UNITED NATIONS (Oct. 17)
For the first time since 1982, the Soviet Union has not joined with the Arab countries in their annual move to oust Israel from the United Nations.
The Soviets chose to abstain Tuesday from voting on whether the Arab move to revoke Israel’s U.N. credentials should be considered by the General Assembly. The two Soviet republics that hold separate votes, Byelorussia and the Ukraine, followed suit.
The rest of the Eastern bloc countries also either abstained or, in the cases of Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia, voted in support of Israel.
How they vote is important to Israel, which is eager to restore relations with Eastern bloc nations that cut ties to the Jewish state in 1967. Romania never severed relations, and Hungary restored them last month.
Overall, the General Assembly decisively rejected the Arab attempt in Tuesday’s credentials vote, with 95 countries voting in favor of a resolution tabling the Arab move, 37 voting against the measure, 15 abstentions and 12 countries absent.
The vote was marginally better for Israel than last year, when the vote was 95 in favor, 41 against, with seven abstentions and 15 absences.
The attempt to revoke Israel’s credentials has been an annual event since 1982, and the vote count is considered an important indication of the amount of anti-Israel sentiment in the United Nations.
Since 1982, a group of Arab countries has moved to amend the report of the General Assembly’s credentials committee, calling for Israel’s removal. One of the Scandinavian countries — this year it was Denmark — then formally moves that no action be taken on the amendment.
This year, Libya’s representative, Ali Treiki, spoke for the 32 Arab countries that sponsored the amendment, asking that Israel be ousted because of, among other charges, its alleged “flagrant and persistent violation of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Israel “is not a peace-loving nation,” he said.
TURKEY. NIGERIA VOTE WITH ISRAEL
Denmark’s representative, Kjeld Mortensen, said that revoking Israel’s credentials went against the United Nations’ “primary purpose” of promoting peace and security worldwide.
In U.N. circles, voting with the Scandinavian countries is considered as much a show of support for the principle of universality within the United Nations as a reflection of sentiment toward Israel.
For that reason, a number of countries that otherwise vote repeatedly to condemn Israeli practices choose not to try to invalidate the Jewish state’s credentials.
Ambassador Johanan Bein, Israel’s acting permanent representative to the United Nations, said he considers the credentials vote more important than other votes on Israeli practices.
Bein said the Soviet Union’s abstention was “definitely a move in the right direction.” However, he added that he would have preferred it to “take the whole step and do the right thing” — in other words, vote in favor of the Danish resolution.
The Soviets also abstained in 1982, but have voted every year since with the Arabs.
Bein also said Tuesday’s vote reflects some progress in the Arab world and Africa. He pointed out that Turkey, which abstained last year, voted in favor of the Danish move, as did Nigeria, which was absent last year.
The Nigerian vote is significant, he said, both because Nigeria has “a clear Moslem majority” and because the nation’s representative, Ambassador Joseph Garba, is serving as the General Assembly president this year.
OMAN CASTS VOTE IN ERROR
Egypt also voted in favor of the Danish move, as it did last year. In a nod to the Arab countries, however, Egypt’s representative, Ambassador Abdul Halim Badawi, spoke after the vote and condemned Israeli practices in the administered territories.
There apparently was an error in the voting of the Arab Sultanate of Oman, which went on record as supporting the Danish move. A spokesperson at Oman’s mission said the vote was a mistake and that the nation had meant to vote with the other Arab states.
But according to U.N procedure, the record officially stands as the votes are locked in, and while countries may make an error known, they cannot change their votes.
Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that while he is encouraged by the votes of Nigeria, Turkey and the Soviet Union, it is unfortunate that Israel’s credentials came under attack once again this year.
“One can only express deep disappointment and chagrin,” Reich said, “that once again, the Arab world, with only Egypt not going along, decided as a matter of policy to seek Israel’s expulsion from the U.N. — even knowing that the effort was doomed and in the face of American efforts to change their vote.”