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UN building in New York
photo by Rhonda Spivak

UN building in New York
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Inside the UN building
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Iranian Embassy in Washington which was closed when this photo was taken in 2009.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Front door of closed Iranian Embassy in Washington.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Robert Bonsignore
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Editor's Report : Israel Trying to Thwart UN Resolution to Monitor Its Nuclear Program-How A Catholic UN Correspondent I met Several Years ago Predicted The Future Correctly

by Rhonda Spivak, August 19, 2015





In February 2009, rather unexpectedly I met Robert Bonsignore, a former UN correspondent who described himself as “an Italian Catholic” from New York,  just outside the UN building in New York, which I was visiting for the first time.”



I was looking for the Israeli flag among a long row of flags flying outside of the U.N. headquarters so I could take a photo of it. Bonsignore, with his heavy New York accent, appeared. “Are you trying to take a photo of the Israeli flag?” he asked.When I answered yes, he asked if I was Jewish and why I was taking the photo. After I answered a few other “routine” questions, he told me that it was a good thing he had noticed me since he could get me inside the third floor of the U.N. building, which is not open to the public, to meet a few U.N. correspondents. 



Just before we entered the U.N. the colourful Bonsignore said “You had better take off your [chai] necklace as you are entering a very  anti-Semitic place and you don’t want to give yourself away."  He said since he was an Italian Catholic, and everyone "including anti-Semites who think Zionists are poisonous" talk to him, because "they don’t know what I really think.” As we entered the U.N. building, he smiled and said “Remember at the U.N. everyone talks to everyone. It’s B.S. I love you.”



Bonsignore called a friend of his at the U.N. security desk to see if he could get us inside to meet some U.N. correspondents.  His friend, a short man with unusual looking sideburns, wearing a pink shirt and a little red bow tie named "S.J." signed us in with U.N. security.




Over lunch, Bonsignore showed SJ an article dated Feb. 10, 2009 from the CBS News website titled “Iranian TV Requests Obama Interview” which read:


 The U.N.-based Islamic Republic News agency (IRNA), the official news organization of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has told CBS News Tuesday that it has officially asked for an interview with President Barack Obama as a direct response to Mr. Obama’s call for opportunities to engage.



 When we got to the 3rd floor, Bonsignore took me to the IRNA’s Iranian correspondent office to see if we could speak to the Iranian state journalist who had spoken to  CBS news.  We met Fatimah, a young woman who wore a long brown dress and a hijab.  The small dimly lit narrow office, had two chairs and two computer stations. Bonsignore waved the CBS article at Fatimah, who said, of course, she knew about it. He  then told her how Moses was the prophet of the Jews, he himself was an Italian Catholic  and  Jews, Christians, and Muslims  should all try to get along, since “we all believe in one God.”  Bonsignore used the word “Jews” repeatedly and Fatima was clearly becoming more and more uncomfortable.  



Later, as we left the UN, he again repeated “This place is full of anti-Semites.”



I stayed in touch with Bonsignore by email periodically. In 2012, he wrote me a long handwritten letter which I have never forgotten.  In it he said, that he feared that there was a plan by Arab/Muslim States led by Egypt to  pass a resolution that would require Israel to have to declare its reported nuclear arsenal and subject its nuclear  facilities to international supervision, (just as Israel has demanded that Iran be subject to having its sites monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency). The plan of the Arab states was to require the Middle East to be "a nuclear free zone", Bonsignore wrote in his letter. If Iran signed an agreement with the U.S. to open itself up to UN monitoring, then Bonsignore foresaw that it would take the position that Israel had to do likewise. 



I've been thinking about Bonsignore's  letter and his disturbingly  correct assessment especially since reading Barak Ravid's  recent article in Haaretz titled "After Iran deal: Israel Trying to Thwart Move To Monitor its Nuclear Program." (



According to Ravid, "Israel has begun a diplomatic campaign to thwart a resolution to subject its nuclear facilities to international supervision. The resolution, which is being pushed by Egypt and other Arab and Muslim states, will come up for a vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s General Conference in mid-September."



The resolution is titled “Israeli nuclear capabilities,” and as Bonsignore correctly predicted it has been proposed by Egypt repeatedly in recent years. Under the resolution, Israel must open its reported nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection, and the resolution also calls for an international conference on making the Middle East a nuclear-weapons-free zone. Although this resolution wouldn’t be binding, (unlike UN security council resolutions), it could clearly harm Israel diplomatically by focusing international attention on Israel’s nuclear program, and potentially prompt further IAEA action. 



According to Ravid " For the last three years, Israel has succeeding in mustering a majority against Egypt’s IAEA resolution, thanks partly to proposals for a direct regional security dialogue with Arab states under UN auspices." But Ravid refers to a  senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official" who told him  that he feared the Obama led recent nuclear deal with Iran  will make it hard for Israel to defeat the resolution.



Several months ago, Egypt and Iran proposed a similar resolution at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, but it was blocked by the United States, Britain and Canada.


Following  the nuclear deal,  Iran is taking the position that since it has signed a historic nuclear deal , now it is Israel's turn to do so, and subject itself to UN inspections .Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has  published an article in The Guardian last month titled, “Iran has signed a historic nuclear deal – now it’s Israel’s turn.” 


In the article, Zarif calls for a nuclear free zone "to encompass the entire Middle East."  He points the finger at Israel for having “an undeclared nuclear arsenal and a declared disdain towards non-proliferation, notwithstanding its absurd and alarmist campaign against the Iranian nuclear deal.” Zarif concludes that pressure must be applied on Israel to join the NPT and advance an international conference on a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East.


According to Ravid’s article, there is a division of opinion inside Israel over how the Iranian deal will impact the IAEA debate. Some maintain that after the Iran agreement, the US and the other powers won’t want to apply more pressure on Israel. Others fear that once the Iran deal is sealed, Israel’s reported nuclear program will be the subject of increased international scrutiny. Moreover, the concern is that America may support Israel less than in the past, given the highly troubled and soured relationship with Washington over the Iran deal.


Ravid also notes that the Israeli Foreign Ministry sent a cable to all of its embassies and consulates instructing them to encourage their host governments to oppose the resolution. In it he quotes from the cable's talking points  as saying that the "the resolution diverts global attention from the real dangers of nuclear proliferation in this region,” and “This move will further politicize the IAEA and undermine the trust necessary for any regional dialogue on this issue.”


Sadly, Robert Bonsignore, the Italian Catholic former UN correspondent I accidentally met, has turned out to be more on the mark than I ever really imagined he would be when he sent me his handwritten letter in 2012.


Update:  On Sept 17 , 2015, it was reported that Israel was thankful the IAEA voted 61-43 against the Egyptian proposal calling on Israel to Join NPT, and allow inspection of atomic sites.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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