As Kofi Annan exits the scene, his successor, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, has been making his first set of public appearances and speeches. In addition, he has held private meetings with a variety of interlocutors, including Jewish groups.
Jewish communal officials who recently have met Ban noted his underwhelming personality and his lack of familiarity with Israel and Jewish issues, but said that his first steps have been appreciated.
The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, said that he was impressed with Ban. According to Foxman, Ban stressed that the onus of solving the Middle East conflict laid primarily with the Israelis and the Palestinians rather than with the international community; the new U.N. chief also harshly criticized Iran for holding a conference featuring Holocaust deniers. “He comes from a Tabula Rasa perspective and with an open mind,” Foxman said. “He is willing to listen and learn and be a friend. A lot will depend on his advisers.”
Edward Luck, a United Nations expert at Columbia University who knows Ban well and has been rumored to be in line to become one of his advisers, echoed the impression that the new secretary general’s fresh slate was an advantage.
This week Ban told a South Korean newspaper that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would aid progress on other Mideast issues.