Ron Prosor 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After more than six months of internal squabbling, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have agreed to dispatch
seasoned diplomat Ron Prosor as ambassador to the United Nations.
what, realistically, can any Israeli ambassador hope to achieve there? This is a
body in which more than 118 members identify with the farcically labeled
“nonaligned” bloc: an interlocking directorate that includes 57 countries
belonging to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, 22 members of the Arab
League, and five countries (Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and North Korea)
that have no diplomatic relations with Israel. As if this weren’t bad enough,
the European Union nowadays rarely takes any initiative to support the country’s
right to self-defense, and even Washington has been known to express its pique
by occasionally throwing Jerusalem to the jackals.
The first UN
ambassador, Abba Eban (1949- 1959), who served concurrently as ambassador to
Washington, essentially disregarded his immediate audience to address his
“language and emotion to the wider world beyond.” His successor Michael Comay
became one of the country’s leading representatives to American Jewry. In the
lead-up to the Six Day War, Gideon Rafael transmitted diplomatic messages from
American decision-makers that the cabinet interpreted as providing a green light
for a preemptive attack.
Not much, however, could be done inside the UN
itself. In rebutting Yasser Arafat’s gun-toting November 1974 speech to the
General Assembly, Yosef Tekoa directed himself mainly to Israel’s friends
outside. Similarly, Chaim Herzog, in literally tearing apart the November 1975
resolution defining Zionism as “a form of racism,” was likewise speaking to the
civilized world beyond.
To the renowned jurist Yehuda Blum, who served
from 1978 to 1984, the UN had become an arena that actively “fanned the flames
of Arab-Israel conflict.” His successor Binyamin Netanyahu alternated between
fighting off attempts to deny the country’s credentials at the General Assembly
and deploying his considerable polemical talents in the American
The subsequent tenures of Yohanan Bein, Yoram Aridor and Gad
Ya’acobi were marked by the growing tilt of the world body toward the PLO.
Although the “Zionism is racism” resolution was rescinded under US pressure in
the early 1990s, Aridor could do nothing about the Security Council’s
condemnation of Israel for deporting 12 Palestinian terrorists to Lebanon during
the first intifada. Even at the height of the Oslo era, Ya’acobi was unable to
dissuade the US from joining in yet another sweeping Security Council
condemnation – this, in the wake of Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Arab
worshipers in Hebron.
By the time Dore Gold – an effective public
diplomat and the first American-born Israeli appointed to the post – arrived in
the late 1990s, the template was as if set in concrete.
Assembly vote of 131 to 3, blasting housing construction in Jerusalem, was
followed, under Gold’s successor Yehuda Lancry, by shameless condemnations of
“excessive use of force” during the barbaric Palestinian violence of the second
WHICH BRINGS us closer to the present. Dan Gillerman, arguably
the most thriving of recent ambassadors, succeeded in promoting the first
Israel-sponsored resolutions ever adopted by the UN, and in impelling secretary-
general Kofi Annan to speak out against the UN’s ad nauseam attacks. But the
attacks continued, as witness the powerlessness of Gabriela Shalev against the
campaign – led by Judge Richard Goldstone – to eviscerate Israel’s right to
defend its civilian population along the Gaza border.
Plainly, the labors
of ambassadors have taken on a Sisyphean character. If the country nevertheless
persists in trying, it is only because the UN is still where the dysfunctional
family of nations, such as it is, comes together to make consequential
collective decisions. In any event, Prosor’s main role will again be to
represent the country beyond the UN’s corridors – most prominently to the global
media and the US Jewish community.
This is a task he will partly share
with Ambassador to the US Michael Oren.
True, their role has not been
made easier by the evident inability of officialdom to speak with one voice.
Should an ambassador take Netanyahu’s own public statements as his marching
orders, or the contradictory line articulated by Lieberman at his 2010 UN
address? Further complicating matters is the cacophony of voices on the
Internet, each claiming to know what’s best for the country.
advantage in both public and private settings is that he is a compelling figure
with superior communications skills and diplomatic heft. Much else depends on
the two men who have belatedly sent him to the UN, the sometimes incongruent
policies of which have their own effect on the country’s image in the media and
its public support, especially in the US. That support, in the end, counts
infinitely more than any vote taken in Turtle Bay.The writer is a former
Jerusalem Post editorial page editor, and is now contributing editor to Jewish
Ideas Daily (www.jewishideasdaily.com), where this article was first published
and is reprinted with permission.