Former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, will be speaking in Sydney and elsewhere in Australia in the near future. He will be well worth hearing.
His “tour of duty” at the UN coincided with the 2006 Lebanon war. During this difficult time, he was an excellent representative for Israel. He was also pressed into service during the recent Gaza conflict, and was a strong advocate for Israel. Interviews with Mr Gillerman provide helpful insight into how to respond to questioning that may be aggressive.
First, an interview during the Lebanon war: Meet the press during the 2006 Lebanon war – a transcript
Then a site containing a variety of video interviews with Gillerman – the relaxed interview with Chet Curtis of Boston contrasts with the pointed questionning from Ayman Mohyeldin and Imran Garda during the Gaza conflict. Gillerman responds well. On the link below, scroll down to the videos.
Dan Gillerman interviews
Mr Gillerman also provided some memorable lines
For example, in a New York Times interview, Gillerman responded to the question
“The Bush administration, it seems, have not done much to advance the Mideast peace process. Would you agree?” with “I think the key is in the Arab world. The Palestinian’s real tragedy is that they have not been able to produce a Nelson Mandela. Every single day, Muslims are killed by Muslims. You do not see a single Muslim leader get up and say. “Enough is enough.” It’s nearly as if we live in a world where if Christians kill Muslims, it’s a crusade. If Jews kill Muslims, it’s a massacre. And when Muslims kill Muslims, it’s the Weather Channel. Nobody cares.”
To highlight the threat of Iran, Gillerman stated “We sound an alarm, a call to arms and a wake-up call to the world. A world in which an extreme and evil regime denies the holocaust, while preparing the next one”.
To the question “Of the 192 ambassadors from as many countries at the U.N., do any of them refuse to speak to you?” Gillerman replied “I say hello to everyone. The ambassadors who do not say hello to me are the Iranian, the Syrian and the Libyan, whose mere presence on the Security Council is scandalous. No co-op board in this city would even consider letting Libya buy an apartment, yet the U.N. gives it a seat on the world body responsible for peace and security.”
His wit also shone through.
“What is your security like?” “It is very tight 24-7. When my wife and I go to the movies, our main worry is maybe we picked a movie our security men won’t like. Usually two or three bodyguards sit in the row behind us.”
“Who buys their tickets?” “They do. They are having a great time.”
“You know you’re in a crazy world when the world’s greatest rapper is white, the world’s greatest golfer is black, the world’s greatest soldiers are Jewish, Germany doesn’t want to go to war, and the French accuse the Americans of being arrogant.”
In interviews with Jerusalem Post and YNet when he completed his ambassadorship he made a few observations
“If I had to judge by winds and feelings that accompanied me, the UN was a place where I would be abused, attacked and criticized, and the feeling was that there wasn’t much to be done about it,” says Gillerman. “The only option was to lie back and take it. But I didn’t come here to lie back and take it. I came here to make a difference.” Making a difference for Gillerman included forging relationships with representatives from Arab countries that have no diplomatic ties to Israel. Indeed, a farewell event for Gillerman was attended by ambassadors from dozens of countries, including a large number of Arab envoys. Present were the ambassadors of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar and Oman – and even Palestinian Observer Riyad Mansour, who regularly butted heads with Gillerman at Security Council meetings.
Among Gillerman’s other accomplishments: a stint as vice president of the General Assembly (the first Israeli to be elected to this post in 55 years); the passage of a Holocaust remembrance resolution; and an agricultural technology resolution, the first resolution to be initiated and put forth by Israel.
Though this hasn’t made Israelis “fall in love” with the UN, Gillerman hopes the advances he has made have managed to alter Israel’s perception of the international body.
The consummate diplomat, he has been quite charitable to Kofi Anan and Ban ki-Moon:
“Could the UN have done anything differently regarding Regev and Goldwasser?”
“Secretary General Ban ki-Moon has a lot of sympathy and admiration for Israel and the Jewish people, and has done as much as he could. He had his own negotiator working on the case, together with the Germans. He has briefed the families many times, spoken to the prime minister and foreign minister several times, and was very deeply involved and committed. He had a picture of the soldiers on his table to remind him, and showed a lot of compassion for them. During one meeting, he had tears in his eyes when Karnit [Goldwasser] spoke.”
“Is he more sympathetic to Israel than his predecessor?”
“I had a lot of respect for Kofi Annan. He was a very able diplomat, and a very charismatic secretary general. Some Israelis had their misgivings about him. He made some mistakes and some unfortunate statements, but at times he was very helpful – and always very gracious and helpful to me. He was very instrumental in bringing about the Holocaust remembrance resolution, and on the whole I think he was very decent and fair. I think Ban ki-Moon has greater compassion and friendship for Israel, even from the days when he was the Korean foreign minister.”
During his performances in Manhattan, Gillerman often exhibited his acting abilities, the kind one usually sees on Broadway. Female talkbackers have even asked him to have a child with them. “Having a grandson is also a possibility,” 64-year-old Gillerman jokes, and immediately becomes serious. “I’m very flattered and I’m happy to see such support, which is pretty rare in our country.”
Whenever praise is handed out for Israeli contribution at the UN, the gold standard would have to be Abba Eban. Eban was a giant in the formation and history of Israel. His crucial contributions during 1947/8; the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, and at other junctures, are well described. His erudite speech and commanding presence also made him a powerful advocate for Israel at the UN. During the current challenging times, it is uplifting to see Eban in action; he was a believer in the “yes we can” philosophy. Here is in an interview with Mike Wallace in 1958 to commemorate Israel’s 10th anniversary