Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, was confirmed by the UN General Assembly Monday to be one of its 21 vice presidents, the first time Israel has held that position since Abba Eban served there 53 years ago.
Gillerman, who was endorsed for the post by the Western European and Others Regional Group (including the United States, Western Europe and Canada), said he hoped to use the position to eliminate or limit the number of anti-Israel resolutions that are adopted each year.
He explained that the position gives him a seat on the General Committee, which decides the agenda of the General Assembly, a group that routinely adopts about 20 anti-Israel resolutions annually. The 60th General Assembly, which is scheduled to begin in September, is expected to be the largest and most important because of the far-reaching reforms being urged this year.
Gillerman said he would also seek to cancel some of the "anachronistic" committees, like the one dealing with the inalienable rights of the Palestinians.
"Our policy is that nothing is impossible anymore," he said. "I think we could get considerable support [for eliminating those committees]. Many countries realize that many of the committees are anachronistic and a waste of the resources of the UN. … They certainly cost hundreds of thousands a year, and we think there will be a lot of support" for their elimination.
A congressional bipartisan task force this week issued a report saying the "United Nations needs reform and reinvigoration. Otherwise, the organization risks declining credibility, and its own future will be at risk."
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has echoed those calls for reform, which have been fueled by allegations of sex abuse by UN peacekeepers and by corruption in the Iraq oil-for-food program.
But Gillerman said he has made it "very clear to many countries and our colleagues and UN leadership that we will not consider any reform as complete without dramatic reform in the way the UN treats Israel. … We will not stand for it."
Gillerman also said that Israel plans to push for one of the rotating seats on the Security Council.
"It sounds crazy at the moment, but crazier things have happened," Gillerman said. "It may not happen tomorrow or in a year or two, but it will not take 53 years. I can see it in the foreseeable future."
The ambassador cited a series of events in the last year that he said signifies there "may be new winds at the UN, which we should take advantage of."
He cited the seminar on anti-Semitism at the United Nations just a year ago where Annan issued a strongly worded statement of condemnation; the adoption in October of a resolution against anti-Semitism; a ceremony and exhibit at the UN marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps; and Annan’s visit to Israel in March to attend the opening of the new Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.
"They do not herald a new era and mean that the UN is becoming a branch of B’nai B’rith or a member of the ADL, but it does signify a change," Gillerman said. "We are becoming a more active and normal member of the UN."
Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, said it is hoped "the breakthrough achieved in the structural area will now move into the substantive area as well."
"The injustice that Israel experiences in the UN is part of a general systems failure that has to be addressed," Gold said. "Therefore, now is an ideal time for demanding a different UN approach to Israel and the Middle East."