Professor Gabriela Shalev Nominated as New UN Ambassador

FM source says being a woman and a 'jurist respected throughout the world' makes Shalev 'the best candidate.'

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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have nominated Professor Gabriela Shalev as Israel's new ambassador to the United Nations, Livni and Olmert said in a statement Tuesday.

Shalev, 67, is to replace Dan Gillerman, whose five-year tenure will end in a few weeks.

Shalev has apparently accepted the appointment, which must be confirmed by the cabinet.

The short list for the post consisted of Foreign Ministry candidates and candidates from outside the ministry. Olmert, Defense Minister Barak and other political officials reportedly proposed former Israel Defense Forces spokesman and senior vice president of the United Jewish Communities, Nahman Shai, and Israel's former consul-general in New York, Alon Pinkas. Livni is also said to have sent out feelers to journalist Ilana Dayan.

Professional candidates included Foreign Ministry deputy director general and career diplomat Yossi Gal, who was highly regarded by Livni. However after extensive deliberations, she decided to choose an outside candidate, and went with Shalev.

The post of UN ambassador is considered the most important Foreign Ministry appointment after ambassador to Washington.

Shalev is a jurist that has never been involved in diplomacy or foreign affairs. Livni's aides said Tuesday that she was tapped after consultations with former Israeli UN ambassadors and veteran diplomats, who approved the choice. However sources in the Foreign Ministry expressed their great disappointment that this time, too, despite Livni's attempts to strengthen the ministry, a professional diplomat was not chosen for the job.

"The UN is an arena that requires other skills in addition to diplomatic know-how," Livni's associates said. "The fact that she is a woman, and a jurist respected throughout the world, with a great deal of public experience, makes her the best candidate."

Shalev is rector of the Ono Academic College. She has also served as chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, as a member of the committee for formulating ethics of cabinet members, a member of the Jewish Agency's Board of Trustees, the International Academy of Comparative Law, and other bodies. Until 2002 she was on the faculty of the Hebrew University Law School.

The first significant challenge facing Shalev as ambassador will be furthering the significant improvement in Israel's status in the world body attained during Gillerman's tenure, diplomats and commentators in New York said Tuesday.

Veteran pundits expressed their surprise that the Foreign Ministry had selected an unknown individual with no experience in the international arena, who is said to be lacking charisma in her statements to the media.

Jewish leaders in New York said they could not respond to the appointment as they did not know Shalev. However they noted the appointment of a person unknown to the Jewish community was difficult to explain, as she would be central in explaining Israel's stands to the community.