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New Confrontation Looms Between Unesco, Israel

June 8, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The UNESCO Executive Council instructed its director general yesterday to send a new mission to Israel to investigate education and culture in the occupied territories and in Jerusalem. But Israeli circles made it clear before the 45-member Council reached its decision that Israel will not accept such a mission because its terms of reference are based on the UNESCO 1974 anti-Israel resolutions.

The Council ordered the new mission to leave in time to complete its work and have its report ready when the UNESCO General Conference opens here next October.


Council members, including the representatives of Western countries friendly to Israel, privately warned that should Israel refuse to accept the new mission, it will risk a severe condemnation and even a possible temporary explusion from the organization. Yesterday’s Council decision was seen as a compromise solution drafted by the African states to avoid embarrassing UNESCO’s Director General Moukhtar Amadou M’Bow, himself an African. Both the United States and Egypt were active behind the scenes trying to avoid a resolution of outright condemnation of Israel, which certain Arab states and the Soviet Union were trying to pass. UNESCO sent a five-man mission to Israel last fall which investigated conditions in the territories but not in Jerusalem.

M’Bow, who had promised Third World delegates not to negotiate with Israel on the mission’s terms of reference or its members, did so in the end. In order to avoid a “difficult situation” he has refused until now to release the mission’s report which is favorable to Israel. It is also to avoid embarrassing him personally that the Africans tried to avoid the report’s release and advocated a “compromise solution” at yesterday’s Council meeting. Diplomats here fear, however, that this situation has only delayed by a few months a difficult situation and might actually have worsened it. This would be true if the political situation remains unchanged and Israeli-Egyptian talks remain at a standstill.

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