If the main consideration in choosing an Israeli ambassador to the United Nations is that person's ability to explain the government's diplomatic positions, the chances of finding an appropriate candidate are quite slim.
Tracking down someone in the UN corridors willing to hear Israel's version of who is to blame for the impasse in the peace process, or someone who holds even a shred of understanding for the continued building in the territories, is mission impossible. An ambassador perceived as representing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will not have it easy, to say the least. At receptions, he will be received with smiles and polite words. But the arguments he will lay out in closed meetings with major ambassadors, and the explanations he will put forward in his speeches to the General Assembly and the Security Council will be gone with the wind.
As long as the Israeli government sticks to its current diplomatic positions, its UN ambassador - no matter how articulate and charismatic he may be - will have no chance of improving Israel's position one bit. The speed with which the wave of condemnation spread against the Shepherd Hotel demolition reflects the extent to which the legitimacy of official Israeli policy has collapsed.
The futility of the efforts to stop the deterioration of Israel's standing in the United Nations can also be seen in the meetings between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Barak has made it a habit to start his visits to the United States with a pilgrimage to Ban. But all of these discussions, in which Barak explained why settlement construction is not one of the causes of the latest impasse in the peace process, did not leave any impression on Ban. A senior diplomat described the last conversation between the two as "a dialogue of the deaf."
Ban, who at the start of his term was considered a friend of Israel, has toughened his stance in recent months. His response to the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem was unusually harsh. The secretary general has no authority in terms of the UN's initiatives and resolutions, but his statements provide an accurate reflection of the critical attitude toward Israel that is widespread in the organization.
The level of hostility toward Israel at the UN headquarters is actually much lower than in previous years. There are no blatant expressions of hatred, like those seen in speeches and initiatives in the 1970s. There are only old resolutions - like opposition to the annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which are traditionally adopted in various committees - but no one has been paying attention to them for years.
The increasing difficulty in representing Israel stems from the fact that today it is perceived as an integral part of the UN family. Its delegation is professionally respected by diplomats, and senior Israeli diplomats have excellent relations with their colleagues. The problem is that Israel is viewed as a member that has gone wrong and inexplicably and stubbornly refuses to mend its ways. Its government is viewed by the diplomatic community in New York as one that rejects peace, and its behavior toward the Palestinians carries a mark of shame that no information campaign can obscure.
Israel's next UN ambassador will face a particularly difficult situation when the next General Assembly meeting, which begins in September, will almost certainly approve a declaration of recognition of a Palestinian state. The United Nations' guilty conscience is fed by the misery of the Palestinian people. No sort of campaign will succeed in preventing support for such a declaration.
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