Lantos demands UN reform at farewell dinner for Ayalon
Threatens to withold US funding - 25% of UN total - if reform benchmarks not met.
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New US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos warned Sunday that American funding of the United Nations could be in jeopardy if it doesn't reform, speaking ahead of new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's first trip to Washington since assuming office on January 1.
Lantos (Dem.-California), who will be hosting Ban during his visit, said that America "has to make it clear" to the UN that the institution "cannot expect" the US to unreflectively foot the 25 percent of the organization's dues the country contributes.
As the foreign affairs committee's ranking minority party member, Lantos proposed legislation giving the secretary of state the authority to withhold UN dues if it hasn't met certain benchmarks for reform. The bill never became law, but Lantos's own authority on the issue has increased with his ascension to the chairman's seat.
Lantos spoke of the issue at a gala dinner farewell for former Israeli ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon, sponsored by Christian groups in association with Jewish organizations.
Lantos made his comments about the UN after describing attempts "to make anti-Semitism acceptable in this country" as well as to "deligitimize Israel."
Earlier he said that anti-Semitism in America was "becoming increasingly more acceptable" as seen in statements in the political arena, on college campuses and sometimes "just on the street."
But, he stressed, "We have a powerful antidote: It is the decent Christians, of whom we have so many in this room," going on to compare Christian supporters of Israel and the Jewish people to righteous gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Lantos is the only Holocaust survivor to become a congressman.
Lantos proceeded Ayalon, who spoke of the importance of the ties he helped foster as ambassador with Christian organizations, many of them evangelical, who support Israel.
Ayalon said that before assuming his post more than four years ago, then prime minister Ariel Sharon emphasized the importance of working with this constituency.
Ayalon related that as Sharon's one-time foreign policy advisor, he was spared the normal instructions on Iran and the other pressing issues of the day when he received his "marching orders" before leaving Israel for Washington.
"The one thing he [Sharon] said is: Reach out to the Christians," he recalled.
Surveying the room of 700 congressmen, diplomats and Christian pro-Israel activists, he told them that he hoped his legacy would be the continuation of this coalition.
Danny Ayalon, who last week assumed the role of co-chair of Nefesh B'Nefesh, also emphasized the importance of bringing Jews to Israel. And now that he himself would be in Israel, he told the Christians in the crowd that he would be their "ambassador to Israel."