UNITED NATIONS -- Israel's days as an international outcast may be at an end.
The United Nations General Assembly was expected today to repeal its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism.
Bush administration sources were expecting 74 sponsors and about 100 affirmative votes for the repeal, which needs only a simple majority of the Assembly's 166 members present at the time of the vote. Arab opposition to the repeal was disorganized and some pro-U.S. Arab countries, such as Kuwait, may choose to be absent.
For the past two weeks President Bush and U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III have been leaning on world leaders to repeal the resolution, administration sources said. Some countries that traditionally have not supported Israel, such as Japan, have said they would vote for repeal. The only questionable votes are from non-Arabic Muslim countries and some Third World nations such as India, which have a large Muslim minority.
The United Nations' denunciation 16 years ago of Zionism -- the belief that Jews deserve a national homeland -- was enacted by a coalition of Arabs and Africans who bargained support for opposition to apartheid for support of Palestinian nationhood. The two groups managed to remove South Africa's General Assembly vote and sponsored annual assaults on Israel's credentials that have led the Jewish state to be treated as a virtual outcast at the United Nations.
The Soviet bloc supported the Arab-African coalition as a way of tweaking the United States. The result was a barrage of rhetorical attacks on the United States and imperialism, but little substance, because the General Assembly does not have the power to enforce its edicts. But the attacks produced an anti-U.N. reaction in the United States.
President Reagan's first U.N. ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, said in the early 1980s that she felt as if she were wearing a "Kick Me" sign.
"There was a lot of name-calling. There was a feeling of resignation that the Arab-African bloc could get all sorts of things passed. It was very unpleasant," said Edward Luck, president of the .N. Association of the USA, a lobbying group that promotes the United Nations.
Luck said that the Zionism-is-racism resolution nearly crippled his group as waves of members resigned in protest.
The likely repeal vote marks an end to that period, which has been waning at the United Nations as the Soviet bloc dissolved and the group of more than 100 non-aligned countries has lost focus.
The campaign to repeal the resolution has been much more a U.S. policy initiative than an Israeli one, U.S. and Israeli officials and American Jewish leaders said in interviews.
Some American Jewish leaders say they fear the Bush administration will use its repeal campaign to deflect criticism that Bush has been hostile to Israel in the Middle East peace talks and in postponing action on an Israeli request for U.S. guarantees of $10 billion in loans to build housing for Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel.
The fight over the guarantees last fall caused a split between Bush and the organized American Jewish community after the president criticized some Jewish groups for lobbying Congress to approve the loan guarantees despite White House opposition.