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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 25, 2003

Israel’s new face at United Nations hopes to capitalize on business skill

New Israeli ambassador to UN keeps very low profile because of Iraq debate
When the U.N. Security Council erupted in debate last week over whether to back a U.S. war on Iraq, Israel’s new ambassador to the U.N. was conspicuously absent.
It wasn’t by accident: Israel wants to keep a low profile on Iraq because of the Arab argument that a United States attack on Baghdad would be for Israel’s benefit.

“We are following the developments very closely,” said Dan Gillerman, who assumed Israel’s U.N. ambassadorship in January.

Indeed, two Israeli representatives attended the Security Council meeting. But Israel is trying to be “low-key,” Gillerman said. “We’re not part of it.”

Gillerman, the former chairman of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, director of Bank Leumi and the Bank of Israel and CEO of chemical and agricultural technology companies, is Israel’s first U.N. ambassador to come from the business world.

His appointment comes as the United Nations faces a momentous debate on whether to back a U.S.-led war on Iraq, which could prompt an Iraqi attack on the Jewish state and upset the fragile dynamics of the Middle East.

And though Israel recently won its first chairmanship of a U.N. body in 42 years, the Arab-dominated United Nations — in which Libya heads the human rights commission and Syria sits on the Security Council — has been hostile ground for the Jewish state.

According to Dina Siegel Vann, U.N. and Latin American affairs director for B’nai B’rith International, Gillerman’s success in the corporate “world of sharks” has prepared him well for the hostile U.N. environment.[more]