(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The UN passage of an Israeli resolution on agriculture Tuesday is the first time a nonpolitical Israeli resolution has been adopted by the international body, and signifies a breakthrough in Israeli-UN history.
The resolution, which calls on member states to work with relevant UN organizations in promoting the development and transfer of agricultural technologies to developing countries, was passed by the economic and financial committee with a vote of 118 in favor, 29 abstentions and no opposing votes.
"For Israel, this is a very dramatic development, and an historic day at the UN," said Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman. "This makes Israel a much more normal and acceptable member of the UN. One of our main aims is to not be a one issue country and to bring awareness of Israel's excellence to the world."
Though Israel has long been known as a source of agricultural innovation, passage of the resolution signified recognition from a body that has been less than welcoming of anything bearing an Israeli stamp.
The initiative is aimed at helping achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education by 2015.
Passage of the resolution, which was a six-month process, ensures that the need for greater development of and access to agricultural technologies becomes a permanent agenda item at the UN.
"This has not been on the agenda in the past, and now it will become a permanent issue," said Ilan Fluss, a counselor in Israel's Permanent Mission to the UN, who was instrumental in the passage of the resolution. "We will take part in the continuation of this process, which is part of the general idea that we want to play a more active role in nonpolitical issues."
Most of the Arab countries abstained. But more surprising on the list of abstentions was South Africa.
"South Africa is a big disappointment," said Gillerman. "They sent out the wrong message.
Presuming to be a leader of the African continent, and as a member of the Security Council, for them to abstain on a resolution which Africa will be a main beneficiary of is shameful."
The resolution stresses ongoing concern that "Africa is the only continent currently not on track to achieve any of the goals of the United Nations Millennium Declaration by 2015," and emphasizes the need for "concerted efforts and continued support" to address Africa's special needs. The Permanent Mission of South Africa did not return calls for comment.
Another impetus for the current resolution is the upcoming meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, which will meet for the 16th time in May. The agenda for that meeting will include agriculture, water and desertification, and Israel will be one of the vice-chairs of the commission.
"Some people tend to downplay agriculture, but anyone who knows the UN, understands the significance," said Gillerman.
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