UNITED NATIONS (Dec. 3)
An announcement that the United States will undertake a “full court press” in the next two weeks to repeal the 1975 U.N. resolution on Zionism was greeted with satisfaction and relief by Jewish organizations, which have been chomping at the bit to step up their own lobbying activites.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said that the United States would push for a vote to repeal the resolution, which branded Zionism as racism, before the General Assembly ends its session on Dec. 17.
“As President Bush indicated in September to the U.N. General Assembly, to equate Zionism with the intolerable stench of racism is to twist history,” said Tutwiler.
“By repealing this resolution unconditionally, the United Nations will enhance its credibility and serve the cause of peace, ” she said.
An informal count taken by the World Jewish Congress indicates that the drive to repeal the resolution has the backing of more than the two-thirds majority of General Assembly members that may be required to overturn it.
“With a strong U.S. commitment, it will happen,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The conference is launching a major effort to repeal the 1975 resolution, lobbying country by country through visits to U.N. missions and embassies of U.N. member nations.
“This will be a critical test of the new world order articulated by President Bush,” said Shoshana Cardin, the conference’s chairman. “It will show whether other governments are serious about joining the U.S. in rejecting extremism and anti-Semitism.”
The conference plans a daily tally of support, to begin later this week.
The World Jewish Congress, in coordination with the conference, will continue its international lobbying effort for the repeal.
EGYPTIAN CONFIRMED AS U.N. CHIEF
Last week, Isi Leibler, co-chairman of the WJC, received assurances from Japan that it would back the repeal effort. During a swing through Asia, he also received a promise from Thailand that it would give “sympathetic consideration” to the repeal effort, and South Korea said it would consider the issue in a “positive way.”
Tuesday’s State Department announcement came shortly after the General Assembly elected Boutros Ghali of Egypt for a five-year term as U.N. secretary-general, beginning Jan. 1.
Egypt has been a leading opponent to the repeal drive. Some Jewish observers at the United Nations have expressed hope that having achieved the coveted post, Egypt might now ease up on what may have been an effort to win support for Ghali from more extreme Arab states.
“I’m hoping they realize they have to adjust to a position that’s good for the United Nations, and that means taking the burden of ‘ Zionism is racism’ off the back of the secretary-general, before he gets into office,” said Harris Schoenberg, director of U.N. affairs for B’nai B’rith International.
But so far, Egypt has not publicly changed view that a repeal now would be disruptive to the Middle East peace process. “Our position is known,” said a spokesperson at the Egyptian Mission here.
The State Department announcement also followed shortly after a meeting between WJC President Edgar Bronfman and President Bush. According to the WJC, Bush told Bronfman he was unaware that U.S. efforts on the repeal drive had not yet moved into high gear.
Tutwiler said that since Bush’s Sept. 23 U.N. speech, Secretary of State James Baker and other senior officials have been “working actively and quietly on this issue.”
But till now, instructions have not gone out to the American Mission here to lobby support.
This lack of a top-level go-ahead kept American Jewish groups, as well as Israeli diplomats, in suspense for much of the past two weeks, even leading one Jewish organizational official to worry about a possible administration “double-cross.”
“There’s been a lot of back-and-forth between us all, but we are pleased that the commitment and repeated promises are being carried to fulfillment now,” said Hoenlein.
(JTA correspondent David Friedman in Washington contributed to this report.)