Israel has made history at the United Nations.
For the first time since its inception into the organization in 1949, Israel was elected on Monday to head a UN Legal Committee. Specifically, the Sixth Committee, which manages such issues as legal questions and fighting global terrorism. As Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon will chair the committee for the upcoming UN General Assembly (GA), reported The Times of Israel.
“I am proud to be the first Israeli elected to this position,” said Ambassador Danon upon his win. “Israel is a world leader in international law and in fighting terrorism. We are pleased to have the opportunity to share our knowledge with the countries of the world.”
The Western European and Others Group (WEOG) in the UN, whose turn it was to pick a chairman for the committee, nominated Danon for the job. Among the WEOG’s pro-Israel countries are Australia, Canada, and the United States. In 2000, Israel became a temporary member of the WEOG and joined permanently in December 2013.
According to The Times of Israel, the chair positions of the GA’s main committees are appropriated on a rotational basis and are typically confirmed without need for a vote. But in this particular case, Yemen, on behalf of the Arab Group, challenged Israel’s nomination and demanded a vote be held.
Despite months of behind-the-scenes diplomatic struggles and ferocious anti-Israel campaigning, however, 109 nations voted in favor of Danon’s appointment. (The election process only included votes that were cast for the particular candidate and did not include ‘nay’ votes.) The election was held via secret ballot in which all 193 members of the UN could vote.
“We will not allow dictatorships and anti-Israel countries to harm our standing in the international community,” said Danon. “We are a full member of the UN and any attempt to deny us of our legal rights in this organization will be met with uncompromising rejection.”
Ambassador Danon’s election received widespread support among many of the UN’s member states, led by the US and European countries, according to Ynet. Some of his supporters even took to social media to wish the Ambassador congratulations.
— (((NorwayinIsrael))) (@NorwayinIsrael) June 13, 2016
— AJC (@AJCGlobal) June 13, 2016
Prior to Danon’s election, Israeli diplomats had presided over other, less distinguished committees at the UN and had even co-chaired the GA. But this is the first time in history Israel will head one of the GA’s six main committees.
In a press release, the Israeli delegation to the UN in New York highlighted Danon’s upcoming responsibilities. “One of Ambassador Danon’s first tasks in his new position will be to further the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism,” it said.
Included in the many topics the Sixth Committee will deal with at this fall’s GA are “measures to eliminate international terrorism,” and “the rule of law at the national and international levels.”
Danon’s win did not come easily; for months, Israel’s nomination was met with conflict as many opponents fought to prevent the Jewish state’s appointment. The main source of opposition came from the Arab states and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The Arab League, on Sunday, convened diplomats from the countries planning to nominate Israel for the Sixth Committee chairmanship and informed them of the Arab world’s displeasure with the move. Iran’s delegation to the UN, as well, was active in trying to block the appointment, even sending representatives a letter to emphasize their message.
Further, Dr. Riyad H. Mansour, the UN’s Palestinian representative, tried to convince voting representatives to withhold their support of Danon until the very last minute, Ynet reported. “It is ironic that Israel, a state that continues to breach international law and conventions, international humanitarian law and countless UN resolutions, is being nominated to head a legal committee that aims to promote international law and protect basic human rights and freedoms,” Hanan Ashrawi, a top Palestine Liberation Organization official, said Wednesday.
In the face of major adversity, Israel rose to the top and overcame its challengers. “This is a historic achievement for the State of Israel. We broke the glass ceiling: Despite the opposition of many countries, including Iran and others that tried to prevent the vote, we managed to be elected for the first time to head a committee at the UN,” Danon said.