Israel gets seats on United Nations agency panels

After decades of battling, participation approved at Human Settlement Program, Environment Program.

United Nations AP 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
United Nations AP 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
While Israel won a four-decade battle in 2000 to get accepted into one of the UN's regional groupings critical for full incorporation into the world body, only now is full integration into the UN system taking place as Israel is finally participating in regular deliberations of UN agencies dealing with the environment and human settlement. In May 2000, after a long struggle, Israel was accepted into one of the five regional groupings that make up the UN: WEOG, or the Western European and Others Group. Until this time, Israel was the only country at the UN that was outside a regional grouping, and as a result was barred from membership on such UN organizations as the Security Council, UNICEF, UNESCO and numerous other UN bodies and agencies. The reason was simple: membership in those bodies was allocated according to regional groupings, and Israel was not a member of any such group. Asia, Israel's geographic home, would not accept it. But finally gaining entrance into WEOG was not the end of the battle, because this meant that Israel could be voted onto the governing bodies of organizations, but it did not give it the right to take part in their consultations. Another selection process inside WEOG was necessary to send Israel to those meetings. In this selection process, certain WEOG countries objected to Israel taking part because they did not think Israel should be involved in discussions in which issues related to Israel and the Palestinians were raised. Since being chosen for those bodies needed a consensus of all WEOG state, it was always enough for one country to object to block Israel's acceptance. Since 2000, Israel - according to Roni Leshno Yaar, the director-general of the Foreign Ministry's UN and International Organizations Division - has been trying to get into these consultations. Last month Israel was voted by WEOG to represent the grouping in consultations for two UN agencies: HABITAT, the UN Human Settlement Program, and UNEP, the UN Environment Program. Both these agencies are based in Nairobi. Calling the move a "significant breakthrough," Leshno Yaar said, "This is an important step for Israeli diplomacy in the direction of normalizing Israel's status in the UN, and recognizing Israel's ability to contribute professionally to the regional UN bodies.