Not long after helping found the United Nations, Winston Churchill cautioned an
American audience to be vigilant in ensuring that the new world body served as
“a true temple of peace... and not merely a cockpit in a Tower of Babel.”
Sixty-four years later, Churchill’s insight about the fundamental challenge
facing the UN remains just as relevant.
After three months on the job as
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, I have been able to see up close both the promise
and plight of this important global institution. Every day the mission to the UN
walks a fine line, voicing our concern when the world body strays from its
founding vision, while at the same time looking for opportunities to
meaningfully partner with the UN in ways that improve life around the
Last month, we saw how UN politics can obstruct constructive
dialogue as the General Assembly commemorated the “International Day of
Solidarity with the Palestinian People” – a day that since its establishment in
1977 has done little to further its stated aim of helping Palestinians to
realize peace, pursue prosperity and enjoy self-determination.
year, this observance ignores the reality of history and the facts on the ground
to advance a distorted narrative about Israel that disregards the threat of
terrorism facing our civilians, overlooks widespread anti-Israel incitement
carried out by our Arab neighbors and perpetuates onesided notions of
Palestinian victimhood, freeing them from responsibility to be a partner in
WHEN IT comes to Israel these are the unfortunate political
dynamics of the UN General Assembly, which often seems to be held hostage to
groups of states that join together to condemn Israel regardless of the
After 33 years, one would think that these nations might
finally be able to see the bigger picture, recognizing that the best way to
support Palestinian welfare is to play a constructive role in realizing a
But instead of working to bring the parties together
in negotiations and preparing the Palestinians to take the bold actions that
will be required to reach a peace agreement, these countries prefer to seize the
opportunity to score cheap political points.
As Israel’s leaders have
made clear since the rebirth of our ancestral homeland in 1947 – and proven
through our historic agreements with Egypt and Jordan – we believe that it is
both necessary and possible to live in peace with our neighbors.
takes two to tango.
While it has been very encouraging to see the
emergence of Palestinian leaders committed to establishing security and
promoting economic growth in the West Bank, these same leaders continue to
refuse to sit with Israel in negotiating a peace agreement.
At the same
time, Hamas – an extremist Islamist organization committed to Israel’s
destruction – continues to rule in the Gaza Strip, holding the Palestinian
population hostage and exposing Israeli civilians to the daily threat of rocket
and terror attacks.
It is clear that there are major challenges, but also
historic opportunities before us to achieve peace in our region. This should be
a fitting moment for the UN to play a constructive role.
the UN can only be as effective as its member states, many of which continue to
lack Churchill’s foresight – or share his beliefs – about the most productive
way to use the institution.
All too often, the cynical politicization of
bodies like the General Assembly detracts from the UN’s credibility as an
objective international forum to resolve conflict and distracts from the vitally
important work that it carries out all over the globe, taking away valuable time
needed to deal with pressing issues like global poverty and hunger, human
trafficking, universal access to clean water and HIV/AIDS.
continues to show that it has much to share in these efforts, whether it is by
deploying police officers and medical personnel as part of the UN mission in
Haiti or offering our unique expertise in agriculture in pursuit of the
organization’s Millennium Development Goals.
Let’s hope that the
international community will again take stock of Churchill’s prophetic words
from more than six decades ago and work to build UN institutions that
effectively advance the causes of global peace and stability.
interest of our region, for the sake of our people and in respect of our
nation’s fundamental values, Israel is prepared to play its part in this
The writer is ambassador to the United Nations.