ROME (Nov. 29)
Despite threats of U.S. retaliation, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization adopted an anti-Israel resolution Wednesday calling for closer cooperation with the Palestine Liberation Organization in providing aid to the residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The organization’s biennial governing General Conf ence adopted the resolution by a vote of 96-2, with only the United States and Israel voting against the measure.
There were 14 abstentions, including Australia and Canada. But virtually all European nations voted in favor.
The resolution was sharply critical of Israeli policies in the administered territories, saying that they “impede the basic requirements for the development of the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory, including the agricultural sector.”
“We found the resolution unbalanced in language and political in character,” explained Gerald Monroe, the U.S. representative to the FAO.
But FAO spokesman Richard Lydiker maintained that the “overwhelming majority” of member nations “clearly stated that they didn’t consider it political.”
In Washington, the U.S. State Department reacted with disappointment to the news of the vote. While the administration did not immediately announce any U.S. sanctions against the FAO, it made clear that withdrawing or reducing the U.S. contribution to the agency’s $270 million budget was under consideration.
“We have made it abundantly clear to the FAO leadership over the past several days that passing this resolution would have grave consequences for the organization,” a State Department official said in a telephone interview.
“When our delegation returns from Rome, we will be consulting with them. It is obvious we will have to take a hard look at what has happened these past three weeks at the FAO conference.”
U.S. DIALOGUE WITH PLO THREATENED
The official reiterated that “it has been consistent U.S. policy that the PLO should not be the conduit of international assistance to the Palestinians.”
The U.S. had threatened this week to with draw its funding to any U.N. agency that enhances the PLO’s status.
Another battle of wills between the PLO’s supporters and the United States proceeded Wednesday at the U.N. headquarters in New York.
As the Arab bloc worked to rally support for a resolution elevating the PLO’s status in the General Assembly to that of an observer state, the United States lobbied to block its passage.
The resolution, which most equate with U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state, was expected to be introduced during the General Assembly debate on the “Question of Palestine,” which opened Wednesday afternoon.
The United States has threatened to cut off funds from the general U.N. program budget, which funds the General Assembly, if the resolution is adopted.
In addition, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas Pickering, told reporters that passage of the measure could also threaten the year-old dialogue between the United States and the PLO.
An upgrading of the PLO’s status at the U.N. to that of an observer state “would have serious consequences to the peace process in the Middle East and to our dialogue with the PLO,” Pickering warned.
“These are very important issues, which should be of more importance to the PLO than the change of their name on a nameplate at the U.N.”
Pickering said that the United States is committed to ending the “silly idea that the Palestinians can be declared a state when they have none of the attributes of a state.”
When asked about the U.S. stand, Hassan Abdul Rahman, a PLO official, accused the United States of “political and economic blackmail.”
He called the U.S. position “unreasonable and immoral” and expressed confidence the resolution would pass.
In London, meanwhile, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher promised a delegation of American Jewish leaders Wednesday that her country would vote against any U.N. move to recognize Palestine as a state.
Thatcher made that pledge during a 45-minute meeting at No. 10 Downing Street with Seymour Reich and Malcolm Hoenlein, respectively chairman and executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
(JTA United Nations correspondent Allison Kaplan contributed to this report.)