A few days ago, as most world leaders were preparing to travel to New York for the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly, we hosted a small dinner with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. We were joined by a select group of community leaders and Members of Congress.
The next few weeks will see countless Jewish meetings with heads of state, ministers and ambassadors in New York, all on the sidelines of the General Assembly. The Ban dinner could be called the “season premiere”.
Our goal wasn’t only to engage the Secretary-General on issues of concern – the need to isolate Ahmadinejad, support Israeli security needs in the peace process and its rights as a UN member state – but to actually make an impact. That’s why we had some Washington heavyweights as well: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who will chair the Foreign Affairs Committee if the Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives this year; Congressman Gary Ackerman, the Democrat who chairs the Middle East subcommittee; former Congressman Robert Wexler, who runs the Center for Middle East Peace. Abe Foxman, Mort Zuckerman, Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Herb London shared their own perspectives.
Israel and Jewish organizations are also active on other issues of concern to the UN, including disaster relief, and the Secretary-General recalled how moved he was to see Israeli rescue teams when he visited Haiti right after the earthquake there.
We are fortunate to have excellent access at the UN, and in Washington and some other capitals – and not only when the UN General Assembly is opening. If we can facilitate a candid conversation with Secretary-General Ban and our friends on Capitol Hill, the Council is doing its job. This was not the Secretary-General’s first visit with us, and we often take the opportunity to host and meet with world leaders when the timing and the purpose merit. At every step, our primary consideration is leveraging these relationships for the particular interests of Jews and Americans.