Several hundred people gathered at the Prime Grill in Midtown last week for a tribute to four Israeli diplomats who will be rotated home at the end of August. Honoring UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev and her deputy, Danny Carmon and Consul General Asaf Shariv and his deputy, Benjamin Krasna, were New York Jewish leaders, politicians and envoys from France, Germany and Morocco, as well as U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, who spoke warmly of Shalev as “truly one of my favorite people” and “a lioness in defense of Israel’s security and legitimacy.”
Shalev, 68, is a former IDF lieutenant, clerk in Israel’s Supreme Court and law professor at Hebrew University. Shariv, 38, is a former editor of the IDF newspaper and Globes, and served as an aide to prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.
The Jewish Week spoke to the outgoing diplomats, whose successors have not yet been named, about their tenure and their next steps.
Q: What are some of the highlights of your time in New York?
A:Shalev: There were some highlights and there were also some low points. The most difficult was when we were combating the Goldstone Report and we had to sit in the Security Council and the General Assembly and hear all the accusations regarding Israel and the terrible things being said about the country I love so much, mainly regarding our democracy, our judiciary, our army … When I hear people speak about our children who serve in the army, which is obligatory, and they speak about them as war criminals, my heart breaks.
So there were some very low points but as you see here tonight, there were many friends and colleagues who support Israel, mainly the U.S. as you saw here tonight, the great bond of friendship between Ambassador Rice and myself and the support and friendship between our two nations.
Shariv: This [party] is one of the highlights, being with a few hundred of my friends and people that I appreciate here in New York. It’s been a great experience to represent my country, great fun and a great privilege to be here in New York, though it’s very challenging. The only thing better is to go back to Israel.
Were you surprised at the reaction of the world after the flotilla incident?
Shariv: Not really. Working in Israeli politics for the last 10 years, nothing surprises me anymore.
Do you leave here optimistic about Israel’s place in the international community?
Shalev: I do feel optimistic because I know that we do contribute very much to [solving] the global challenges. I just have to remind you about Haiti, when the terrible earthquake hit. The first state to send people to help was Israel and that was recognized by the UN.
What advice would you give your successors?
Shalev: I just wish for my successor to go on representing Israel with dignity and dedication, and I must say I’m proud and grateful that I was given the opportunity to help represent Israel for the last three years. It was one of the most challenging times in the history of Israel in the UN, but I feel rewarded by the support and friendship of so many that we see here tonight.
Shariv: Be patient, work hard and get out of the island. The Jewish community isn’t only in Manhattan.
What’s next for you?
Shalev: I’m going back at the end of August to Israel, back to the [Ono] Academic College where I’m going to be president of the academic council, and I have two books I want to write — not about international affairs.
Shariv: I’m done for now. I’m going back to the private sector.
For video of the reception and tribute to the Israeli diplomats, see the Featured Video spot at www.thejewishweek.com.