ISRAEL'S FRIEND OR FOE? OPINION: GABRIELA SHALEV 'Imperfect, yet indispensable'.

Author:Shalev, Gabriela

What are the high and low points in Israel's history with the United Nations ? I still remember the night my father woke me up at age six in Tel Aviv and we joined the dancing in the streets. The UN had voted to end the British Mandate and partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. The UN embraced Israel at that time and cleared the way for its establishment. A year later, Israel became its 59th member. If the Arab or Palestinian side could only have adopted this decision as we did, reluctantly--the Jewish leaders were not very keen on partition, either--we would now be in a completely different situation.

Many years later, when I was ambassador to the UN, I would look back and ask myself, how did the relationship become so spoiled? How did we become the only country in the world everybody is against?

How do you explain it? There are many, many reasons. Even aside from what happened 50 years ago--what people do not like to call the "Occupation"--there are now 193 members of the UN, more than triple the number when we joined, and there is an automatic majority against Israel. Now, there are some voices that say, "Oh, let's leave the UN" or "Let's create a UN of only all the democratic countries." This is not only not going to happen, it should not happen. It's important to have the UN as the parliament of the world. The world is not perfect, so how can the parliament of the world be perfect? It's important for Israel to be represented there.

What was your experience? I was appointed "out of nowhere," neither a politician nor a diplomat, but from academia, and the first woman after 13 male ambassadors, so I was hoping to bring a different voice and attitude. At first I thought I had succeeded. With [U.S. ambassador to the UN] Susan Rice, who was so much younger and came from a different place, I formed a wonderful relationship, one that was not only helpful for me in dealing with the Security Council but, I think, good for Israel. Rice said the UN was "imperfect, yet indispensable," and I agree.

But just two months after my appointment came the Operation Cast Lead Gaza conflict and also the Goldstone Report and Iran. There was almost no time for what I was hoping to accomplish in human rights, women's rights, agriculture. I couldn't represent Israel as a light unto the nations; I had to deal with the General Assembly!

Were there accomplishments? There were little things, behind the scenes. When the General Assembly discussed the...

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