NEW YORK – Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor scolded the UN Security Council on Wednesday for not doing enough to help families around the world “ease their burden” while living under siege.
Prosor spoke as part of the council’s open debate on “Protecting civilians in armed conflict.”
In his short speech, he referenced the saying from the Talmud that “if a person saves one life, it is as though he has saved the whole world.”
“In Syria, almost 130,000 worlds have been destroyed,” he said. “We will soon mark the third anniversary of the Syrian conflict, with no end in sight. We cannot sit comfortably in this chamber, discussing the protection of civilians in armed conflict, when before our eyes the crisis in Syria has reached catastrophic proportions.”
Prosor called this “spinning in the mud of debates and dialogue.”
The envoy lauded the African Union for taking swift action in the Central African Republican to prevent a genocide, and for France for stepping in in northern Mali late last year.
“Each and every country must do its part,” Prosor said. “Little more than a trickle of assistance is reaching those in need.”
Prosor spoke a day after Israel officially joined the regional group JUSCANZ, a move that was praised by the US and Jewish groups alike.
Addressing the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Board of Governors on Monday morning, US envoy Samantha Power expressed relief that Israel had “finally!” managed to join the JUSCANZ group in New York, the Western European and Others Group at the UN in Geneva and giving it a caucusing body.
Power reaffirmed her support for normalizing the situation for Israel in the world body, saying it and its allies needed to slowly “chip away” at the stereotypes and prejudice that have been racked up against it over the years. Making big moves like joining WEOG and JUSCANZ would help in this mission.
“The question is how do we chip away and make Israel like any old country at the UN?” she asked.
“How do we showcase what Israel has to offer?” Power pointed to the entrepreneurship resolution in the General Assembly that Israel sponsored and passed with 143 votes, commending Prosor for running the vote and challenging the prejudices of many countries.
“It required some countries to take the ideological blinders off, especially for those who just vote no on anything Israel has to offer,” she said.
“It’s important to remember that more than half of the countries within the UN are not democratic; they’re repressive and they’re looking for alibis, for ways to change the conversation to something that might help them on the street, but will do nothing at all for their people,” she continued. “We’re trying to point to the facts and make a strong case that this [supporting initiatives like the entrepreneurship bill] will be good for their people and the UN as a whole.”
Another reason to “chip away” at Israel’s image in the UN is the country’s upcoming bid for a seat on the 2019-20 Security Council, for which it is facing off against Germany and Belgium, two countries with a bit more clout and fewer enemies in the General Assembly.
AJC executive director David Harris asked her whether Israel stood a chance.
“We strongly support Israel’s candidacy,” Power said, launching into an analogy of how pulling for Israel at the UN is like being a fan of the Boston Red Sox.
“Unlike the Yankees fans in the audience, we know what it’s like to be three-nothing and still find a way to pull a rabbit out of a hat,” she said, to some appreciative laughter and applause from the brave Red Sox fans in the audience. “This will be challenging.
But I will never give up. It’s a long game, but this will be another chipaway moment. We go in, as with all things, seeking the ultimate success.”
Power also addressed the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which she could see “picking up steam” on campuses.
“We will oppose boycott and divesting at every turn,” she said.
Yet she added: “I think progress on the peace process – which will be challenging, and I think a lot of people wouldn’t have thought we’d get this far – but I think that progress could neuter those campaigns.”
In response to a question on the peace process and the view of settlement policies and prisoner releases, Power stated that there was a “sense that Israel is negotiating in good faith” in the process.
“There’s a sense that there’s tremendous American energy behind it,” she explained. “The [Secretary of State John Kerry] has a great passion for the cause of peace. Israelis and Palestinians are in the midst of something challenging and monumental.”
She touched on the humanitarian situation in Syria, which she called “heartbreaking.” She compared it in part to the Ethiopian famine and called out the Russian delegation for blocking a humanitarian resolution from passing through the Security Council.