Lieberman’s envoy gets mixed reviews

Appointment of envoy to UN made without PM approval.

Reuven 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Reuven 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s appointment of veteran diplomat Meron Reuben as the next ambassador to the UN received mixed reviews inside the foreign ministry over the weekend, with some praising Lieberman for appointing someone in-house to the plum post, and others saying Reuben doesn’t have the media savvy to star on such a large diplomatic stage.
Leiberman reportedly made the appointment without informing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu because six months ago Netanyahu prevented Lieberman from bringing his preferred candidate, former consul-general in NY Alon Pinkas, to the cabinet for approval. Reuben’s appointment is a temporary one, meaning that it does not have to go to the cabinet for approval. One foreign ministry official, however, said that after a few months the appointment would most likely become permanent.
RELATED:Meron Reuven appointed UN ambassadorIsraeli UN ambassador resigns
The South African-born Reuben, who speaks English as his mother tongue, is currently ambassador to Colombia, and has served in the past as envoy to Paraguay and Bolivia. He is well respected inside the ministry as a professional, highly competent and efficient diplomat.
“He is a solid diplomat who has a good track record and has proven himself,” one official said.
The official added that Lieberman’s choice of a Foreign Ministry official for the job, which for years has gone to political appointees from the outside, is good for morale inside the ministry.
At the same time, some questioned the selection of Reuben for the post, since his expertise has been concentrated on South America. In addition to serving in Bolivia, Paraguay and Colombia, he has also served at Israel’s embassies in Mexico and Chile.
Official: Reuven may be viewed by some as their junior
One official said that the 49-year-old Reuben is a mid-level professional, and that some inside the ministry who have reached the level of deputy director-general may have difficult working with someone who they view as their junior.
“It’s like taking the crime reporter, and making him editor-in-chief of a major paper,” one official said. “How would the paper’s senior journalists take to it?” The appointment of Reuben puts to an end months of speculation about who will replace Gabriela Shalev, a political appointment made by Tzipi Livni two years ago when she was foreign minister.
Shalev, an academic and expert in international law, has been praised for grunt work she has performed inside the UN at a time when Israel’s international standing is at low ebb.
But at the same time she has come under criticism for less than brilliant media performances and rhetorical abilities in English.
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, speaking at a farewell dinner on Wednesday in New York, praised Shalev for her performance, saying she would go down in history as one of Israel’s best UN envoys.
Reuben was born in Cape Town and moved to London at the age of 10.
Three years later he moved to Israel. He served as a flight supervisor in the air force, and earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s in diplomacy from the Hebrew University. He joined the Foreign Ministry in 1988.
Reuben is expected to take up his new post on September 1.
Traditionally, the prime minister has the final say in the appointment of the ambassador to the US, while the foreign minister selects the envoy to the UN.
Among the names that were discussed over the past few months for the UN post have been former UN ambassador Dore Gold, current ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor, and current Foreign Ministry director-general Yossi Gal.
Lieberman and Netanyahu must now decide on who will replace Assaf Shariv as consul-general in New York. Like Shalev, Shariv is expected to return to Israel in early September.