UN Vote Ends Israel's Long Status as Outcast Repeal of Zionism-Is-Racism Resolution Could Boost Prospects for a United Nations' Role in the Region

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BY repealing its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism, the United Nations has removed one of the last stones from the high wall that once isolated Israel from a large segment of the world community.

But diplomatic analysts say the Dec. 16 action by the General Assembly will do little to energize Middle East peace talks now languishing in Washington.

"If the Arab states had supported the revocation, it could have had a very salutatory affect," says Marvin Feuerwerger, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy. "As it is, there's not an immediate positive translation to the peace process."

Although six Arab countries failed to attend the Dec. 16 vote, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan - the three Arab nations now engaged in face-to-face peace talks with Israel - were among the nine Arab states that voted against the repeal motion. The measure was passed by a vote of 111 to 25, with 13 abstentions.

The repeal drive was spearheaded by the United States, which has long argued that the resolution unfairly discriminated against Israel. The Dec. 16 vote culminated a three-month campaign announced by President Bush in a speech to the UN General Assembly in September. It is expected to ease tensions between Washington and Jerusalem created by disagreements over the peace process and by Israel's policy of expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Dec. 16 vote to rescind the "Zionism-is-racism" resolution was criticized by Arab spokesmen who warned that any relaxation of international pressure would be exploited by Israel to seize more Arab lands in the territories.

"It would whet the appetite of Israeli extremists wishing to pursue their policy of creeping annexation," said Lebanon's UN ambassador, Khalil Makkawi, who spoke Dec. 16 for the UN's Arab bloc.

Israel's isolation reached its peak after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when dozens of communist and third-world countries broke off relations to protest its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. In 1975 they joined the Arab states to pass the Zionism-is-racism resolution.

But motivated by economic interests and the end of the cold war, most of those countries, including the Soviet Union, have restored ties with Israel. On Dec. 16, they switched positions on Resolution 3379, leaving the Arab countries and a handful of mostly Islamic nations isolated and outnumbered. …