(photo credit: Courtesy)
WASHINGTON – Israel’s ambassador to the UN warned the Palestinians against going
to the world body with a unilateral declaration of statehood, saying it could
lead to the disintegration of all agreements previously made between Jerusalem
A “unilateral [declaration] will bring about the abrogation
of all agreements until today, because in the agreements it’s specifically
stated that the sides cannot bring their case to international bodies,” Meron
Reuben declared Tuesday in comments to the B’nai B’rith International Policy
Conference in Washington.
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Such unilateral actions, he continued, “will
throw into doubt the whole process.”
Reuben, who was responding to a
question from the audience on the possibility Palestinians would make such a
move, as they have recently threatened, pointed out that if they were to go
ahead, Israel would have to “face the consequences” – but so would the
In his prepared remarks, Reuben also pushed back against
the singling out of Israel at the UN “in a one-sided manner that denies our most
fundamental right to defend our citizens.”
But in response to another
question, he later noted that Israel is looking strategically at the issue to
improve its place in the organization, applying for membership in the Security
Council for later in the decade and stepping up its engagement with the agency
that controls the UN’s budget.
Reuben noted that Israel is the
31st-largest contributor to the UN in the world, and is hoping to use its
expanded economic influence to curb some of the tremendous UN focus and
antagonism toward Israel over the Palestinian issue.
“We’d like to put
some spokes in the Palestinian wheel,” Reuben said of the strategy, but noted it
wouldn’t “be easy” to change the climate there.
One of the UN agencies
most frequently attacked by defenders of Israel for bias against the Jewish
state is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
A top UNRWA official
was also in Washington Tuesday, however, to make the case to Congress that the
organization was not opposed to Israel.
UNRWA’s director for operations
in the Gaza Strip, John Ging, met with close to 50 congressional staff members
in a visit facilitated by J Street to focus attention on the humanitarian
situation on the ground in Gaza and get more funds and supplies for its
residents’ well-being, something which he argued would help Israelis and
“The generosity of the American taxpayer is at the
top of the countries who contribute to help fund the human development and
support the humanitarian operations on the ground, and I think, drawing from
that starting point, there is a high level of commitment here and a high level
of interest to know more and understand better,” he said of his reception on
In January, Republicans will take over the US House of
Representatives and many – including the expected new chairwoman of the House
Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – are highly critical of the UN,
and specifically UNRWA.
“There’s a change in the House and we have to
take note of that. We respect all those who are elected and the roles that they
play,” Ging said when asked about the incoming leadership.
“We will face
a new set of challenges which we have to embrace, and we have to step up to meet
those challenges, in the first instance by presenting our case.”
after his meetings, Ging said he wanted to clarify “misinformation” such as the
assertion that allowing cement to come into Gaza for UN projects could end up in
the hands of Hamas, as Israel fears.
He said it was important for those
involved in the issue to “embrace some difficult truths,” though he added that
didn’t mean UNRWA should weigh in on political issues. He strongly criticized
another UNRWA official, Andrew Whitley, outgoing head of UNRWA’s New York
Representative Office, for recently saying that rather than vainly waiting to
fulfill their “right of return,” Palestinians must start acknowledging that the
refugees will almost certainly not be returning to Israel so that they can
improve their situation.
“Andrew betrayed his responsibility as a UN
official to stay within the parameters of his mandate, which is entirely
regretted and regrettable,” Ging said of Whitley’s comments, though he commended
him for his “courageous” admission that he erred.
Ging described a dire
situation on the ground among Palestinians, but did note some
Since Israel’s embargo on goods was eased this summer, he
said, Palestinians can now find all the household wares and food they need in
stores, greatly diminishing the illegal smuggling through the tunnels from
He also said that not only has Hamas stopped firing rockets at
southern Israel, it’s carrying out patrols against other militant
“They’re enforcing it,” he said, “which is a positive