Israel Gains an Important Foothold in the U.N.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, addresses a Security Council meeting on the Middle East on January 26. Elliott Abrams writes that it has been reported in the Arab press, though impossible to prove because there was a secret ballot, that several Arab countries voted for the Israeli ambassador to head one of the U.N.’s permanent committees. Mike Segar/reuters

This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.

The argument that Israel is becoming increasingly isolated in the world took another blow this month when—for the first time in the history of the United Nations and of Israel—the Israeli ambassador was elected to head one of the U.N.'s permanent committees.

The General Assembly's Legal Committee, also called the "Sixth Committee," covers the United Nations's international law operations, which include matters related to terrorism and to the Geneva Conventions.

There was a tough diplomatic fight over this, so it is worth handing out kudos.

First, Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon, who was mocked by many on the Israeli left and in the Israeli media (and yes, there is a large overlap) when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed him, showed that he is a very competent diplomat.

He was a member of the Knesset and a minister when appointed but had no diplomatic experience. He has obviously learned the job, and fast.

Second, kudos to the United States Mission to the U.N., which fought very hard to get votes for Israel.

Third, kudos to those members of the "Non-Aligned Movement" who refused to go along with Palestinian, Arab League and Iranian pressure to stop the Israelis.

Three countries in particular stopped the anti-Israel effort: Singapore, Rwanda and India. That last is noteworthy, because India's new friendship for Israel is a great departure from its decades of hostility and because India has considerable weight at the U.N. headquarters in Manhattan's Turtle Bay.

It has been stated in the Arab press, though impossible to prove because there was a secret ballot, that several Arab countries actually voted for Israel. This entire episode is a humiliation for the Palestinian delegation in New York.

In the end, Israel received 109 votes of the 153 cast—a landslide. This victory for Israel shows how foolish the line is about Israel becoming increasingly isolated in the world.

Relations with Turkey are about to be restored. Relations with several key Arab states are improving steadily. India's new support is extremely significant. Israel maintains growing economic relations as well with China.

It is true that many EU nations are increasingly critical of the Jewish state, which is significant because the EU is Israel's largest trading partner (at least for now, while Britain remains in it).

But, at least in this case, the "Western European and Other Group" at the U.N. (which includes the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the EU nations) did the right thing. Let's suspend the mourning about Israel's growing isolation for a moment of applause for this victory in Turtle Bay.

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.