Feast­ing on the wit of a truly great diplo­mat

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - IS­RAEL TIM MAR­SHALL

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.

PHOTO: UN PHOTO/ESKINDER DEBEBE

Re­mark­able: Is­raeli diplo­mat Ron Prosor

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