By Noah Pincus
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon spoke with TPS about his experience at the UN, his work with the United States, and what lies in the Jewish state’s future.
Danon told TPS what he believed was his most significant achievement, since beginning his position in October 2015.
“I was elected to become the chairman of the legal committee, becoming the first Israeli ever to get elected to chair a UN committee,” he said. “There was a lot of opposition coming from the Palestinians and other countries but I received overwhelming support from 109 member states in secret ballots. Despite the propaganda against me we proved that Israel can actually serve in all positions of the UN.”
Support and diplomacy did not only come from secret ballots. Danon was surprised to find that officials often privately worked with him, even while outwardly opposing Israel.
“Some of the gulf countries’ representatives that do not yet have official diplomatic relations were able to build friendships,” Danon told TPS. “The issue of Iran, Iranian proxy, and Hezbollah were on my agenda and it was on their agenda also, so we built a mechanism.”
Unexpected relationships were critical experiences for Danon, who said that nothing was certain in his international relationships. This taught him an important lesson.
“I learned not to be afraid to approach everybody. I was surprised that sometimes I would approach an ambassador from a so-called ‘hostile’ country and we can get things done and even become friends. It’s surprising coming from Israel where everything is black and white. You [begin to] understand that in diplomacy you can have friends, and you can change the positions of [others]. So to be open minded was something I learned at the UN.”
Danon also elaborated on what he called the “lowest moment” of his UN tenure; when the United States abstained from voting on resolution 2334. The resolution declared Israeli settlements in the Judea and Samaria and Eastern Jerusalem to be in violation of international law.
“To be in the Security Council chamber by myself and to see the US endorsing this resolution, then abstaining at the end, was a difficult moment because we usually worked with the US under both administrations, but this was the first time I found myself actually working against the US in the Security Council,” said Danon.
The ambassador emphasized that despite the resolution, he still had a strong relationship with the US under both President Obama’s and Trump’s administrations. In nearly four years of working with the Trump administration, Danon was pleased with their cooperation and advocacy.
“We are grateful for President Trump’s support, mainly for pulling out of the Iran deal, which is crucial not only for Israel but for other countries in the Middle East,” Danon said. “We also appreciate moving the embassy, and recognizing our sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”
Upon his upcoming exit from the UN, Danon still has high hopes for Israel’s future.
“I’m very optimistic,” Danon said “sometimes you hear about [Israeli] isolation. I’ve never felt isolated, and we’ve had diplomatic relationships with more than 160 countries. Almost all countries of the world work and learn from Israel. So I’m optimistic about our position.”
As for his personal future, Danon told TPS he will still be active in supporting Israel. Upon his return however, he plans to see his mother, family and friends, and settle in before taking any more steps.
“I will give my mother a big hug,” Danon said. “There was a lot I enjoyed during my time at the UN, but in terms of spending time with family, you pay a price and it compromises that.”