Diplomat: Israeli Resolution at UN Cosponsored by Record 114 Countries Shows Weakening of Arab Bloc
by Dovid Efune
A United Nations resolution brought forward by Israel that received a record number of co-sponsors earlier this week, was seen as a weakening of the Arab-led alliance against Israel at the UN, an Israeli diplomat told The Algemeiner.
Simonne Levavi, Israel’s Adviser on Social and Economic Affairs at the UN mission, who worked to build consensus for the Agricultural Technology for Development resolution, also said that Israel is becoming known at the UN for other issues besides the Palestinian one.
“Israel and the mission here at the UN are increasingly becoming more active in issues outside of the Palestinian issue, and people are recognizing that, and people are recognizing that Israel has something to say especially in terms of development and technology,” Levavi said.
Levavi answered in the affirmative when asked if she thought that UN members were tiring of the Palestinian issue. “You can just see in the room that people are like ‘oh this again,'” she said, referring to the moment when harsh criticism was leveled against Israel by Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority as the resolution was adopted.
Levavi also said that the vote in effect isolated the Arab bloc.
“The G-77, which is a big bloc of 130 countries, negotiate together on development resolutions, and on our resolution they didn’t negotiate in one bloc,” she said, “because the Arab group which is part of this larger group didn’t join.”
“We have a resolution which breaks up this group because they can’t agree, the Arab group can’t convince the whole group to not engage on the resolution at all, because there are African countries there that really care about agricultural technologies.”
“On a development issue, it is very rare that they split up,” she said.
The biannual resolution is one of two that Israel pushes routinely. The first time that this particular resolution was presented was in 2007, and the amount of co-sponsors has risen every time since. Two years ago, 103 co-sponsors signed on, eleven less than this year. Israel’s other biannual resolution is entitled “Entrepreneurship for Development,” and it most recently attracted 97 co-sponsors.
Although among the co-sponsors, which included India, Brazil and Argentina, were members of the powerful Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Arab states forced the resolution to a vote, even though most resolutions at the United Nations’ Second Committee, which covers economic and financial matters, are adopted by consensus.
Asked why she thought that the typically powerful Arab bloc was unable to halt support for the resolution, Levavi said “It is very difficult for countries not to support agricultural technology.”
“It is a huge priority internationally to end hunger, and agricultural technology is one of the pillars to be able to do this, to be able to produce more, more sustainably,” she said, “especially considering the resolution focuses on developing countries and focuses on building developing countries’ capacity to adopt technologies they can use.”
The resolution calls for the empowering of youth, especially those living in rural areas, and building and strengthening agricultural cooperatives through investments in technology, sustainable production and marketing techniques. It also advocates increasing the participation of women and youth to dramatically reduce poverty, provide food and job security, and increasing access to information and communication technology and agriculture.
Ironically, Arab countries are among those that could benefit the most from Israeli agricultural technology, a point that Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations was sure to drive home in his remarks following the passing of the resolution.
“There is one group of nations standing in the way of us achieving consensus on this resolution, not surprisingly the Arab group,” Prosor said. “Ironically, few countries could benefit more from agricultural technologies than the Arab world. Across this region people are hungry for change and thirsty for progress, yet the Arab governments are stubbornly determined to put politics before people.”
“They really take every opportunity to hijack any meeting or anything (at the United Nations) to blame Israel for something,” Levavi added.
“They only care about this (the Palestinian) issue and that is what they are focused on, and we focus on a whole lot of other issues and I think that other delegations at the UN appreciate that, they see that and they appreciate that,” she added.
Levavi sees things getting better for Israel at the United Nations.
“I see it as a natural progression of our work,” she said. “I really hope that one day we can adopt it (the resolution) by consensus.”
“I see us continuing and probably having more, different resolutions and probably we will get more than 114 co-sponsors.”
Regarding the possibility that Arab states might ever get on board with mutually beneficial Israeli backed efforts at the UN, Levavi was less optimistic. “Unfortunately, I am skeptical that they will ever let go of their need to blame us all the time, I don’t see that happening,” she said.
In remarks on behalf of the Arab bloc preceding the vote, Saudi Arabia reinforced her concerns.
“…Israel continues to violate those resolutions which undermines its credibility within the United Nations, and also member states must be opposed to this attitude and should not allow Israel to manipulate the organization by presenting this draft resolution which deals with important technical issues for developing countries in order to achieve certain political designs and that is to hide their policies…” the Saudi representative said.
Seizing the opportunity to needle the Arab kingdom on its human rights abuses, Ambassador Prosor had a sharp response.
“…and I would like to suggest with this to the Saudi representative to allow women to drive behind the wheel before they steer the conversation here further off course,” he said.
“With this resolution, we are fortunate to help developing countries become masters of the field and masters of their own destiny,” Prosor said in his remarks.
But the Saudi representative insisted that the Arab world needs nothing from Israel.
“…it needs not use agricultural technology provided by Israel to develop agriculture, rather we have our Muslim studies and scientists who can provide what is needed to develop agriculture in all fields,” he said.