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David Scharia named U.N. Security Council’s top counterterrorism lawyer

The United Nations has promoted a former Israeli government attorney to a job as the Security Council’s top counterterrorism lawyer, making him the only Israeli national serving in a senior security position within the U.N. Secretariat, Israeli and U.N. officials said Tuesday.

David Scharia has been appointed legal coordinator for the Counter-Terrorism Committee executive directorate, where he will oversee a team of 12 international legal experts who advise the 15-nation Security Council on its counterterrorism efforts.

The appointment would not typically be notable were it not so uncommon for Israelis to reach the upper levels at the United Nations. The organization helped give birth to Israel, but the recent history between the country and the U.N. has been contentious.

Of the more than 44,000 international employees within the United Nations, only 124 are Israeli, according to the U.N. None serve in the top ranks of the most sensitive political jobs, which are responsible for maintaining international security, mediating peace deals and coordinating humanitarian assistance.

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.

“I am very proud to welcome a very talented Israeli into the U.N’s senior ranks,” said Ron Prosor, Israel’s U.N. ambassador. “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 underrepresented.”

Scharia previously served as the Israel attorney general’s lead lawyer for counterterrorism cases before the Israeli Supreme Court. He began working for the United Nations in September 2005 as a legal adviser to the Security Council’s counterterrorism executive directorate.

The directorate was established in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, with the aim of promoting international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and to prod governments into passing stronger anti-terrorism laws. In addition to advising the council, Scharia serves as the U.N. liaison with the Global Counter Terrorism Forum, a U.S.-backed anti-terrorism coalition.

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. Daphna Shraga, an Israeli national who served as a senior attorney in the U.N. legal affairs office, retired last year. Dan Gillerman, Israel’s former U.N. ambassador, was elected vice president of the General Assembly in 2005, the first Israeli diplomat to serve in that position in 53 years.

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