Ambassador Bagher Asadi of Iran’s UN Mission joined the Likud Party’s former representative in the United States in a ritual dipping of apples in honey to welcome the Jewish New Year Monday.
For some, the breakfast meeting seemed downright messianic — especially when a tardy Israeli Consul General Shmuel Sisso joined the affair, which was sponsored by a new, self-described peace group backed by large Israeli businesses such as El Al and Bezek. Staunchly anti-Zionist, Iran has yet to even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
But the background behind the breakfast meeting, held at the UN Plaza Hotel and attended by about 40 others, was somewhat less than messianic.
It was, instead, the brainchild of Yoram Ben-Shalom, the former Likud Party executive and longtime aide to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir. Shalom’s new group, Jubillenium, describes itself as “a global organization dedicated to greeting the third millennium in the spirit of creating a new era of peace, friendship, understanding and tolerance among nations, religions and peoples.”
Among the new, for-profit group’s programs are an initiative to encourage people to light a “candle for peace” at 11:59 p.m. this New Year’s Eve, to welcome the new millennium. Various forums and conferences organized by others in Israel and elsewhere constitute the bulk of its program. Monday’s breakfast featured talks by UNESCO’s New York director, Nina Sibal; Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan; and Asadi, who talked about Iran’s initiative for a “dialogue of civilizations.”
But asked if his presence at the function meant peace was breaking out between his government and Israel, a polite but doleful-looking Asadi replied, “There was not supposed to be press at this event. … I didn’t know at all about Israelis being behind it.”