The United Nations Security Council got five new members on Tuesday, as Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates formally took up the posts they won in an election in June.
Israel has expressed hope that the new makeup of the UN body will be more favorable than its outgoing composition.
Ambassadors made brief remarks, installed their countries’ flags alongside those of other members outside the council chambers, and posed for a group photo — wearing face masks and standing apart, in an acknowledgment of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The flag ceremony is a tradition that Kazakhstan started when on the council in 2018.
The 15-member council is the UN’s most powerful body. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are permanent members, with veto power.
Other members are elected by the 193-member General Assembly for staggered, two-year terms that are allocated by global regions. Estonia, Niger, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Vietnam finished their terms Friday.
Countries often campaign for seats for years. Winning gives them a say on peacekeeping missions and the council’s other approaches to conflict hotspots, plus a strong voice on overarching issues of international peace and security.
Council members also can convene meetings on security topics of particular interest to them, and smaller countries get to share a prominent platform with world powers.
Albania is joining for the first time, while Brazil is taking an 11th turn. Gabon and Ghana each have been on the council three times before and the UAE once.
More than 50 of the UN’s 193 member countries have never been elected to the council since it formed in 1946. Israel has never held a seat on the council, though it campaigned for a spot in 2018.
The UN Security Council regularly issues condemnations against Israel, but has mostly been shielded from binding resolutions targeting it thanks to the US’ ability to veto.
In October, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield chastised the Security Council for its outsized focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“This council spends a great deal of time on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is both understandable and consistent with the agenda. But far too often, the substance of these discussions is centered almost entirely around criticism of Israel and counterattacks,” she said in her remarks. “I sincerely hope that going forward, council members will do their best to take a more balanced approach. Also, there are other countries and situations in the region that merit Security Council attention and should not be neglected.”
Israel, which has good ties with all five new nations on the body, expressed hope after their election in June that there would be a move away from anti-Israel bias at the world body. The exit of Tunisia in particular, which has no ties with Israel, was welcomed by the Jewish state.
Israel and the UAE established relations in 2020, and have been enjoying markedly warm ties, although the Emirates continue to be a supporter of the Palestinian cause and tend to vote in line with most Arab countries.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan tweeted his congratulations in June to all the new members and said he hoped they would work to end anti-Israel bias at the international body.
“I’m hopeful and optimistic you will work to redress the council’s bias in order to become more relevant and effective as you address the world’s conflicts,” he wrote.