U.S. Envoy Susan Rice: We will combat U.N. attempts to delegitimize Israel

Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations,
During a Reception for Israeli Ambassadors
Gabriela Shalev and Daniel Carmon
Held by the Conference of Presidents of
Major American Jewish Organizations
New York, NY
July 14, 2010

As delivered

Good evening everybody, and Alan, thank you so much for introducing me. I’m delighted to be able to be here with all of you and to see friends like Mort Zuckerman and Malcolm Hoenlein and many others, and I look forward to having a chance to spend some time here with you a little later on. The Conference of Presidents is a strong, clear voice on behalf of the American Jewish community and for Israel’s security and well-being. So I want to begin by thanking you all for the important work you do.

But today, I mostly want to talk about my very dear friend, Ambassador Gabriela Shalev. She’s truly one of my favorite people, and she’s done a tremendous job representing her country here at the United Nations. Now there have been some rather distinguished Israeli leaders who served as Ambassadors to the United Nations: Abba Eban, Chaim Herzog, and a scrappy up-and-comer named Bibi Netanyahu. But I believe when the history books are written, in all honesty, historians will rank Gabriela Shalev as among the best representatives that Israel has ever had at the United Nations-for her dedication, her skill, and her extraordinary heart.

Being the American Ambassador to the United Nations isn’t always easy. But being Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations is never easy. But Gabi and I had the opportunity to work closely together on a series of important issues, from dealing with the deeply flawed Goldstone Report to seeing through the passage by the Security Council of the toughest sanctions resolution to date against Iran. She has been a lioness in defense of Israel’s security and its legitimacy — working tirelessly to ensure that Israel has the same rights and enjoys the same responsibilities as any other UN member state.

But Gabi, you’ve also been creative and far-sighted about pushing to ensure that Israel’s mark here is made in a myriad of ways and contributing to many issues that go beyond the conflict. You’ve cared about more than one set of issues, and you’ve forged ties with plenty of people who frankly haven’t always been Israel’s best friends. I just want to point out that when Gabriela hosted the reception this year to celebrate Israel’s independence, Ambassadors — many, many Ambassadors, from all over the world — were there. And they were there not only out of respect for Israel but deep and abiding friendship for Gabriela. You’re my kind of diplomat, Gabi. She’s smart, she’s creative, and above all, she always plays it straight.

Gabi and I became fast friends literally from our very first meeting. It’s because she’s so warm, she’s frank, principled, honest, and practical. She doesn’t take BS from anybody, and she doesn’t give it. She’s just plain fun to be around. And that’s why I’m going to miss you so very much.

I also want to say a few words of thanks to Danny Carmon, who worked almost every day with my own outstanding former deputy, Alex Wolff, whom many of you know so well. I miss Alex enormously too, and I bid him farewell last week — but I’m proud to say that he’s been nominated by President Obama to serve as our next Ambassador to Chile. But Danny is another pro, as you all know: deeply informed, knowledgeable, and dedicated. And Danny, I want to thank you for your many, many important contributions.

Let me just conclude by saying, I am proud to be here to salute Gabi, someone who will remain a lasting friend. But as you know, our countries’ special relationship goes much deeper than any two partners. The United States and Israel share a bond that is unbreakable. It’s rooted in common interests and common values.

While we may be living in times of uncertainty and great change, it’s worth again affirming an essential truth that will never change: the United States of America remains fully and firmly committed to the peace and security of the State of Israel. That commitment spans generations and political parties. It is not negotiable, and it never will be.

In the wake of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent meeting with President Obama, we will continue to work together to seek a lasting and comprehensive peace that meets Israel’s security needs and creates a viable, sovereign Palestinian state. We will continue to strengthen Israel’s qualitative military advantage so that Israel can always defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats. And, as the President pledged, we will continue U.S. efforts to combat all international attempts to challenge the legitimacy of Israel — including and especially at the United Nations.

Our two countries have a long and extraordinary friendship, going back to the moment that President Truman made the United States the very first country to recognize the State of Israel — 11 minutes after it declared its independence. And Gabi, I like to think that perhaps we’ve written our own little chapter in U.S.-Israeli relations over the past year and a half in New York and through our own very special friendship.

You’ve been tremendous representing Israel. Gabi, and Danny too, may you both go from strength to strength. Todah rabah. Thank you all.

UN Watch