Late last week the Jewish State publicly announced that it plans to run for one of the ten rotating positions on the Security Council of the United Nations for the 2019-2020 year. Virtually everyone agrees it will be a tough battle for Israel to land a seat on the Security Council, but this year Israel has a special weapon it has not had in the past: US power. Or, more accurately, U. S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power.
This past July, when Power appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her vetting in advance of being appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N, Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) bluntly asked Power whether she would assist Israel if the Jewish State seeks to fill one of the ten rotating seats on the U.N. Security Council.
“Absolutely, sir,” Power responded. “The Security Council seat is one that has eluded Israel, despite its many contributions across the years, and I commit to you wholeheartedly to go on offense, as well as playing defense on the legitimation of Israel, and we’ll make every effort to secure greater integration of Israeli public servants in the U.N. system.”
Now for a little background information: in order to win one of those ten rotating seats, two-thirds of the 193 member states of the U.N. General Assembly must vote to support a country’s bid. In the 64 plus years during which Israel has been a member state of the U.N., it has never been approved for a seat on the U.N.’s Security Council.
Israel never has, but every one of its’ neighbors has had a seat on the Security Council several times: Egypt, four times; Jordan, twice; Syria, three times and Lebanon, twice. Even Iraq and Iran have been voted on to the Security Council. But not Israel.
The Security Council can make policy decisions which have binding authority. It can impose sanctions or authorize the use of the military. In contrast, the General Assembly can only pass resolutions, which are non-binding statements.
The ten rotating spots for the Security Council are chosen from within the five regional groups into which the U.N. is divided: Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin American and the Caribbean, and the Western Europe and Others group (WEOG).
Although geographically – which is exactly how the groups are organized – Israel would naturally fall within the Asia Pacific group. But the Islamic countries refused to permit Israel to be a member of that group. Sounds impossible, or at least impermissible, but it is what happened. And it was permitted.
So for years Israel was a U.N. member nation without a regional group home. This meant that it was unable to participate in certain U.N. activities, one of which was being considered for a position on the Security Council. But in 2000 the semi-magnanimous members of the WEOG permitted Israel to become a partial member of their regional group.
And then, in 2004, Israel was made a permanent member of WEOG. With that decision, after 55 years as a U.N. vagabond nation, Israel had a home in a regional group and became eligible for a seat on the Security Council. Israel will be running against Germany and Belgium for two seats available to members of WEOG.
Israel’s U.N. ambassador Ron Prosor said that “We’re going all out to win” because “it’s about time.” But going “all out” may not be enough, given that 120 of the U.N.’s 193 member states belong to the “Non-Aligned Movement,” the vast majority of which are decidedly hostile to Israel.
All eyes should be on Power to see how she plays offense – and defense – on behalf of Israel. As promised.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com
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