United Nations

(UN)
   Israel was admitted to the UN as its 59th member on 11 May 1949. This event, in the words of Abba Eban (Israel's UN ambassador at the time), had a singularly important impact on the country's early development. As Eban put it, it created a juridical and political reality which no subsequent defection has been able to undermine. . . . It is true that international recognition did not solve Israel's problems of defense and survival, but it is also true that the UN's most important capacity is its unchallenged right to define the international community by its admissions policies. . . . No historian has ever imagined a situation in which Israel could have achieved sovereign recognition so rapidly without the existence of an international organization which became the decisive voice in Israel's emergence.
   During the Sinai War (1956), a series of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions unilaterally condemned Israeli "aggression" against Egypt. In the spring of 1967, Secretary General U Thant hastily capitulated to Gamal Abdul Nasser's demand for the withdrawal of UN Emergency Force peacekeepers from Sinai, thereby accelerating the precipitous slide toward war. In Eban's words, "What is the use of a United Nations [peacekeeping] presence if it is, in effect, an umbrella which is taken away as soon as it begins to rain?"
   The period following the Six-Day War (1967) witnessed an incremental deterioration in the UN-Israel relationship. Disputes arose over the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to territories acquired by Israel during the hostilities, including the eastern part of Jerusalem and the holy old city. There were also disputes about the interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, including the operative land-for-peace principle, as well as over the mandate of Gunnar Jarring, the UN special emissary for the Middle East. The nadir in UN-Israel relations was reached on 10 November 1975, with the adoption of General Assembly Resolution 3379, the so-called "Zionism Is Racism" resolution.
   The onset of the Madrid-Oslo peace process precipitated a brief warming of UN-Israel relations in the early 1990s. Of great symbolic importance from Israel's perspective was the repeal of the "Zionism Is Racism" resolution on 16 December 1991. Nevertheless, other aspects of Israel's status remained problematic. Israel remained the only UN member state denied membership in a regional group. Israel's involuntary isolation from the Asian regional group had practical as well as symbolic implications for Israel in that the regional groups vet the nominations of member countries for appointments to senior UN agencies, including the Security Council. In the spring of 2000, this anomalous situation was partially remedied when Israel received conditional admission into the UN's Western European and Others Group (WEOG). However, this admittance only affected WEOG's activities at UN headquarters in New York; Israel was still denied standing with regard to the group's activities at UN European headquarters in Geneva (the venue for the influential Commission on Human Rights), and Israel still could not be nominated for membership to senior UN agencies, including the Security Council.
   Instances such as the UN-sponsored World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (also known as the Durban Conference) of September 2001, the July 2004 International Court of Justice criticism of Israel's security barrier (security fence, separation fence), and the ongoing disproportionate attention and unfair and unconstructive resolutions against Israel adopted by UN agencies, such as the reconstituted Geneva-based Human Rights Council, underscore enduring problematic aspects of Israel's relationship with the UN. Nevertheless, Israel remains fully engaged with the world body, believing that only through active engagement will all of the structural and political obstacles to equal respect and fair treatment be brought down over time.
   See also Foreign Policy; Palestine Partition Plan; Persian Gulf War (1991); Second Lebanon War (2006); United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF); United Nations Emergency Force II (UNEF II); UNITED NATIONS INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON (UNIFIL); UNITED NATIONS PALESTINE COMMISSION; UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 338; UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 425; UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 1701; UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PALESTINE (UNSCOP); UNITED NATIONS TRUCE SUPERVISION ORGANIZATION (UNTSO).

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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