Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman often warn against the "delegitimization offensive" being waged against Israel abroad, and describe it as a great danger. If that is how they see Israel in an international context, they are guilty of a serious failure: dragging out the process of appointing a new UN ambassador.
The United Nations is not the only place where Israel can make contact with foreign diplomats, and perhaps not even the most important one. But it can hardly be dismissed as "Oom shmoom," as in David Ben-Gurion's famous phrase, which plays on the Hebrew acronym for the world body. Its institutions and branches spend a great deal of time on Israel and its actions in the territories and Lebanon, and are leading the effort to keep the Iranian nuclear program in check. Their decisions and reports affect Israel's international standing. Just this week, Israel sent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a second response to the Goldstone report, with the aim of defending itself against its accusations of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. The work invested in formulating the replies shows that Israel takes the UN seriously.
Israel needs an ambassador who will present its positions at the UN podium in a clear voice, debate adversaries and facilitate cooperation with friends. Certainly Netanyahu, who served as Israel's ambassador to the UN in the 1980s, should understand the importance of the job. But Netanyahu and Lieberman are finding it hard to find an ambassador to replace Gabriela Shalev, who has completed her term. A few months ago, Netanyahu thwarted the appointment of Alon Pinkas as UN ambassador at the last minute. The prime minister has since found it difficult to reach an agreement with Lieberman on an appropriate candidate. Lieberman, in defiance of Netanyahu, who insulted him in other matters, last week appointed Meron Reuven, a mid-level professional diplomat without UN experience, as interim ambassador.
The delayed decision making and the temporary appointment reflect the damage that intrigues and political power struggles have inflicted on a vital diplomatic position. It's like posting untrained soldiers at the front because of quarrels between commanders.
Netanyahu and Lieberman must transcend their power struggles and personal rivalry and quickly appoint a suitable ambassador to the United Nations. As long as they evade their responsibility, they will find it difficult to persuade the public that they are serious about fighting the "delegitimization offensive."
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