Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations has been chosen to lead the world body dealing with the legal aspects of terrorism – the first time an Israeli diplomat has been elected to head a permanent UN committee.

Western European states were among the 109 countries to back Israeli envoy Danny Danon for Sixth Committee presidency after lobbying from World Jewish Congress the and others.

Jewish leaders trumpeted the diplomatic coup as offering “a glimmer of hope” after years of berating the UN for its perceived anti-Israel bias.

WJC president Ronald Lauder called it “a significant victory for Israel and a glimmer of hope” while WJC chief executive Robert Singer heralded the “historic achievement”.

The Sixth Committee describes itself as the “primary forum for consideration of legal questions in the General Assembly,” dealing with issues such as terrorism, universal jurisdiction, the protection of victims of armed conflict and the law surrounding the use of water sources which span state boundaries.

Danon, a former settler leader, is a controversial figure. He adamantly opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, and was given the UN brief only after Brazil rejected his nomination as Israel’s ambassador in Brasilia.

“I am proud to be the first Israeli elected to this position,” he said. “Israel is a world leader in international law and in fighting terrorism. We are pleased to have the opportunity to share our knowledge with the countries of the world.”