Imagine Israel as a Security Council member

Israel-UN relations suffer from a time warp which must be corrected without delay.

un security council 88 g (photo credit: )
un security council 88 g
(photo credit: )
Today's anniversary of Israel's admission to the United Nations on May 11, 1949, is a suitable opportunity to look back at what has clearly been a troubled relationship. But rather than examining the past, it would perhaps be more useful to be forward-looking. Like it or not, the UN is the premier organ of the international community and as David Ben-Gurion said in a speech in the Knesset in June 1950, "As a people that enjoys equal rights, we share responsibility for humanity and for international peace." Israel has both the right and the duty to be a full member of the UN without discrimination or stumbling blocks. Normalizing Israel's position within the UN is not only a challenge for Israeli diplomacy, and indeed progress has been made in many fields, but it is crucial for the UN itself. As the UN consolidates a process of reform, set out by the Millennium Summit last autumn, it is becoming progressively clear to the international community that any reform that does not deal once and for all with the anti-Israel policies and architecture of the UN will be inherently flawed. The shared challenge of Israel and the UN is to ensure that the geopolitical changes that have occurred following the end of the Cold War are mirrored in the multinational arena. Since the early 1990s Israel's bilateral relations have dramatically improved. Such change has unfortunately not yet sufficiently affected Israel's position within the UN. This must change as the UN struggles to reform itself to make it relevant to the challenges of the new millennium. In short Israel-UN relations suffer from a time warp which must be corrected without delay. Recent developments indicate that such a change, while by no means easy, is not beyond reach. Perhaps the most significant breakthrough came about six years ago when Israel became a temporary member of the Western European and Others (WEOG) group. As the work of the UN is carried out on the basis of regional groupings, membership in a group is essential for all member states, yet this was for decades denied to one state - Israel. Temporary membership in WEOG in New York for voting purposes was the first step in ending the inbuilt discrimination against Israel. And since then, Israel has been successful in presenting candidacies for various UN positions, with the highlight so far being Israel's vice presidency of the present General Assembly. LAST YEAR also saw the UN giving long overdue attention to Holocaust remembrance: an exhibition on Auschwitz was displayed at UN headquarters, the General Assembly held a Special Session to commemorate 60 years since the liberation of the concentration camps, and in November a resolution, initiated by Israel and co-sponsored by over 100 countries, was adopted establishing January 27 as the annual international day of Holocaust remembrance, promoting Holocaust education and condemning Holocaust denial. In all these initiatives UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan played an instrumental and active role. ISRAEL'S DIPLOMATIC agenda with regard to the UN is to build upon these achievements and to end the singling out of Israel in three main areas. • Firstly, Israel aspires for full participation in all Western consultation groups within the UN system. Membership of WEOG for voting purposes only is important but insufficient. It is unacceptable that Israel cannot take part in regional consultations and it is particularly ludicrous when an Israeli, elected by WEOG, is barred from participating in consultations when representing his own group. Annan has repeatedly called for full Israeli participation in such consultative groups both during his visit to Israel last year for the opening of the new Yad Vashem museum and just recently when he expressed his hope that "Israel will be accepted without question as a member by the whole family of nations." • Secondly, Israel will vigorously promote its candidacy for temporary membership of the Security Council for the years 2019-2020. The ambassador of the United States to the UN, John Bolton, has said that while there are five permanent members of the Security Council there is unfortunately one permanent non member - Israel. That Israel has never been a member of the Security Council is a blemish on the history of the UN. We will do all we can and expect the support of friendly states to ensure that no positions, however high, are closed to Israel. • Thirdly, the ritual by which the UN General Assembly discusses and adopts a plethora of anti-Israeli resolutions every year must be ended. Can anyone honestly say that Israel "deserved" to be the target of 18 of the 71 General Assembly resolutions adopted by vote last year? And in particular is it right, proper and useful that these resolutions allow the continued operation of official organs of the UN whose sole raison d'etre is to engage in pro-Palestinian propaganda including the delegitimization of Israel? But the need to put a stop to this farce goes beyond Israeli foreign policy. If the UN is to be relevant it must make sure that its agenda and institutions tackle all relevant issues fairly and objectively without singling out any one conflict or state. And this is also true for the newly established Human Rights Council that must abandon the anti-Israeli policies of its predecessor if it is to be taken seriously. Israel expects that these changes will be part and parcel of UN reform not just for the good of Israel but for the benefit of the UN itself and all it stands for. The writer is counselor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Department for Political Affairs at the United Nations.