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World Attitudes Toward Israel: A View from Inside the UN

Remarks by Ambassador Gabriela Shalev
Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations
To the Anti-Defamation League
National Executive Committee Meeting
Palm Beach, FL, February 6, 2009

Posted: February 6, 2009

Thank you Abe for that warm introduction.

Abe -- you are the first Jewish leader that I met in Israel, right after my unexpected appointment as Israel's ambassador to the UN was announced.

I remember vividly our meeting at my office at Ono Academic College. You were encouraging, supportive, and friendly.

Since then, I learned firsthand of your amazing dedication, leadership, and commitment to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel.

Therefore, I could not but accept your kind invitation to join you for the National Executive Committee of the ADL.

Let me also mention Dr. Condoleezza Rice, last night's honoree. Although I had the privilege of cooperating with her and her team, in Washington and at the UN, for only a few months, I can attest to her ongoing support of Israel's peace and security.

I wish to thank her Dr. Rice and her entire team at the United Nations who were wonderful and eloquent colleagues, but also close friends. I wish to say thank you on behalf of the people of Israel. The US-Israel alliance 末 the US-Israel friendship 末 is truly unique and special.

American ambassadors to the United Nations are not only wonderful and eloquent colleagues, but also close friends, often our only friends.

And of course, it's a pleasure to be with the ADL and amongst old and new friends.

It's an honor to speak before the Anti-Defamation League as I believe that your organization is critical to the Jewish world. Your commitment to fighting anti-Semitism 末 but also intolerance, racism and bigotry in any form 末 is a noble cause that speaks to the deepest Jewish values of justice, equality, and human dignity.

We are witnessing nowadays an alarming rise in anti-Semitism, in many parts of the world. From Caracas to the Vatican, anti-Semitism is not isolated to history books. It is a real and contemporary threat. The ADL is on the front lines of this battle, and I applaud your work and I wish you continued success.
It's never been easy to support Israel, and the current times are no exception. With instability abroad and a financial crisis here at home, it takes real courage and commitment to devote time, energy, and resources to Israel and to such important causes like the ADL.

As the ADL battles defamation of the Jewish people, the Jewish State is in the midst of a two-front conflict itself. The first front is in southern Israel and Gaza. The second front is in the halls of global diplomacy.

In southern Israel and Gaza, Israeli Defense Forces continue to confront Hamas. Since the end of the 22 day operation in Gaza, Hamas has continued to launch rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians, carrying out attacks against Israel, terrorizing and causing casualties among Israeli civilians.

As for the military operation, we set out to change the security situation for the residents of southern Israel, by degrading Hamas' rocketing capabilities, by substantially diminishing the massive weapons smuggling through their network of tunnels, and by re-establishing our deterrence.

In 22 days, we destroyed weapon storages, including sophisticated Iranian-made rockets. we destroyed hundreds of tunnels used to smuggle weapons. And we eliminated hundreds of Hamas terrorists who operated from behind and amidst Palestinian civilians. Hamas used kindergartens and hospitals, mosques, homes and schools to launch attacks.

Evidently, the lesson does not yet seem to have been fully grasped by Hamas, and therefore Israel might have to repeat it.

Hamas will have to better understand that terrorizing Israelis and firing rockets carry a heavy price tag.

Israel will not allow the situation to revert to the position prior to the operation. We will continue to make clear to Hamas, in a language that Hamas understands, that terrorism and smuggling of weapons must stop.

Before the Gaza operation, terrorist groups fired rockets at Israeli civilians and Israel restrained itself. Hamas embedded themselves into the civilian population believing that this would grant them protection.

It did not, and it cannot.

Failing to target terrorists simply because they are using civilians as cover is not 末 and cannot 末 be an option.  To do so would simply broadcast an invitation to every terrorist group in the world to set up shop inside a hospital or a kindergarten.

As the military operation in Gaza is paused, the second front 末 the diplomatic front 末 of our war against Hamas becomes increasingly important.

