UNITED NATIONS (Nov. 18)
Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador, Dr. Nabil Elaraby, defended his country’s opposition to repealing U.N. General Assembly resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism, saying that issues at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict should be kept off the U.N. agenda as long as the peace process launched in Madrid is proceeding.
This consideration also mandates the freezing of anti-Israel measures, such as the traditional challenge to Israel’s credentials at the world body, Elaraby told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a recent interview.
But a resolution calling for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East remains appropriate for the agenda, said the ambassador.
That resolution, drafted by Egypt with Israeli input, is expected to be approved by consensus in the General Assembly.
Egypt also backed a more pointed resolution sponsored by the other Arab countries on “Israel’s nuclear arsenal.”
The nuclear issues are not “under the direct consideration of the peace talks,” the ambassador said. “This is a factual, necessary element for the future of the area, that all countries, on the same footing, should declare that they are not producing nuclear weapons.”
What should be left to the peace talks, said the ambassador, are “all matters which one would say are the elements of the peace settlement,” as delineated by Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. This includes the disputed territories occupied by Israel.
‘WHAT DOES ZIONISM MEAN?’
The Egyptian asserted that resolution 3379 is really about the occupied territories, and is not the categorical denunciation of Jewish nationalism as understood by the Israelis and most observers.
“What does Zionism mean? Does Zionism mean the occupied territories? We recognized Israel as a free state in the 1967 borders, and have no problems with that,” he said.
“But as long as someone in the Soviet Union can come to the occupied territories, and a Palestinian sitting outside for 20 years cannot,” then Zionism is wrong, he said.
Repealing the resolution “would create a lot of bad blood unless an accord takes place.” After waiting 16 years, Israel can wait a little longer, he said.
Egypt is believed to be the leading obstacle to the repeal. And as the only Arab country that has recognized Israel, Egypt is positioned to take the leadership on the issue — in either direction.
While Jewish organizations say that a simple head count of U.N. member states would probably yield a majority favoring the resolution’s repeal, an Egyptian resolution to keep a U.S. initiative from a vote could win wide support, particularly from countries who would rather not go on record siding against either the U.S. or Arab wishes.
Egypt is said to be under pressure to comply with the Arab consensus, because one of two leading candidates to succeed Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar at the end of the year, Boutros Ghali, is Egyptian. With that high-profile position at stake, the Egyptians are said to be more eager than ever not to alienate the more radical Arab delegations.