Feasting on the wit of a truly great diplomat
AT FUND-RAISING dinners, the most important thing on the menu is the list of speakers. The food will be of a standard, and consuming it will take up a minority of the evening. You can attack the rubber chicken safe in the knowledge that it will take a finite amount of time before it’s finished. Some speakers, on the other hand, appear to have the ability to go on for ever leaving the listener suffering Banquet Hall Locked In Syndrome where you can see and hear everything, but you can’t speak.
There’s a sure fire way to avoid this: send for Ron Proser.
The star turn at this year’s Bicom dinner did not disappoint. The former Israeli Ambassador to the UN knows many things, among them that an audience which has given up an evening to support the sterling work of Bicom is in no need of a lengthy reminder of the travails of the Jewish state followed by the possibility of missing the last train home.
Mr Prosor is a story-teller who realises that there is more insight in a tale than a lecture.
For example, it is well known that there is bloc voting against Israel at the UN — so how to combat it at a human level? The amiable Mr Prosor took us with him into a lunch at the UN with the Ambassador of a small African state.
The Ambassador was bemoaning that his country would vote against Israel the following day on some committee issue but that he disagreed with the policy.
“Ambassador,” said Ron, “You sound as if you might be coming down with a heavy cold.”
“Now I think of it,” replied the Ambassador, “I am feeling a little croaky.”
And lo, it came to pass, the following day, shortly before the vote, the ambassador’s heavy cold was so severe he had to head back to the Ambassador’s residence, take to the Ambassador’s bed, and so miss the vote. Strike one for Israeli diplomacy.
I should declare an interest — I’d been invited to be ‘‘in conversation’’ with Mr Prosor and we have been described, in these very pages, as having a ‘‘bromance’’.
However, despite him telling the story to me on stage, in reality he was really addressing the packed dining-hall audience of 350 people who lapped up the inside track. This included the remarkable tale of the Saudi Foreign Minister striding to the UN podium and turning to shout at the Iranian delegation: “You tried to kill my Ambassador!”
It wasn’t all comedy diplomacy. Mr Prosor was clearly frustrated at the ongoing “way in which Israel is singled out at the UN.” However, he felt that the barbarity of Islamic State terrorism may eventually lead to a greater understanding of the threats faced by his country.
When he paid tribute to the late Lord Weidenfeld, “a personal mentor” of his, he was composed but I detected a moistening of the eyes.
But back to the jokes, and an explanation that perhaps Hamas is trying to import more concrete because it “wants to build a Metro system.” It was a master class in public speaking, 30 minutes with enough content to give insight, and enough wit to keep us wanting more. It is rare at such events that you want seconds… Afterwards, I asked him about his next job, but he would not be drawn. There is talk of a senior role back in Israel and there are reports of a move to the embassy in Berlin.
Whatever it is, the best known Israeli diplomat of his generation clearly has at least one more major job to do on behalf of his country.
Remarkable: Israeli diplomat Ron Prosor