By Michael Freund
It would be easy to dismiss the recent barrage of six anti-
Israel resolutions at the United Nations as just another
example of the world body's enduring bias against the Jewish
state. Employing characteristic one-sidedness, the UN General
Assembly reaffirmed with near unanimity on December 1st that
Israel is to blame for virtually all the ills of the Middle
Indeed, the UN resolutions have become little more than an
annual ritual, where the assembly of nations invokes the lofty
principles of human rights for the lowly aim of marginalizing
Israel. That few people in Israel take such criticism
seriously is borne out by the minimal coverage devoted in the
Israeli press to the UN's antics. Hence, the tendency is to
disparage UN votes as the cathartic rantings of bored diplomats
anxious to get to the next dinner party.
But the UN resolutions bear an important, if unintended, lesson
for Israeli policymakers, one they should not ignore or
downplay: concessions to the Palestinians may succeed in
eliciting worldwide support, but such support lasts only until
new Palestinian demands are made. And whereas public opinion
is fleeting in nature, conceding territory is not.
Bear in mind that the UN General Assembly is not an independent
being endowed with free will that chooses to denounce Israel.
In fact, it is a meeting ground for the nations of the world to
express their views on various issues. When the General
Assembly votes to condemn Israel, it is not really the UN that
is criticizing us - it is the nations of the world.
And so, despite seven years of painful and unprecedented
concessions to the Palestinians, and the loss of hundreds of
Israeli lives to terrorism, Israel has little to show for it in
terms of international public opinion. Israeli concessions
have won occasional expressions of support from other nations,
but they have not altered the international community's long-
term, fundamental outlook. Thus, despite its willingness to
divide its indivisible capital and relinquish its holiest of
shrines to foreign control, Israel is still seen as a pariah,
whose popularity at the UN rivals that of child slavery and
international drug smuggling.
One need look no further than the events of recent weeks, as
Israel has faced growing criticism around the world for
defending itself against the violence of the intifada. The
lynchings in Ramallah, the Kfar Darom school bus bombing and
the nightly shooting in Netzarim, Hebron and Psagot have failed
to evoke more than passing sympathy, if any, for Israel's
plight. Perhaps out of fear of how the world might react, the
Government has refrained thus far from employing the measures
necessary to quell the violence.
Much of the international pressure on Israel is the result of
the Palestinians' successful propaganda campaign, which has
reinforced their image as the victim of Israeli "aggression".
With Israeli Foreign Ministry officials busy arguing among
themselves about whether and how to issue a document on
Palestinian violations of the agreements, or even if it should
carry the logo of the State of Israel on its cover, it is no
wonder the Palestinians are having a field day on the
One of the Palestinians' aims is to compel Israel to make
further concessions from a position of weakness, and that is
where the UN resolutions come in to play. By serving as grist
for the Palestinian propaganda mill, the resolutions will only
harden Yasser Arafat's resolve to squeeze Israel further.
After all, the entire world is behind him, right?
As a barometer of world public opinion, the UN resolutions also
indicate some stormy weather fronts are on the horizon for
Israel. One resolution notes enthusiastically "the lasting
impact of the uprising (intifada) of the Palestinian people".
In the diplomatic lexicon, that amounts to a call for the
Palestinians to continue the violence and terror, something the
world community apparently supports wholeheartedly.
Israel's UN Ambassador Yehuda Lancry and Deputy Ambassador
Aaron Jacob both gave valiant and impressive speeches to the UN
last week in defense of Israel. But changing the world body's
attitude will require more than just eloquent oratory.
Israel will have to embark on an aggressive public-relations
campaign that is pro-active rather than reactive. Instead of
limiting itself to responding to Palestinian allegations, the
Government must launch an information offensive whose aim is to
expose the Palestinian Authority as the chief culprit behind
the collapse of the peace process.
More importantly, the Israeli Government must finally grasp the
fact that a nation can not formulate its policies based solely
on the criteria of how world public opinion will react. The
applause on the White House Lawn after the 1993 signing of the
Oslo Accords faded away long ago. But seven years later, the
consequences of its implementation continue to ricochet night
after night off the walls and barricades of Jewish homes in
The writer, a founder of IRIS, served as Deputy Director for
Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime
Minister's Office and previously as Assistant to the Israeli
Ambassador to the United Nations.
Information Regarding Israel's Security (IRIS)