GENEVA (May. 29)
A major assault on Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied territories will be launched by the Arab states at the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) annual conference which opens here June 2, with the prospects of a prolonged, bitter debate. The issue will pose a serious dilemma for the ILO which seeks to avoid charges of politicization and for the United States which quit the ILO in 1977 after it adopted Arab-backed resolutions aimed against Israel.
A draft resolution, presented by Jordan, calls on the ILO to condemn Israeli settlements in the territories, including East Jerusalem and demands their immediate dismantling. It also calls on member states to stop giving help to Israel that might be used to support its settlement policy and to assist the Arabs in countering the effects of this policy and of the Israeli occupation in general.
The draft was published by the ILO. In a note attached to it, Francis Blanchard, Director General of the ILO, said that while he was critical of Israel’s settlements policy, he had not had the opportunity to examine in depth its effects on development and employment prospects for the local Arab population.
Blanchard said there was wide support within the ILO for the principle that the conference should not consider a resolution condemning a member state unless the allegations against it had been previously investigated through complaints procedures or by a commission of inquiry.
He added that the ILO’s legitimate concern with the employment and labor consequences of Israel’s settlement policy would most appropriately be expressed through procedures. Blanchard recalled that disregard of due process when the ILO adopted anti-Israel resolutions was one of the reasons the U.S. left the organization in 1977. It rejoined lost February saying it was convinced the ILO has mended its ways.
Israeli diplomats here are dissatisfied with Blanchard’s position and have accused him of capitulation to Arab pressure. According to the Israelis, the extreme and provocative nature of the draft resolution shows that the Arabs are very sure of themselves and is in fact a strong attack against the U.S. as well as Israel. The question remains whether the Americans will walk out if the resolution is adopted.