange with the Libya Ambassador Dr Mansour Rashid Kikhia who made similar allegations against Israel.

Siding with Israel, US Ambassador William Scranton said that though Uganda's sovereignty had been temporarily violated, Israel had the right to use limited force to protect its nationals. He said: "Israel's action in rescuing the hostages necessarily involved a temporary breach of the territorial integrity of Uganda. Normally, such a breach would be impermissible under the Charter of the United Nations." 

Scranton however went on to say there was a "well-established right to use limited force for the protection of one's own nationals from an imminent threat of injury or death in a situation where the State in whose territory they are located is either unwilling or unable to protect them."

Scranton's argument forced Harold Walter of Mauritius to hit back: "The principle recognising a State's duty to defend its nationals abroad is right, but it does not lure that State into raping the sacrosanct integrity of another State." Walter together Juma Oris was among the ministers and diplomats invited to participate in the debate but with no voting rights.

In an attempt to tilt the balance of the debate, the US diplomat noted that the UN ought to go to "the root of the evil and to take all measures necessary so that the senseless crime of air piracy should not be repeated."

This is the same argument Chaim Herzog had raised in his opening statement. "The destination of the hijackers, in accordance with a previously prepared plan… was Entebbe Airport, outside Kampala in Uganda."

Herzog had submitted that it was, in fact, the Security Council, not Israel that was in the dock. He noted: "There will be no excuse in history for this body or for the constituent members of this body, if it fails to condemn terrorism."

He warned that if the Security Council took no action, "we call on all freedom loving countries in the world to come together outside the framework of this body, establish accepted norms of behavior in relation to terrorists…"

Mihail Kharlamov of the Soviet Union began his submission by attacking Israel whose actions "on more than one occasion have been judged to be aggressive." He wondered why Israel had not, for once, "done something unusual" to help the UN solve this matter in a positive manner.

Calling the raid an "exceptionally unpleasant and dangerous phenomenon", Kharlamov argued that there were no reasons to justify the fact that "a small State" was subjected to aggression by Israel.  He asked the Security Council to compel Israel to recompense Uganda for the material damage done in connection with the attack. "In addition the Security Council must extend a serious warning to Israel that such acts of aggression will not go unpunished in the future," he added. The Soviet diplomat further argued that the world was watching this precedent-setting discussion. "I should like to say in conclusion that the peoples not only of Africa but of the entire world must and will draw conclusions from this act of aggression…There cannot be a double standard with regard to a given State."

Perhaps the most stinging attacks of the debate came from Dr Mansour Rashid Kikhia. "I should like to stress the fact that the item…we are discussing now is simple and clear; it deals with the criminal act of aggression committed by the Zionist, racist and terrorist entity against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda, a State Member of the United Nations."

In an attempt to undermine the draft resolution focusing on "international terrorism", Kikhia pushed the Council to focus only on the attack at Entebbe: "Mr. President, I express my earnest hope that you will call on speakers to limit themselves to the issue before the Council."

At one point the debate became an exchange between Libya's Kikhia and Israel's Chaim Herzog, with the latter accusing the former's country of supporting international terrorism. "Libya's role in supporting international terrorism financially, militarily and politically, and its involvement in attempts at the assassination of foreign leaders, including Arab heads of state, is known to all of us…" Herzog submitted.

Kikhia shot back on a point of order: "As I said before, I will answer the fabrications, allegations and distortions of the representative of the Zionist entity later on. But now he obliges me to speak again just to say that Mr. Herzog can have Libyan friends…as an Irishman and as a Jew. We have nothing against the Irish and we have nothing against the Jew. We are fighting the aggressor Zionists and the terrorists."

Choosing to stand on the fence, Sweden Ambassador Kaj Sundberg said his country could neither condemn Israel nor reconcile its action with provisions of the UN Charter. "The problem with which we are faced is thus many-faceted. My Government, while unable to reconcile the Israeli action with the strict rules of the (UN) Charter, does not find it possible to join in a condemnation in this case."

The Security Council debate appears to have brought Tanzania and Uganda together. The two East African nations had had a rocky diplomatic relationship since January 1971 when Amin overthrew Milton Obote who went into exile in Tanzania. During the debate, however, Tanzania's envoy Salim Ahmed Salim challenged the Council to choose between "legitimising anarchy or ensuring the rule of law." Salim argued that Israel was being contemptuous of Africa, a continent that had for long been humiliated and occupied by foreign powers. Salim was instrumental in drafting the African resolution, which was later not put to vote.

To the vote

In the end, there were two draft resolutions. The first one, submitted jointly by the United States and the United Kingdom, condemned the hijacking, calling on all states to prevent and punish terrorist acts. The second draft sponsored by Benin, Libya and Tanzania, condemned Israel's "brazen and naked aggression." It demanded that Israel compensate Uganda for the damage caused during the raid but made no mention of the hijacking or of terrorism.

When put to the vote, the first resolution received only four votes from France, Italy, Japan and Sweden, besides its sponsors of USA, UK and Israel. It thus failed to sail through because it fell short of the nine votes required for its approval. Other members including Benin, China, Guyana, Libya, Pakistan, the Soviet Union and Tanzania declined to take part in the vote.

Ambassador Salim of Tanzania later said he had declined to push the second resolution to a vote noting that it had not been possible to treat the complaint on its merits because of the acrimonious nature of the debate.

In the sixth part, Uganda takes the fight to the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka.


About the author

Wilson Akiiki Kaija
Wilson Akiiki Kaija is is a URN editor and media trainer with 12 years’ experience as a journalist, and producer. He joined URN in April 2011 as a News Editor, before moving on to head the Training Department towards the end of 2014. He is in charge of coordinating URN’s internship and mid-career training programmes.

He has previously worked as a Senior Journalism Trainer for the BBC Media Action where he coordinated training and mentoring programme in Uganda. Between 2004 and 2007, Wilson managed and directed programming at Kyoga Veritas Radio, a community radio station based in Soroti, Uganda.