Egypt Pulse

Arab states coordinate efforts to block Israel's UN Security Council bid

Article Summary
Arab League member states have formed a committee aimed at preventing Israel from obtaining a seat on the UN Security Council in next year's elections, yet some argue the move comes too late in light of Israel's extensive outreach to gain support.

CAIRO — Attempts by Arab countries to oppose Israel's candidacy for a nonpermanent seat at the UN Security Council have not gone unnoticed in the Arab League and Arab foreign ministers’ meetings.

The council — tasked with maintaining international peace and security — has five seats for permanent members and 10 for temporary ones. Five of the latter will be opening up next year. While the elections aren’t until June, those interested in snagging a spot have already started campaigning and outreach. This will be the first time Israel seeks a seat.

In the Arab foreign ministers' meeting Sept. 19 in New York, spokesman for Arab League Secretary-General Mahmoud Afifi said, “The Arab League secretary-general, Ambassador Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, stressed the importance of taking actions in this regard. This is in order to activate the recent decision issued in the Arab Ministerial Council meeting Sept. 12. This is namely the formation of two Arab League committees. The first is to act in order to counter Israel’s candidacy for a UN Security Council seat for 2019-20, and the second is to search for ways to deal with the Israeli infiltration in the African continent.”

Arab foreign ministers met at the Arab League headquarters Sept. 12 and decided to form a ministerial committee to counter the Israeli candidacy for a nonpermanent seat at the UN Security Council for 2019-20.

Israel had expressed in 2000 its intention to seek a UN Security Council seat for 2018-19. Moreover, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom met with then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the UN headquarters in New York in 2005. ِAccording to Deutsche Welle, at the end of the meeting, Shalom told the press, “We need to start thinking about becoming a UN Security Council member, even though this is not going to happen in the near future.”

Shalom added that Israel has also the right to be a member of the Security Council just like the rest of the countries.

Ambassador Hossam Zaki, the assistant to Aboul-Gheit, told DMC satellite TV Sept. 12, “The Arab states are seeking to counter Israel's candidacy for a UN Security Council seat, considering it to be an occupying state that has violated international law.”

In a Sept. 12 statement, the Palestinian government called on other countries to reject Israel's candidacy and perceived that its “access to any international post — including a UN Security Council seat — would champion its occupation, crimes and non-abidance by the international institutions’ laws.”

Also, it accused Israel of violating the UN Charter and refusing to implement its resolutions.

Tarek Fahmi, a professor of political science at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor, “It has been months since Israel had set up a comprehensive public relations strategic plan. It knocked [on] the doors of many Asian and African countries, and of course, a lot of these countries agreed to vote for Israel to have a UN Security Council seat,” in reference to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign visits, including his visits to Singapore and Africa.

He said, “Over the period when Israel worked hard to agree with many countries to act as a voting bloc to have it win a Security Council seat, no Arab reaction was made before Arab foreign ministers met this month. Hence, Israel will be reaping the fruit of its campaign during the voting session, particularly since the voting is conducted by secret ballot.”

Fahmi added, “Although Arab countries adopted a good stance, the Arab bloc’s [position] at the UN General Assembly is not decisive. Thus, its success against Israel and its plan to win a seat at the Security Council will depend on the Arab states’ ability to convey their messages to the West and share their views with the Western, African and Asian public opinion. Also, they need to go beyond the mere statements and meetings. If they really want to succeed, Arab states need to provide the Western public opinion with conclusive evidence that Israel is an occupied state and committed crimes against the Palestinian people."

“The Arab states will try to convince the UN General Assembly member states that Israel does not implement the Security Council resolutions on the Palestinian cause, the latest of which was adopted on Dec. 23, 2016, to end its settlement building in the Palestinian territories. Back then, Israel rejected the resolution and said it will not abide by it. Therefore, how can a state become a UN Security Council member when it does not abide by this council’s resolutions,” he noted.

On the Egyptian stance of Israel’s candidacy, Fahmi explained, “There are good ties between Egypt and Israel, and it is diplomatically incorrect that the Egyptian position be declared. Egypt does, however, take actions under the Arab umbrella and does not derail from the Arab consensus regarding any of the causes.”

Former assistant foreign minister Hussein Haridi told Al-Monitor, “It is too late for Arabs to take actions to counter Israel's candidacy for a nonpermanent seat at the Security Council. Besides, it would have been better not to publicly take such an action, as it would give Israel the chance to put in place alternative plans to deal with it.”

Haridi added, “Israel embarked on an international plan to conduct outreach to African countries. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a number of African countries to make sure that their votes will be in favor of Israel.”

George Mikhail is a freelance journalist who specializes in minority and political issues. He graduated from Cairo University in 2009 and has worked for a number of Egyptian newspapers.


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