U.N. Moves to End Israel's Isolation in World Body

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel is the only member of the United Nations not included in a regional grouping, a unique situation that is about to end, with Israel's inclusion in the "Western European and Others" group.

Israel's exclusion from a regional group prevented it from being nominated to many UN committee posts, including the 10 non-permanent seats on the Security Council. Those seats are filled by countries that must first be nominated by regional groups, which seek to maintain a geographical balance.

Israel has often faced UN Security Council condemnation with only the United States as its ally.

Israel is located at the juncture of three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa. However, geographical ambiguity is not what kept Israel from being accepted into what should have been its natural Asian grouping.

Arab states long opposed Israel's inclusion in the Asian group, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aviv Shir-On told CNSNews.com.

As a result, Israel applied to be included in the"Western European and Others Group" ( WEOG), which comprises the 15 European Union members, but also others like the U.S., Canada, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand.

Last year it was reported that some EU members were resisting Israel's entry, while Germany, Sweden and Belgium were strongly in favor. European countries objecting to Israel's membership were reportedly opposed to more competition among group members for influential posts. Some feared the move would harm the peace process.

"We've been talking about this with members of the [WEOG] group for years," Shir-On said. "Only recently we succeeded in breaking the wall."

He said he did not think Israel's decision to withdraw its troops from south Lebanon, a step long demanded by the UN, had anything to do with its acceptance into WEOG, but that it likely had "much more to do with the peace process" in general.

"Many members of the UN realize [Israel's exclusion] was not a normal situation. [They decided it was] time to change this."

But Israel's inclusion in WEOG is only a temporary solution. Because it is not considered a "natural member" of the European group, Shir-On said, Israel agreed to report every two years on its "efforts to become part of the Asian group."

The five regional groups are WEOG, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America and Caribbean.