By Colum Lynch
The United Nations has promoted a former Israeli attorney to a job as the U.N. Security Council’s top counterterrorism lawyer, making him the only Israeli national serving in a senior security position within the U.N. Secretariat, according to U.N. and Israeli officials.
David Scharia, has been appointed legal coordinator for the Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Committee’s Executive Directorate, where he will oversee a team of 12 international legal experts who advise the 15-nation council on its counterterrorism efforts.
The appointment to what is a relatively mid-level post in the U.N.’s hierarchy would not typically be newsworthy, were it not so uncommon for Israelis to advance in an organization that helped give birth to Israel but which has since had a history of contentious relations with that state.
Of the nearly 44,000 international servants employed by the United Nations, only 124 are Israeli, according to U.N. records.
None of them serve in the top ranks of the U.N.’s most sensitive political jobs — those responsible for maintaining international security, mediating peace deals, or coordinating humanitarian calamities.
"I am very proud to welcome a very talented Israeli into the U.N.’s senior ranks," Israel’s U.N. ambassador Ron Prosor said today. "One of my priorities is to bring many more bright minds from the Holy Land into the U.N.’s halls, where Israelis have long been under-represented."
The only other senior Israelis at the United Nations are Shari Klugman, the executive secretary of the U.N. membership’s main budget advisory board, and Natalia Nedel, the chief of the U.N. peacekeeping procurement section. Dafna Shraga, an Israeli national who served as a senior attorney in the U.N.’s office of legal affairs, retired last year.
For years, Israeli government officials were largely shut out of top U.N. intergovernmental committee chairmanships or membership in political bodies like the U.N. Security Council, which select representatives from a pool of regional U.N. blocs. Israel had long been denied admission to its regional block by its Arab neighbors.
During the Clinton administration, Israel was admitted into a regional bloc, the Western and Others Group, following strenuous lobbying by the late former U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and other top American officials.
Israel’s admission has opened the door to Israeli diplomats to participate in a range of U.N. committees, but it has not much of an impact on high level representation of Israeli nationals in the U.N. civil service. U.N. officials, however, say that while Israel has a relatively small presence it is not considered "underrepresented" because Israel’s population, at under 8 million, is relatively small.
Scharia — who previously served as the Israel attorney general’s lead lawyer for counterterrorism cases before the Israeli Supreme Court — began working for the United Nations in September 2005, acting as a legal expert to the Security Council counterterrorism executive directorate.
The U.N.’s counterterrorism committee was established in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against New York and Washington, to promote greater international cooperation in the fight against terror, and to prod governments into passing stronger anti-terror laws. In addition to advising the council, Scharia also serves as the U.N. liaison with the Global Counter Terrorism Forum, a U.S. backed anti-terror coalition.
The coalition was launched in September 2011, by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, but without Israeli participation.
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