Ron Prosor, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, said relations at the international body are improving “under the radar,” despite the shibboleth of structural bias inherent in the international institution.
“At the UN, there’s 22 countries in the Arab League, 57 Islamic countries and 120 non-alignment countries… and only one Jewish state,” Ambassador Prosor told an audience at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, in New York City, on Wednesday.
Because of the difficulty in receiving a majority of 193 possible votes, Israel has only sponsored three resolutions at the UN.
“The first resolution we sponsored, the very first thing we did at the UN, was to establish January 27 as Holocaust Memorial Day,” he said.
Afterwards, the strategy was to find areas where Israeli expertise played to the interests of even hostile powers. The second resolution, to support new Agriculture Technologies for Development, was his example.
“This was in everyone’s interest, and we saw the Arab countries, which would benefit more than anyone, all vote against it, work against it, and this will continue until they’re more interested in the prospects for their own people than condemning Israel.”
The measure, as a Second Committee resolution, is voted on biennially, being adopted in 2007, with 118 countries voting in favor; in 2009, with 131 votes; in 2011, with 133 votes; and in 2013, with 138 countries voting in favor.
The third resolution was about Entrepreneurship for Development, and Israel’s delegation secured 141 out of 193 possible votes.
“The Ambassador from Tanzania, stood up, and said, ‘I, too, condemn the situation of Palestinians, but I like Israel very much!’”
“I was so happy, I nearly hugged him!” Prosor said.
He said many other ambassadors would tell him “this is nothing personal,” and then turn around to condemn Israel or vote the opposite way.
The Israeli delegation’s policy, especially for relations with ambassadors from the Arab world, was, initially, to ignore their slurs. But with the human rights crises in the Middle East and the spread of access to international news, the Israeli delegation felt emboldened to change tactics.
“Now, when everyone goes against us, we will respond,” he said.
When Israel was asked about UN programs that support the rights of women in society, Prosor spoke about Golda Meir, Israel’s female prime minister, about Tzipi Livni, the female Justice Minister for the present Israeli government, and said he was happy to point to his colleagues from the Arab world, and ask where they stood “on women, on gays?”
“Now they see there’s a response from us, and they don’t want to be singled out, so they say nothing,” he said.
While tactics have changed, Prosor said the biggest impact on the Israeli delegation in the future will be from the changing dynamic in the Middle East, with Iran’s emergence leading delegations from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to think higher of their Israeli colleagues for standing up against the Iranian nuclear threat.
In the corridors of power at the UN, while other diplomats, always off the record, may be glad to see Israel standing taller at the institution “under the radar,” one accredited representative of an NGO at the UN said, for publication, that it was great news.
“It is intriguing, interesting and important that Israeli’s ambassador to the UN would make such an optimistic statement,” said Dr. Judy Kuriansky, representative to the United Nations for the International Association of Applied Psychology and the World Council for Psychotherapy. “In the context of the events that often happen here, it’s a credit to what the institution of the United Nations is meant to stand for.”