An Arab attempt to deprive Israel of its membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was defeated today at the 21st general conference of the UN agency in Belgrade, the State Department informed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, apparently as a result of direct intervention by President Carter.
The Carter Administration told the JTA that Carter had directed acting Secretary of State Warren Christopher to have all American embassies inform their host governments that if the challenge to Israel’s credentials was successful, the American delegation would walk out of the meeting with as many of its friends and allies that would join it.
No vote was taken on the Arab proposal which caused an unexpected political storm at the Belgrade meeting. The credentials of all 152 member governments were accepted by consensus, but with the clarification that acceptance of Israel’s credentials should not be interpreted as evidence of Israel’s claim of Jerusalem as its capital, the State Department spokesman said.
While there was no dissent from the consensus, representatives of at least 25 or more member states, mostly Arab and the Soviet Union, spoke out against Israel and expressed reservations. Israel was criticized by them for making Jerusalem its “eternal capital.” The U.S. and Australia gave strong support to Israel in the debate. Japan and other countries were also reported to be opposed to expulsion and urged the conference to approve Israel’s credentials.
Yesterday, Napoleon Leblanc of Canada, president of the meeting, submitted a compromise offered by the credentials committee that would have allowed Israel to keep its seat. But Arab and African countries refused to accept it and a decision was postponed until the consensus was taken today.
In addition to Carter’s intervention, Secretary of State Edmund Muskie, who is in New York for the 35th session of the UN General Assembly, was in contact with key countries toward the same end. The JTA was told that the Administration was warning the anti-Israel members of UNESCO that other measures might be taken as needed to block the expulsion of Israel.
When the JTA asked if the other measures included U.S. suspension of its payments to UNESCO — about 25 percent of the agency’s budget — a top level source declined to comment.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.