GENEVA (May. 10)
The World Health Organization has put off consideration of an application by the Palestine Liberation Organization for admission to the U.N. agency as a self-proclaimed state of Palestine.
A resolution adopted by consensus at the World Health Assembly on Thursday shelved the issue indefinitely.
It called on WHO’s director general, Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, to continue to study the application and report back to the assembly “at the appropriate time.”
No deadline was set, however, and there was virtually no debate.
Israel and the United States took the floor after the vote, to explain that they opposed the paragraph requesting the director general to continue his study of the application of “Palestine.”
They objected to the reference to “Palestine” as representative of the Palestinian people.
Nevertheless, all parties seemed satisfied with the outcome, including the PLO, which led some observers to conclude that some sort of behind-the-scenes deal was made.
Nakajima is satisfied, because the assembly can address urgent world health issues instead of bogging down in a political controversy, as was the case at last year’s session.
The Israeli minister of health, Ehud Olmert, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “in the present circumstances, this is a positive achievement, and we have a lot to thank the strong and steady help of the United States.”
John Bolton, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for international affairs, noted that for the second consecutive year, WHO has rejected the PLO’s application, and hopefully, that organization has gotten the appropriate message.
But Dr. Fathi Arafat, president of the Palestinian Red Crescent, sounded cheerful when he said the PLO would try its luck next year.
The Red Crescent seeks to become the conduit through which WHO funnels an annual allocation of $18 million for the health needs of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel forbids the Red Crescent to function, claiming it is a PLO front.
Fathi, a physician, is the brother of PLO chief Yasir Arafat.
The assembly’s rejection of the PLO’s membership bid was doubtless influenced by U.S. threats to withdraw its funding, which accounts for more than a quarter of WHO’s annual budget, if the Palestinians were to gain entry.
The move was attributed in large measure to the determination by most of WHO’s 167 member states to stick to global health issues instead of political disputes.
Nakajima, a physician from Japan, made that point in his address when the assembly opened here Monday. He reminded the delegates that “by its very mandate, WHO is a technical agency, not a political one.