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March 26, 2018 9:16 am

Israel’s Right to a UN Security Council Seat Is in Danger Unless Trump Takes Action

avatar by Morton A. Klein / JNS.org

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The UN Security Council debates a resolution on Jerusalem. Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid.

JNS.org – It’s not news that the United Nations has long been an organization characterized by an intense institutional bias against Israel. Reflecting, as it must, the policies and prejudices of the non-democratic majority of its membership, the United Nations’ major bloc — the so-called Non-Aligned movement — is dominated by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.

And it is this bloc that determines much of the UN’s agenda and dominates its voting patterns, with the result that Israel has been continually condemned by an extraordinary number of UN resolutions over the decades.

The UN Security Council is comprised of five permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom — and 10 non-permanent members that are selected for two-year terms. Two non-permanent members are selected from each of the five regional blocs within the UN system, and must win a two-thirds vote in the UN General Assembly.

Israel — for years seen as a pariah within its own natural regional grouping, the Asian bloc — has until recently been essentially excluded from sitting on any UN committees. And now this discrimination is set to be replayed again. Israel is about to excluded from a seat on the UN Security Council. Only this time, strangely enough, it will have nothing to do with Arab dictatorships, but Western democracies.

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How did this come to be?

In 2000, the United States and its European allies invited Israel to join the Western European & Others Group (WEOG). In a sense, WEOG is Israel’s natural home, as it includes other non-regional members, such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, whose geographical distance from Western Europe is, like Israel’s, compensated by their cultural and political closeness to it.

At the time, the US Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke brokered an agreement: In return for the WEOG members allowing Israel to join, the Jewish state agreed to wait 19 years to put itself forward unopposed at the UN Security Council for one of the WEOG seats.

Accordingly, this year is Israel’s turn to run for election — along with Belgium — for one of the two WEOG seats on the UN Security Council, which are presently occupied until the end of 2018 by Sweden and the Netherlands.

However, Germany is about to violate the late Ambassador Holbrooke’s deal. Berlin has decided to run for one of the WEOG seats. This means that there are now three countries vying for the two available seats. Both Belgium and Germany have refused to withdraw their candidacies. The competition might turn nasty, and in any event, Israel cannot hope to win unopposed, as it was entitled to expect.

This is obviously an unacceptable state of affairs. Ambassador Holbrooke’s agreement was designed to ensure that the institutional discrimination against an American ally within the United Nations was put in the past. Instead, it seems about to be perpetuated.

The United States under Donald Trump has spoken out strongly on discrimination against Israel at the United Nations, and promised to hold the world body accountable for it. But its efforts to do so stand to be compromised if it permits Ambassador Holbrooke’s agreement to become a dead letter.

For its part, Israel has kept its word since 2000 not to seek election to the Security Council until its turn within the WEOG membership arrived. Israel could, of course, launch its own diplomatic offensive within the WEOG to have the agreement honored, but the news of Germany’s bid for a seat has only just emerged, leaving Israel very little time to do the essential legwork. Indeed, reports have it that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has expressed a wish to quit the race because of the improbability of a win.

Accordingly, though it shouldn’t have come to this, Israel is going to need help to obtain its long-awaited Security Council seat, and Washington owes it to Israel to see that this US-brokered agreement is honored. The US is well-positioned to impress upon American allies the need for the Holbrooke agreement to be honored and permit Israel to clear the vital, first hurdle of running unopposed for a Security Council seat.

Part of changing the culture of the United Nations — a task to which the Trump administration has committed itself — is to end the profoundly entrenched bias against the Jewish state. Seeing Israel elected to the Security Council for the first time since becoming a UN member state in 1949 would be a powerful demonstration that substantive change is afoot.

Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). 

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