(photo credit: Courtesy)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s appointment of veteran diplomat Meron
Reuben as the next ambassador to the UN received mixed reviews inside the
foreign ministry over the weekend, with some praising Lieberman for appointing
someone in-house to the plum post, and others saying Reuben doesn’t have the
media savvy to star on such a large diplomatic stage.
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reportedly made the appointment without informing Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu because six months ago Netanyahu prevented Lieberman from bringing his
preferred candidate, former consul-general in NY Alon Pinkas, to the cabinet for
approval. Reuben’s appointment is a temporary one, meaning that it does not have
to go to the cabinet for approval. One foreign ministry official, however, said
that after a few months the appointment would most likely become
The South African-born Reuben, who speaks English as his
mother tongue, is currently ambassador to Colombia, and has served in the past
as envoy to Paraguay and Bolivia. He is well respected inside the ministry as a
professional, highly competent and efficient diplomat.
“He is a solid
diplomat who has a good track record and has proven himself,” one official
The official added that Lieberman’s choice of a Foreign Ministry
official for the job, which for years has gone to political appointees from the
outside, is good for morale inside the ministry.
At the same time, some
questioned the selection of Reuben for the post, since his expertise has been
concentrated on South America. In addition to serving in Bolivia, Paraguay and
Colombia, he has also served at Israel’s embassies in Mexico and
Official: Reuven may be viewed by some as their junior
One official said that the 49-year-old Reuben is a mid-level
professional, and that some inside the ministry who have reached the level of
deputy director-general may have difficult working with someone who they view as
“It’s like taking the crime reporter, and making him
editor-in-chief of a major paper,” one official said. “How would the paper’s
senior journalists take to it?” The appointment of Reuben puts to an end months
of speculation about who will replace Gabriela Shalev, a political appointment
made by Tzipi Livni two years ago when she was foreign minister.
an academic and expert in international law, has been praised for grunt work she
has performed inside the UN at a time when Israel’s international standing is at
But at the same time she has come under criticism for less than
brilliant media performances and rhetorical abilities in English.
Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, speaking at a farewell dinner on Wednesday in
New York, praised Shalev for her performance, saying she would go down in
history as one of Israel’s best UN envoys.
Reuben was born in Cape Town
and moved to London at the age of 10.
Three years later he moved to
Israel. He served as a flight supervisor in the air force, and earned a
bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s in diplomacy from
the Hebrew University. He joined the Foreign Ministry in 1988.
expected to take up his new post on September 1.
Traditionally, the prime
minister has the final say in the appointment of the ambassador to the
the foreign minister selects the envoy to the UN.
Among the names that
were discussed over the past few months for the UN post have been former
ambassador Dore Gold, current ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor, and
Foreign Ministry director-general Yossi Gal.
Lieberman and Netanyahu must
now decide on who will replace Assaf Shariv as consul-general in New
Shalev, Shariv is expected to return to Israel in early September.