New ambassador to UN in eye of diplomatic maelstrom

Ron Prosor faces double challenge of dealing with Durban III conference, Palestinian statehood bid in September.

Ron Prosor 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ron Prosor 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
NEW YORK – To take the job of Israeli ambassador at the United Nations at any point, one has to be ready to hit the ground running.
Now in particular, with September’s double-barrelled promise of Durban III and the imminent bid for Palestinian statehood coming to the UN – plus flotilla agita and Arab Spring – the new guy on the block, Ron Prosor, has his hands full.
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“I’ve been running from event to event... the most important thing, of course, is September,” Prosor said late last week.
It’s clear that Israel’s new man in Turtle Bay is more than a little busy. Before coming to New York, Prosor was ambassador to the United Kingdom, which he views as “wonderful preparation” for serving here.
“The bottom line is that I had a front-row seat to the demonization and delegitimization campaigns going on against Israel,” Prosor said, deeming those involved in such campaigns “very sophisticated.”
“For me, the analogy is like Chinese-water torture – it’s a constant drip, and it’s only when someone really makes a huge mistake that you catch them,” Prosor said.
Prosor recounts having seen instances of Israel-vilification that he calls “unbelievable”: “Someone stands up in Westminster and actually talks about Israeli rescue teams in Haiti harvesting organs? That’s the baseline you have to work with? That’s a serious, serious problem.”
This battle of warring outlooks, Prosor said, is one that he anticipates having to fight at the UN.
“I’m not sure the majority here really care about the merits of our arguments, but we don’t have a choice but to hammer home our points again, and again, and again.”
Prosor said he was impressed by the institution’s response to the most recent Gaza flotilla, however.
“From the secretary-general downward, there were serious statements made against the flotilla, saying it’s not constructive – and it’s true,” Prosor said. “It’s clearly a provocation done by extreme organizations that has nothing to do with either humanitarian aid or Palestinian welfare.
“But the interesting thing is that they really went out of their way to tell respective countries that this is their responsibility – and then the Greeks came out with a statement calling on their citizens not to mount the flotilla. You could see things working.”
Shortly after Prosor completed his first stakeout (a press conference for the UN press after a Security Council meeting), he said he enjoyed it.
“I’m quite emotional representing Israel,” Prosor said, mentioning that he had the opportunity to chair the Western European and Other Nations group in the General Assembly for the reelection of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“It’s something for me which was very significant, and allowed me to go directly into the lion’s den [the UN] with a good feeling.”
The true measure of the lion’s den is this September, with its twin challenges of the Durban III commemoration – being boycotted by Israel, the US and Canada – and the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition.
In terms of the Palestinian bid, Prosor said there is “very intensive work” being done both in foreign capitals and at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to reach what he called a “moral minority.”
“We’re basically trying to get like-minded countries to oppose the unilateral declaration of independence by saying that any unilateral steps would not be constructive, but rather, would be the opposite,” Prosor said. “They won’t bring peace, but they will only move us toward violence.”
At the UN, Prosor said, “it’s basically the best place where you have access to 192 states, so we can really work and make that point that we need to go back to direct negotiations – that’s the only way to solve our issues.
“In our minds, what the Palestinians are doing is breaking the Oslo Accords, the interim agreements from 1995, [Security Council Resolutions] 242 and 338 and the road map – all the structures we put in that were not coincidental.”
He warned that a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians would harm previous agreements.
“Doing something unilateral here means that everything that we did in the past is null and void, as if they’re saying, ‘Now, if you don’t give us this or that, we go on a one-way street.’ So we’re trying to get the support of like-minded countries that would understand that unilateral steps would not get us anywhere,” he said.
“We’re going at all levels – heads of state, media – with the real objective of getting everyone back to the negotiation table, and that is the only way to move forward to a two-state solution for two peoples... If someone thinks that someone can impose a solution from the outside on the two parties, it’s a huge mistake.”
Emphasizing Israel’s common humanity is another of Prosor’s goals as ambassador.
He said he wanted to “present Israel in a different light – not just through the conflict, but showing what Israel can really contribute to the world in sustainable development, agriculture, renewable and alternative energy.”
“Where most of the world has no clue, we are leading – this is what Israel is about,” Prosor said, adding that among his objectives is to convey what Israel does in fields beyond the Middle East conflict.
Like his predecessor Meron Reuben, Prosor said it is important for more Israelis to get involved in the UN itself. But when it comes to a discussion of Durban III, Prosor becomes far less diplomatic.
“Durban in general – the whole idea – is racist against Israel, and this is something which is so obvious that countries should disassociate themselves,” he said.
“It’s like the Council on Human Rights. I don’t think there is another organization so unfit for its purpose. They’re like Jack the Ripper running Scotland Yard, or Charles Manson running a criminal investigation of the NYPD. It’s an inherent contradiction in terms.
“We are beginning to see the abnormal stuff that takes place as normal,” Prosor said.
“And we need to say: ‘Just a second – this is completely abnormal.’ The abnormality here has become something which is a state of mind – on issues like human rights and Durban, we really have to fight and make like-minded countries stand up and say, ‘Just a second.’”