The Israeli Delegate to the United Nations: A Powerful Assertive Force
by Shai Baitel
It is well known that deceit and condemnation travel quicker than accuracy and praise. Gossip may travel fast, but it does not have a leg to stand on when the truth is revealed. It is the opinion of this author that the average individual today is more intelligent than his predecessor, and craves truth. Knowledge, accuracy, and taking a stand in what one believes in, is in vogue. Ignorance, misrepresentation and shame are no longer acceptable. We live in the age of information accessibility, and truth will prevail. Allow me to elaborate my viewpoint, with delight with veracity.
The Israeli Delegate to the UN has never been as effective as it exists in its current form. Spearheaded by Ambassador Danny Gillerman, the current delegate is composed of a professional team of the finest diplomats, dealing with perhaps some of the most challenging and complicated tasks of all of Israel’s diplomatic representations throughout the world.
Ambassador Gillerman arrived at the UN subsequent to a succession of impressive accomplishments in both the public and private sectors, acting as chairman of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, a member of several boards of leading banks, and as Chief Executive Officer of several private companies. It was apparent that he was an accomplished speaker with a keen sense of diplomatic aptitude, fluent in English, a First Class Israeli, and salt of the Earth! During such difficult times, the State of Israel was auspicious enough to have posted a distinctive representative, such as Ambassador Gillerman.
In an article published in “Haaretz” on Dec. 24th, 2003, a set of claims describing the activities of Ambassador Gillerman and those of the Israeli Delegate to the UN were raised. The author of the article, Mr. Shamir, brought up contentions indicating failures and errors in decision making on the part of the Israeli Delegate and the Ambassador himself. Shamir’s claims also included other inferences made by, oddly enough, some nameless, diplomats, seniors, and several Jewish leaders. Inexplicably, Shamir, does not reveal his own personal annotations on the subject matter discussed in his article, or formulate a professional opinion. Most of the quoted claims made by anonymous sources lacked substance, rhyme or reason and to do not reflect the genuine truth, of what I believe are, praiseworthy actions of both the Delegate and Ambassador, which I will reveal herein.
At the very start of his allegations, Shamir references a quote made by leaders whom attack the initiative of the mission for a resolution, “Protecting the right of the Israeli child for a life without terrorism.” Where is the logic here? Also, in contradiction to the author’s remarks, Israel actually ‘did not’ serve the interest of the Arab states by giving them legitimacy for a unilateral resolution. The manner in which Ambassador Gillerman managed the mission’s foreign policy was coherent and long overdue. Today’s Israeli foreign policy does not reflect the former mission posture of ‘a reprimanded child moping in the classroom.’ The teacher, whose resolutions are habitually capricious and unilateral, scolded long enough, the child who yearned to voice his position. The current delegate has proven this ‘child’ to be alive and kicking, and moreover, this child has made demands for its dignity and rights.
Consequently, Gillerman’s style reflects a broad approach of abandoning the former ‘sheepish silence’ demeanor when sitting in the defendant’s seat while foregoing unjustifiable and condemning resolutions. This new policy, the ‘Walk of pride’ with head held high, firmly commands justice for the State of Israel, abandoning the old pathetic, hopeless and ineffectual path, the ‘Walk of shame.’
Undeniably, the 58th session of the General Assembly of the UN was very grueling for the State of Israel. However, its outcome might have been much worse for Israel if not for the new approach of the current delegate and its leading spokesperson, Ambassador Gillerman. It has become evident that the PLO, guided by its leader, functions as a terrorist organization and whose provocative conduct has become a daily routine. The UN deplorably, has conveniently served as a circus extravaganza for the amateur juggler, the Palestinian observer. This same observer verbally invalidated Israel’s jurisdiction in the occupied territories and proclaimed the PLO as the authority designated to represent any ratification of the Palestinian statehood, and without ever discussing the legal question and necessity of Israel’s concerns in these territories. One would hope that reasonably intelligent participants and observers would understand that an organization cannot claim statehood in a defined territory, let alone, when it’s a terror organization. Hence, the official representation of the people’s interest in these territories is groundless. The International Law prohibits an organization, like Hezbollah, to negotiate the southern borders of Lebanon with Israel, or even a tricky area such as the Shabha Farm. The same International Law applies to the PLO and the occupied territories.
