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Behind the Headlines Israel Faces Major Offensive at This Year’s General Assembly

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With the Arab countries torn and divided more than ever before, Israel is nonetheless certain to be a target of a major offensive by the Arabs and their allies at the 31st General Assembly which convenes Sept. 21.

In fact, the all-out Arab diplomatic war at the world organization against Israel and the Jewish people has barely subsided since they succeeded in last year’s Assembly to adopt the infamous resolution equating Zionism with racism. In the opinion of diplomats and observers at the UN, the division among the Arabs, mainly as a result of the civil war in Lebanon, will increase their bitter attacks against the Jewish State, with each Arab country trying to outdo the others by showing their militancy against the Zionists and their undaunted struggle on behalf of the Palestinians.

During the past year the Security Council met nine times on the Middle East, an unprecedented phenomenon in the history of the UN. Three of the meetings were devoted to the extension of the UN peace-keeping forces mandates in Sinai and the Golan Heights. The other six were called by the Arabs to condemn Israel or to pass anti-Israel resolutions.

ARAB, COMMUNIST TIRADES DUE

The failure of the Arab efforts against Israel was dramatically manifested at the last Security Council meeting dealing with Israel’s rescue operation at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The debate boomeranged against the Arabs by exposing their hypocrisy regarding international terrorism and at the same time served as a major diplomatic and propaganda victory for Israel.

The African-sponsored resolution, which asked for the condemnation of Israel’s action, could not even muster the nine affirmative votes required for adoption. A U.S. veto on behalf of Israel was, as a consequence, not even necessary. The Council, to the embarrassment of the Africans and the Arabs, left the debate in limbo.

The upcoming Assembly is apparently going to be dominated again by Arab and Communist tirades against Israel and vilifications against the Jewish State. The issue of the Palestinians and the Mideast top this session’s agenda. Israel will again be accused of mistreating the Arab population in the administered territories and the issue of Zionism will be brought up repeatedly during the three-month session.

Chaim Herzog, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, in a special interview on the eve of the opening of the Assembly, assessed the trends and developments at the world body and the prospects for Israel at the Assembly. What follows are questions posed to him by the JTA and his answers.

PROSPECTS FOR ISRAEL

Q. What are the prospects for Israel in this Assembly session?

A. It is quite clear that Israel will not be far from the center of attention in the General Assembly. It is sort of escapism on the part of most of the countries, an attempt to avoid the issues by focusing the attack on a small Jewish nation, because it is small and Jewish. The paranoic obsession of the General Assembly with Israel is another step downward of the United Nations.

Q. Will Zionism be attacked again during the Assembly?

A. The issue of Zionism will come up again this year. It has been re-confirmed in Colombo (at the recent conference of the non-aligned countries). However, our struggle in the past year against it has been successful. The mention of Zionism or the anti-Zionist resolution has been eliminated from all resolutions in the past year. The reason is that the African countries are aware of the fact that the Arab initiative in this matter spells doom for their Decade for Action Against Racism and Racial Discrimination. The Africans consider this Arab move in dimical to African interest. The issue of Zionism may turn out to be an issue between the Africans and the Arabs.

Q. There has been a lot of talk of the Arabs planning to press for Israel’s suspension from the General Assembly. Is there a threat that this will happen this year?

A. There was little enthusiasm in the meeting of the Organization of African Unity (in July) and in Colombo on this issue of suspending Israel from the General Assembly. It is evident to them (the Arabs and the Africans) that such a move will entail a strong American reaction and will create a precedent that will hasten the dissolution of the United Nations. However, there is always the possibility that the lunatic fringe, Libya for instance, will press for it.

ROLE OF EGYPT

Q. In view of the disengagement agreement between Israel and Egypt is Egypt going to take a more moderate stand against Israel at the UN?

A. All indications are that the disengagement agreement is working successfully. However, Egypt has been extremely hostile in the United Nations in all its remarks, including its statement in Colombo. This, maybe, is the function of inter-Arab rivalry, but it’s nonetheless disturbing, since the public statements of Arab leaders invariably reflect their true policy. I think it’s important to draw attention to the fact that Egypt is trying to play a double game with Israel and the United States. On one hand asking for massive aid from the U.S., and on the other hand sponsoring a resolution, as they did in the last General Assembly, condemning U.S. imperialism because of American presence in Guam, the Virgin Islands and Samoa.

Q. The displeasure of the Arabs over U.S. vetoes of anti-Israeli resolutions at the Security Council is well known. Some Arab countries even suggested a change in the UN Charter to avoid the veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council. Is this likely to happen?

A. No. The United States, the Soviet Union and China have a common interest in this respect and therefore no change will take place. They are interested in remaining superpowers and one of the ways in which this receives expression is their ability to apply the veto. They are not likely to give up this privilege.

The American willingness to use the veto has strengthened the U.S. posture and prestige in the United Nations and brought the U.S. again as a major figure in the world organization. The major issue in the Mideast now is not Israel, but rather the Arab world with its strife and division. But we should have no illusion that they will be united against Israel in this year’s Assembly.

Q. What is ahead for Israel on the Palestinian issue?

A. We will face a major attack on this issue based on the report of the 20-member Committee on Palestinian Rights, a report which calls in effect for the dismemberment of Israel. The report will be adopted by the General Assembly but we will have to fight to mobilize world opinion against it. The fact that the PLO was directly involved in formulating the report and the same PLO is today on the decline may be felt in the debate at the Assembly. We have been and will continue to emphasize the irrelevance of the PLO in the Israel-Arab conflict.

ISRAEL FARED WELL LAST YEAR

Q. How do you assess Israel’s struggle at the UN in the past year?

A. Quite good. I can feel already a backlash, a revulsion against the extreme Arab tactics. As usual, they have gone too far. Since the opening of last year’s General Assembly and to date, the Security Council has met nine times on the Mideast (including three meetings to extend UN forces’ mandate in the area). At least six times there was an attempt to condemn Israel. We have succeeded in fighting back, and having regard to the composition of the UN–its one-sidedness and bias–we have not fared too badly.

On a number of occasions we were very considerably aided by the United States. Analysis of the debates shows that our stand has been vindicated, on most occasions by public opinion and on a few occasions at the Security Council itself.

Q. Following the rescue operation in Uganda, is there any prospect that the UN will adopt measures against international terrorism?

A. The West German government, following Israel’s action in Entebbe, introduced a resolution calling for the adoption of an international convention outlawing the taking of hostages. A strong and bitter debate on the subject is expected at the Assembly. But it only goes to show that our action at Entebbe is forcing the world organization to deal with the problem of international terrorism.

ROLE OF WORLD JEWRY

Q. What is the role of world Jewry in combating the anti-Jewish anti-Israeli forces?

A. It is to be hoped that the Jewish people will indicate in advance its interest in the proceedings at the UN. Many countries will be influenced by the degree to which they consider the Jewish people is exercised by the proceeding at the UN. I am convinced that if Yugoslavia or Cuba, for example, feel that the Jewish people will react very strongly against their anti-Zionist outburst, they will change their tune. Thus, for example, our attacks on Libya as the center of world terror have brought Libya to disclaim publicly terrorism and hijacking and created a situation whereby the hijackers of the KLM plane to Cyprus (Sept. 5) had nowhere to go.

I am sure that Jewish concentration on countries like Brazil and others which have been hostile to us, can bring about a change. The world must be made to realize that the Jewish people is mobilized to meet renewed anti-Zionist attacks. The Jewish people must realize that it has to mobilize for the purpose of standing up as a proud and unified people against its enemies.

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