As the U.N. celebrates its 75th anniversary, Ambassadors Ron Prosor, Gabriela Shalev, Dan Gillerman and Yehuda Lancry recounted memories from their time as permanent representatives to the U.N. and its relations with Israel.
Gillerman (2003-2008) recalled advice his mentor Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. diplomat, once shared following a diplomacy dispute. He reminded Gillerman that the U.N. office on 1st Avenue in New York City was nothing more than a glass building. “At the end of the day, it’s only as good as its tenants, and its tenants are the world we live in,” Gillerman said.
The Durban Review Conference in 2001, which is viewed by many as the catalyst to a global renewal of anti-Semitism, made for one of Lancry’s greatest frustrations during his tenure at the U.N. “That was a big disappointment for those who felt we were advancing peace,” said Lancry, who served from 1999-2002. Durban was a really harsh setback. The conference was supposed to be on racism, but instead, it “focused on Israel. We felt frustrated.”
Shalev (2008-2010) who entered the United Nations with a background in law and academia, found difficulty in transitioning to her new role as an ambassador. “Coming from academia, where we look at the truth, I found the double speech at the U.N. frustrating,” she said. “To represent Israel at the U.N. is hard labor. It’s day and night.”
Prosor (2011-2015) was shocked by the “triple standards” Israel was held to at the United Nations. “One for democracies, one for dictatorships and one special standard just for Israel, which is unattainable,” he said. “I was shocked and I’m still shocked at the Europeans. It has nothing to do with what we do or we do not do. Do they go for Syria? No. Do they go for Yemen? No. Israel.”
Each ambassador also offered positive thoughts and wishes for the incoming Israeli permanent representative to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan.
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