ISRAEL IS BEING ATTACKED by the oil Arabs and their followers and clients in the World Health Organization for its occupation of and especially for its settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. But that is not all. For the first time Egypt is also under attack for having made a "separate peace" with Israel. The United States is waging a strong defense, its aim being not only to preserve the integrity of WHO but also to stand by two friends and nourish the peace. the administration has even said it may withdraw from WHO if the assault succeeds in denying WHO voting rights and services to Israel and in removing the organization's regional office from Cairo.
The United States could scarcely do less. Political forums exist and are open to use by Arabs wishing to press a grievance against Israel or Egypt. WHO's turn to politics is a thoroughly disagreeable development, the more so because it could become a model for similar raids on the two countries in other United Nations agencies. In that case, a large part of the international system would have been rendered less fit to serve its essential nonpolitical purpose - in WHO's case, health. It is noteworthy, for instance, that the immediate victims of Israel's suspension would be West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, who would lose their access to WHO health services even while the organization was taking a step meant to advance their political rights.
There is a further way the international system could be hurt. Late year the Congress passed a malicious little amendment that has had the effect of keeping the United States from contributing at all to the regular budgets of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. The administration has been laboring on Capitol Hill to reverse that amendment. The effect that a WHO political reprisal against Israel and Egypt would have on that effort is terrible to consider. Do all the countries dancing to the oil Arabs' tune in Geneva understand the stakes?
But of course this is not the only dimension in which the interdependence and frailty of the global political ecosystem are being demonstrated. Reports from Geneva indicate that one factor in the readiness of Africans to help out the oil Arabs is their anger at this week's Senate resolution recommending the unconditional lifting of Rhodesian sanctions. Up to now the Carter administration has had a certain success in reducing the virulence of Afro-Arabs attacks in the United Nations system. The United States has benefited, and so, indirectly, has Israel. Do all the American legislators jumping on the Muzorewa bandwagon understand the stakes?