Mongolia's absence at UN Israel votes signals warming ties

Surprisingly, the massive, land-locked Asian country's interests align with Israel's.

Security personnel chat next to the statue of Genghis Khan at the parliament building in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Security personnel chat next to the statue of Genghis Khan at the parliament building in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A look at Mongolia’s voting record on Israel over the last few months shows an interesting pattern – the land-locked country sandwiched between Russia and China does not, like it’s two giant neighbors, reflexively vote against Israel in the UN.
Nor does it vote for Israel or abstain. Mongolia simply does not show up to vote.
If this had happened once, then it could be chalked up to the Mongolian envoy to the UN getting tied up in traffic. The same could be true if it happened twice. But if it happens again and again then it reveals a pattern apparently born of a conscious decision, and is seen in Jerusalem as a manifestation of warming ties between Israel and Mongolia.
Mongolia – a country of just over three million people – was not in the room when the UN General Assembly passed its anti-Israel resolution on Gaza last week. It was not in the room in May when the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva voted to establish an investigative committee into violence at the Gaza fence. And it was not in attendance in December when the General Assembly condemned the US for moving its capital to Jerusalem.
Hagai Shagrir, deputy head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asia-Pacific department, said Israel very much appreciates this pattern, and that Jerusalem is working hard to change the voting patterns in Asia.
“Mongolia is very friendly, like-minded, democratic country with whom it is important for Israel to strengthen ties,” he said. Shagrir said these friendly ties will manifest themselves in two weeks time when the two countries hold a diplomatic dialogue.
Israel does not have an embassy in Mongolia, nor does Mongolia have one in Israel, and Jerusalem’s interests in the country are represented by Israel’s ambassador in China, who travels to Mongolia three times a year.
Mongolia’s foreign minister visited Israel last August, and Z. Enkhbold – the chief of staff of President Khaltmaa Battulga – attended the AIPAC annual policy conference in Washington in March. Shagrir said, however, that Mongolia’s interests in stronger ties with Israel are not part of efforts to draw closer to the United States.
Battulga wrote a letter to President Reuven Rivlin on the occasion of Israel’s 70th anniversary earlier this year, wishing his “heartfelt congratulations” on the “historic occasion.”
“Mongolia and Israel are nations with ancient history and culture, and I am delighted to note that, presently, the cooperation between the two countries and the close relations between our two people are growing,” he wrote.
Mongolia’s interests in ties with Israel are believed to be based on three pillars.
First – as reflected in Battulga’s letter – there is a deep respect in Mongolia for a civilization that has maintained its traditions for thousands of years.
Secondly, the Mongolians have border security concerns, primarily on the Chinese border, and are interested in learning from Israel expertise about border security issues.
Finally, former US secretary of state John Kerry once referred to Mongolia as an “oasis of democracy” in a very tough neighborhood, and the Mongolians are looking to learn from the experience of Israel, which they recognize is a country very much in a similar predicament.