Special Interview Israel in a Den of Vipers

In the last few months the UN virtually forgot about the existence of other trouble spots in the world apart from the Middle East. The Security Council was called into session at least eight times by the Arabs and their supporters to condemn, rebuke and warn Israel and a special emergency meeting of the General Assembly was convened during that time to censure Israel and affirm Palestinian rights.

In a special interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Yehuda Blum, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations since September 1978, asserted that the Arab offensive against the Jewish State in recent months was only a prelude, “a preparation,” to the anti-Israeli offensive in the upcoming 35th session of the General Assembly, which is scheduled to open here Sept. 16.

In a one-hour interview in his office, the 49-year-old former international law professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, discussed a number of topics, including Israel’s status at the UN, the roles of the United States and the Soviet Union in the world body, and Israel’s relations with Egypt. Excerpts from the interview follow:

Q. What is Israel to expect in the upcoming General Assembly?

A. it is hard to recall a year that was as crowded as this year as far as attacks on Israel at the UN are concerned. Out of 60 meetings which the Security Council held from the beginning of this year, 34 meetings-or more than 50 percent–were devoted to Israel. At the some time, since January, not even a single meeting was devoted to the issue of Afghanistan, Iran or Cambodia. It is clear that the UN is used more and more as an anti-Israel arena, which is being exploited by the Arabs and their supporters.

Without doubt, therefore, all that happened at the UN regarding Israel in recent months was a sort of preparation for the General Assembly. The Arabs are preparing to concentrate their anti-Israel offensive for the second part of the Assembly, after the (U.S. Presidential) election in November.

They have also chosen November 15 as a date to climax their drive against Israel as can be seen by the recent General Assembly resolution which called on Israel to withdraw from “occupied Arab territories” beginning by November 15 and by last week’s Security Council resolution demanding that Israel rescind its Jerusalem low by the same date. The Arabs chose November 15 because of its proximity to November 29, which is “Palestine Day” at the UN.

ARAB DRIVE FOR SANCTIONS

Q. It seems that the Arabs are seeking more and more resolutions that will have a tangible affect on Israel. What sort of resolutions, specifically, are they likely to push for in the upcoming session?

A. The resolution passed by the Security Council last week (calling on nations with embassies in Jerusalem to remove them from that city and which declared the Jerusalem law “null and void”) is one such example. While that resolution does not specifically call for sanctions against Israel, the resolution’s call for the removal of foreign embassies from Jerusalem is in itself a farm of sanction.

In the upcoming General Assembly we are going to see the Arabs trying to impose sanctions on Israel, although they will try to avoid the term “sanctions.” At the same time it is expected that they will accompany their anti-Israel drive at the UN with strong pressure in various world capitals against the Jewish State as they have been doing in recent weeks on the issue of Jerusalem.

ISRAEL’S POSITION IN THE UN

Q. This General Assembly will be your third as Israel’s representative here. How would you assess Israel’s position in the organization? Do you agree with the view that Israel’s position is steadily deteriorating?

A. There is no doubt that there is a constant and continuing erosion in Israel’s position at the UN. In fact, the watershed was in 1967. After the victory of the Six-Day War the Arab response was to focus on the rights of the Palestinian people and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Therefore, only since 1968 do we see UN resolutions that refer to the rights of the “homeless Palestinian people.” Since then this process has been accelerating. It climaxed in 1974 with the acceptance of the PLO as an “observer” to the UN and with the anti-Zionist resolution in 1975.

These events are two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, the Palestinian issue, as presented by the Arabs and its terrorist movement, is legitimized; and on the other hand, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people–Zionism–is delegitimized.’ This is a continuing process at the UN and all the anti-Israeli resolutions in the Security Council and the General Assembly are strengthening it.

The severity of this development can best be seen in that a new international climate is being created, a climate that causes even friendly nations to hesitate to stand openly in support of the State of Israel.