Shamir had misinterpreted the outcome of a vote regarding the ‘security fence’ as a failure for Israel, rather than recognizing its triumph. It is especially obvious that the resolution against Israel’s security fence cannot be accepted by an organization that encourages rapprochement and decisions that are based on mutual consent. In this case, it ignored the basic fact that the State of Israel does not have a partner for peace to negotiate with. However, it is central to review the raw data of the vote to acknowledge that the major outcome was not in the number of member states that supported the resolution against Israel, but rather, the number of the members that abstained from the vote, and thus implying support of Israel’s position, and that “In the same situation we would have responded in a similar fashion.” Over 80 member states in the General Assembly abstained or reject from reprimanding Israel of its security fence and its unilateral endeavor is in the wrong, and thus did not contribute additional weight to the resolution that was eventually moved to the International Court in The Hague.
Shamir’s observation that this General Assembly vote was unprecedented, because matters of peace and security are exclusively managed by the Security Council according to article 24 of the UN Charter, is a fallacy. In fact, this was not a first for the Assembly. In the framework of the article, the Security Council is authorized to examine whether a certain state of affairs endangers global peace and security. A positive reaction authorizes it to take various measures for a resolution. In this particular case, the General Assembly dealt with the quasi ‘peace and security’ matter, while the Security Council was paralyzed by a veto. This was similar in the case during Korean War.
But in spite of the decision to move the discussion of the security fence to The Hague, this can eventually benefit Israel. The constitution of the International Court in The Hague determines the merit of the hearing before it, as noted in article 36(1), that “…ONLY STATES CAN BE PARTIES OF A DISPUTE, neither private individuals nor organizations.” Consequently, the constitution of the court is applicable to the UN state members or states that are a party to the International Court covenant. It appears that in the case before us, the PLO is neither a state nor a UN state member, and its representative is merely an observer. Therefore, in its preliminary stages of the discussion, the Palestinian Authority, will not meet the obligatory conditions for being a state. The court is unique in the sense that in order to demonstrate jurisdiction, it would need the consent of the parties in dispute. Cleverly and strategically, the Israeli delegate did not choose to oppose the decision to transfer the session to the Hague for deliberation and thus demonstrated legitimacy to the tribunal court at The Hague, because at the end of the day, procedurally her odds are better. In my personal estimation, I believe the court in The Hague will be pleased to furnish advisory opinions about the fence in accordance to article 65 of the court’s constitution, as well as its compulsion to reply to the request of the General Assembly, respectively. Perhaps it will not reach a meaningful discussion between the parties, similar to the opinion given to the issue regarding Western Sahara and Spain.
There were other incidental achievements for Israel in the Security Council. True, the US used its veto rights to thwart resolutions against construction of the security fence, as well as the resolution to remove Arafat, but more significant is the fact that Syria withdrew its condemning resolution against Israel for its air attack on militant Islamic Jihad bases in the heart of Syria, after realizing that the likelihood of the resolution passing were less than slim. For the very first time in the annals of the Council, there was no condemnation of a state which had attacked another state that was justified by its sovereignty rights. The silence of the organization, to that extent, is consequential to the recognition of the appropriateness of Israel to act in its own defense via pre-emptive strikes to fight-off potential terrorist operations. The withdrawal by the Syrians is indicative of the outstanding performance by the Israeli delegate to the UN, and let’s not forget Ambassador Gillerman’s extraordinary and memorable speech given on Erev Yom Kippur, 30 years after The Yom Kippur War (which will undoubtedly will be taught in lessons in government and diplomacy).
It should be noted that the two resolutions, initiated by the Palestinians in the General Assembly were not major achievements. As opposed to a Security Council resolution, this is not significant, as these resolutions have minimal operational implications and at a level of recommendation only. A General Assembly resolution is but a mere statement, one of hundreds in each session. The majority of General Assembly resolutions are forgotten the next day. So inconsequential are General Assembly proceedings, that Negroponte, the U.S. representative to the UN, was absent from the General Assembly sessions during all of last year.
Shamir wrote, that the Jenin events were affiliated with the last session of the General Assembly, and that Israel received criticisms and condemnation. There are some very key points missing in his deficient remarks regarding this matter. It’s true that Israel received condemnation and reprimands from all over the world immediately after the operation, however, once the facts were uncovered, in due time, the verbal attacks decelerated. The mulish demand to send a fact-finding committee to Jenin became groundless. The end of the wave of condemnations was landmarked by a special report composed and published by the UN, of which I had privilege to be the first Israeli to read and translate to Hebrew. Allow me to present the fact that phrases ‘unlawful killing’ and ‘tortures’ were eliminated from the first draft, (which lead to questioning by the Jordanians)
, reflecting the attitude of the official report by the UN.
