Israel overcame a coordinated effort by Arab states on Wednesday to thwart its appointment as vice chair of a UN committee dealing with issues such as Palestinian refugees and human rights, and will serve in that capacity at the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.

Mordehai Amihai won the appointment to represent the Western European and Other Groups voting bloc on the 4th (Decolonization) Committee with 74 votes, while candidates from Belgium and Norway each garnered one vote. He received staunch backing from Britain, Canada and the US, all of which expressed disappointment with the decision to call the vote.

Of the 193 member states, 68 abstained, while 15 other votes were declared invalid. The threshold for Amihai’s appointment was 39 votes.

During the proceedings, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor thanked countries that supported Israel’s bid and accused the Arab Group of hypocrisy, calling their challenge “an assault on the rules and norms of the United Nations.”

Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (photo credit: AP/Richard Drew)

Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (photo credit: AP/Richard Drew)

“The committee appointments of Arab States at the United Nations borders on absurd,” he said. “The Arab Group did not see anything wrong with the membership of Iran, a state that arms [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and Hezbollah, in the Committee on Disarmament and International Security.

“We find corrupt countries leading the budget committee at the UN, and countries with rotten justice systems leading discussions on the legal issues committee,” he said.

The secret vote had initially been called for last week by Qatar, which said that Israel was unfit to serve as vice chair of a committee dealing with Palestinian refugees and investigations of its own practices because “its track record was rife with murder and its occupation had lasted more than 66 years.”

Saudi Arabia argued that Israel’s appointment was the “moral equivalent of placing the apartheid regime of South Africa in charge of a committee to end racism.”

Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Egypt also registered their objections, with several pointing out that Amihai had been elected by only 38 percent of the member states.