In Washington, Jerusalem, Cairo, and ultimately in New York, "diplomatic combat" continues to take place.

For the immediate military success of our operation in Gaza to become a long-term success, our battlefield achievements on the ground must be accompanied by diplomatic efforts.

Needless to say, Israel faces considerable challenges in this diplomatic battleground, particularly at the United Nations.

It is no secret that what takes place in the halls of the United Nations has very little to do with what actually happens on the ground.

While in the halls of the UN, Israel's Gaza operation was condemned as an obstacle to peace, the reality on the ground was that Israel's military strikes in Gaza were a prerequisite for peace.

Hamas is the obstacle to progress in the region and, therefore, any action that weakens Hamas improves the prospect of peace in our region.

But in the UN, double-standards are the rules of the game!

Despite a consensus which emerged in many countries, that rockets firing and weapons smuggling must be stopped, at the United Nations, such consensus was lost in the storm of diplomatic hypocrisy.

During the Gaza operations, there was tremendous pressure for the Security Council to act against Israel.

No less than fifteen Arab Foreign Ministers came to New York with instructions "not to return home empty-handed".

They all sought a harsh Security Council resolution against Israel, before returning to their countries, and they saw to it that the P3 foreign ministers will also participate in the Security Council, to re enforce their objective.

Deep in my heart, I suspect that they all wanted Israel to be harshly condemned "at all cost," but were somewhat less interested in the ceasefire itself. This, of course is nothing but my own suspicion.

In these circumstances, the Israeli Mission to the UN was indeed in a difficult position.

On the one hand, we did not want to be involved in negotiations about any decision of the Security Council, be it by way of a resolution or otherwise. Our engagement could be interpreted as lending legitimacy to any such decision.

On the other hand, if we do not engage in the negotiations at all, we would have no impact whatsoever on the outcome.

Such "engagement-without-engaging" is the diplomatic equivalent of trying to kissing through a handkerchief, or rather thorough a pillow.

At the end of the day, after many long days and nights, the Council reached a resolution, with the United States abstaining.

Israel had then to address the Security Council unapologetically, with loud and clear voice: "Israel has a non negotiable right, as well as a duty, to defend its citizens, and we will never place a paper resolution over Israel to protect our citizens".

And these were my very words to the Security Council.

Not to be outdone by the Security Council, one of Israel's lesser admirers in the United Nations, the current president of the General Assembly, had an uncontrollable impulse to convene an emergency meeting of the General Assembly, for the purpose of bashing Israel again.

In calling this emergency session, the General Assembly contravened its own rules and violated its own principles, but this is no longer a novelty.

There are countless human tragedies and immeasurable human suffering around the globe. Victims of the most severe violations of basic rights in Congo, Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, cry out for their suffering to be redressed by the international community.

These victims will go on suffering because the United Nations gathers in emergency only to denounce Israel; because the United Nations joins in unison only to blame Israel in a cynical, hateful and politicized fashion; because the United Nations assembles in emergency only to delegitimize Israel's fundamental right to defend its citizens.

Despite these condemnations, Israel will not remain idle on this diplomatic battlefield.

Israel fights Hamas with one hand already tied behind its back, because the terrorists use civilians as human shields. But we have no intention to allow any self-righteous hypocrite, on the East River, to tie our second hand behind our back.

On this diplomatic battlefield, we will work to consolidate Israel's military achievements.

With the help of our most important ally, the United States, we will establish effective mechanisms against arms smuggling, so that Hamas will not rearm and drag us back into Gaza, again and again.

We will do everything we can to prevent Iran from waging war by proxy against Israel and the Jewish people.

And we will continue our efforts to achieve a peaceful solution with the Palestinian Authority.

Despite the past conflicts and the current challenges, peace remains our long-term goal and our main objective. We are confident that Israel's best days are still to come.

To conclude, let us remind ourselves that the name of our Jewish anthem is "Hatikva" -- hope.

And the last thing to ever die, as you know, is hope.

Thank you very much.

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