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Congratulating the State of Israel on the Election of Ambassador Dan Gillerman as Vice-President of the 60th United Nations General Assembly

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time and for his strong support of this resolution and all of his leadership on the Committee on International Relations. I feel deeply fortunate to have the chance to serve with the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos).

Mr. Speaker, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions, to partition Palestine into two States, one Arab and the other Jewish. With this historic vote, the U.N. assisted with the birth of the modern State of Israel, which proclaimed its independence the following May when Britain withdrew its forces from the region.

For millions of Jews around the world, the partition vote and Israel's joining the United Nations in 1949 held forth the promise that the new country would be embraced by the international community and that the horror of the Holocaust would give way to a new era of acceptance for the Jewish people and their national aspirations.

These hopes were quickly dashed, however, through the concerted efforts of the Arab members of the United Nations who denied Israel's right to exist. Israel's role in the world body became a Cold War sideshow; and for 5 decades, the combined efforts of the Arab States, the Soviet bloc, and the countries of the nonaligned movement prevented Israel from participating as a full member of the United Nations.

Happily, albeit slowly, Israel's fortunes are beginning to change; and on behalf of the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Chabot) and 79 of our colleagues, we bring this measure to the floor, and we hope that it will highlight the progress that has been made to date and presage a new chapter in the relationship of Israel and the United Nations.

For the past 5 weeks, the U.N. General Assembly has been meeting in New York. As in past years, the president of the General Assembly has been assisted by 27 vice presidents chosen by regional groupings at the United Nations. This year, however, is slightly different because one of the vice presidents is Israel's permanent representative to the U.N., Ambassador Dan Gillerman.

Ambassador Gillerman's election is historic. On September 20, he became the first Israeli to preside over the General Assembly since the legendary Abba Eban served as General Assembly vice president in 1953. Throughout most of the intervening 5 decades, the State of Israel has been the subject of unrelenting, and oftentimes grotesque, criticism at the United Nations.

Because of opposition from its Arab neighbors, Israel has been blocked from joining the Asian regional grouping at the United Nations; and until 2000, Israel was the only member of the U.N. to be excluded from joining any regional grouping. Under the U.N. structure, membership in a regional group is a prerequisite to service as president or vice president of the General Assembly, as well as membership in a host of other U.N. bodies.

In 2000, Israel was accepted as a temporary member of the Western Europe and Others group, which removed the bar to further Israeli participation at the U.N. Israel's membership was renewed in 2004.

In March of this year, the Western European group, which includes Western European countries, the U.S., Canada and New Zealand and Australia, nominated Israel for the post of vice president for the historic 60th General Assembly that is ongoing in New York.

The Israeli vice presidency is a small, but important, step towards better relations between the U.N. and Israel; and the Israeli Government and people are excited about the role their nation is playing in New York this fall. Ambassador Gillerman called the election ``a historic moment for Israel'' and said that it signaled that Israel is becoming a more active and normal member of the U.N.

Our resolution congratulates Ambassador Gillerman and Israel on the historic occasion of Israel's vice presidency. It welcomes the Western Europe and Others group, and it welcomes the General Assembly's election of Israel as a vice president. It supports the continued expansion of Israel's role at the U.N. It notes the House's continued concern that Israel remains the object of extreme vilification at the U.N. Finally, it calls upon Secretary General Kofi Annan to work to end the vilification of Israel and to work to gain Israel's admittance to the Asian regional grouping.

Throughout the last year, the Congress has discussed ways to reform the United Nations, to make it less corrupt and more responsive to the needs of a changing world. Many Members, myself included, have voiced consternation at Israel's marginalization at the U.N. as evidence of the U.N.'s failure to live up to its founding principles.

Israel's vice presidency, along with other steps, some initiated by Israel and others facilitated by Secretary General Annan, have initiated a thaw in the relationship between Israel and the world body. Much more remains to be done; but Israelis, their friends here in America, and true friends of the U.N. can take satisfaction in Israel's role at this fall's General Assembly.

I would like to thank, again, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Chabot) for all of his work on the resolution. I am very grateful to the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde) and to the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) for their strong support. This is truly something worth celebrating, and I urge my colleagues to join in support of the resolution.


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