Q. In contrast, how would you assess the position of the PLO at the UN?

A. Parliamentary speaking, the PLO, which is not a UN member, does not pay membership dues and has no right to vote, is stronger, for stronger, than many member states when it comes to recruiting votes or passing resolutions favorable to it.

It happened more than once that meetings at the UN did not take place because Beirut, that is, Yasir Arafat (head of the PLO), did not give its o.k. it is not only the strength of the PLO–but also the weakness of the West. It is not an accident that the accelerating process of the strengthening of the PLO and the weakening of Israel at the UN is paralleled with the first oil embargo in November 1973, after the Yom Kippur War. And it is not an accident that in November 1973 the European come out for the first time in support of Palestinian rights. The connection between oil and support of the Palestinians is clear.

ROLE OF THE SOVIET UNION

Q. Where does the Soviet Union stand in this relentless, anti-Israeli offensive at the UN?

A. In the last 25 years the Soviet Union has been playing a negative role in the Mideast. It is interested in the destabilization of all our area and for that purpose the PLO is fulfilling a certain role that in many ways is similar to the role that the Cubans play in Africa and the Vietnamese in Southeast Asia. The PLO is an organization that could not possibly exist today–legistically, militarily and even diplomatically–without the support of the Soviet Union and its satellite countries.

The Soviet support of the PLO is even greater than the support the PLO is receiving from the Arab states, which are fearful of the PLO. The Arab support of the terrorist organization is a reflection of inter-Arab struggles. It is easy for the Soviets to use the “Palestinian card” to destabilize the Mideast and at the same time to distract the world from its actions in other parts of the globe, such as Afghanistan and Cambodia.

U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONS

Q. The United States appears of times to be Israel’s only friend of the UN. How would you characterize the relations between the two countries at the UN?

A. The United States, like the Soviet Union, is vying at the UN for influence. Because the bloc of the democratic countries is in a minority the competition, in fact, is for the votes of the Third World countries. The Americans are always trying to avoid isolation and therefore are using their veto power hesitantly. The Soviets are trying to push the U.S. to use its veto power in order to come to the Arabs and say: “See who are your friends and who are your enemies.” The relations between Israel and the U.S. stem from this situation.

The United States have to balance two factors: one, its traditional friendship with Israel and its commitment to Israel’s security and well-being and, second, its rivalry with the USSR. As a result, we witnessed in the, lost year a series of U.S. abstentions (in the Security Council).

RELATIONS BETWEEN ISRAEL AND EGYPT

Q. What are the relations between Israel and Egypt at the UN? Is the spirit of Camp David felt here?

A. The truth is that we have detected here only a minimal change in Egypt’s attitude toward Israel. It is true, Egyptian diplomats do not walk out anymore when Israeli representatives speak and I shake hands with the Egyptian Ambassador to the UN–but beyond that there is no change either in Egyptian speeches, which are harsh, or in the pattern of Egyptian voting.

The Egyptians support any anti-Israeli resolution and participate in anti-Israeli debates in the Security Council. The Egyptian representative, for instance, spoke twice against Israel in the Security Council debate at the end of June and he was the one to present the anti-Israel resolution before the Council. According to all signs, Egypt considers the UN as an arena to show she has not abandoned the Arab and Islamic cause and wants to prove by its anti-Israeli attitudes that she did not betray the Arab-Palestinian cause.

FUTURE OF ISRAEL IN THE UN

Q. Many Israelis believe that Israel’s abuse at the UN has reached such proportions that Israel would be better off leaving the organization altogether. What is your view?

A. We should not quit the United Nations. This is the desire of our enemies. They want to show that Israel is isolated. With all the frustrations Israel is encountering here, our membership of the UN symbolizes our belonging to the international community, being an equal among equal states.

For a people like the Jewish people, which for 2,000 years was deprived of independence and statehood, it is important to maintain even those signs of the UN, like the flag and the nameplate (on the desk of the Israeli Ambassador). It is also important to utilize the UN as a stage from which to reply to our accusers. This stage is available and it should not be left for the solo use of our enemies.

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