Conventional wisdom holds that the first step to resolving a conflict is admitting that there is a problem.
Last week, in his final address to the UN Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did just that when he conceded that, “Decades of political maneuvering have created a disproportionate number of resolutions, reports and committees against Israel,” pointing out that this has often “foiled the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.”
In the long-overdue statement, the Secretary also called out Hamas for its “antisemitic charter that aspires to the obliteration of Israel. Hamas must, once and for all, renounce the use of violence and recognize the right of Israel to exist alongside a Palestinian state, in accordance with all relevant Security Council resolutions and previous agreements between the parties.”
Ban said that he chose Israel and Palestine as the subject of his final address because, “While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the cause of the wars in the Middle East, its resolution can create momentum for peace throughout the region.” This is, of course, a noble reason to take on a cause, but one might have hoped that the hardship faced by Israel as a result of the bias would be enough reason to speak out against it.
This is an important development within the UN. As Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, noted in his response to the statement, over Ban’s ten years as secretary general, “the UN passed 223 resolutions condemning Israel, while only eight resolutions condemning the Syrian regime as it has massacred its citizens over the past six years.” Many have recognized and called out the UN for this hypocrisy over the years, but until now, there had been no official admission of guilt.
Yet, while most are pleased with Ban’s admission, many are also rightfully asking why it took a decade for him to speak out. As World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder argued (page doesn’t exist), “It was incumbent upon Secretary General Ban to issue statements such as these over the course of his near decade-long tenure.”
Nevertheless, Ban’s speech speaks to hope for the future. His term will be over at the end of this month, and former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres is set to take on the role. Guterres has been described as “a friend to Israel.” A former Israeli ambassador to Portugal spoke out, saying Guterres “won’t support anti-Israel moves at the UN. But he will try to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. He doesn’t consider that to be anti-Israel.”
Furthermore, because Ban Ki-moon used his final address to comment on the anti-Israel bias, we can safely assume that the sentiment will colour Guterres’ early days in office, hopefully setting the stage for a less-biased UN when it comes to issues involving Israel.
Sara McCleary has written extensively on a wide range of topics while working as a news reporter and freelancer. She has also completed a master’s degree in history, and further graduate work in interdisciplinary humanities.