U.S. Fighting Plo’s Place in the Who, Opposes Expanded Red Crescent Role

Having won the battle over Palestine Liberation Organization membership in the World Health Organization, the United States is now fighting a resolution that would give the Palestinian Red Crescent Society a primary role in administering the health needs of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Once more, the United States is threatening to withdraw its funding from the U.N. agency.

The latest controversy comes over a draft resolution introduced at the current World Health resolution introduced at the current World Health Assembly, which would give the Red Crescent such a role in the administered territories.

Israel does not permit the Red Crescent to operate in the territories, claiming it is a PLO front. The United States concurs.

A statement issued by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva expressed alarm over the “dangerous politicization” of the agency, which it says the resolution represents.

“It takes up even more of the assembly’s time on a single, narrow issue, at the expense of meeting health crises everywhere in the world,” the Americans said.

The resolution favoring the Red Crescent was introduced by Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Syria and Zimbabwe.

Debate on it will begin Thursday. Most European countries are expected to abstain in the eventual voting. The United States is vigorously opposed to the draft.

“The language and content of the resolution are patently political; its passage would do nothing to improve health conditions for the Arabs,” the American statement said.

It described the Red Crescent Society as “an arm of the PLO which does not operate in the territories,” and therefore it “makes no sense” to treat it as a health care agency there.

The United States pointed out in that connection that Israel “will only continue its cooperation with the WHO program in the occupied territories through recognized, non-governmental organizations.”

U.S. influence was felt when the World Health Assembly voted shortly after its opening session May 7 to postpone indefinitely consideration of an application by the PLO for admittance to the organization as the “sovereign state of Palestine.”

A resolution by the U.S. Congress mandate the withdrawal of U.S. support for WHO if the PLO is admitted. American funding accounts for more than a quarter of the agency’s annual budget.

But the failure of the PLO resolution for the second consecutive year also reflected a desire by most of the 167 member nations to address urgent global health needs and not get bogged down in political controversy.

Questioned Wednesday by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a spokesman at the U.S. Mission declined to say what U.S. reaction would be if the Red Crescent resolution were adopted.

There is a strong possibility it will announce withdrawal of the $4 million currently pledged to the WHO program in the territories.

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