The United States succeeded today in avoiding a U.N. Security Council vote on a bitterly controversial resolution supporting Palestinian self-determination.
The Arab and African proponents of the resolutiion agreed during last-minute consultations to postpone a vote, attributing their decision to their respect for outgoing U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young.
Although the nonaligned nations genuinely like and have high regard for Young, it was not only what Kuwait Ambassador Abdalla Yaccoub Bishara described as "Bedouin chivalry" that enabled the American ambassador to succeed in his last major action before leaving his post at the United Nations.
For reasons of their own, the Arab nations were reluctant to play out the scenario of a vote and a promised American veto. They achieved a part of their goal by again raising the Palestinian issue and, in the wake of Young's forced resignation, debating it in an unusually bright spotlight.
There were signs that many of the Arab nations wanted to avoid a vote because it would move the Palestinian debate here into a new stage, and there is no agreement on what the next stage should be.
Bishara said that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Arab nations did not receive any concession from Washington in exchange for not pushing the resolution to a vote. At least 10 and perhaps 12 of the 15 council members were prepared to vote in favor of the resolution.
The only thing the Arabs get for their action, Bishara said, "is the enhancement of the status of Andy Young." He told reporters that "we're just waiting for the disappearance of Andy Young. We don't want to blemish him with a veto."
Bishara read a cable from PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat saying: "We cannot let the circumstances push Young, the great man, to a veto."
The resolution, was supported the "inalienable rights of self-determination national independence and sovereignty in Palestine" of the Palestinian people, can be brought up again by its sponsors when the United States is represented here by a new ambassador.
Just before the council adjourned, Young spoke in defense of overall U.S. policy and then delivered his farewell remarks "as a friend," repeating that he had no regrets over the events that led to his resignation.
He expressed the hope that in his lifetime not only Americans but also Israelis will be holding conversations with the PLO.
"I think it's a ridiculous policy," Young said of U.S. refusal to have contacts with the PLO.
"It is also ridiculous," he added, "for many of you around this table not to have relations with the nation of Israel."
But Young was also sharply critical of Israel. "Israel is now rapidly spending its moral capital -- wasting it -- in the bombing of southern Lebanon and the building of settlements" in the occupied territories, Young said.
Young said his decision to meet with Zehdi Labib Terzi, PLO observer to the United Nations, was made because "the refusal to communicate" holds the peril of greater future bloodshed. The Korean War and the Vietnam war stemmed from the U.S. refusal to talk to China for more than two decades, Young said.
In the Mideast, violence by both sides has failed and so have attempts to block communications, Young said. "I think the isolation of the PLO has failed and I think the attempt at isolation of Israel has failed," he said.
In his valedictory to the United Nations, Young said he takes pride in the Carter administration's success in "reversing our relationships with much of the world," and also in the fact that "none of our soldiers has had to kill anyone else nor have any of our young men had to die in the uniform of our country."
The controversial ambassador was asked by reporters whether he thought his farewell remarks would make it harder for the administration to maintain its policy of not talking to the PLO. "I hope so," he replied.
In response to Young's remarks, Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Blum attached the U.S. ambassador saying he had exceeded his authority as Security Council president.
"These remarks were totally uncalled for, and in making them from the chair of the president of the Security Council they were both unprecedented and clearly in excess of his authority," Blum said.
He added that Young "was not only factually incorrect but morally misguided" in saying Israel was spending its moral capital with raids on Lebanon and creation of more Jewish settlements on Arab land seized in the 1967 Mideast war.
Young is remaining in his post through August because he is serving this month, by rotation, as president of the Security Council, but his resignation has been accepted.
It was a fitting cap to Young's 2 1/2 years here that his final victory came through negotiations with the nonaligned diplomats with whom he has so successfully built good relations.
The U.S. success also was a remarkable turnaround from the tattered position of U.S.-Mideast policy at the beginning of the week. Then, U.S. officials were asking who was determining policy on the Mideast, and the United States had not yet abandoned its plan to introduce a resolution of its own on the Palestinian question.
Young and his assistants worked hard in private consultations to bring about the postponement, which averted the necessity of a veto and the consequent strain on U.S. relations with moderate Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
It was the second time in a month that Young succeeded in heading off a vote on the resolution. During his first effort late last month, Young accepted Bishara's suggestion and met secretly with Terzi.
Young was forced to resign after the disclosure of that meeting, which violated the U.S. policy -- requested by Israel -- not to have any contact with PLO representatives.
The resolution was introduced late Thursday by Senegal, the chairman of the U.N. Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which drafted it. Senegal is not a member of the Security Council.
Had the resolution been introduced by a council member, it would have been much more difficult of avoid a vote. Speaker after speaker today supported the resolution in frequently redundant phrases.
Bishara, the key Arab diplomat in the week's private negotiations, told the council he was discarding his prepared text on the rights of Palestinians because it repeated what others had said.
Instead, Bishara praised Young and condemned U.S. policy toward the PLO.
"You are a pioneer for the cause of justice," Bishara told Young. "You also are a casualty and a martyr in the cause of justice."
He told the council that U.S. policy is bankrupt because "you cannot have peace in the Middle East without talking to the PLO, the representative of the Palestinian people." All trips to the Mideast by Carter's special ambassador, Robert S. Strauss, or any other American representative will be "trips of futility" until Washington's Policy changes, Bishara said.
Bishara said he was directing his speech at the American people because, as a result of Young's resignation, Americans have started to question for the first time the merits of Washington's Mideast policy.