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IAEA governing board’s censure of Iran a historic victory for Israel

December 6, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Bruce S. Ticker

PHILADELPHIA — It qualifies as an important event in Jewish history: An international body stands by Israel in its life-and-death dispute with Iran. The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency – described as the nuclear watchdog for the United Nations – censured Iran by demanding that its government freeze operations at a uranium enrichment plant right away. The United States was joined by China, Russia and 24 other countries in voting overwhelmingly for the resolution on Friday, Nov. 27 – two days short of the 62nd anniversary of UN approval to establish the state of Israel.

The IAEA’s vote is the strongest UN action I can recall on behalf of Israel since it was accepted as a member of the General Assembly on May 11, 1949. It holds historical significance in part because of the brutal treatment of the Jews during our 2,000-year diaspora, but especially with recent history as a backdrop. Member states of the UN have probably never stood so staunchly behind Israel since the Jewish state’s very creation.

The UN adopted Resolution 181 to endorse creation of the Jewish state on Nov. 29, 1947, as part of a partition plan for two states, one for Israel and the other for Arabs, according to the Israeli Mission’s Web site. Of course, it did not work out that way as the surrounding Arab nations rejected the plan and invaded Israel. Israel proclaimed its independence on May 14, 1948, turned back the Arab armies and joined the UN nearly a year later.

Relations between Israel and the UN have often been hostile. The UN injected itself into the 1973 Yom Kippur War once Israel was in position to lay siege to Cairo. The world body also pressed for a truce in 2006 before Israel could cause Hezbollah any real damage. Among its many slights to Israel, the UN General Assembly in 1975 adopted a resolutio

n equating Zionism with racism and rescinded it in 1991. It is not historic that the majority of member states undid their previous damage. Still, on Nov. 27, delegates from 27 nations lined up behind Israel to cast a vote for the first time demanding that Iran immediately halt construction of a uranium enrichment facility in Qum, according to The New York Times. By no means is this vote conclusive, but it is a good start. Surprisingly, China and Russia joined the vote, as did such countries as France, Germany, England and Canada. The Times explained that the vote does not go so far as to finding Iran in formal “noncompliance” or violation of its nonproliferation commitments. That would afford strong evidence to support the drive for a new round of sanctions.

The conditions that shaped the IAEA vote are wide open to speculation. It may be that some countries recognized that voting to censure Iran was the right thing to do. We have a president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who repeatedly denied the Jewish people’s tragic history while threatening Israel’s destruction, and his government steadily develops a nuclear program. What gray areas can there be for reasonable people?

Plenty of backroom maneuvering evidently ensued. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and their people were certainly lining up their ducks, even those likely to vote their way, anyway. Obama had met individually with the leaders of Russia and China. Before meeting in Beijing with China’s president, Hu Jintao, two senior National Security Council officials, Jeff Bader and Dennis Ross, were sent to China to make a personal case for the United States’s concern about Iran’s nuclear programs, the Times reported.

One must wonder what carrots or sticks were used. Maybe American officials reminded Russia and China that they could face international trials for alleged human rights abuses, just as the Goldstone report on the Gaza war threatens that fate for Israel. Americans could have promised their help if this kind of situation arose. I wonder if guilt over the Goldstone report was a factor for some of the western nations. There are legitimate concerns over the Gaza war earlier this year, but even some of these countries probably recognize that the upshot of the report was way over the top and tilted too far against Israel.

The IAEA vote resolves nothing at this stage, and Iran’s subsequent defiance underscores that. In addition, the 27 nations that voted in the affirmative are hardly a majority of the U.N. membership itself. However, Israel and its supporters have reasons to take heart. The IAEA vote at least held symbolic importance, and that is historic there.
Bruce S. Ticker is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.  He may be contacted at BTicker@comcast.net.

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