(photo credit: Israeli Mission to the UN)
NEW YORK – There was chocolate in abundance at the Israeli Mission to the UN in New York on Thursday, in tribute to the departing Deputy Ambassador Haim Waxman, 49.
Waxman, a self-professed chocolate-lover who has served as the deputy ambassador since August 16, 2010, reflected on his time in New York and at the UN, and said he hoped to some day see Israel’s position at the UN normalize.
“Israel is not above criticism, but we are being treated differently,” he said, referring to the UN’s institutional bias against the country. The number of resolutions and special procedures passed against Israel, Waxman said, makes the job of an Israeli diplomat at the UN very different, and often more difficult, than that of his counterparts.
“These are the kind of things that we should not accept, and I think the world should not accept,” he said.
But beyond addressing conflicts in Israel and the Middle East, the departing ambassador said he hoped to see Israel contributing more positively to the UN in the future, and pointed to the resolution on “Entrepreneurship for Development” in the developing world as an example.
The resolution, introduced and spearheaded by Israel, passed in December 2012 with 141 yes votes, despite a boycott by the Arab nations. It was the first resolution Israel has ever managed to get passed on the floor of the General Assembly. “This is, for me, the highest point in my time here,” Waxman said.
“We’ve been trying, I think quite successfully, to identify Israel as the start-up nation in the UN,” he said. “We made the journey, 65 years ago, from being a developing country and being very poor, to being the very successful country we are today. So I think many countries here understand that and would like to learn from that.”
Waxman remained adamant that despite the skeptics in Israel, his country has a constructive role to play at the world body.
“The UN has many problems,” he admitted, “but there are issues where it is doing an important job. People should understand that when we are participating as equals and as a country that has a lot to offer, we are not only being a good citizen of the world, we’re gaining a lot of acceptance and goodwill from many other actors here.”
In other words, it’s not all ‘Um Shmum,’ or an irrelevant UN, he said, referencing the scornful phrase David Ben-Gurion coined in 1955, with “Um” the Hebrew acronym for the United Nations.
Of his successor, David Roet, who takes the reins on Thursday, Waxman said, “He has big challenges ahead. He’s lucky to head, together with Ambassador [Ron] Prosor, a fantastic mission, with very dedicated people. We really believe in bringing the best of Israel to the UN, and this is what they do every day, day in and day out, even when it’s not easy.”
When asked what his next step was, Waxman said that he didn’t know, but since he’s approaching his 50th birthday perhaps he should take a sabbatical. “I didn’t think about that! The shnat shmita [“shabbat year”], it’s 49 years. Now we know what I’m going to do next!” he said.