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Postponement of Security Council Vote Seen As Tribute to Young

August 27, 1979
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The Security Council, in an action widely interpreted as a personal tribute to outgoing U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, adjourned last Friday after accepting United States efforts to postpone a vote on a draft resolution calling for “self determination, national independence and sovereignty” for Palestinian Arabs.

The postponement, which was not linked to a specific date for fresh consideration by the Council, was viewed as a significant achievement for Young, who resigned under pressure following disclosure he met July 26 with Zehdi Lahib Terzi, the Palestine Liberation Organization observer at the UN, at the apartment. in New York of Abdalla Yaccoub Bishara, the Kuwaiti delegate.

Young presided last Thursday night and Friday afternoon as president of the Council, in accordance with Council rotating procedure. He had said he would follow instructions and veto the resolution if It was brought up for a vote Friday by Arab and Third World backers, though Young was on record as saying U.S. refusal to talk to the PLO is “ridiculous.”


The precise reasons for the decision not to press for the vote were not known. A formal explanation, offered by Bishara, was that “we cannot imagine Ambassador Young being blemished with a veto. We agreed to postpone the vote out of deference to him. My only concern was the enhancement of the status of Ambassador Young.”

But skepticism was widely expressed as to whether that was the real or only reason. Some initial supporters of the resolution, including Kuwait, felt that the final draft resolution-which eliminated a reference to a “homeland” for the Palestinian Arabs-which was approved by the General Assembly’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, was not tough enough.

Another possibility was that the “non-aligned” nations meeting in Havana this week might call for a special General Assembly session on Palestinian rights in September. Veto of the resolution in the Council would have required an automatic grant for a special Assembly session under UN rules. The difference is that the Security Council can enforce its resolutions with action. to the point of sanctions or expulsion of a member state, while Assembly resolutions are purely advisory.

Postponement of a veto was indicated Friday morning as imminent by Medoune Fall, the Senegalese delegate, in his role as head of the Palestinian Rights Committee. He formally presented the resolution and added he was “well aware of the difficulties of an immediate decision so I do not insist on this question” -meaning no vote.


Outspoken as ever, Young made a valedictory speech in which he criticized the United States, the Arab world and Israel. He repeated an earlier public statement that it was “ridiculous” for both the United States and Israel not to talk to the PLO. He added “it’s also ridiculous for many of you around this table not to have good relations with the State of Israel.”

He declared that “the violence of the Arab world has failed to destroy Israel and the attempt to destroy Israel has cost greatly the moral basis of the existence of the Palestinian people. And yet Israel also now is rapidly spending its moral capital, wasting it, in pursuit of violence and destruction in Lebanon.”

He reaffirmed the Carter Administration’s standing policy that the Palestinian issue could best be resolved through Egyptian-Israeli talks on Palestinian autonomy. He also reiterated the U.S. position that Council Resolutions 242 and 383 were the “basis for making peace” in the Middle East. The PLO has never accepted those resolutions.

Speaking extemporaneously and emotionally, he said “I think isolation of the PLO has failed and isolation of Israel has failed.” He said he was leaving the UN with “no regrets for the fact that perhaps we broke the comfortable diplomatic channels, we violated some long-ago-made agreements that are ridiculous, “a reference to the U.S. pledge, made initially in 1975 by then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, against U.S. contacts with the PLO.


Yehuda Blum, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, said later Young’s criticisms of Israel were “totally uncalled for. He was not only being openly factually incorrect but he was also morally misguided.”

Other UN sources said that the Arab nations achieved their goal of raising the Palestinian issue in an unusually bright spotlight and that they wanted to avoid a vote and the inevitable veto because that would move the Palestinian debate to a new stage and there is widespread disagreement in the Arab world about what that next stage should be.

Bishara said that the PLO and the Arab states did not receive any concession from the Carter Administration in exchange for agreeing not to push the issue to a vote. Bishara said the only gain the Arabs got for their forbearance “is the enhancement of the status” of Young. Bishara also said the Arab states could not let Young leave his post with a veto which would “blemish his perfect record of promoting civil and human rights.”

Young declared that “not talking would risk more lives and more bloodshed.” He said “my eyes were open” when he went to Bishara’s apartment “to talk to another friend.” Terzi.

At the opening of the debate Thursday night, Blum told the members that the debate was an attempt to damage the current peace process in the Mideast. Blum said that UN Resolution 242 is the “only agreed basis for peace negotiations in the Mideast, and any tampering with it can only gravely jeopardize the current peace process and this is precisely what the initiators of this debate want.”

Blum declared that the Camp David accords offer the Palestinians “greater opportunities for autonomy than anything they have ever experienced in their entire history. It offers them the prospect of governing themselves, of peaceful coexistence and prosperity alongside their neighbors. It offers them a secure future, free from terror.”

Egyptian Ambassador Ahmed Esmet Abdel Meguid, in his address Thursday night during the debate, supported the resolution, declaring it “would constitute a confirmation and consecration” of Palestinian rights. He also called for a comprehensive settlement in the area based on Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territories and the restoration of the nights of the Palestinian people.

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