Ban Ki-Moon has been secretary-general of the United Nations for the last ten years. That’s ten, as in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years. That’s a long time to be in such an important position. And now, just weeks before his ten-year-term in office comes to an end, he has made an important discovery about the organization over which he has presided for…well…you know how many years.
The important discovery is this: The U.N. has been “disproportionate” in its criticism of Israel, and that fact has hurt rather than helped the Palestinian cause. He revealed this discovery, curiously enough, in a statement to the U.N. Security Council that was devoted largely to—yes, you guessed it—criticism of Israel for considering legislation that would legalize certain West Bank outposts that are currently not legal under Israeli law. Still, even though he was unable to resist an apparently irresistible impulse to criticize Israel just one more time, he did manage to acknowledge that, over “decades,” the U.N.’s criticism of Israel has been disproportionate.
One wonders why Mr. Ban decided to disclose that fact only weeks before the end of his term. Did it truly take him ten long years to sense that there was something “disproportionate” in his organization’s treatment of Israel?
The circumstances suggest that no one ought to start painting a portrait in courage with the secretary-general as the subject. There are more than a billion Muslims in the world; there are less than fifteen million Jews. Among the member states of the U.N., there are forty-seven Muslim-majority countries; there is only one country with a Jewish majority. There are twenty-seven countries where Arabic is an official language; there is only one country where Hebrew is.
I would think that a shrewd person would judge that, from the very outset of his term, Mr. Ban decided to go along to get along. He was willing to go along with absurdly disproportionate criticism of Israel in order to get along with a very large constituency of Muslim-majority and Arab-speaking countries. Only when his term was effectively at an end did one hear a peep from him regarding the unfairness over which he had presided. And, as I’ve said, that peep came in the middle of still more criticism of Israel.
Just how disproportionate has the U.N.’s criticism been over the years? The Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon said, in response to Mr. Ban’s statement, that during the course of Mr. Ban’s tenure there had been 223 U.N. resolutions condemning Israel. For purposes of comparison, there were, during that same period, exactly eight resolutions condemning the government of Syria. So, while Syria’s Bashar al-Assad was presiding over a conflict in which 400,000 of his citizens have been killed and millions have been displaced, the U.N. decided to criticize him on eight occasions. Israel and it government also deserved criticism on eight occasions, plus an additional 215 occasions for good measure.
Mr. Ban has discovered not only that the U.N.’s criticism of Israel has been disproportionate. He has also discovered that such disproportionate criticism of Israel frequently harms rather than helps the Palestinian cause. It does so because, after years of unfair treatment of Israel at the U.N., no serious person expects the U.N. to ever be fair to Israel. Therefore, a large majority of people in Israel, and a large majority of people around the world who want to see Israel thrive and endure, have simply given up on the U.N. as a useful instrument in resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Every September, Mahmoud Abbas, who is about to begin the twelfth year of his four-year term as president of the Palestinian National Authority, travels to New York. He then delivers a boring but roundly-cheered speech before the U.N. General Assembly condemning Israel, and all sorts of resolutions are adopted condemning Israel. And the next September the Palestinians are no closer to a state than they were twelve months before.
This coming year, the Palestinians will be adding a special fillip to the usual mix: they will be condemning not only Israel, but also the United Kingdom and its century-old Balfour Declaration. In Palestinian leadership circles, this is what passes for progress. No doubt that condemnation of the Balfour Declaration will do the trick: Palestinian statehood is sure to follow.
Mr. Ban Ki-Moon has been the leader, for a decade, of an international organization that made itself a laughing-stock with respect to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In the last weeks of his term as secretary-general, he has decided to speak out on the matter. He hasn’t spoken out very forcefully, but he has spoken. The conventional wisdom is better late than never, and I suppose that applies to this case, as well. Still, one cannot help but feel somewhat embarrassed for Mr. Ban. He was in a position to accomplish a great deal, and he accomplished very little. Not nothing, but very little.
Good-by, Mr. Ban.