'I’ve got the skills for the job'

Meron Reuben tells ‘Post’ he hopes to win Netanyahu's confidence.

meron reuben 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
meron reuben 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Meron Reuben, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s surprise choice for interim envoy to the UN, has addressed criticism of his appointment in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, saying that while he is not the only person capable of doing the job, he is certainly among those qualified to hold the prestigious post.
Reuben, whose mother tongue is English, said that he was honored – and very pleasantly surprised – to have been selected by Lieberman, whose office called him about a month ago to tell him he was the minister’s choice. Reuben, a 22-year veteran of the ministry, was not one of the names that had been mentioned for months as a possible candidate.
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The 49-year-old, South African-born Reuben, who also speaks fluent Spanish, said his 11 years of diplomatic activity in South America – where he learned an enormous amount about the Third World – and his 11 years working in different capacities in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem had prepared him for the multifaceted position in New York.
Lieberman announced last Friday that he was appointing Reuben as interim envoy to the UN, a move taken so he could bypass Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and not need to get his approval for the appointment. The two, at odds over a number of issues, have for months been unable to agree on whom to send to the UN. The term of the current ambassador, Gabriela Shalev, expires on September 1.
Reuben, who has not yetspoken to Netanyahu, acknowledged that while he had Lieberman’s confidence, he would have to work to build confidence with the prime minister.
Asked if he felt like a pawn in a power struggle between Netanyahu and Lieberman, Reuben responded, “I am not a politician. Granted, I played student politics in my youth, but I left it. I am a civil servant. My foreign minister has asked me to take on a very important post, the most important post in my 22-year career, and I will do it to the best of my ability.”
Reuben, Israel’s ambassador to Colombia, met Lieberman when the latter spent two days in Bogota during his South American tour last summer. A few days after Colombia’s elections in mid-June, when Lieberman called him to get a sense of how he thought things would play out, Lieberman’s aides told him he was being considered for the post.
“I presume it is the dream of every diplomat to be either ambassador in Washington, or in the UN; these are the top positions in any country’s diplomacy,” he said. “But had I thought about it two months ago? No.”
Reuben will be only the second Foreign Ministry employee to hold the post in 35 years. He said he had been asked to take up the job on an interim basis.
“If it becomes more than temporary, then it will be nice,” he said.