WASHINGTON – Most of those around President Barack Obama understand that a US-initiated resolution at the Security Council to lock in parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement will not contribute to the diplomatic process, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told The Jerusalem Post.
Danon, in an interview on the sidelines of the AJC Global Forum on Tuesday, said that despite media reports about a presidential policy speech on the Mideast or a US-backed or initiated Security Council resolution, “we are not seeing any signs of this in New York.”
Although Danon said that Israel’s position was that such moves would not promote negotiations, Jerusalem had to take into account that the Palestinians and other states will push an effort to “promote something by the end of the year,” because both Obama’s and UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon’s tenures will be ending.
“The pressure exists, but we don’t know how it will express itself,” he said.
Danon said he has very good relations with the American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, and that the US has mobilized fully on Israel’s behalf at the world body.
“I find it difficult that this will change,” he said. “I hear the voices that it [an American Security Council resolution] will happen before or after the [US November] elections.
There are voices in the background. But if you look at the substance, the Americans are asking themselves if this would contribute or not to the process. The majority of those around the president understand that a decision like this would not contribute to the process.”
Danon also said he felt that if the Palestinians went ahead with presently shelved plans to bring an anti-settlement resolution to the Security Council, the US would likely veto it.
“I’m not sure such a resolution would pass the Security Council, I do count on a US veto on this matter,” he said.
Paradoxically, Danon pointed out that the French diplomatic initiative that was launched with an international meeting last Friday in Paris – and which Jerusalem adamantly opposes – is keeping the Palestinians from moving forward with this resolution.
Because the French initiative is still in play, Danon said, additional states will not want to support an anti-settlement resolution “because there is another process.” The Palestinians realize this and, as a result, have suspended the anti-settlement move.
Danon said that Israel did not accept the French excuse that “technical errors” led Paris to vote recently for a UNESCO resolution expunging any mention of Jewish ties to Jerusalem.
“In the beginning they said something different, that there were parts of the resolution that were good,” he said. “We don’t accept that approach. Something like this you cannot accept – you can demand changes to the resolution.”
Danon said that every day he sees “attempts to placate and pay the Palestinians and the Arab League with things that states do not even believe in.”
The ambassador fully backs Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public call on countries with friendly ties with Israel to begin reflecting those ties in votes in international forums. While that call has not led to any significant noticeable change in voting patterns, Danon said that there are often small procedural matters at the UN – such as finally getting the ZAKA rescue and recovery organization granted advisory status – that are taking place and do reflect a subtle change by some countries.
On another matter, Danon said that Israel was doing “quiet work” promoting its candidacy for one of the 10 rotating posts on the UN Security Council in 2019-2020. Israel so far will be competing against Belgium and Germany in a secret General Assembly ballot to be held in the summer of 2018 for the two slots allocated to the regional group to which Israel belongs: the Western Europe and Others Group.
“It will not be easy but it is possible,” he said. “I discovered in the UN that many things you think are impossible, are possible.” As examples, he pointed to the resolution earlier this year mandating Yom Kippur as an official UN holiday, and last month’s anti-BDS gathering of some 2,000 students in the General Assembly hall.
The quiet work promoting Israel’s candidacy includes bringing delegations to Israel, lobbying individual counties on the matter and emphasizing Israel’s activities in the international arena and at the UN.
“Even if we lose, it will not be horrible,” he said. “Canada lost, and is running again in 2019. Countries run and lose. It is legitimate, part of the game.”
If a country loses one year, it must wait three years before putting forth its candidacy again.
Asked if he genuinely thought that there was even a remote possibility that Israel would win an election in the General Assembly – where there is an automatic majority of Islamic and Non-Aligned Movement states against Israel – Danon replied that 146 countries recently voted for a resolution Israel brought dealing with agricultural technology. And this, he said, happened even though the Arab states opposed the resolution because Israel initiated it.
“You cannot come with an attitude that this is impossible,” he said. “Our approach has to be that we are a state in the UN like all states. With all due respect, the states we are running against are important and big countries, but we also have a presence in the international community, with 100 missions abroad.”
Danon said that the vote is some two years away, and that much can happen in the international community during that time. “We don’t know what will happen in another two years, so it would be a mistake to give up already.”
Danon said that if indeed Israel did win a seat on the council it would significantly upgrade Israel’s position in the international community.
“You can’t change the UN or Security Council resolutions,” he said.
“But think about a situation where the prime minister of the state of the Jews would come to chair a meeting of the Security Council – that would be something historic.”
As to whether the US was supporting Israel’s candidacy, Danon said that everything Israel does in the UN is with America’s support.
“I don’t see a situation where we run, and the US does not support us. We live that every day.”
The voting is by secret ballot, which means that some countries that would be hesitant to back Israel openly might be willing to do so secretly. In general, he said, the US – one of five permanent members on the 15-member body – does not reveal its preference for Security Council membership, “but I think in our case it might be different.”