Israel Club Hosts “The Truth About the UN” with Ambassadors Roet and Ayalon
Nearly all the seats filled up in Furst Hall on the YU Wilf Campus on Tuesday, February 2, as students piled in to hear two firsthand accounts about Israel’s treatment at the United Nations. This exciting panel discussion, created and hosted by the Israel Club, featured two prominent Israeli political figures who have each experienced the UN as ambassadors from Israel. It was a rare opportunity for students to hear detailed, insider accounts of the frustrating struggle Israeli representatives face each year fighting for Israel in the UN.
The first panelist was Israel’s current Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador David Roet. His prestigious resume includes serving as the Head of the Bureau for Personnel Training in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Director of the US Consulate Department in the North American Affairs Division, among many other government positions. The second panelist was Ambassador Danny Ayalon, YU Visiting Professor of Foreign Policy Studies, former member of the Knesset, Israel’s former Deputy Foreign Minister, and Israel’s previous Ambassador to the UN. The discussion was moderated by Senior and Co-President of the Israel Club, Yaakov Sultan.
The discussion began with an upbeat tone. Ambassador Roet spoke about the numerous victories Israel had won in the past few years on the floor of the UN. One of its most significant achievements was having the UN hold a platform about anti-Semitism, which according to Ambassador Roet took ten difficult months to arrange. Through great opposition Israel was also able to make Yom Kippur a UN holiday. “Most importantly,” stated Ambassador Roet, “Israel grinds away constantly. We say what Israel stands for without being shy.” He described how it isn’t easy to stand up and speak as a representative of your country when few people in the room want to hear you and many even despise what you stand for. Israel is mistreated in the UN but it’s clear that no Israeli Ambassador to the UN would ever go down without putting up a fight.
When asked about his experience in the UN, Ambassador Ayalon responded jokingly, “In one word it was good. In two it was not good.” He described how the UN still does not help Israel. In his words, “Nothing has changed.” He compared the UN in 2016 to the UN in the times of Yasser Arafat, former Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. “They don’t want peace with Israel, they want pieces of Israel,” said Ayalon. He explained how a majority of the UN is dominated by the Arab countries, creating a voting bloc that stifles Israel.
Roet called it “eerie” to see how similar the UN of then is to the UN of now, describing how one of the 20 anti-Israel resolutions this year was to give the Golan back to Syria. He pointed out how absurd this was by noting giving the Golan back to Syria would condemn even more people to the deadly chaos and anarchy going on there. He spoke about the significant amount of hypocrisy that went on in the UN Human Rights Council. Countries condemn Israel constantly as a ploy to shift the focus from their own countries who commit human rights violations constantly. For instance, Roet explained that countries with slave labor and terrible records when it comes to women’s rights condemn Israel, which offers equal rights to all its citizens.
The panelists also expressed disappointment in a negative New York Times article about current UN Secretary General aon Ki-Moon. Ambassador Roet was particularly surprised by Secretary Ki-Moon’s hurtful article and disposition towards Israel as his previous meeting with him had involved only Ban Ki-Moon’s expression of gratefulness to Israel for its incredible foreign aid and field hospitals in disaster- ridden countries. Both panelists explained that in appointing a future UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon’s successor would most likely be from Eastern Europe and could never be from the United States or Russia. This is because the UN wants someone with no significant political weight, both ambassadors agreed. To quote Ambassador Roet, “They need someone minorly known and in an X-ray you, would find no backbone in.”
In closing, both expressed their nervousness towards the future. They described how the current students and young adults are the future ambassadors and leaders of the Jewish people. Ambassador Roet feels that the current generation’s narrative is weaker. Says Roet, “[Your non-Jewish college friends] don’t want to hear from Ambassador David Roet. They want to hear from you!” Ambassador Ayalon encouraged the audience to keep working and to spread the word on social media that we have enough facts and material to show the world the truth about Israel and not the strong bias of the UN. Both Ambassadors left the attentive audience with the feeling that although times are challenging we must continue to stand up for Israel just as they do each week on the floor of the United Nations.
The students in the audience left with lots of new facts and a more informed understanding of what Israeli Ambassadors face when working in the UN. Sophomore Benji Wajsberg said of the speakers, “I found it inspirational and even a bit relieving that although the situation in the UN has been so frustrating for so long, these ambassadors know the truth and work tirelessly to fight for Israel.” That impression resonated with a lot of people. Sophomore David Aaronson, a member of the Israel Club who helped organize this event, expressed his happiness with the event’s outcome, saying, “[Arranging the event was] fun but difficult. It was a great, receptive, big crowd. The two panelists came with very passionate accounts that they shared with us in a very motivational way.”