On Monday, as the State of Israel marks the memorial day for its fallen soldiers and victims of terror, remembering the tens of thousands of men and women who gave their lives to defend the state, including thousands who were killed in the battles for Jerusalem in Israel’s wars and in terror attacks, UNESCO will vote on a resolution stating that any attempt by the State of Israel to enforce its sovereignty in Jerusalem—not just in east Jerusalem but in all parts of the city—is illegal.
How should we deal with such a false attack, at a bad timing and on an international level?
First of all, we must expose the facts, before those who say that Israel is creating much ado about nothing stand up again. The suggested resolution explicitly states that “any action taken by Israel, the Occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the City of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever." There is no room for interpretations or an apologetic angle, there is no room for downplaying the resolution because it fails to mention the Temple Mount. UNESCO is trying to determine loud and clear that sovereign Israel’s actions in its capital have no legal validity.
Second, we must act! Since my first day as ambassador, and especially as the Israeli ambassador the UN, I have acted according to the strategy that the best defense against the diplomatic terrorism used against Israel time and again is diplomatic counter-terrorism. Just like Israel’s security forces manage to thwart most terror attacks, the State of Israel must work efficiently to thwart most of the diplomatic terror attacks.
The diplomatic counter-terrorism is based on three simple and ongoing stages which complement each other: Intelligence and warning, leverages of pressure and attack.
Intelligence and warning: The state must not be caught with its pants down, and it should detect anti-Israel activities while they are still making their first steps and act against them from the very beginning.
Leverages of pressure and attack: As soon as a diplomatic danger is discovered, the state must detect possible leverages of pressure and attack and respond immediately—whether independently or by creating coalitions with countries which share our interests.
I personally appealed to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on this issue several weeks ago, warning her that her organization is facing another hostile takeover by forces striving to distort history. At the same time, an online campaign is being waged against the expected resolution—a campaign which recently received surprise support from US President Donald Trump, who has decided to take an unequivocal pro-Israel stand on this issue and order his ambassadors around the world to work to thwart the resolution. This is a welcome move, which proves once again that the United States is retaking the reins in the diplomatic war and is marching hand in hand with Israel in its battle against those who are trying to impose a false narrative and reinvent history in their favor.
We must retake the initiative. In the spirit of the surprise attack that Israel’s enemies tried to hit the Jewish state with in the Yom Kippur War, the initiators of the UNESCO resolution tried to surprise Israel on one of its holiest days and advance clear diplomatic terrorism. The results of the vote are unknown yet, but it’s already clear that the resolution won’t pass so easily. The State of Israel must now keep acting continuously and proactively to fight for the historical truth, without hesitating, and to thwart the resolution.
Ambassador Ron Prosor, Israel’s former permanent representative to the United Nations, is the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC).
(Translated and edited by Sandy Livak-Furmanski)