Israel Wins Membership on WEOG

By Rebecca Weiner

A breakthrough in Israel’s fifty-year exclusion from UN bodies occurred on May 30, 2000, when Israel accepted an invitation to be come a temporary member of Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group. This historic step helped end at least some of the UN’s discriminatory actions against Israel and opened the door to the possibility of Israeli participation in the Security Council. On May 21, 2004, Israel's membership in WEOG was extended indefinitely.

Israel had been the only UN member excluded from a regional group. Geographically, it belongs in the Asian Group; however, the Arab states have barred its membership. Without membership in a regional group, Israel could not sit on the Security Council or other key UN bodies.

The WEOG is the only regional group which is not purely geographical, but rather geopolitical, namely a group of states that share a Western-Democratic common denominator. WEOG comprises 27 members: all the West European states; and the "others" — Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Lobbying for membership in the WEOG group, Israel faced opposition, at different periods, from Italy, Ireland, France and Spain. Worries existed that if Israel was to gain membership in the WEOG, then members of the Eastern European group, such as the Baltic States would also want WEOG membership.

Israel’s membership to the WEOG was initially limited. Israel was not allowed to present candidacies for open seats in any UN body for two years and was not permitted to compete for major UN bodies, such as the Economic and Social Council, for a longer period. Also, Israel agreed it would not seek membership on the UN Security Council through WEOG.

In 2003-2004, Israel was successful in presenting candidates for six UN posts. Israel as also twice assumed the rotating chairmanship of WEOG. Israel was originally asked to reapply for membership every four years, but, in 2004, the first time Israel reapplied, it was granted an indefinite extension.

Besides these restrictions, Israel is only allowed to participate in WEOG activities in the New York office of the UN. Israel is an observer, but not accorded the rights of a full member in WEOG discussions and consultations at the UN offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Rome and Vienna; therefore, Israel cannot participate in UN talks on human rights, racism and a number of other issues handled in these offices. Israel’s next goal is to gain access to the other UN offices around the world.

In the future, Israel still hopes to gain membership in the Asian group.

See also: Israel's Request to Join WEOG; JTA, (May 25, 2004)