By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
The international community understands and is sympathetic to Israel's program for unilateral realignment in the West Bank, according to Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman. He stopped short, however, of saying that the world would recognize boundaries set by Israel as part of that plan.
"In principle they are very sympathetic about Israel finally taking the initiative as a follow-up to the disengagement, which they very much approve of, and which I think did a lot to improve Israel's standing in the world," Gillerman told The Jerusalem Post following a lecture Sunday on Israel in the eyes of the world.
"I think they would prefer for a settlement to be reached through negotiation, and I think that's also what the prime minister would like to do," he continued, adding that should negotiations fail, "they fully understand why Israel has to take some steps to end this deadlock."
In general, he told the Jewish Agency Assembly gathered in Jerusalem, when it comes to the public relations war, "Israel is slowly, gradually, painfully winning."
At the same time, he urged the UN to "make the transition from words to deeds" and exhibit "substance and decisiveness" on the issue of Iran, who has been spared sanctions due to its nuclear program only because of Russia's and China's Security Council veto.
Gillerman attributed Israel's successes to the realization, since 9/11, that the whole world and not only Israel faces the same threat of terror - in other words, that Earth is witnessing World War III.
"This is a world war," he declared. "It is taking place and killing people in more places than the first world wars ever did.
"Because we are at the forefront of that war and because the world is changing so dramatically, we are no longer alone [and] we are achieving things we never thought possible."
In enumerating those achievements, he pointed to diplomatic victories including the adoption of the first Israel-sponsored resolution to mark the liberation of Auschwitz and, most recently, the election of a Bar-Ilan professor who beat out "hundreds of candidates" to win a place on the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Meanwhile, Gillerman reported that Israel had not been condemned by the Security Council once in the past four years and that "with everything that's been happening in the last few weeks, the Arabs and the Palestinians have not been successful in even convening the Security Council."
He also concluded that Israel's improved international position resulted from its being seen to be making positive contributions in fields such as science, agriculture, the arts - plus, that the world is crazy as well as changed.
"You know the world is crazy when the world's greatest rapper is white, the world's greatest golfer is black, the world's greatest soldiers are Jewish, the Germans don't want to go to war and the French... accuse the Americans of being arrogant," he quipped.
The comment was not the only one to elicit laughter from his listeners, who gave him two standing ovations. He began his speech by joking that the friendly faces and warm welcome of the audience made him feel "just as if I'm in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly."
Though his comment was sarcastic, Gillerman underscored the changed attitude toward Israel at the UN by relating that when he was sent in 2003, he was told that he would be ostracized and isolated, and that "today, to a very large extent, that has changed."
He noted, though, that he always felt that he had more supporters with him thanks to the support of the American Jewish community, many of whose members sat in the audience before him.
Gillerman noted that Israel's UN delegation comprises only five diplomats - the same as the mission from the Bahamas.
But, he said, "As opposed to the Bahaman mission, we have thousands of soldiers and officers on our side."
Gillerman spoke on the first day of the Assembly's convening. On Monday morning, former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler, former US special Middle East envoy Dennis Ross and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, will address the assembly. Later in the day, author A.B. Yehoshua and others will discuss Jewishness and Israel.â€¢
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