WHEN President Bush addresses the United Nations today, he is expected to launch a campaign to repeal a resolution that describes Zionism as a form of racism and racial discrimination.Israeli officials and many of their United States supporters argue that the contraversial General Assembly decision is one of the main obstacles to a prominent UN role in Middle East peace talks. They charge that Resolution 33/79 defames the Jewish national liberation movement and encourages a siege mentality in Israel. The resolution was adopted Nov. 10, 1975, by a roll-call vote: Seventy-two countries voted for it, 35 voted against, and 32 abstained. Now, with the changes of the past year in Eastern Europe and the recent upheaval in the Soviet Union, many Arab diplomats believe there is no longer majority support in the General Assembly to retain the measure if a strong challenge is mounted. Yet moves to repeal the resolution could jeopardize Arab participation in a Middle East peace conference, diplomats say. Both houses of the US Congress have demanded for the past 15 years that the resolution be overturned. Vice President Dan Quayle vowed to lead the repeal effort last year, but the initiative was delayed for fear of weakening Arab support for the US-led coalition that opposed Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait. UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar spoke out against the resolution last May, just after he returned from a trip to Washington. Members of Congress and President Bush told him that the UN's credibility had been severely compromised by the resolution.
UN chief on Zionism Mr. Perez de Cuellar told journalists that "there was a wrong and unfair interpretation of what Zionism is. Zionism was first of all the need of the Jewish people to preserve their identity and at the same time to try and get a state for their nation. You cannot say that trying to get a territory for your nation is racism." Asked if the resolution should be scrapped, he answered, "This resolution has not been helpful as far as the negotiating process is concerned, mainly because now the Israelis consider that because of this resolution the UN is not impartial.... If this resolution is rescinded, perhaps it could create a better atmosphere in Israel for a full UN involvement in the peace process." The UN chief added, "You should not forget that Israel is a creation of the UN organization, and the framework of any Middle East solution has to be the two [Security Council] Resolutions 242 and 338." Arab delegations argue that the resolution describes living conditions for Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories. North African diplomats say the Arab countries do not want to give up this resolution without getting something in return. The Israelis may be asked to make concessions on the following issues: * A halt to Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. * A clear affirmation of the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes or to receive compensation. * A more flexible stance on the issue of Palestinian representation in peace talks. Egypt's Foreign Minister Amre Moussa said in a recent interview in the Arab press that if Israel wants the 1975 resolution repealed there has to be a quid pro quo that would result in a balanced gain for the Palestinians. Arab ambassadors met at the UN Friday and agreed to ask the US to postpone the issue for one more year.
Peace talks first Ranking Arab diplomats said in interviews over the weekend that if progress is made in the peace talks, they could guarantee that their governments would support the repeal in the next General Assembly session. Otherwise, one Gulf ambassador said he didn't think that it would be so easy. "This is the first time in history that the General Assembly would reconsider a decision already taken.... It would take at least a two-thirds majority vote ... and anybody could move not to take action."