Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a state visit to Kazakhstan on Wednesday asked President Nursultan Nazarbayev for assistance in getting Israel accepted as a rotating member of the 15-member UN Security Council.
“We helped you get accepted as a member of the Security Council and now we are asking you to help us be a member of the council, as well,” Netanyahu said at a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the Kazakh capital of Astana.
The council is composed of five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – and 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly. Kazakhstan will begin its term in January.
Should Israel indeed become a member, Netanyahu said it would be further proof that Israel is not isolated on the international stage and of the dramatic changes its foreign relations are undergoing.
“I must tell you that I said that my hope is, and I say this to all our friends, that the great partnership that we are building here will also be reflected in international forums like the UN,” Netanyahu said.
Until now, Kazakhstan has almost always voted against Israel on significant votes for Jerusalem in the UN.
Israel first made public its intention to vie for a seat on the Security Council in September 2005, soon after it withdrew from the Gaza Strip. That month, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon was warmly received in the UN because of the withdrawal, and then-foreign minister Silvan Shalom announced that Israel would vie for a spot in 2019.
Candidates for the non-permanent seats on the council are allocated according to regional blocs. As of 2000, Israel became a member of the 28-strong WEOG regional group, which opened the door to Israel’s possible participation in the Security Council.
The 2019 date was the first available date in which both WEOG slots had not already been claimed.
In 2013, Jerusalem was miffed when Germany threw its hat into what until then was only a two-country race for the two open WEOG seats, significantly reducing Israel’s chances.
To win a place on the Security Council, each country needs at least a twothirds majority in the General Assembly, or support from 128 countries. Belgium is also trying to win a slot on the influential council.
Israel is the only country in the Mideast – and one of 67 in the UN, many of those small, island states – that has never sat on the Security Council, a body that historically has had a tremendous impact on Israel and the region.
Prior to addressing the media, the two leaders and their aides discussed ties between the two countries and various international issues. Nazarbayev said during the press conference that his country had requested Israel’s help in training its special forces as part of their cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan with an iron fist since it declared independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, has visited Israel twice. In his discussions with Netanyahu, he expressed his country’s desire to increase cooperation with Israel in the fields of agriculture and technology.
Kazakhstan, a Muslim country with a secular regime located in Central Asia, provides about 20% of Israel’s oil, valued at approximately $700 million a year.
Netanyahu arrived in Kazakhstan after a short six-hour visit on Tuesday to Azerbaijan, which is also one of Israel’s biggest oil providers.
The Azerbaijan visit was highlighted by the surprise announcement by President Ilham Aliyev that, over the years, his country had signed more than $5 billion in contracts to buy weapons and security equipment from Israel.
Economic ties are at the center of Netanyahu’s visit to Kazakhstan. He addressed and a conference featuring business people from both countries, calling on the Kazakh business leaders to discover Israel’s business potential and increase cooperation.
Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who is accompanying Netanyahu on the trip, told The Jerusalem Post: “Kazakhstan is a massive country, rich in natural resources that enjoys close relations with Russia and China, as well as having good relations with the US.”
Kazakhstan’s special strategic importance, according to Elkin, could serve as an important bridge for the Israeli economy and help companies from Israel enter the Chinese market.
“Israel has still not discovered the Kazakh potential, and it is also the government’s responsibility to promote business with it,” said Elkin.