I would like to voice another response to the remarks made regarding the Arab dynamic and the Palestinian activity in the UN. The fashion by which the PLO representative brings up ideas adopted by the Arab states is better described as an archaic and over-ambitious race run by Arab states to win the hearts of the ‘unidentified’ states. I ask you, “Is this a miserable failure of the Israeli mission to the UN?” Not at all! Maybe it’s an apparent failure because the battered Israel becomes an object for competition amongst Arab representatives.
It is bizarre that while there is a wrestling match over global public opinion of the State of Israel, an Israeli journalist chooses to unjustifiably criticizing a first-rate diplomatic representative, who is setting new heights in policy standards and overall mission posture. Shamir’s professional performance as a journalist, and while covering his story from a distance, throws a stick into the wheels of the carriage he is riding in. It is a mystery to me and other rationally-minded individuals, why Shamir would ever unjustly pass judgment on the Israeli delegate, and instead, would prefer to circumvent its triumphs, which are undoubtedly ground-breaking in comparison to former missions, as well as in comparison to activities by other UN missions.
Shamir never bothered to point out that Israel is now considered a part of a regional group of Western and other European states after years of isolation, which precluded it from voicing an opinion in posts within various UN committees. Additionally, the Israeli achievement of having Tal Becker, the clever Israeli legal advisor to the delegate, elected as the Vice-Chair of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, that deals with legal matters, is absent from his article. This appointment is strategically significant because the International Criminal Court is being established as we speak. For the first time in the history of International Law, an institute with jurisdiction over private individuals suspected of committing crimes against humanity is being assembled. Discussions on this matter are within the framework of the Sixth Committee and the installation of an Israeli representative is essential. Moreover, the Israeli delegate succeeded in gaining approval for representation in each and every committee they sought after! Among the appointments, Vice-Chair in the UN Special Session on Disarmament – IV of the HNDP, a developing program on the Disarmament - IV, which is important because of the popular discussions of the disarmament of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East. Israel is also a member in the Commission of Narcotic Drugs, a member of the UN Environmental Program, a member in the UN Human Habitat Settlement Program, and also a member of the UN Commission of International Trade Law and the UN Commission of Disarmament. How can anyone with journalistic integrity miss out on the opportunity to inform its readers of the entire picture? Why not give its readers an objective view of the Ambassador’s valuable qualities that have elevated the stature of the Israeli mission that has gained peer admiration and respect and praise from all around.
Unfortunately, Shamir was not satisfied with just criticizing the delegate, but also needed to emphasize quotes made by anonymous Jewish leaders, referring to Gillerman as an “Over-confident, arrogant Israeli Ambassador.” According to the Jewish leaders, Gillerman was overconfident in dealing with the Russians reintroducing the Road Map’ on the agenda. If these Jewish leaders indeed exist, and I doubt that they do, they would not, on the other hand, overtly and publicly demonstrate their appreciation and fondness towards Gillerman, (many of which have expressed their full support following Shamir’s article). Leaders should note that the Ambassador is in constant communication with Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Shalom. Nothing he says or does is outside the policies established by the Israeli Government. He is leading a well-calculated aggressive line, within the policy framework Shalom established in order to depart from former vote patterns. His representation is not done in a personal capricious manner, but asserts the policy established, with wisdom and exactness that has made the name of the Israeli delegate as a tough and effective mission. If the distinguished Jewish leaders choose to criticize the Ambassador, it would be wiser to do it with good cause and with good taste, and to make constructive suggestions of improving ways of presenting the Israeli case, and not to make personal criticisms of the Ambassador himself. The Israeli UN Delegate and its leader is a powerful and assertive force. The Israeli mission to the UN has not been blessed with such wisdom and talent, since the days of Ambassador Netanyahu. Ambassador Gillerman has successfully demonstrated his capabilities in various posts, and now succeeds admirably in conveying Israel’s message clearly in the current and extremely challenging mission - Israel, aspiring for peace, has the right to defend her citizens in any way and to fight terrorism with any means.
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