GENEVA (Jun. 16)
Israel and its allies are waging a vigorous fight against an Arab-sponsored resolution at the annual conference of the International Labor Organization here.
The resolution has been under debate in committee since Monday, holding up work on other matters.
Speculation is mounting, meanwhile, that the United States would walk out of the ILO. a United Nations agency, if the anti-Israel measure is adopted.
Such a move would not be unprecedented. The Americans quit the ILO in 1971 and stayed out for 10 years, until 1981, because of a resolution adopted that condemned Israel for discriminatory labor practices against Palestinians.
That walkout was in protest against politicizing the ILO. Observers noted that the same grounds could apply in the present case.
The resolution being pushed by the Arab states would set up a new, permanent ILO committee to monitor labor developments in the Israeli-administered territories.
At present, South Africa is the only country under scrutiny by the ILO for its labor practices.
U.S. Labor Secretary Ann McLaughlin, who is attending the ILO session, said at a news conference Wednesday, “We have a concern, as others do, with the politicizing of the ILO.”
She added that the U.S. delegation will meet next month to review the outcome of the ILO conference and decide what action to take.
Asked if a withdrawal was possible, she replied, “We have not discussed that yet. It is not even on our radar screen.”
Meanwhile, Francis Blanchard, the ILO secretary-general, promised Israeli Labor and Social Affairs Minister Moshe Katsav Monday that he would personally intervene against the Arab resolution. As a rule, the secretary-general does not interfere.
Because of ILO rules that require the first resolution to be disposed of before debate can begin on other ones, the work in the Resolutions Committee is proceeding very slowly.
ILO spokesman Peter Sutcliffe told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that so far, the delegates have managed to agree only on the preamble, which deals with the protection of workers’ rights and freedoms in occupied territories.