Israel envoy sees signs of progress at UN
Amb. David Roet says recent moves suggest a thaw at world body
As Israel’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, David Roet is used to his country’s being treated as the world’s “bogey man.”
Nevertheless, in public and private ways, he sees signs that that is changing.
While the world body’s agenda is often “hijacked” by its Arab and Muslim bloc, Israel is also winning respect for its “positive agenda” and forging the kind of alliances that yield major benefits, he said.
“That is the fun part of the job,” said Roet, in an interview ahead of a Feb. 10 meeting with Jewish leaders on the Aidekman campus in Whippany. Roet, who has served since August with Permanent Representative Ron Prosor at Israel’s UN Mission in New York City, met with the board of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Citing positive news at the UN, Roet noted that in December, a sizeable majority — about 127 countries — voted in support of an agricultural development resolution sponsored by Israel.
That same month, Israel won membership in the Western European and Others Group in Geneva, Switzerland.
Much of this success, Roet said, is thanks to the United States. “Thank goodness there’s an America,” he said. “Support for Israel is very strong in this country. We see no difference in the support between this administration and previous ones. I think that’s because it comes from the people. In other countries, when the government changes, the relationship at the UN changes, but in the United States the support is much more bipartisan.”
What is not much fun, the ambassador said, is dealing with the UN’s “usual suspects” on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“Because there is an automatic majority on any issue regarding Israel, matters concerning it are hijacked by the Arab and Muslim bloc. They hijack a lot of what the UN does,” he said.
The focus on Israel distracts from other violent struggles in the Middle East — “which they like to blame on Israel even though it has nothing to do with them” — and the thorny issue of Iran, including its support for terrorist organizations like Hizbullah, its role in the Syrian conflict, and the nuclear threat it poses.
Roet described Iran as “the biggest threat to world security.”
“Why would the country with the second-largest reserves of oil in the world need to develop nuclear capability for civilian use?” he asked rhetorically.
The international community, he stressed, has to stand firm on the conditions for lifting sanctions against Iran. “It would be nice to say, ‘Let’s give it a chance,’ and not say what we believe, but basically, we believe that behind the smiling facades they still preach hate and hostility, and they still plan to become a nuclear power.”
Responding to those who accuse Israel of resisting efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, Roet was emphatic: “We are committed to assisting the international community in any way possible, to work with any leader in any venue to bring peace with the Palestinians, even if we turn blue in the process.”
The father of four, Roet is from Jerusalem and previously served as head of the Bureau for Personnel Training in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His local posting is his second stint in the United States; from 2004 to 2010, he served as deputy consul general at Israel’s Consulate General to the Midwest in Chicago.
Roet said he is committed to promoting his country as a “start-up nation,” with a culture of fostering entrepreneurship. “That is not just PR,” he insisted. “We want to show the fact that Israelis are wonderful people who care intensely about issues like the environment, water conservation, care for the elderly, autism, and — perhaps surprising to some — about supporting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.”