Israel and the United Nations have significantly improved their relationships
over the past few months. In July, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had a very
positive meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Also, Israel recently
decided to participate in the UN commission inquiry into the Turkish flotilla
incident. Moreover, The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon firmly confirmed that
the Lebanese military attack on the Israeli force on Israel-Lebanon border
earlier this month was a clear violation of multilateral agreements since Israel
operated on its own soil.
Observers wonder if these events represent a
meaningful strategic change or an opportunistic ad hoc approach. Although time
will tell, a couple of important oberservations can be shared at this point with
regards to the positive sequence of Israel-UN events and their future
First, the Israeli government managed to differentiate between
the various bodies of the UN. In the past, Israel had an absolute
approach towards the United Nations, fighting the legitimacy of the
itself and presenting its flaws and rather blind negative approach
Nowadays, the government is promoting its legitimate
membership status by enhanced participation in more balanced UN forums,
the Economic and Social Council, while still presenting a hawkish
towards hostile and onesided forums, including the Human Rights Council
Geneva. Israel’s cooperation with Ban Ki-Moon’s inquiry panel on the
incident, while attacking the Human Rights Council’s own fact-finding
proves the realistic attitude of its decision makers.
SECOND, THE United
Nations itself changed its core approach to the Middle East conflict.
The UN has
experienced a serious identity and legitimacy crisis in recent years as a
of ethical fiascos, failed structural reforms, such as the one in the
Council, and various attempts to create a competitive and more
in the form of a union of democracies.
As a result, the UN Secretariat
has made a lot of efforts to increase governments and NGOs participation
gain legitimacy. The UN’s efforts to respond to the anti-Israeli bias
avoid one-sided commissions are part of the ongoing improvements in the
relationships between the parties.
Third, the United States, Israel’s
closest ally at the UN through its veto power at the Security Council
economic and military superpower position, had to adjust itself to the
economic and political power of emerging economies. The recent Brazilian
to broker a deal and solve the Iranian nuclear crisis is an example for
order of multilateral powers.
The now-limited US impact forces Israel to
work closer with the UN and its numerous members.
Finally, it is
necessary to differentiate between the silent and consistent majority at
General Assembly in New York, which frequently supports anti-Israel
and the UN leadership and its various agencies. These institutions
the contribution of Israeli diplomats and experts to their humanitarian
economic operations. They are also well aware that their ability to
in a meaningful manner to the Middle East conflict can only be done
constructive cooperation with all sides involved and not by automatic
meaningless resolutions. The leadership of the UN has mentioned that
Globalization of technology and human forums makes political
isolation impossible. Israel has recently realized that despite its
and strong internal anti-democratic influences the UN is, in fact, an
multilateral institution that shapes public opinion worldwide, even if
do so the way sovereign governments do. Israel will have to continue
the right political and financial capital in order to further develop
approach. Bringing the Israeli voice to the institution and
its economic and development agencies are just some of the ways to build
needed Israeli credibility.
The United Nations is far from perfect. Yet,
Israel cannot afford ignoring the UN given the current political climate
Middle East. Recent changes in the relationships between the parties
started showing fruitful results. It may be the right time for Abba
Shmum” legacy to be re-examined.
The writer is an international law
scholar and practitioner and the Permanent Representative to the United
of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.