Senior Israeli Diplomat: UN Often Sympathetic to Israel, but Only Behind the Scenes

Amir Weissbrod, top adviser to the Israeli delegation in the UN, says that most Security Council members privately understand Israel's positions vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority.

Shlomo Shamir
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Shlomo Shamir

Contrary to popular belief, discussions and negotiations taking place behind-the-scenes in the UN Security Council are often sympathetic to Israeli positions on critical issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to Amir Weissbrod, a senior Israeli diplomat and top adviser to the Israeli delegation in the UN.

According to Weissbrod, backdoor meetings between ambassadors and foreign diplomats are generally understanding of Israeli justifications of its policies vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority.

The United Nations Security CouncilCredit: AP

However, statements of understanding for Israel’s position usually take place ”behind closed doors” and are never outwardly expressed in speeches to the Security Council or to the media.

“They are not willing to state publicly what they readily will say in a private meeting with Israeli representatives, which is often infuriating," said Weissbrod.

According to Weissbrod, only the United States, Canada, and several other countries have shown sympathy toward Israeli positions both publicly and privately.

Moreover, Weissbrod says that through tough diplomacy, Israel was capable of changing countries’ perspectives as well as their public stances. The flotilla episode, for instance, presented Israel withan opportunity to bring a fundamental change in the international response to what it sees as a provocation. In the end, 11 of 15 members of the Security Council spoke out publicly against the flotilla.

Moreover, the dramatic events of the Arab Spring have caused many to rethink the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the mainsource of instability in the Middle East. However, because Security Council members are still unsure of what will happen in the region, they are determined to create an inextricable link between the uprisings in Arab countries and the conflict, and to push for a resolution as soon as possible.

There is also a general behind-the-scenes consensus among representatives regarding one of the toughest core issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the Palestinian right of return. Weissbrod says that in nearly every meeting, representatives have come to fully understand the Israeli refusal to agree to the right of return, yet when they speak publicly they “immediately choke up."

He believes that the reason for this stems from the international perception of Israel as the stronger side in the conflict, making it easier to publicly make demands of it. Several ambassadors have told Weissbrod in private that they feel “uncomfortable” with making demands of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and that because Israel is stronger, it must “be nice toward the weak."