The General Assembly adopted another resolution today condemning Israel and declaring that it is not a peace-loving nation. But today's vote, in the eyes of a number of diplomats, may have been more significant for drawing a line beyond which the international community will not go in pressing for diplomatic isolation of Israel.
After intense lobbying by U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar and a number of Western, African and moderate Arab nations, the more militant Arab states reluctantly deleted from the resolution a key paragraph that would have forced a showdown on "Israel's status in the U.N."
Diplomats suggested that this backdown may mark a watershed in the anti-Israel drive, which has intensified in recent years. It reached a peak in February, when the assembly called for Israel's total diplomatic isolation. Today's resolution did not use that phrase, but otherwise maintained the same level of anti-Israeli rhetoric.
The resolution passed 86 to 20, with 36 abstentions. As in February's vote, virtually all Western nations joined the United States and Israel in opposing the resolution and most Latin American countries abstained.
Most of the pressure against the showdown on Israel's U.N. representation appeared to stem from fears that Washington would react by boycotting the assembly and withholding all or some of its U.N. dues, which currently amount to one-quarter of the organization's budget.
In addition, the Arab nations that lobbied against a more radical step--including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia--hope U.S. policy will swing toward their view of the Arab-Israeli dispute now that Israel's evacuation of the Sinai Peninsula is complete.
U.S. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, in a speech to the special assemby session last Friday, warned obliquely of the likely U.S. reaction, saying that if the assembly "decides to exclude the democratic state of Israel from participation, it will inevitably reap the whirlwind."
Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Blum, noting that the assembly voted as Israel celebrated the 34th anniversary of its independence, called the condemnation a "display of collective frenzy" by "all the moral perverts, the intellectual dwarfs, the unprincipled cynics and the bigots fanning the flames of religious hatred in this building."
The resolution condemns Israel for seven specific actions, including the dismissals of West Bank mayors and repression of the Arab demonstrations that ensued. It also asks the secretary general to initiate "contacts" with all parties to the Arab-Israeli dispute to promote a "solution" based on the rights of the Palestinians.
Perez de Cuellar is known to be upset by this mandate, which is viewed as being biased toward the Arab position.