After Slow Start, U.N. Envoy Turns Feisty

By Marc Perelman

Published December 16, 2005, issue of December 16, 2005.
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To most American Jewish groups, John Bolton is the stand-up guy they had long hoped to see confronting anti-Israel bias in America’s name at the United Nations.

To U.N. diplomats, the ambassador is living up to his reputation as a hard-nosed conservative whose contempt for the world body is becoming more visible by the day.

The diplomats cite Bolton’s tendency to lock horns with other member states and with the U.N. bureaucracy, such as his threat to block adoption of the annual U.N. budget unless comprehensive management reforms are implemented.

The Jewish groups see the same tendency, and hail him for it.

The admiration was on display last Sunday in New York at the annual dinner of the Zionist Organization of America, where Bolton was given a hero’s welcome.

Bolton gave as good as he got in his speech to the 1,000-plus dinner guests. He denounced the recent statement by Iran’s president, who has urged that Israel be “wiped off the map” or transferred to Europe. He also called for “unrelenting” pressure on Syria, which is currently under U.N. scrutiny for its apparent role in the assassination last February of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The day after Bolton spoke, the U.N.’s lead investigator in the Hariri case, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, reported to the Security Council that new evidence has been found, providing further “probable cause” to conclude that senior Syrian and Lebanese officials plotted and carried out the killing of Hariri and 22 others in Beirut.

Bolton further elated the large crowd at the ZOA dinner with his blunt criticism of the anti-Israel bias pervading the U.N.

He pointed to the recent refusal by Algeria and Russia to let Syria and Palestinian Islamic Jihad be named in a Security Council statement condemning a December 5 suicide bombing in Netanya.

The United States ended up putting out its own statement, in what Bolton described as a new way of upholding standards of honesty.

Pointing to deep-seated biases in the U.N. system, Bolton recalled the November 29 celebration at U.N. headquarters of the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which marks the date in 1947 that the General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Pictures from this year’s event show Secretary General Kofi Annan and other top U.N. officials standing in front of a Middle East map on which Israel does not appear. The pictures were posted on a Web site run by conservative scholar Anne Bayefsky.

“We need to use this as an example of fundamental flaws in the system,” Bolton said. “We’re going to find out if this was paid from the regular budget and who was the highest official responsible for approving this map… This is what we call management reform.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the map was not an official U.N. map and that Annan found it regrettable that it was displayed in the room during his speech.

Edward Mortimer, an Annan aide, said the map had been used since 1978 and is paid for by the regular budget. He added that it would be hard to imagine the secretary general attending the ceremony next year if the same map was on display, especially in light of the Iranian president’s recent comments about wiping Israel off the map.

The decision, however, rests with the event’s organizers, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, one of several entities set up by the General Assembly in the 1970s to support the Palestinian cause, which Israel and the United States would like to abolish or at least defund.

The others are the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division of Palestinian Rights within the Secretariat. Annan has pledged to review mandates older than five years, but his efforts have been stymied by developing countries that see it as a American-engineered ploy to eliminate pro-Palestinian activities at the U.N.

Many observers speculated that Bolton, named to his post by President Bush in a recess appointment after an inconclusive Senate confirmation battle, would be kept under tight control by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a time when she is trying to rebuild alliances. In recent weeks, however, Bolton has become more outspoken, fueling speculation that he is winning new support in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

He regularly reminds audiences that Washington pays 22% of the U.N. budget and should therefore expect better accountability and transparency.

One observer who requested anonymity expressed the belief that the budget standoff should be seen in the light of the underlying disagreement between the U.N. and Washington on Iraq and Bolton’s conviction that the world body wants the United States to fail there.

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